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First Grade In the Digital Age

Maddie’s almost to the end of a
six-week class project – the study of fairy tales. They read
a few different stories, talked about elements of a fairy tale,
then set about writing their own with the intent of performing it.
The kids created a make-believe kingdom complete with laws and a
coat of arms; designed the village and castle out of paper bags and
crafting paper; and wrote the story themselves.

I’d been told that at the end of the project they’d be
performing it for their peers, and had visions of a first-grade
“stand in front of your class and say some lines” type
of thing. But as the date got closer, the steering teacher
suggested filming it instead – less pressure to memorize,
more chances to fix mistakes, and so on – and that’s
where we ended up.

I say “we” because I’ve
been helping out in the classroom with the project, and it’s
been a kick and a half. We started filming yesterday using the
teacher’s iPad 2, and I can’t think of a way that it
would be more unlike my childhood. Trying to picture my teacher
running around saying, “Quiet on the set!” and
“Action!” just causes all my circuits to frizzle and
fry. These kids totally take it in stride, though, and I realize
I’m working with the first real YouTube generation.

Some comment was made on a sitcom recently about a YouTube video of
a small boy driving home from having dental work; he had quite a
stoned conversation which the parents apparently videotaped and
uploaded to YouTube for millions of people to laugh at. Brian had
to explain it to me as I’m not up on cultural literacy
(apparently) and my first feeling was one of pity: that poor kid.
That poor, poor child. I can’t imagine how my childhood would
have been different – how much more therapy I’d need as
an adult – if all my mistakes and falls and stupid sayings
had been documented and laughed at by strangers. I’m sure I
made a fool out of myself many times: tripping up stairs, or
forgetting lines in a school play, that sort of thing. One
particularly burning childhood memory for me is playing basketball
in gym and, after spending the entire hour trying to not be seen or
get in my team’s way, ending up with the ball, screwing up my
courage, dribbling the ball to the end of the court, shooting and
–unbelievably – making a basket.

For the other team.

Yep, teased about that for the rest of the year. Fifth grade. Which
was, coincidentally, the last year of my schooling that I took p.e.

I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been if my
ignominious attempt at sports had been recorded on some kid’s
iPhone, uploaded to YouTube, and posted on Facebook before lunch

Not every childhood memory needs to be captured on video.

So yes, I think it’s cool that the fairy tale thing’s
being recorded. (All bloopers being promptly destroyed, by the
way!) And I admire how easily my kids know their way around an
iPad, though we do not even own one.

But I do wish they were just a little bit more naïve about the
technology stuff, because I know some time soon it’s not
always going to be their friend.


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