The most positive memories I have of learning at school were the really meaty projects. As the future geeks we must have been, we used to compete over who could write the longest essays. This led me to spend one summer researching and writing a history of the English language from piles of books at home and visits to the library. I learnt how to use Excel, and developed a vaguely capitalist streak, by building a spreadsheet that let me see how much profit I could make from buying and selling shares.
Teachers still use projects to unleash children’s talent. Go along or follow one of the very inspiring Teachmeet gatherings if you want to be bowled over by what classes are doing with the simplest of online tools. When hosting work experience students, I found that the most moribund teenagers could be revved into life with questions like â€œWould you like to have a go at building a better marketing campaign for us in Flash?â€ or â€œDo you think you could sort out this massive mailshot we’ve never found time to do?â€ Like all of us, they’d much rather be doing things that make a real difference than just ticking boxes.
So anyway, back to the question. What sort of projects might communities and bloggers need help with that could be incorporated into school subjects? Here are a few ideas to demonstrate what I mean but it would be great to collect suggestions from groups, teachers or school students of what could work really well from your points of view.
– using local data to answer community questions
– analysing the impact of local spending decisions
– helping a group develop a budget for a project
– local stories and memories
– inviting handwritten contributions and adding them to the site
– editing each other’s contributions for spelling and grammar
– writing picture captions in the style of a local newspaper
Media [what do they call this in schools? It wasn’t invented when I was there]
– Youtube videos about the local area from the point of view of different generations
– interviews with the oldest people in the community
– Video interviews with older people about key periods within living memory
– Researching and writing about local history
– (obvious one, this) designing and building blogs, mindful of user experience
– training and mentoring community members to add content to it
– development of more advanced skills such as programming, using APIs, building stuff
– reporting for the blog on a council meeting
– forming a young person’s group to feed into the local resident’s group (or, indeed, joining the resident’s group)
– applying for funding or seeking sponsorship to improve a piece of wasteland.