• Agents of Change

    • This camera combines artistic and scientific enquiry in a project that students find irresistible.

    Bigshot, a camera built by children to document their life / 

    The Bigshot Camera emerges as an essential component of the ‘new literacy of the twenty-first century’, where children are not only taught to use programs and appliances but are also taught how to program and build them. This camera perhaps appeals most to the artistic side of technical and digital education, since it allows children to put together their own “point and shoot”, learning physics, mechanics and the combination of digital colours and aesthetics in the process.
     
    The creator of this tool is Shree Nayar, a computing scientist from Columbia University. After watching Born in the Brothels, a documentary which exposes how the poorest children of the Calcutta slums photograph their lives, he realised a camera can be an exceptional learning tool for children.
     
    The scientist decided to create a camera that could teach children the mechanics of digital hardware but that would also enable them to use it as a tool of artistic expression. After some tests with Bigshots donated in Vietnam and Bangalore, the New York Centre for Education and Arts launched a pilot program earlier this month. The centre’s directors point out that this year they’ll be using the camera to teach STEAM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths.
     
    ‘I always say that it’s not just a digital camera. It’s an experience,’ Nayar says. ‘You start off by building and learning, that’s the STEM component. Once you have it, you enter the world of documentary storytelling. And then, once you’re sharing, you’re expressing.’
     
    Bigshot can be bought online. A portion of the royalties will be donated to children in impoverished communities and the camera will be taken to several public and private schools.  ‘There is an understanding that human beings do not learn one discipline at a time, and that we learn very different things at once,’ James says. ‘What was unique about Shree’s camera is that the students actually make the camera, and every component in the camera has an educational purpose. I would say that by far it's the most exciting science and art project we’ve ever done.’
    Tagged: Bigshot, childhood, children, poverty, Education