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Wednesday
Feb272013

I was a teenage geek

This article is a bit autobiographical, but there is an objective point to it. Actually, it’s completely autobiographical, but there is still a point to it.

Oh no! I really AM a geek!One day when I was 15, I was milling around in this youth club trying to look cool, when someone came up to me and asked me if I’d be interested in joining a cinematography club he wanted to get started. He explained to me that I’d learn how to use a cine camera to shoot films, edit the films,learning about lighting and all that other technical stuff, so I said “Yes!”.

I’d never touched a cine camera in my life.

That 'state-of-the-art' camera!But I became hooked. I turned from hating having to go to the club to not being able to wait. I scrimped, saved and begged until around a year later, I was the ecstatic owner of a state-of-the-art camera. I would spend hours going out and about filming, and even more hours editing. In fact, my editing skills were better than those displayed in some of the semi-professional films I went to see, made and submitted to competitions by other cinematographers.

The camera purchase itself is worthy of further mention. Before I bought it I did months of research, mainly in magazines. There were four different and incompatible film standards available. The word ‘incompatible’ is very important here, because once you’d bought into a standard there was no going back  or crossing over to another one, unless you were an heir or heiress to a family fortune. That’s because it was not only the camera that took a particular standard, but you also had to buy a projector, editor and splicer to go with it. Plus any additional lenses and other accessories you might want. (There were a couple of camera that took dual standards, but they were seriously expensive, as opposed to just incredibly expensive.)

Now, just to put all this in context, I hated school, and was pretty much a failure as far as academic success was concerned. Perhaps it was more the case that school failed me, because I have certainly done OK academically since then! Whatever. The point is, I couldn’t see the point of most of what I was taught, and nobody tried to help me see it.

I also never did homework, so my spending months of research on my own is worthy of note. Maybe not in itself, but given what I’ve just told you about my relationship with school. Like I said in an email to someone this morning, when discussing some statistics that have hit the headlines recently, context is everything.

I was useless at maths and science – and that’s important too because you need a certain amount of maths and science understanding to make a serious go at photography or cinematography.

Nevertheless, I became a geek, in the context of cinematography. And that happened by my being introduced to it in an extra-curricular and voluntary context, and one in which there was no pressure to succeed in the academic sense.

So, turning to the curriculum, could the English government’s proposals to replace ICT with Computing in the National Curriculum be one of the worst own-goals in educational history? Should my experience be anything to go by, if they really want kids to be turned on by computing, and be successful at it, they should make sure it doesn’t go anywhere near the curriculum. A far better approach, in my humble opinion, would be to encourage computer clubs in schools (and not only for girls), and encourage the video games industry and others to  contribute resources, including real-world projects, trainers, prize competitions etc etc. I know many companies do already, but there is always room for more.

I realise there is a danger of using one’s own experience as a basis for policy proposals, but here I am in good company, having sat through endless lectures of the “ICT is boring because my daughter says so and therefore we need to change the curriculum” variety. We’ve lost that argument unfortunately, but we still have a fighting chance to do something about the (in my opinion) ridiculous proposals for ICT/Computing in the National Curriculum.

Whatever you think of my opinion, or the Government’s proposals, do make sure you have your say. Contribute to the consultation currently going on.

There is too much at stake for you not to do so.

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