Monday, May 07, 2007

Thinking about kids, teachers and time...

This post probably won't go anywhere, but I've been thinking about time - and how the pupils and teachers at a school might have different access to it for what they want to do.
This was prompted by a couple of things - first of all reading a discussion on the Flickr web site about (among other things) Microsoft's rumoured merger with / assimilation of / eating of Yahoo!, which would have implications for the Flickr community (already previously narked by upheaval resulting from Yahoo! acquiring the site anyway), and the rumour that Flickr will offer video posting in the near future.
Posters in the Flickr discussion were concerned with the difference between photography and film making - not even top quality films, but the sort of stuff which gets one edit (typically in Movie Maker or iMovie) and ends up on GoogTube. One observation was

let's face it, video content on average takes much longer to put together than photography, and who has the time apart from them and advertising companies to do this?...Hence the content in Youtube. (see context)
A response further down the thread (but not in response to the words quoted above) was
surely you aren't comparing the steady addition of new still photographers (most of whom fit into the same old demographics, and blend into flickr culture easily) to the sudden growth from an entirely new segment of videoheads (yes, I'm still talking about my 15-year-old son) (see context).
Second was the extra section of New York Times stories which came with yesterday's paper. This is always an entertaining section, I always thought the style of headlines from The Onion was specific to that publication, but reading the NYT section I realise that they're very representative. The main headline in the supplement was Always On, Never Alone and the it referred to the two lead articles which followed it and spilled over into the pages which followed. They're both on the NYT web site (subscription - free - required) - Social Networking Leaves the Confimes of the Computer (in the image on the right it's the story entitled With a Phone In Hand, Friends Are Never Far) and From Many Tweets, One Loud Voice on the Internet (entitled Thousands of Messages Let Users Share the Trivial). If you don't want to subscribe, I've PDFed the documents and they should be visible in the widget below.
Essentially the thrust of much of this is to do with what is perceived as "trivia" - inconsequential stuff which is part of life but not a significant part of it. This tends to be a view from a particular end of any given spectrum - institutions looking at kids' online activities, the NYT looking at web users' online habits and tools - with the telescope almost always around the "wrong" way - so that those activities being observed become smaller and less significant than they are / might be. Is this an accurate reflection - or just a very skewed view.
How this relates to the conversations on Flickr (in my mind, anyway) is something that's been obvious for a long while, that kids have time to do all of this stuff - and what's more, being teenagers or even pre-teens they are in a time of their lives when the trivial becomes so, so, much more significant than anyone who isn't them can appreciate. Teachers have no time, are pre-coccupied (quite rightly) with having a job, keeping that job, having a family and life, keeping both of those... oh, and directing learning for nn pupils each day. Kids have time to faff, make connections, experiment, Get Things Wrong - all before an audience which isn't just their peers. Want to give a global audience a view of your life? Use Twitter. Want to peek on what other people are doing? Be very afraid for the decline of society into "the trivial" and watch ten minutes of Twittervision. However, as you do so, think how significant some of what you read might be to those who post it.
A the-day-after-posting edit: here's the lead article from today's Technology Guardian section. It seems that that kids simply see technology as "as tool to help them to do what they want to do". Anyone think that this means they might have the critical facilities to not use it when it doesn't help? Crumbs, who'd have thought it?

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