Is Technology a Duck or a Rabbit For You?

I am a huge fan of optical illusions. How two people can look at the same exact thing but yet see two different things, just shows how complex our brains can be. I used to use them in my science classes as we would talk about how people can look at the same data but come to different conclusions based on their preconceptions and past experiences.  People tend to see the outcomes that they expect to see.  

One of my favorite optical illusions is the Rabbit vs Duck illusion.  (Technically can be referred to as an ambiguous image but I still would put it in the category of illusion for the purposes that I used it.) Depending on how you look at the image at first, you will either see a rabbit or a duck. Once you become aware of the other image, you may be able to see both but I would almost guarantee that the next time you quickly look at the image, you will see the first one again and again. It might take a little bit of cognitive work to see the other image even after you are aware of it.

If you really want to understand this, you could always just watch the clip from How I Met Your Mother which explained it pretty well how we will use it for this discussion. (And I will not say which is better, a Rabbit or a Duck, that is up to you to decide.)

When we look at anything, how we perceive it is based on what we already think and what filters we have in our mind. You can think of it as the optimist vs pessimist discussion of whether a glass is half full or half empty. We can see something as a positive or a negative all based on what we are already thinking and it can be hard to shift away from this and to try to be truly objective when looking at anything. I would share stories with my science students all the time about scientists, some very famous ones, who would have trouble accepting the data they were getting from their experiments and would assume their equipment was malfunctioning, because it was not creating the results they were expecting.

Technology in the classroom can fit into this category of things that are easily perceived differently from teacher to teacher. Often this is due to how that teacher has used technology in their own learning or how comfortable they are with using technology as a learner. Our own experiences will greatly impact how we view this tool and its impact on a learner. While this may be ok if you are just looking at yourself as a learner, by not seeing the positives that technology can bring to a learner, can create barriers to learning for that learner.

When I look at technology, my mind immediately goes to thinking about what positive impact it can bring. What are the new possibilities that were not possible before for this learner? We can now show students abstract concepts that were difficult to understand without all of these animations or videos that are at our fingertips. We can have text read aloud or font changed for a student who has a form of Dyslexia. We can give students access to more types of media on any content so that they can use what best fits them as a learner. We can have students create more than ever before and then share that out with more than just the teacher, to give them a more authentic audience. We can connect our students with experts and other learners from around the world. We can give them access to any number of tools to help them organize their work, create reminders, or use any support to help them overcome any learner barrier they have.

Or we can view technology as a negative and try to avoid it, thus losing access to all of these opportunities for our students. How we perceive something does not just have an impact on ourselves but can have a huge impact on the students in our classrooms. Now this does not mean that we only should look at the positives and ignore the negatives. We need to be conscious about all aspects but can not forget that we are teachers and we can help students learn how to reduce the negatives. We can’t be looking at this as just a Rabbit or Duck, we need to be able to see both images at once. We need to think of the new possibilities and be aware of the possible negatives, but we can’t ignore that both are actually already there. You can’t ignore that the technology in our students’ hands are the worst that they will experience in their lifetimes and when they leave our classrooms, they need to be able to live and LEARN in this digital age. They need to see both the Rabbit and the Duck.

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