Teaching Aesthetics?

Hopefully this is not the work of one of my students

As my students and I move toward digital literacy and produce more digital projects, I’m finding that aesthetics have become increasingly important. Most of us have been subjected to ugly Powerpoint Presentations by students and colleagues. Heck, we might have even inflicted one or two on others. That being said, as we move toward projects that use Animoto, Glogster, Prezi, and others the problem compounds as we start to swim in a sea of ugly.

One of the refrains I’ve heard from secondary ELA teachers over the past few years is that they didn’t sign up to teach reading (I think most of us signed up because we love literature) , but that they’re finding themselves having to teach basic reading skills more and more to the detriment of teaching literature. Whether this is the result of a failing of our education system, a raising of the standards for a wider population, new media, or widespread cultural illiteracy is beside the point.  It’s a fact. The recent answer to this refrain seems to be that teaching literature isn’t really the job of the ELA teacher anymore, at least it’s only a small part of the job. We’re also to teach practical texts, non-fiction texts, digital literacies, new literacies, buzzwords, buzzword, buzzword…

So is it now going to be our job to teach aesthetics as well? Maybe the answer here is more interdisciplinary projects. Let the art teacher handle the aesthetics and the medium, and I’ll deal with the analysis and delivery of the message. When each of our classes works as an island unto itself, it’s hard to connect the pieces of learning students are receiving. If it’s difficult for me, then it’s likely doubly difficult for the students and weakens the learning taking place. If I were sure what they were being taught and able to draw on what they’ve learned and hold them accountable for it, then the whole dang educational experience might be transformed.

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