A few weeks ago I wrote a post called The Real Disruptive Innovation where I toyed with the thought that the real reason online schools are a disruptive innovation in education is because they allow students to place priority on their own interests and passions and do their "school work" on their own time. In that post I shared this video done by a boy who was using YouTube to ask the world for help in building his bow-drill set.
The video and the comment stream it generated illustrate the power social media and web 2.0 have in amplifying the power and effectiveness of informal learning. I would like to highlight a great and thoughtful comment on that post that I think sums it all up nicely:
In reply to DC's comment: to give a bit of context to the boy in the video, he's my son, Nelson. The video was made on his own two years ago when he was 12. He did the editing himself on Windows Movie Maker. He got some instruction from me during past "projects" but also from YouTube videos he searched out on his own. I helped him upload it. The tagging part was about all I had to teach him.
He filmed it in our backyard, I believe it was on a school night after dinner. He had tried previous fires a bit closer to our back door which caused a bit of angst, but this one was attempted away from the building. We live a suburban setting but we are 15 minutes to wilderness so Nelson has done a fair amount of camping. The woods around his elementary school were a favourite hang-out; I think the green space has been essential to developing his interest in nature. Also important is our love of the outdoors and interest in natural history. Nelson also used (and still does use) YouTube as a primary learning source. He hunted for and found sites on bushcraft and survival. Then he begged his dad to go to the woods where he tried and failed to get a fire started.
Nelson is in a regular public school and has benefit from all the good that the model offers. As a teacher myself I have never been under the illusion that the education of my son was only the school's responsibility. We share it, but it is primarily Nelson's job. If he has a passion we encourage him to follow it. This is why bowdrills are on the shelf for now and painting with water colours, proper playing technique on the tenor sax, making bows and arrows, and solving obstacles in video games has taken over. Passions shift in young people. This defies programing.
YouTube is often his first stop when he wants to know something. This includes "school" topics like how viaducts affected the development of Roman civilization and how digestion works. Sadly, YouTube is blocked in our district.
Nelson's school teachers do matter to him and they have more than once ignited his curiosity. However, most would be surprised to know that he learns so much online. For the most part his technology experiences have been fairly flat (go to this site and do x, or make a video that shows y), but this is slowly improving.
Thanks, Carl for your post. Nelson is ready to shut down comments to the video as "it is so last year", but I have encouraged him to keep it open as an experiment in the good of the network. So many comments on YouTube make me gag, but the comments are so generous and will be a great resource to him when he finally gets back to exploring bow drills and fire starting again.
*Thanks @bookminder for pointing me to this :)
Thank you Jan.