I generally avoid tuning into the news on a daily basis while abroad. I typically wait until I’m in an airport hotel, and give myself 25 minutes worth of BBC information just so I’m prepared for my travels. However, this is the first year that we have had a strong Wifi (Weefee as the French say) signal in the chateau itself, and it has impacted our program in a number of ways. Especially today.
At first the internet and world-wide access to information was a simple annoyance, as we tried to redirect our teenaged students back to their work. That took care of itself, as the kids began to immerse themselves in their work and let go of the proverbial security blanket that their smartphones tend to be. I would say, it was quieter here when they were tuned in, but I’m happier to hear the banter across sketchbooks now that the thrill of French YouTube has waned.
Next, it proved to be useful tool. I have not had to wander the mile down to the local hotel to blog, and all of our participants have actively uploaded fun photos and stories to share. Our first hashtag, #drawininfrance2016, which sounds utterly tacky coming out of my 30 something mouth, has been a success. This is what makes the internet great, right?
But the internet woke me up with a less joyful jolt this morning, as I tuned in to check the FB account, the weather, and then ultimately, the news. America is writhing again, troubled with gun violence, police violence, political turmoil, and cheap celebrity news. The students got word of the most devastating of these current events as well- and it changed the tenor of the discussion across the table. It was good discussion, heated discussion, and ultimately a discussion that made them think about where they are right now, where they will ultimately return to, and what their role is in the world. Maybe this made the WeeFee all worth it.
We will keep connected in the next few weeks and maybe these difficult stories, coupled with the immediate sensations that the students are experiencing while here in France, will fuel their creativity further. For good and for bad, we will create art with extra access to the dynamic world around us and beyond.