Little Andalusian girl with an iPad

So there’s this kid. Super bright. Failing classes in high school. He can’t concentrate on his homework. What he can concentrate on, for hours at a stretch? Editing videos on his laptop.

“At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.. He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site…

Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip…“I’m spending two hours to get a few seconds just right,” he says.“If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”

Is his computer the distraction? Or is it his classes that are the distraction? Why should he have to wait to turn 18 and get into art school to concentrate on his passion full-time? How can he get connected to a broader community to help him collaborate, get his portfolio out to a wider audience, and support his self-learning through sites like YouTube?

What kind of paradigm shift does it take to get parents, teachers, school officials, and the bureaucrats who measure and count “student achievement” to see  this kid as a success story, not a screw-up?

One Response to “Driven to Distraction”

  1. Emily B. says:

    This was my exact question about that story. I do believe the extent to which kids are dependent on technology these days is worrisome. I do believe that this dependence probably has negative consequences for attention to the real world and face to face relationships.

    But I couldn’t quite believe that Vishal is representative of that problem. He’s not using computers as a distraction, but to do something real. His school is the distraction from what he needs to be doing. He’s not dithering away his days on facebook (like I was guilty of yesterday); he’s making movies.

    If I were the parent of a kid like that, I’d withdraw him from school in exchange for some kind of agreement that he’d spend more time offline and more time reading…say, he can spend his days making movies and quit worrying about Algebra II, but he has to stop and go out for a walk at least once a day, he has to cook and eat dinner with the family, he has to read a book once in while.

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