With the school year underway I was pleased to see Mitchell receiving homework on a daily basis. Not only that, but he was already being given projects to do. The move to high school was a big change from what he had been used to. That being said, Mitchell carried over some old habits with respect to how he did his assignments. Most noticeably his love of stop-motion filmmaking continued to bring his projects to life.
Lydia and I had long since stopped questioning him whenever his piles of Lego bricks made an appearance. We knew that, while I’m sure there was an element of fun involved, the Lego served a serious purpose. This time it was to show Neanderthals going about their daily chores. He had even made a large Lego-built mastodon which was hunted down by spear-toting Lego people and, as its final act, fell upon one of the hapless hunters. Mitchell completed the movie with music ‘borrowed’ from The Lord of the Rings. Then he burned it to a DVD.
“The assignment is to make a 10-minute movie,” he advised us. “We all have to make one.”
This got me thinking about how things had changed since my school days. My assignments were completed in either pen or, if I had access to a machine, typewritten. Pictures were hand drawn or photocopied. If I wanted to have something move, I could always draw stick figures on the bottom corner of a book and flip the pages really fast.
Now everything seems to be online or involves computer technology to some extent. For his band class the students had been given a video showing waterfalls, volcanoes, pastoral scenes and wildlife. Their task was to add a soundtrack that complimented the movie using music from any source.
I tried to imagine my band class doing a similar project. I pictured my teacher showing static slides on an overhead screen accompanied by the flatulent sounds of my tuba. Avant-garde perhaps, but I doubt it would have been appreciated.
Technology, however, does have its flaws. This became clear during the first few weeks of school. Mitchell had transferred to a school outside of our family of schools but, despite being advised of the change, he was still listed at the old as well as the new. Each night we received automated calls advising us Mitchell skipped classes that day. We informed the schools about the error but the calls kept coming. Amusingly, Mitchell was marked present in several of the classes at the school he had not even stepped foot in. I was tempted to let it go and see what grade he would get at the end of the year, but Lydia insisted on fixing the problem. Oh well.
A second flaw came to light when we asked Mitchell how his Lego movie went over.
“The class liked it,” he said.
“How were the others?”
“We didn’t get to see any others,” he told us. “The other movies had been uploaded to Youtube but the class computer couldn’t access the site.”
I laughed. “I wished we had computers when I was at school. Forget blaming the poor dog. I could have said, ‘The computer ate my homework!’”
Kevin Toal still enjoys the simple pleasure of a ‘flip-book’ masterpiece.