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Give me year 10 anytime

March 10, 2009

I've been getting ready for our second trip to Liverpool with a bunch of school children about to act as field ethnographers. We did the first a few weeks back with number two out tomorrow. The idea is a complex one that should be simple in execution. By getting children to act as field ethnographers using SenseMaker™ on hand held devices we can gather large volumes of data, using naive interviewing assets on a range of social policy issues. We thus get many of the advantages ethnographic research without the volume restrictions and the dangers of cognitive and cultural bias.

I'll be publishing more on this over the next month or so and we will shortly invite wider participation. The point I wanted to make today is to demonstrate the ability of children to take on new ideas and strange concepts, internalise them and execute which exceeds that of many an adult. In this case we took all the basic concepts of anthropology and distilled them into a set of nine triads (one of which is shown). Now that was an interesting task in its own right as we have to keep the mapping between academic concept and the representation, while creating something that the children will understand. They are using the triads to signify not only their own stories, but to assist adults to tell and signify their own experiences of the past, present and future. On the first trial we got over 100 stories and they were still contributing enthusiastically on the train home at the end of a very long day.

Now I am pretty sure (that is dishonest I am certain) that if I had tried this index set out with many an adult audience I would have got immediate kickback that it was "too academic" or "too conceptual". Not with our year 10 pupils, they read the material, asked intelligent questions and got on with the task and did it well and with enthusiasm. Maybe there is lesson there for a few adults; if you find something you don't fully understand try and learn about it rather than indulging in a desire for the simplistic at the cost of meaning

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