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What’s App, Zombie Students of Art?

Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”

Have you seen Rembrandt’s painting called, the Night Watch? It is huge! It is a masterpiece.

This is of course Rembrandt’s famous painting, “The Night Watch” which is housed at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This huge painting (12 by 14 feet) was painted in 1642, and originally titled, “The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out.” (Bill Muehlenberg‘s blog, April 15, 2015).

A Generation of Zombies?

But have you also seen this photo above, with the kids on their cellphones? Many people have commented on this, including Bill Muehlenberg:

“Indeed, I must say this is a telling pic in so many ways. The dumbing down of our kids, the cultural illiteracy, the trivialisation of life, the obsession with self, the fixation on technological gadgetry, and so on. Just what have we done to our children? It seems we have raised a generation of zombies who are utterly fixated on all their small handheld devices. That is the only world they seem to know about – or care about.” (Bill Muehlenberg‘s blog, April 15, 2015).

What has Technology Done to Our Children?

So many of us older ones, who remember what it was like to live without a cellphone have easily decried the state of affairs where the cellphone is everywhere and the children are no-where. I myself have threatened to use my children’s cellphones as frisbee discs. But this conversation should be turned around to ask, what have humans done with technology? This is an important question when we consider technology as a human tool. What has fire done to us? Nothing. What have we done with fire? Much.

Why Do We Use the Term, Zombie?

It turns out they are doing a lot in this photo…but…before we get to that, why does our current culture use zombies as a metaphor? The living dead is a fascinating lens to use in movies and comics, but at base, it seems to be a metaphor for people who are sleepwalking though their lives.

But the use of cellphones in this picture may reveal a more interesting use of phones, including that of learning. Check out this same teacher and her class’s picture of Students Sitting At the Master’s Feet, the same students looking carefully at the master’s work. The zombie students are working very hard here to understand the master while using their cellphones to research and connect with others around their learning.

So maybe we call other people zombies when they disengage with us as we witness them on their phones? And maybe we just use the term zombie to label any student who seems to sleepwalk their way through life? Perhaps, as a book called Generation Z reveals, today’s life is so complicated that we are stuck in a series of metaphors that we don’t always see even if we are living them? Perhaps we need to get better at leading our students in integrating the way in which they learn?

What if New Ways of Learning Were Opened up Through Technology and Cellphone Use?

I think we could all get on the same page of technology use if we review how technology has helped us integrate the way we learn about art with what happened to all of us, not just students, when we started to use Google. What an advance in learning! What a simple pathway to answer any question! What a great way to review art that we cannot travel to!! What a great way to understand more about that art!

Perhaps the perspective we take with all technology and art is, if we don’t understand how it is being used, by us or others, we tend to think of it as magic and unexplainable, and most importantly, we tend to talk it down. Perhaps we should give technology more of our attention and look into this a bit more…as it seems to have caught the attention of our students in helping them integrate their learning through art. Technology, art and learning are just metaphors, but learning art through technology? That we can investigate through more accurate measurement and rigorous research.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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