Finding Your Voice in a Figured World

I am a Career and Technical Education teacher in the urban district of Meriden. We have adopted the practice of blended learning in the classroom, with the student to device ratio being 1:1. James Paul Gee, in Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses, discusses that we live in a “figured world” full of  “cultural models” and “master myths.” Devices have now become part of our students “figured world” as Gee would put it, and brings several “master myths” with it.

This year I have incorporated the flipped classroom model into my pedagogy in my Computer Applications classes. Because we are a 1:1 school in a blended learning district, I assumed that all my students would automatically be motivated to use my how-to-videos in class rather than listen to me talk at them at the front of the room. This myth was shot down and not true in the figured world of a teenager. I noticed that students did not know what to do with the videos and how to navigate through our Moodle site, which serves as our content management system for class. I figured that since every student has a device and access to the Internet, that they would want to use that method of learning rather than just listen to me.

My assumption that students will take a liking instantly to this method of “taking charge of your learning” was a failure early on. I had frequent questions of why we were doing things this way and that certain things on Moodle were confusing. I also saw more Snapchat and text messaging on phones as I walked by than I expected. In my figured world, I assumed that students would automatically receive this in a positive light because they had full access to me at all times and could pause me, mute me, and fast forward me all in the same class (what young person wouldn’t want this power, right?).

After much thought and self evaluation of what I was doing the first couple weeks of school, I realized that I am dealing with a very complex cultural model, being that we have a school comprised of students who come from all different types of socioeconomic backgrounds. This is not a one size fits all figured world we live in, so I had to come up with a way that would work for every student, but in a different delivery system.

I agree with Risley and Stanovich in their “Children of the Code” series, that the more we expose our students to something, in this case leveraging multi media to create class projects, the more they will learn and adopt this learning into their lives. Risley mentions that a talkative parent will produce a talkative child, and that a taciturn parent will produce a taciturn child. This was an interesting point because I realized that after my first couple weeks with this new method of flipped teaching, I was not really good at how I taught my students to use the resources I have provided them with. If I want my students to use these resources effectively, I have to teach them how to use it effectively.
After this self evaluation, I decided to do a little more work on myself. I took more time in class to show students how to navigate the Moodle site, and where to find the resources they need in a given class session. I no longer assume that students know where to go, or assume that they will watch the video just because it is posted on the site. I have to lead them to it, and make it a part of how they learn. I want to continue making this new way of learning a part of their figured world in my class, and I am starting to see positive results through student feedback and scores on their assessments.

To dig even deeper and address another topic, but continue with reaching my students in this flipped model, I wonder if I would have had more success early on in capturing their attention on video if I had a different voice. Is my voice too deep? Do I talk too fast? Do I not speak clearly? Do I have a weird accent?

Rupal Patel, in her Ted Talks video “Synthetic voices, as unique as fingerprints” spoke about how powerful a voice can be and how it serves as a reflection of who we are. I believe that we should have the opportunity to choose our voice for any situation, whether it be on a gps, emergency system, or how to video on how to tie a full windsor knot.

This weekend I was away at a wedding, and I  wanted to teach myself how to tie a full windsor knot. I went through dozens of videos until I finally found one who spoke clearly and did not speak with a heavy accent.

Why did this video work for me? Was it because he spoke slowly and paused, allowing me to make mistakes and catch up without pausing the video? I went through so many videos until stumbling upon this one. All the others spoke too fast, and I simply just could not follow along with how they were trying to teach the tying this knot.

I will tell you one thing, I would not be able to keep a straight face and steady hands if it was Really High Voice Peyton Manning teaching me the Full Windsor Knot!

When I think of how powerful a voice can be, I think of Peyton Manning in his most recent DirecTV ad. He is seen as his regular self, and then enters again as himself, but with a very high pitch voice. Would the great Peyton Manning that we know today, be the same icon and celebrity that we know, if he had this high pitched voice? The answer is no, probably not, but this makes for an entertaining close to this blog post!

-John V


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