We’d built up so much momentum with the excitement our LAMPers had shown for the video projects, that we found ourselves as we prepared for Day 3 pulling back on our plans to explore digital media. We created a completely closed and private social network for LAMPcamp on ning.com where our LAMPers would be able to post their own pics, video, music, where they could chat and even start discussion topics – all completely within the confines of the relatively safe environs of LAMPcamp. With only a day left for us with them, we decided that we didn’t have enough time to really explore this like we’d hoped. Nonetheless, we still invited all of them to the LAMPcamp ning, as well as spoke about it at the beginning of the discussion. And then, we flipped the entire LAMPcamp on its head.
D.C. asked the LAMPers again if they remembered to bring their cellphones. Like an excited crowd rushing through the opening gates of a brand new amusement park, the LAMPers quickly shuffled into their backpacks, pockets and purses retrieving their favored devices. Holding them at the ready, the LAMPers waited to see why we had prepped them so much for this moment. D.C. explained to them that he wanted them to text him any question they wanted to ask him, and if he felt the question would benefit the group as a whole, he would read it out loud. The person who asked the question would remain completely anonymous.
Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect, and we’re certain that if we hadn’t logged the many hours already with the LAMPers, this exercise wouldn’t have worked the way that it did. As it was, we’d developed relationships with them, started conversations and narratives which was reflected in the dozens and dozens of questions D.C. received on his phone.
All told, in a period of 15 minutes, over 45 questions were sent to D.C.’s phone. Some of them silly, some of them revealing and some of them very, excitingly poignant. For the most part, they were read out loud. Those that D.C. felt were too private and deserved a private response, were replied to directly by D.C. with a text.
Following here is a sample of the questions from the LAMPers (all spelling and grammar kept in context):
– “Do u like catherine?” (Katherine Fry – Our Education Director and LAMP co-Founder with D.C.)
– “Do you think kids in this generation text way to much”
– “r u married?” (Specifically, asked to D.C.)
– “Are u a happi person?”
– “Do you likee beinq heree ?”
– “How many dates did u go on” (with some clarification, this question was referring to how many dates he went on with his wife before they got married)
– “Do you like to live inn ny? If so why? 🙂
– “Is yur wife hot” (also directed at D.C.)
– “Why are we doing this?”
– “How long have you been married??”
– “Do u like 2 fart in a bag and then smell it ? (It was decided that this was not appropriate to read out loud and was only meant to cause a stir)
– “Wat is yor favorite color”
– “Do you find LAMP boring?”
– “What did u do in skool wen u were little??
– “Has someone sent ya a text that ever sacred you?” (“scared” not “sacred”)
– “should there be a cutoff time for texting like a bedtime fot texting”
– “If you had kids, would you let them text as much as we do?”
Throughout this texting exercise, we continued to have a discussion about their texting habits, how they felt it benefitted them/damaged them, how they viewed their parent’s involvement in their cyber lives, and how unsafe they felt overall. Universally, they all agreed they texted too much. That said, they didn’t think this was necessarily a bad thing. When pressed, they found themselves often bored, and having a constant jingle in their pocket of a quick quip from a friend made them feel more grounded and connected with their world. They also agreed that they didn’t understand nor appreciated the ban on cellphones in school.
As the questions rolled in, some of them were asked out loud to the LAMPers, which would shape the discussion, leading to more questions sent via text. It’s our finding that texting isn’t just something they do in order to avoid face-to-face communication, but it’s also something they are very good at. It’s very natural to send their thoughts, emotions and opinions out into the ether. We noticed since we allowed them to use their devices while we chatted, they didn’t become more withdrawn, but in fact more relaxed – more themselves. These devices are very much a part of how they connect with the world and retract from it. They stayed even more engaged in the discussion than they did the previous days. Things did not roil into chaos as it might’ve, but in fact stayed very organic and fluid.
One of the most surprising responses to a question we asked was the overwhelming “Yes!” when we asked if they felt they should be able to use their mobile devices in class, especially on tests in order to look up answers to a question ( An aside: Here lies an incredibly interesting conundrum. As it is understood, not everything on the Internet is accurate, just like asking their buddy for the answer, the kids understood that the answers they might find online would also be false. We thought this would be an excellent exercise in media literacy).
We were very grateful for the opportunity to explore this kind of learning environment, and though we only got to dip for a few minutes into this digital pool, it was incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.
Tomorrow, LAMPers get treated to a presentation by a renowned comic book artist for DC Comics and the completion of our media projects. We’re really looking forward to seeing how things look as we wrap LAMPcamp up, but are saddened we only get this short period of time to work with everyone.