Lego Star Wars X-wing fighter.
How much do you help your kids with their school projects?
Remember when the pinnacle of school assignment technology was access to a colour photocopier? Apparently that just doesn't cut it any more, judging from Mr 9's first foray into class presentations this week. He had to give a five minute presentation on his favourite movie. Naturally he chose The Empire Strikes Back, with a Lego theme. Yep, I'm the proudest geek Dad ever.
Firstly I encouraged my son to sit down, assess the requirements and then focus on his goals rather than get caught up in technology.
Rather than just get up there and ramble, the kids were encouraged to use cue cards, props and any other technology they saw fit. There are really cool interactive whiteboards in most classrooms and the kids are encouraged to incorporate them whenever practical. The school also uses a mix of Windows and Mac. I think it's great my boy is exposed to both platforms, just like at home.
Mr 9 was ready to Powerpoint the class to death but I managed to intervene. I didn't write his talk for him, as tempting as it was. When you come from a family of writers and academics, Mr Teacher is certainly going to be on the lookout for school assignments which seem just a little too polished. Instead my wife and I offered guidance mostly in the form of project management, technical support and a few public speaking tips.
Firstly I encouraged my son to sit down, assess the requirements and then focus on his goals rather than get caught up in technology. He needed to write out a plan before I would help him with the specifics of the technology. It's a lesson that many grown ups still haven't learned. In the end all Mr 9 really wanted to do was screen a short video clip in the middle of his talk, so we decided that sending the clip on a USB stick would be easier than messing around with Powerpoint. Or so I thought.
While Mr 9 polished his talk after dinner I messed around with the video clip, trying to cover all eventualities in case there were technical difficulties. The .mov file I created played fine in QuickTime but the audio was out of sync in Windows Media Player. I didn't know for sure which application Mr Teacher would use, so I played around with a few conversion tools but wasn't happy with the results. In the end I simply burned the clip as a DVD as a backup. I even wrote down a YouTube URL as a last resort -- pointing to the clip at the appropriate starting point.
I think I was more stressed about the tech performing on the day than Mr 9 was about getting up in front of a room full of people to talk for five minutes (not that he's ever been accused of being shy). Had I been more prepared I would have checked with teacher before the day. In the end it all went well, the DVD did the job and the presentation was a hit.
Now I know exactly what tech is available in the classrooms, I'm better prepared to help with the next school assignment. But I'm sure that a simple video clip won't cut it for long. I know Minecraft is already a popular teaching tool. Mr 9 is a big fan of Minecraft and I'm sure it won't be long before he's building entire worlds and hosting them online so he can present them to the class. I'm sure augmented reality is just around the corner and soon I'll be madly scrambling to source 25 headsets for an interactive class presentation as Mr 9 takes everyone on a guided tour of the Death Star.
It's easy to get carried away with helping your kids, especially when your family places an importance on education. But I made it clear to Mr 9 up front that he was responsible for the content and I would simply help with the tech. He's a fast learner and I reckon it won't be long before I'm turning to him for tech advice on work projects.
Do you help your kids with their school assignments? Where do you draw the line?