Sunday, February 21, 2010
George Orwell, Big Brother & Digital Cameras
Some schools have disabled student laptop cameras in the interest of security and safety. While I understand some of the fears, I think that it is unfortunate.
I worry much more about government and corporate surveillance and the manipulation of citizens through propaganda and advertising. While I'm not blind to the needs for privacy and safety, removing a tool that uses an increasingly dominant mode of communication does not help, in the long run, to educate our children in the appropriate and ethical use of that medium.
Any tool can be used for good or evil. While we spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on text, much of the communication sent our way now is multimedia. It is our responsibility to help kids learn to discern the messages that they are consuming, and to do that, they need to create and think critically about these forms.
Cameras are everywhere now. Places such as YouTube are thriving. Don't schools have an obligation to help model effective and critical uses of video? I fail to see how denying access to cameras in schools will help to create better citizens in the 21st Century.
When I taught 5th grade, if I found that one of my students was using a pencil in an unsafe manner, I might have temporarily taken it away from the student, but it would have seemed absurd for me to have outlawed all pencils in my classroom or school as well. Rather than forbidding them in the educational process, there were consequences for not following the rules. In other words, individual responsibility.
How are student cameras different in that regard? Now granted, digital technology is faster and more powerful and complex, but doesn't that make it even more important that we model appropriate use in and outside the classroom? How can that be done without the tool?
Instead of forbidding them, let's . . .
1. Make movies
2. Learn visual grammar
3. Think critically about movies
4. Investigate privacy issues
5. Learn about propaganda and advertising
6. Become Media Literate
7. Discuss ethics and decorum and responsibility and trust and etiquette in the context of our work.
8. Learn constructive ways of using Photo Booth
George Orwell, Big Brother Is Watching Your House