Sunday, November 27, 2011

Technology's Imprint on Story Telling--Lesson 3: Perspective

Stumbling on reviews and summaries of Scott Kirsner's book Inventing the Movies, I found an uncanny distinction made on perspective.  Suggesting that not everyone is always ready for technology to hurtle forward, Kirsner categorizes people into three groups:

a. innovators: people who view technology as an opportunity
b. preservationists: see technology as a threat to how business is currently (and comfortably) done -- the status quo is defended as heels are dug into the earth...they are a resistant lot
c. side-line sitters: those willing to wait things out to see how everything goes -- the status quo is fine for now

Kirsner could have been writing about education--status quo retards innovation so often that it becomes a pattern.  Even words as specific as "hostility" and "indifference" are used to describe what meets innovation head on--the result is "frustration."  Educators are frustrated that they are being asked to change again; educators are frustrated that they cannot try the innovation...yet.

Kirsner points out that most big business entities respond to big ideas in this same way--why should we try something new if the current standard works just fine?  Those in favor of the staus quo might disagree that they are afraid of change or technology--some may even champion it to a certain degree--but they would rather not undermine current best practice...because it works, and more specifically, it is what we know.

Those in education might see the point--I am writing a summary of Kirner's point of view of technology and film, yet this speaks so profoundly to technology and is uncanny.

Casual movie goers may not know the name or work of Harold Lloyd.  Also, it is far less likely that our students would have heard of Lloyd over Chaplin.

Yet I find it valuable to mention Lloyd because of his ability to take technology and change our perspective--literally.  Before sound, stunning achievements built with the simple tools available at the time separated artist from employee (Lon Chaney's work as a pioneer in makeup; Buster Keaton's camera work and stunts) yet it is easy to forget that these innovations persevered over a culture of staus quo thinkers.

And so I ask myself, is that what we always are--a culture of status quo thinkers?  Is it natural for human beings to want to remain anchored to the status quo?

Yet, life is change.  Technology changes so much so often around us, that perhaps we do find comfort in picking one thing, and sticking with it because we understand how it works in our classrooms and schools.  Some might even argue that the greatest innovation still in place is the pencil and paper--what the hell do we need a typewriter, word processor, iPad for anyway?

The willingness of allowing one's perspective to change is part of the beauty of the genius I see in actor Harold Lloyd. 

Lloyd used camera angles so well that what he did was regarded as one of Hollywood's best kept secrets.  Audiences, directors, actors were so used to seeing film and camera work done one way, that to comprehend what Lloyd did was out of the vision of preservationists and side-line sitters.

In several films Lloyd crafted scenes where the hero would be scaling a building, out on a ledge, dangling from girder--ten, twenty, thirty stories above the busy city streets.

Yet, the actors were never more than a few feet from placing their feet safely down.

Lloyd understood that if he positioned a camera in just the right way that he could frame the actor, the wall or ledge, and the streets and traffic below.  He could frame it so that the roof just below the actor's feet would never be shot or seen.

He built, tore down, and rebuilt his sets on the rooftops of progressively taller buildings thereby creating the illusion that the actor was actually scaling a building.

Considered real by audiences, legend has it that women fainted in their seats during a Lloyd film.

Understanding that the status quo was once innovation, only innovators can produce greatness.

Personally and professionally I am in the frame of mind of innovator--I am not saying I am one, but I am in that frame of mind.  I am willing to read, and see, and try.  Technology hurtles forward, and as educators, we will always work with innovators, preservationists, and side-line sitters--it is just a healthy part of being human.  It is a checks and balances system--not every new idea is an improvement, not every established system remains effective forever.  Yet change presses down upon us as does greatness.

Change is a part of being the very least it is a part of education.  Rightly so.

Greatness is a part of being the very least that is how educators are judged by the public.  Rightly so.

One of my personal/professional causes currently is encouraging more educators to use Twitter.  So far, it is subtle and non-threatening--I ask colleagues if they use it and try to share an example of how I use it which I think might be of interest to them.  It hasn't really stuck on anyone so far.

I'm trying to be a part of the positive change of perspective on technology in the classroom in general, but for right now, Twitter is the innovation I'm waving high over my head.

But not for long.

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