Friday, January 17, 2014

Old School is History! Thanks to Hardcore History

I FINALLY enjoyed the experience of my son understanding the powers of new media.  After all the years of blogging and knowing that what the internet has become will change EVERYTHING about education, I finally had a real world experience that, while you might think insignificant, I thoroughly enjoyed.  

Sure I've fixed my cars by simply watching YouTube videos, and I've watched my kids attempt to find answers to homework using Google.  And don't get me started on Wolfram Alpha.  An amazing teaching tool that is not allowed in schools.  I'm still buying handheld calculators for my kids.  It's lunacy...but I digress...

So, have there been other moments of tech use in my home for educational purposes? Without a doubt, yes.  But none of them like this. Up until now it's been all about the homework.  Completing the random worksheet or quiz questions in a long outdated textbook.  The technology has simply been used to find the answers that fill the blanks, not for engaging their curiosity.  

But then it happened!

My son is a typical 15 year old boy.  He loves hanging out with his friends, playing video games, playing basketball, playing his guitar, watching stupid YouTube videos, etc.  He's a good student and he loves his teachers and his school, but I rarely see him being very passionate or excited about an academic subject. And I suppose that also defines him as a typical 15 year old boy.

I was driving him home from school recently and asked the usual questions: How was your day? How are your friends? Do you have any home work? He said he had some homework and one of the items was that he had to print a history paper.  Now this intrigued me because, coincidentally, I had recently swapped out my usual tech podcasts for Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. So, of course, I blew off the other homework items and began to dig deeper about this history paper.

Me: Is it already written and you just need to print it and turn it in?
Him: No. I still have to write it but it only needs to be one page. It won't be a big deal.
Me: Oh that's cool. What's the topic?
Him: Answering a question about the guy that started the great war.
So NOW I'm REALLY interested! Coincidentally I had just finished the latest Hardcore History episode, Blueprint for Armageddon, which started with this story. 
Me: So who's the guy?
Him: Pippin, or Pinpal, or something like that.  He killed a king or some other important guy.
Me: Was his name Princip?
I'm no historian.  I just like a good historical story.  But I felt pretty darn good about being the all-knowing father every kid thinks his parents should be. I got lucky. (Thanks, Dan!)

Him: Yea, I think that sounds right.
Me: I just got finished with a podcast that tells that story. Wanna hear it?
Him: Sure.
Now, for listeners of Hardcore History, you know why I'm started to get excited about this.  I can't imagine ANY teacher telling history stories better than Dan Carlin. It's like listening to the historical account of your last Call of Duty mission. Dan spares you no details. He paints a picture of the brutal realities of history's atrocities: Shockingly grotesque human behavior that you can't believe is real...and THAT's engaging! And PERFECT 15yr old boy stuff. (Sorry moms)

Hardcore History was one "now playing" tap away.  We've got about 15mins left in our drive so I restart the episode from the beginning...and the magic begins.  A few minutes into the story I asked if this sounded like the story he needed to write about. Before finishing my sentence he was nodding his head shhh-ing me.  We listened together with nothing else said the remainder of the drive home.

We finished the last few minutes of that first part of the episode in the house.  When it was over, I asked him again if that was the right story, and what he would write about.  He said yes, and that the assignment was to answer the question did Princip complete his goal.  I asked if he thought he had enough info to answer that question.  The answer: "WAY more than what we read in the book."

Mission Accomplished!

Most of my experiences "helping" my kids with homework include a significant amount of prodding and questioning because I won't do the work for them.  This is quite often met with frustration and heavy sighs (from not just the kids). In this case, the paper was written and sent to the printer without ANY "Hey, Dad?" moments.  But it gets better.

The next day I was chatting with my wife about the kids.  She is usually the one to take our son to school and so I asked how the drive went. She said it went great. And Instead of me asking why, I was more excited about my experience and I jumped in with my story about our drive home the day before (its a stupid guy thing). She smiled and said he talked about that story the entire way to school...and that he was very excited about it.

My thoughts...

The best story tellers make the best school teachers. And in the workplace good story tellers make the best training instructors as well.

New Media is here to stay and impacting everything we do. The next generation entering our workforce will expect to find information quickly, easily, and as compelling as a commercial content producer.
Many will tell you that the new media generation has already entered the workforce, but I only see it in small pockets and specific, mostly technology, industries. I believe it's going to take until the next generation before it gets real.








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