TMS has worked with Littleton, CO high school English teacher Joseph Destefano since 2007 on his annual Tech Turnoff (a.k.a. “Digital Detox”). The Turnoff has students log their media use for a week, followed by a week without media, cold turkey, except for their nightly entry on Mr. D’s Class Blog, where they reflect on the experience guided by Mr. D’s framing posts.
In the past, this experience was a part of Mr. D’s unit on Huxley’s Brave New World, which he supplemented with readings from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, to inspire critical thinking about the role of technology in identity, culture, and society. As the discussion around the role of “technology” in education has increased in his school, as it has around the country, Mr. D has begun building out a Media Studies unit, with the Tech Turnoff at the center, focused on critical analysis of media as a natural extension of his classes. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. D’s intro to the Media Studies unit:
“Every spring semester I turn the focus of my English classes to media other than the written word, again not to escape into them, but rather to analyze their messages, and to analyze ourselves in relation to those messages. That is, we apply the skills we learn and develop as students, especially of literature, to the communications media of our brave new world. Media literacy conceived not as facilitated adaptation to yet newer tools (–no, it’s not about technological know-how, which, it must be conceded more and more every day, is neither challenging nor necessary); but rather as intellectual self-defense. Indeed, at a certain point in our schooling, pretty early on, literacy is not about the ability to merely read, but about the ability not to be cowed by what we read or hear or see. Media studies, I feel, is thus the perfect culmination of such instruction as the English teacher delivers.”
Tech Turnoff 2013 ended in Mid March. Check out Mr. D’s Class Blog to read the student comments, read further on his perspective on the role of media literacy in high school English and the details of his unit design (which also includes student storyboarding adaptations of scenes from Brave New World), and browse the resources he uses to get his students to reflect on the role of media in their lives.