Close Reading: The Story of Electronics

We wrapped up our discussions about Digital Lives yesterday by moving our topic from issues like identity and privacy and behaviors in online spaces to something more concrete: the lifespan of electronics and the environment. It also gave me a chance to guide my sixth graders to be critical close readers of a video as text, which is difficult and which will require much more practice. The topic of the day was about what happens when companies build for “planned obsolescence” (ie, put out the newest model every six months to a year) and we buy new stuff, only to toss away the old stuff.

The video we used — The Story of Electronics — is an offshoot of the larger The Story of Stuff (worth watching, too) and it provides a great opportunity to talk not only about the issues of e-waste and production cycles, but also about point of view, use of “facts and data,” and visual persuasion. This video has it all. While it is a powerful indictment of the ways electronics are endangering the health of workers and others on production lines, it also mostly avoids bringing in a balanced view, uses data without much direct citation, utilizes powerful animated images to evoke an emotional response, and more.

I won’t lie and say we had as full a discussion as I would have liked. The video came near the end of the period on the day before February vacation, and after a vocabulary quiz. But even so, the video did spark lots of discussion about the ways my students and families view electronics, and that sharing gave me avenues for pointing out the techniques of the video. We’ll be revisiting this topic later in the year, for sure.

Peace (in the stuff),


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