Don’t Touch That…

Star Spangled Banner

It’s the way we take vacations these days. I’m flying off somewhere, that’s best flown to from a major airport like New York or Washington. In this case, it’s  Washington.  So Brenda rides the train with me to the nation’s capital, we spend a day or two being tourists, and then we split, she training back down to Raleigh, and me taking off for some far off exotic land that I’ll be too busy and jet-lagged to enjoy.

Yesterday, we walked around (a lot) and visited some of the Smithsonian museums.  It had been many years for me. Brenda had a special interest in seeing the Star Spangled Banner, the huge flag that flew over Fort McHenry after the British fleet withdrew, unable to enter the harbor of Baltimore.  This was what we call “The War of 1812.” The flag has been undergoing conservation procedures and has only recently been brought back out on display at the National Museum of American History.

The line outside the museum was long, but moved fairly quickly. The line outside the SSB display route moved much less so. But we finally got through, got a multimedia background of the war and battle, saw the flag, and then got to play with a huge video display of the flag. The image moved slowly up from top to bottom, with circles around specific spots. You could touch those circles and a pop-out window would explain something about the spot — a shrapnel hole or some patchwork from a previous conservation project.

Near the center of the display was a larger circle with arrows pointing out in four directions. It appeared to me that you could grab the flag there and change its direction. But no one was using it. Most of the folks in line were adults, most of them middle aged to older. There were a few kids who were anxious to get on with it.

Finally, a kid, about nine or ten, reached up to that circle, grabbed the flag image, stopped its move up, and reversed the direction, dragging it down. His mother (I assume) gasped, grabbed her son by the shoulders and pulled him away from the display. It was such a perfect moment, one that probably repeats itself every day as our children seem so much more comfortably with an information environment that is central to how we do things today.

But it’s not about digital natives and digital immigrants.   It’s simply about all of us realizing and acknowledging that we’re all learners — and we should practice it in the light of day…

Author: David Istlandoll

David Istlandoll has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.