Archive for category media caution
A short little post that might be too much of a downer–I’ll be more positive next time:
I began a mini-unit entitled “the architecture of control.” with my students the other day. Our introduction centers around Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. In Michal Foucault’s now famous analysis of it (in “Discipline and Punishment”), he concludes that Bentham made visibility a trap. By being visible all the time, prisoners had to regulate and normalize their own behaviours because they were constantly able to be scrutinized. Visibility was a mechanism that made us partners with authorities to limit our own autonomy and homogenize our behaviours. Conformity becomes normalized; difference is viewed as dissent or with suspicion.
While this is certainly true in prisons, many hold it to be true in society as well. One might also extend the argument to include our online culture. We are being watched while online. As I type this, departments in my school board are recording my computer use—it is tied to my account and this computer specifically. Companies place cookies on our browsers; they compile our profiles; they data mine our purchases; and increasingly, law enforcement is entering the data mining and surveying game as well. Everywhere I go, I leave a digital foot print that is permanently attached to my identity. With this kind of surveillance, I had better conform. The only chance I have to remain anonymous is to hide in the anonymity of the data stream—to do that is simple—don’t stand out! Conform! Monitor my own behaviour! Regular my autonomy to coincide with society’s expectations!
Our students are being introduced into an environment that might ultimately end up controlling them rather then freeing them. It might force them to regulate themselves and each other. It might teach them to view with suspicion those who act differently. It might add conformity to our world, not diversity. Even in our most enthusiastic embrace of the Internet and SM, let us at least for a moment consider that we might be wrong—it might not be a perfect world after all. If we do that, we might end up better preparing our students for some of the possible difficulties they might encounter…
I have decided to change the alphabet. There are several things I have always hated about it and it is time to fix / change them. First, I have always hated that there was no letter for the TH sound. Surely so popular a sound deserves its own letter. I have chosen % to be known as the letter “Tum” (unfortunately, the closest approximation is the percent sign; the difference is that the circles are supposed to be touching the line for the letter “Tum”). I have also always hated the arbitrary nature of the order; I propose to change it. All stick letters first, followed by stick and curve, then stick and circle letters and finally “O” will be last as it should be. I want to do more changes but %ey will have to wait.
I can do %is because %e alphabet is an invention; it was made and can be modified. It doesn’t reflect any natural order. It is a technology as is %e language %at it encodes. Often we hear %e term technology used to refer to computer or electronic devices but %is is misleading. It is one small category of technology and deserves to be treated as such. Some of %e earliest technologies invented were part of %e Oldwan culture and predate modern humans by about 2.4 million years. Ano%er important technology was fire, which has been purposefully used for about 400 000 years. %e technology %at allowed %e Homo genus to colonize Europe successfully was placing stones around a fire.
Wi% so many different technologies available, focusing on electronic technology seems risky. Aren’t chairs in a circle social media? Why is listening to a Ted Talk inherently better %en listening to a teacher? Why is Skype better %en letter writing or talking to %e primary class downstairs?
Pencils are technology too and a powerful one at %at. It is still %e pen %at is mightier %en %e sword not %e netbook.
PS…there are 21 % (Tums) used in %is (oops, I mean 22) post since its invention…see how important a sound it is…
@missnoor28 is a terrific person to follow on twitter for teachers as she shares an abundance of sources and is always ready to answer a personal request or offer her help. Last week, she asked me to explain a recent tweet of mine: “@ginrob_pt I wish we could block twts with key words. I’d block “Educational Video Games” & pretend tht Huxley was wrong #EduJo#EdTech#Edchat#Gaming,” and then she asked me, “What was wrong with educational video games?”
In order to answer her question, I need to discuss Adios Huxley and Neil Postman. Huxley wrote a dystopia novel entitled “Brave New World” and Neil Postman wrote a book in the 80’s entitled “Amusing Ourselves to Death” Both these books write about the emergence of a culture based on entertainment and about the possible/actual consequences of such a culture. For a quick explanation of “Brave New World” (and a contrast to “1984”) please refer to this link: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/postmans-forward-revisited/ which is a visual presentation of Postman’s forward. For more information regarding Postman’s point, refer to page 185 in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” in Chapter 10: Teaching as an Amusing Activity.
Both works talk about the consequences of arranging discourse along an entertaining focus; this would also hold true in education. When students learn through games, the arguments extends, they learn a shadow curriculum that learning is easy, and that learning is fun. They do not learn that it is fun to learn. The difference is vast.
Feeling that it is fun to learn motivates and rewards engagement and effort; it offers a reward for learning; it makes the learning its goal and focus; it makes the struggle of learning worth it.
The video game “learning is fun“ offers surface engagement; it distracts from the learning and offers a fun activity; it trains students to learn effortlessly, but also to be less tolerant of exerting effort to learn. I think that it was summed up well by the following 2 tweets:
@intrepidteacherJabiz Raisdana Students become frustrated and bored when they realize even what they love requires hard work. They’re too used to surface engagement.
@davemorinDave Morin “Gamification is the high fructose corn syrup of engagement.” – Kathy Sierra
As an analogy consider T.V. Imagine using T.V to provide a language rich environment for your students: This would seem ideally suited to the educational needs of the student. They would be provided an almost endless stream of language that they enjoy and that could be tailored to their level and needs; problem with phonemic awareness—Sesame street; problems with sequence – Dora; problem with social rules – Thomas. T.V. offers a rich variety of experiences presented by the Backyardigans or even the news which brought an entire American generation the experiences of Vietnam, the moon landing, and the Kennedy assassination. T.V. is a medium that constantly provides attainable data to the viewer and can tolerate a variety of engagement levels. Would we be comfortable with placing a student in front of a T.V. for even a portion of the day? I suspect that we wouldn’t, even though teachers use T.V. and movies, not just to entertain, but with the purpose of furthering their student’s education. Even though, we sometimes view T.V. as a powerful educational strategy, intuitively, and because of the works of such theorists like Neil Postman we know that T.V. is an entertainment medium, not well suited to instruct or to educate. In fact, we used to blame T.V. for the quality of our students or their motivation, that is, before computers became so prevalent.
After unpacking this analogy and applying its principles to video games, can someone tell me exactly how video games are advantageous over other modes of learning? Surely they can work (for limited purposes) but is it worth it? Don’t they train our student to reject struggle? Are they in a sense bribing our studetns to learn? Won’t it ultimately back fire like all bribery based incentive systems?
That is a little of what I meant when I posted my earlier tweet. We should consider what learning with video games undoes-I have, and have not found them worth the cost.