I'm back from vacation and getting a bit of a late start blogging tonight since my dog got sprayed by a skunk. It's great to be back out here in the woods!
However, my getaway left me with a renewed appreciation for home (be it ever so humble and skunk-ridden, there really is no place like home) and some new thoughts on ways to use technology to bring science to life for our kids. My 13-year old in particular got me thinking about ways that some simple bits of tech can be used to really enhance and inspire education instead of merely being more technology that we throw at kids to be "cutting edge."
First, a bit of background. Of all 4 of my kids, my 13-year old is the least technologically inclined. This includes my 6-year old. He's happy to play video games or surf the Net, but technological tools (or toys) have never occupied him in the way that they do my other kids (or me, for that matter). He's actually a very tough kid to occupy: a language disability makes reading enough of a challenge that he'd certainly never spend his time with his head in a book; console games have never been a strong point and he doesn't really care. Television and movies can occupy him much more than either my wife or I would like. I can't even get the kid to read comic books.
So, to my delight, he seized on my wife's new camera from the beginning of the vacation. Everywhere we went, he orchestrated a brief video documentary and shot dozens of pictures. The kid who shied away from tech quickly mastered the camera (it should be noted that the camera itself is really intuitive and everyone became Olympus fans on this trip).
The real fun began, though, when we went snorkeling. Since the camera can go underwater, he paddled around with his snorkel and the camera for almost two hours, catching everything from his brothers' legs to some really cool fish. Finally, as the rest of the snorkelers made their way back to the boat, my kid was oblivious to our departure since his head was underwater and he was following a fish with the camera (see the video here).
My point here is that we all know kids who are tough to engage in school, kids who struggle with traditional approaches and need something extra to get them excited. I'm not saying that we should buy every kid a $300 underwater camera and send them to someplace where they can snorkel every day. I am saying, however, that for some kids, thoughtful use of something as simple as a digital camera and iMovie can inspire them to learn in ways that traditional approaches simply can't.