Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pay Attention Critique

A Video that Inspires or Offends?

One of the major criticisms I have of "Pay Attention" is that it creates a painful binary. As we know, binaries are incapable of being traversed (this OR that), and inherently contain a heirarchy. The video sets out to challenge teachers, but in many ways, especially to those who are digital immigrants or digital avoiders, it serves to further polarize them.

When thinking about this as a video--opposed to an essay--we need to use our visual literacy in order to interpret additional clues. The use of black and white (an archetypal binary) font color serves to evoke a stark contrast between the background and the text in the foreground. Although not all teachers are progressive, creative and fostering critical thinking skills, to imply that our classrooms without technology are black, devoid of any light is extremely offensive. As with anything, technology will not automatically bring color, especially if it is being used inappropriately or as an online version of meaningless tasks.

Furthermore, the use of the color red is extremely offensive, due to its inextricable link with violence. As a teacher who does use various forms of digital media in my classroom, I am offended by the color choice. I cannot imagine how much someone who doesn’t use (or have access to) these tools would feel. Red is the color of blood and horror; therefore, it evokes a mood of aggression. The last thing that we want to do to teachers would be to assail them into compliance. This would be completely antithetical to the empowerment which using technology can and should provide to both teachers and students.

Finally, the simple use of technology still does not address the issues of meaning. If students say that they feel as if their content has nothing to do with their lives and will not relate to the real world, simply placing this same information onto a podcast does not alleviate these problems.  Knowing that “teachers will lead the struggle to make sure technology use promotes, rather than conflicts with, the goals of a democratic society" (Roblyer & Doering, 2013), we must focus more on the ways technology can enhance powerful teaching practices instead of the fact that it is turned on.  

If I were to create a video, or find a new one, I would want a scaffolded version of technology integration. Instead of frightening teachers into an unknown--and often foreboding landscape--I would look for information that builds upon what many teachers are already doing. Instead of throwing a word like “blog” at a teacher who is uncomfortable with technology, providing a more relevant visual would be more effective. For example:

journal     blog    reflection/voice/empowerment

A visual like this one would serve to show that both a journal and blog move students towards similar goals: reflection, voice and empowerment. The use of a larger visual for blog is purposefully selected to show that blogging may take the initial idea, journaling, to the next level. In order to show its additional capabilities another line with words like collaboration/editing/publishing could appear below the initial desired outcomes. This would allow teachers to feel as if they already have stock in this form of technology. Also, the nature of a life-long learner pushes many teachers towards that next step when they realize that their goals can be maximized with just one shift.

Finally, when dealing with visual literacy, one must be extremely prudent in decisions regarding font, color and other forms of visual information. This information needs to be exciting, bold and powerful. A color like turquoise or teal naturally evokes serenity (blue is the color of the sky and sea which often are found to be calming) yet can be vibrant and motivating. Additionally, our classrooms without tech are not completely black. They do have pops of colors, even if these colors may be dull or slightly outdated. Using colors that are pastel or colors that were popular in past decades (pea soup green, rust orange) may be an interesting visual contrast that also provides a plethora of visual information. These colors serve to remind us that some things we loved at the time become dull and in need of an update. They can also remind us that we are not completely throwing out color or changing everything.

These conversations need to be used to inspire. Teachers are continually bombarded with pressures and rising stakes. If improperly framed and supported these ideas place “a special burden on already overworked teachers to continue learning new resources and changing their teaching methods” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013). Our colleagues need to feel safe as learners in order to make the move. By creating a scaffold instead of a binary, we can begin to engage hesitant teachers and bridge the gaps in many of our schools.

Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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Our Mission at Active Handprint is to inspire actions that help to meet the basic needs of all human beings--to be fed, to be clothed, to have shelter, to be respected and to be safe.