Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

15th May 2015 at 01:00

Being all hip and bearded and that, I like to think that I have my finger firmly on the pulse regarding what my students are involved in, especially when it comes to anything vaguely technological.

But even someone as down with the youth as me can have blind spots: celebrity YouTubers, or vloggers, for instance. My students love them but I just do not get it.

These are individuals (mostly young and annoyingly shiny-eyed) who have become incredibly popular by posting videos of themselves saying things about fashion, make-up, games or a range of other subjects.

Now, back in my day (let me get my tartan blanket and walking cane out) we used to make a cup of tea during the ad break so as to avoid inane attempts to get us to buy useless tat. But it seems that millions of kids flock to these platforms of stealth advertising to be told what's hot and what's not. That's all kinds of mixed up, if you want my humble opinion. Darn kids. I'm shaking my fist over here.

But, on the other hand, could these people help to engage our students in whatever it is we are attempting to teach them? Celebrity status is a powerful thing and can often be harnessed for good. PewDiePie (otherwise known as Felix Kjellberg), a Swedish gaming vlogger, has raised thousands for charity thanks to his online popularity and many other bright young things are taking up causes and putting their fame to work. All power to them and the vacuous nonsense they spout, say I.

But here's the problem I have: in the never-ending quest to engage students, we spend a lot of time trying desperately to scramble on to bandwagons because we find something that resonates with those we teach. This attempted appropriation takes place for no other reason than the fact that students like something, or use a certain tool.

But that isn't an invitation for teachers to climb aboard. In fact, doing so can be seen as an intrusion into young people's social sphere, while simultaneously making the subject of our appropriation irredeemably uncool.

So, maybe I could persuade fashion and beauty vlogger Zoella (Zoe Sugg) to come and give a talk on the importance of literacy, or get computer game vlogger KSI (Olajide Olatunji) to do a bit on numeracy using Fifa 15. But I won't. Not just because I'm concerned that they may represent my own journey into aged incomprehension and the possibility that perhaps I'm not as rad as I think I am, but because in doing so I would probably end up destroying them in the eyes of those who adore them.

Let the kids have their own stuff. Even if it is a load of old nonsense.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212


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