This week I met a man I met on the internet – and to be honest, he’s not the first.
OK that’s all a bit sordid and not to say disturbing so let’s start again..
This week I had great pleasure in helping Documentally complete a challenge set by Vodaphone to travel Land’s End to John o Groats with no currency other than a few sim cards. The challenge was to see if he could barter/swop/buy food, shelter and transport to travel the longest distance across the land of the British Isles. I collected him 40 miles south of Newcastle and drove him up to Edinburgh in Scotland. Why did I do it? I suppose I could say I’m always up for a road trip – or ‘it’s nice to be nice’ but that doesn’t really cover it.
The simple bits first.
Christian is one of the good guys.
He nurtures his network and this adventure has highlighted the kindness and generosity of people across this land. A welcome change for folk like me who are frequently immersed in the misery and bullying that also permeates the online communities.I was glad to play a small part in this UK online/in person feel-good event.
We, at Northern Grid, struggle to get local and national press to attend and report upon our events and achievements. Christian published an audio blog of his conversation with me that reached out to his 17000 strong network of educationalists and media people. That’s got to be a good thing.
He plays a mean blues harmonica and I got a private performance while driving into Scotland
He’s a great photographer – though even he can’t prevent me from looking like the idiot child of Johnny Cash and Ertha Kitt
Y’see the thing is, Documentally is everything we education types bang on about all the time – all that stuff about new technologies, new thinking etc. etc. etc.
Let me explain..
There’s a part of the presentation that says something like ‘we need to prepare children for jobs that don’t even exist yet’. A fair point I think. Three years ago our ex student placement left us to join a company that makes mobile apps. Suffice to say up until very recently I had chuff all understanding of what that could mean and I certainly wasn’t preparing my pupils in the 90’s for such a career.
Documentally has one of those jobs that didn’t exist a decade or so ago – Infact I’m not even sure what his job is..
I have met Christian (for that is who @documentally is) in person earlier in the year. I wanted to speak with him because I’m convinced he’s got some valuable thoughts and insights on what schools should be doing and also what we, at Northern Grid, should be doing to support teachers and learners. I had also managed to persuade my colleagues that we should consider @documentally as a speaker at our conference next year – and here’s where the trouble begins.
‘Normal’ speakers are easy to describe. They work at a university, belong to a local authority, they used to be a teacher. All easy handles to help my colleagues build a picture, a frame of reference, about the person I’m describing.
The meeting where I tried to describe who and what Documentally is, was a tad .. uncertain?
Me: ‘I suggest we ask Documentally to speak at the conference’
Colleagues: blank looks
Me: ‘ He’s a bloke I follow on Twitter’
Colleagues: Ah.. Twitter (roll eyes/look bemused etc.) What does he do?
There’s the rub.
Me: ‘Well he does a lot of blogging.. er.. video blogs, lot of Audioboo, he’s got quite a good YouTube Channel.. oh and he has a website called ‘Our Man Inside’
Colleagues are looking at me in that ‘I want to trust you .. but..’ kind of way and I couldn’t bring myself to tell them he also did quite a disturbing review of Scottivest trousers which, as I remember, was largely a video of his groinal area
Me: ‘He’s really interesting, and a bit quirky. His gran has a twitter account too. So has his dog.. and his van..’
I can sense this isn’t helping and at this point I can see that even I’m not convinced by these attempts to legitimise the fella’s credentials and fit these new elements of an occupation into our conventional frame of reference re ‘proper’ jobs
Let’s look at his Twitter Bio : ‘Social technologist. storyteller. edge case. vlogger. photographer. talking. teaching. Documenting’
Hmm. Let’s try his ‘About’ page on his website. It’s a fantastic piece of writing and a great (digital) literacy activity for teachers to use with their pupils. Among other things Christian describes himself as ‘a freelance mobile media maker who also specialises in Social Media & photography.’ How many of those words would have had any meaning 15 years ago? Now think about the challenge for teachers in preparing learners for the world 15yrs in the future.
So finally I clutch at occupations we can all feel comfortable with. ‘He’s a photographer and documentary maker’
Job sorted. We all agree he could be good.
Conclusion? We talk about the need to prepare kids for jobs and technology that hasn’t been created yet, when even today we, the adults struggle to make sense of the current communication and employment opportunities. For many of us, we’re still using traditional criteria to define today’s opportunities.
A question for you. Is Documentally my friend?
During esafety sessions with young people I often encourage them to define a friend – and their answers are usually around:
Someone you can trust
Someone you like
Someone who won’t let you down
Someone you’ve met in person.
That last one is interesting isn’t it? I feel like I have friends in my social networks who I have never met in person.
I usually tell the youngsters that I’d define a friend as someone I’d lend a large sum of money – or (and this is significant) someone I’d get out of bed for at 2am to go a pick them up if they needed to be somewhere/had broken down etc.
So, I’ll ask again.. Is Documentally my friend? – That man I met on the internet.
If we’re challenging ourselves to teach kids and prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet then I’d like to add the following to the mix..
What are we doing to prepare young people for relationships that don’t exist yet?
Telling young people not to talk to strangers on the web is no more helpful than ‘you must never go into the park’. We need to acknowledge the flaws in our own perceptions of relationships and their need to be grounded in face to face contact. We need to give them the skills to manage, nurture and enjoy these new communication opportunities, safely and, as I said to my good friend Documentally; (possibly face to face – or online, I forget which)
Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.