Change Your Perception… Change Everything

It has been said that if you can change the lens through which you view the world, you can change your reality.   The famous image below is perhaps the best example of this:  to some, this picture shows a beautiful young woman with a feather in her hair and a black necklace.  Others see an elderly woman in a thick fur coat.  With intention, we can allow our mind to look at this image and see it both ways. 

young-woman-old-woman-illusion

Our perception, is shaped by our upbringing and our past experiences.  Depending on what we value and what we assume, we are able to judge a situation and form an opinion about what we see. Have a look at this next picture and think about what you see.

 cellphones

Perhaps when you looked at this picture you saw students off task, distracted by their phones.  Or, conversely, perhaps you saw students embracing technology and using one of the functions on their smart phones as a learning tool.  Regardless of what you saw, I think it is important to note that it is very plausible that others saw it differently.   Recently, I have found myself in a couple of situations where I recognize that the use of technology creates different perceptions, depending on the lens through which it is viewed.  Here are three examples:

After a recent professional development workshop, I met with a teacher on staff who was quite disappointed about the level of respect our audience showed the speaker.  When I dug a bit deeper, I discovered that this particular teacher considered it very rude to type on a computer during someone’s presentation.   I then suggested that teachers may have been using their computer to take notes, as that is what I had been doing.   This was a shift in thinking, as this particular teachers saw the audience members with paper and pen as ‘on task’ and those with computers as ‘off task’.   Personally, I am intentionally trying to make an effort to use less paper and write notes on the computer as much as possible.  However this conversation helped me recognize that the use of technology may need to be addressed in the ‘housekeeping’ details at the beginning of a workshop or meeting so there is shared belief around whether or not it is appropriate to use technology.  At the most recent conference I attended, they encouraged the use of social media and created hashtags so conference delegates could share thoughts and add to the conversation through Twitter.  However, for those viewing technology as a distraction, this creates a very different image.

These instances occur in the community as well.  One of my friends is a hockey coach for his son’s hockey team.  He uses his cell phone as a stop watch to record playing time of individual players.  Mid season he received a complaint letter from a parent claiming that he was not focused on coaching as he was on the phone the whole time.  Again, depending on the lens you use, you can either see this situation as a ‘coach actively finding ways to give every child play time’ or a ‘distracted coach who is on his phone during the game’.  I’m sure the parent would have had a different perception if they saw him holding a stop watch.  Sometimes we need to recognize that our perceptions shape our reality, and that our assumptions are not always correct. 

In a third example, I had an hour to kill in a pediatric dentist office while I was waiting for my son.  As I looked around the room, I noticed every parent was actively engaged with their cell phone.  I sat looking at the room wondering what a passerby would think.  Would they see parents distracted by their phones?  Would they think the same thing if they walked by and saw parents flipping through books or magazines in the waiting room?  I recognize that phones have so many functions, and there is no way of knowing what the parents were doing.  Perhaps they were creating shopping lists. Perhaps they were reading e-books, perhaps they were using the internet, or answering emails for work.  And, of course, there is a chance they were filling their time playing Angry Birds. 

Regardless, each situation reminds me of the power of perception, and that as technology changes, we need to be aware of our own judgments when we see someone focused on their ‘smart’ phone.  If we rewind five years, we were quick to prohibit cell phones and pagers in class as they disrupted the learning environment.  Now, phones are capable of so much more, and many schools have moved to a ‘BYOD’ or bring your own device policy, as phones have the ability to enhance learning, if used responsibly.  If we recognize the potential good of cell phones in the classroom, then we have successfully shifted our thinking, and changed our reality. 

Similarly, security systems are primarily used to capture negative events.  However, what they really capture is a snapshot of reality.  As this uplifting video recognizes, it is up to us to determine whether we want to see the positive or the negative.  And most importantly, it’s a great reminder that we have the ability to shift the lens through which we see the world.   Our perception is our reality.  Change your perception… change everything.

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6 thoughts on “Change Your Perception… Change Everything

  1. With regards to the general perception of technology as a positive tool that enhances our every day lives versus it being a negative distraction, your examples are more focused around an older generation of individuals who didn’t grow up with technology around them. I’m curious; would you say that this perception issue is equally prominent among youth and adults, or more so in the latter?

    I’m also wondering how you think a “mass change of perception,” if you will, can be achieved, or if that’s simply unrealistic?

    I should’ve prefaced by saying that I agree with your points but am just wondering what you think are the next steps, moving forward, from an educator’s point of view rather than that of a student.

    • I think you are right….adults seem to view ‘kids on phones’ from a different angle. But don’t worry, we have come a long way, so change is possible… remember, when we were teens we didn’t even have phones…. we lined up for pay phones with quarters. I think an awareness that our perception shapes our reality allows us to judgle less and see things from a point of curiousity. And, as we follow suit and learn to use newer technologies, we will have new experiences to shape our own perception.

  2. Re-framing our thinking and constantly questioning why we hold the perceptions we do is definitely important but something I think audience members at presentations, and participants in meetings need to be conscious about when using a device is ensuring that they are showing themselves to be present and engaged with the speaker, or within the meeting. As a participant I may be completely engaged with the content of the meeting or presentation while using my device, but if I appear be be disengaged because all of my focus is on the device, it is rather disconcerting from a presenter or speaker’s perspective – in a similar way that side conversations during meetings are. When we use devices I think part of dispelling these perceptions is that we as users are consciously demonstrating that we are present in the meeting or presentation with eye contact etc. Being present is something that I think our students should be considering and discussing as the use of devices becomes more prevalent. Thanks for your post – the ongoing act of questioning our perceptions and assumptions is definitely something we need to be involved in.

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