Questions of Perception
The Lumiere Brothers’ 1895 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat is considered one of the first silent documentary films. The story attached to this film is that audience members ran from the screen terrified, mistaking the two-dimensional image of an approaching train for reality. Over time, this story has been debated, but it still poses some interesting notions. If the story is true, then it is an interesting commentary on the manipulation of our senses by technology. If it is simply folklore, the lasting prevalence of the tale might be a reflection on how the effects of emerging technologies continue to bewilder.
Episode 1 of Berger’s (1972), Ways of Seeing, focused on similar notions of technology’s effect. Berger’s BBC miniseries began with the exploration of technology’s effect on famous art. He invited the viewer to grapple with how photographic reproductions have changed the meaning of one-of-a-kind works. The ability to reproduce, crop, enlarge, and alter the composition of original images has potentially altered our understanding of them. The sound and juxtaposition of images on television similarly produced shifts in our perception. At the same time, photography and television has allowed people to interact with artwork on a global scale. Either way, the technology that produced these shifts is undeniable and everlasting. Berger (1972) claimed that our ability to see is dependent on our individual habits and conventions, leading us to ask ourselves how our beliefs stem from these perceptions.
What does this have to do with education technology? Questions of perception are tied to how teachers, students, and administrators respond to emerging technologies. In my last two posts, I reflected on the place of education in an age of mobilism (Norris & Soloway, 2011). I began to flesh out my action plan for a BYOD initiative by considering the how and the why of BYOD, as well as the benefits, challenges, and criticisms of it. I am turning my attention this week towards the idea of perception. As I consider the obstacles faced in professional learning environments in the implementation of technology such as BYOD, I am wondering how our perceptions of emerging technology impact our practice. What are our perceptions of students use of technology? Personal devices? How do teacher perceptions, and resulting beliefs, shape their instructional choices?
Why should emergent technologies be integrated into formal education?
Mecklenburger wrote that, “‘Emerging’ is a loaded word, colored with foreboding overtones: things that emerge are life’s unsettling surprises” (1986, p. 183). Just like the train seemed to emerge from the screen in 1895, an emerging technology can bring with it fear in response to forthcoming change. Mecklenburger (1986) argued that education must take advantage of emerging technologies. He indicated that “The perception that schools, churches, and postal service are fixed is illusory” and if we fail to invest in what’s next, we set a static standard for the future (Mecklenburger, 1986, p. 186).
With increasing online access, students are independently communicating and collaborating in personalized and unique ways by blogging, tweeting, gaming collaboratively, seeking answers from others globally in online videos, and learning to code or play the guitar via online connections. This personalized and informal learning forms one end of a learning continuum that moves in the opposite direction towards formal schooling, one that is uniquely fostered by mobile technology. In “Five Components to Consider for BYOT/BYOD” Ackerman and Krup stated that “No longer will education be defined by student/teacher, but rather a collaborative and cooperative effort by all. The classroom school day will no longer be seven to two, but rather 24/7/365” (2012, p. 37). With instantaneous access to information, students no longer need teachers to be information repositories. Instead, students need teachers that can push advanced thinking skills, communication skills, collaboration skills, problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Ackerman & Krup, 2012).
How have my perceptions and instruction shifted?
This understanding, fostered by my involvement with the Digital Education Leadership program led to my BYOD pilot last year, which ultimately shifted both my perceptions and my instruction. I saw what my students were capable of when I gave up full control of their learning choices. I realized in my pursuit to build a more student-centered classroom, that I was never going to be an expert in all technologies that might positively impact them. It was my misperception that valuable use of technology was dependent upon a controlled expertise. What caused this shift? I was exposed to readings and information that challenged my doubts and beliefs. I followed this with experimentation and practice in the classroom. This year I gave students choice in novel selection, project types, and digital tools used. The results were independent students who were driven, engaged, and thoroughly challenged. My students made book trailers with various tools such as iMovie, PowToon, and Animoto on books of their own choice. Together, they worked through troubleshooting challenges as they learned these new tools. My students also participated in a global collaborative project with a school on the east coast. They communicated in Edmodo and Google Docs to research a comparison topic between their regions, presenting their work in a style of their choice and using a digital tool of their choice. Students made collaborative movies, infographics, and Prezis to showcase their comparison of differing school practices, state laws, histories and other topics of their choice. They practiced communicating and collaborating independently. And, most of them utilized BYOD at times to accomplish this. I saw my students engaged in their learning in a way that I had not previously seen. I saw my students practicing skills that I had previously failed to integrate into their learning such as project management and problem-solving. And, with classroom management strategies and digital citizenship skills in place, I saw students use technology responsibly. I also altered my perception that any one digital tool works in any one situation. Combinations of tools often create effective learning, as certain types are better for feedback or interaction (Kop, 2010). While I have built a set of experiences in my pilot of BYOD, I seek to focus my action plan around influencing other educators schoolwide. How can I work to accomplish this?
What are the barriers to BYOD or acceptance of emergent technologies and ideas?
Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Krista, Glazewski, Newby and Ertmer stated that while many barriers exist in the implementation of student-centered teaching and emerging technology, teacher belief is one of the largest (2010). Teachers make judgements about whether new approaches to teaching will meet their objectives and needs (Ottenbreit-Leftwich et al., 2010). These judgements or beliefs are based on perception, and perception is one of the biggest barriers I see with technology adoption in my own school. After implementing BYOD last year, I had many lunchroom conversations with colleagues. Many teachers I spoke with perceived that teens were addicted to their phones and likened teens to screen-zombies. Many perceived that most students used their smartphones to engage in unhealthy communication on social media. Many perceived that devices were nothing more than an expensive distraction to learning. Many were not aware that some of our shared students read books on their smartphones, collaborate with peers to play MineCraft, make YouTube videos about their challenges with learning disabilities, and participate in creative writing-themed social media to share their fiction stories with other teens. Their perceptions about of how teens use technology were not true or false. Many teens do use their smartphones in the manner espoused. However, their perceptions impacted their judgement of technology’s place in education. On one hand, the judgement that technology serves only certain purposes is unfortunate. On the other hand, the perception that students are misusing technology is an important one, indicating that students need to be taught digital citizenship skills to use online content responsibly and communicate respectfully. We must recognize that as an educator we should engage in this role. Both perspectives address the need to build student independence in acceptable use.
Not all of my colleagues are going to benefit from the Digital Education Leadership program or even chose to read the resources that have influenced my instructional shifts. As such, how do I find influence in my school? I have learned that building a relationship with and receiving guidance from mentors is key (Kop, 2010). My graduate cohort and the collegial relationships I have built within my school have drastically impacted my instructional shifts. Mentorships and collegial relationships not only offer guidance, but give credence to teacher’s individual needs and values. Unfortunately, teacher’s values are often not considered when decisions are made about educational technology implementation; as a result, often professional development doesn’t result in the effective adoption of educational technologies (Ottenbreit-Leftwich et al., 2010). And, mentorship, professional development and guidance is most impactful when an educator is trusted and given freedom to make choices in the classroom (Kop, 2010). Mentorships also allow for inquiry practices. The ongoing practice of questioning, seeking feedback, and sharing reflections can empower educators to participate actively in their instructional choices as they fit their individual classroom needs.
How do we create sustainable practices for technology implementation such as a BYOD program?
In addition to creating relationships with colleagues and finding peers to mentor and coach, building communities for professional learning and sharing is impactful. Established communities provide ongoing, sustainable support for teachers looking to expand their practices. Recently, I explored how the unconference model, like that seen in Edcamps, could be implemented at my school on a monthly basis. My vision was for these sessions is to offer the collaboration, feedback and support on a larger scale. Topics and participation would be fostered by interest and need, not directives or already-held expertise in an effort to foster teacher who can learn from one another and bring their individual interested and and needs to the table in order to be empowered.
Ackerman, A. S., & Krupp, M. L. (2012). Five Components to Consider for BYOT/BYOD. International Association for Development of the Information Society.
Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing – Episode 1. Ways of Seeing: A BBC Miniseries.
Kop, R. (2010). Using social media to create a place that supports communication. Emerging technologies in distance education. In G. Veletsianos (Series Ed.) Emerging Technologies in Distance Education series. 383-397.
Mecklenburger, J. A. (1986). “Emerging” technologies for education. Peabody Journal of Education, 64(1), 183-187.
Norris, C. A., & Soloway, E. (2011). Learning and Schooling in the Age of Mobilism. Educational Technology,51(6),3.
Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T., Glazewski, K. D., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2010). Teacher value beliefs associated with using technology: Addressing professional and student needs. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1321-1335.