Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Phoned-In-Focus: Parental Assumptions of Kids' Attention Deficit Lampooned by Louie

We hear a lot of concern about how folks focus too much on their phones and not enough on the people and events right in front of them in real life, but we seldom balance that annoyance with recognition of how our everywhere access to digital media may enhance our real life experience.
"How do you appreciate a thing and google it at the same time? 
That's no way to live a life."
The clip below, from a recent episode of Louie, pokes fun at our kneejerk negativity, subverting common parental assumptions about their kids' mobile media use. As I'll discuss below, the clip makes a great bait and switch discussion piece for exploding assumptions and exploring the important media literacy questions: Does our cell phone use create attention deficit or enhancement? Do our mobile media disorder or enrich our experience?

[After the jump, ideas for leading discussion of the clip, and for writing a comic scene subverting generational expectations about media use]

So here's how I think a great media literacy discussion could go with this clip in teacher education, a parent group, high school or middle school classes. Before viewing, have a warm up discussion on what we love and hate about mobile media devices. Talk about different situations for and uses of texting, using different apps, playing games, searching the Internet, tracking locations, talking on the phone, etc. For each negative or positive comment, ask if anyone has felt the opposite about the same sort of media use, maybe in another setting. Then, screen the clip in large group format if possible. The big moment to pause and discuss is at 2:20, right when the stage-play sequence ends. Most learners will be annoyed at the daughter right along with Louie, the dad. So, ask, "How would you feel at this moment if you were the dad? How about if you were the kid? What emotions do the actors express? Why?" Then, watch another short bit as Louie expresses his anger, pause at 2:45 before the daughter interjects, and ask, "What do you think of what the dad says to his daughter here? What does he feel? How does he express it? Is this an effective way to address the problem he sees? How would you try to express such feelings?" After these two pauses, watch through until the end of the video and open up the discussion to responses. If it doesn't come up spontaneously, prompt learners to discuss questions like: What did the daughter say she was doing with the phone? How did it affect her experience? Why doesn't the dad take her phone away in the end? Are you as convinced as he is? What would you have done? How does this relate to your own experience? And make sure you address big issues like: Does having info at hand disrupt your immediate experience of real life?

This conversation could make a great lead into a workshop on managing your media use, or managing children or student's media use at home or at school. However, you could also use the clip as a model for a production activity where learners choose a particular use of mobile media that they love or loathe, which people have particularly positive or negative feelings about, and write a scene as a skit or for video that subverts the assumptions and expectations people have about the use. I would start by trying to do a whole group brainstorm on one common annoyance, like texting through a lunch date, or answering a phone at a movie, and come up with ways that such uses might be meaningful or appropriate, even beneficial to the others who were annoyed. That is the twist Louie's humor uses. The skits could try to achieve a funny effect, but remind everyone how hard comedy is to produce--the hardest thing in the performing arts, some say. You could use the Benign-Violation theory of humor to get learners in the ballpark (think of a Venn diagram with a circle for Benign mobile media uses, and a circle for uses that may be seen as Violations of good taste, ethics or etiquette--humor is in crafting situations for uses in the sweet spot of the overlap). I'd limit skits to two or three screenplay formatted pages for 2-3 minute skit, or even go shorter. Think of a location and turn everyone loose to shoot! This could all be done over two 45 minute sessions to great effect. I'd love to hear tales from anyone who works off of the Louie clip with your own learning group in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I was surprised to see this take on phone use after some of Louis CK's other material on phones, like:
    Louis CK Hates Cell Phones-
    Lois CK on Cell Phones and School Plays-

    Maybe his opinions have changed? Maybe he had a similar experience with his real life daughter that helped to shift the way he sees phone use?

    Seeing these guided discussion questions here makes me wish I was still a classroom teacher though. Anyone who's teaching media literacy without the use of this blog probably has bored students.

    One recommendation I might make to help keep the blog entries user friendly for teachers is to just break up some of the block text, with bulleted questions and more line breaks, and maybe some key words bolded. You know, in case the kids are so used to being on googling while appreciating that their attention spans would benefit from some visual cues....

    Thank you for posting all of these excellent clips and accompanying guides, Mike. Southwest Vermont is in for a treat.