Sunday, July 12, 2015

Final Reflection

Hidden messages are everywhere around us. They are on television, in toy store aisles, embedded in children stories, etc. These biases on race and gender roles are internalized without much thought. But if we have any role as teachers it is to teach them to be critical at all the times.

This is exactly the role that current school structures are missing. I teach at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls. Central Falls does not have the best reputation. We are known as poor. We are known as the district where all the teachers were fired. We are known as transformation schools.

When I think of my classroom, I see the reality of “domesticating education.” We, as teachers, are given a scripted curriculum. It is largely worksheet based. As we sat in class everyday for the last two weeks, I realized how little freedom I have in my own classroom. Other teachers from more affluent districts were talking about units on analyzing media, gender roles, photo projects, etc. But all I could think of was my script. It limits me from teaching students how to explore and question independently.

Beyond the chance to explore, this Media Literacy class verified that technology does not be a means of education but can be just an added support. This is the way I already use technology in my class. Central Falls just issued chromebooks to students and teachers. As a result, my students are well versed in Google Drive. They complete papers using google docs. They answer questions and submit them on google classroom.

In this way I am largely a techno-traditionalist. I use technology as an aid to limit my paper load. By having students submit papers via google classroom, I reduce the number of copies I make, the need to print, and the constant stack of papers off my desk.

However, I decided that I want to push myself to push towards techno-constructivist. I wanted to use technology to change the way my students learn instead of just how they hand in work. So I decided to use technology to differentiate my scripted lessons for my special education students.

Through this class I learned some basic tools from new websites. I was able to create storyboards and posters through storyboardthat and glogster. These steps only required me to learn a new tool. I have learned to use many new websites in the last few years that this didn’t really surprise me.

I wanted to do something completely new. Other students spoke of creating a website but that task seemed astronomical to me. Although I  consider myself a digital native, this new task scared me. What if I don’t understand the lingo. What if I can’t create a basic set up? What happens if I spend a lot of time and it isn’t good enough to actually use?

But despite my discomfort, I ventured into the world of websites. First with google sites, where I failed, and then with weebly. I was amazed at what I could accomplish just by exploring new websites on my own. I made a website without a lesson or an expert. I made a website by trying new things independently!

I was amazed at what I accomplished on my own. I feel that my classroom was transformed this summer. I have a new way to communicate with students and parents. I have a new tool to teach students the same material.

I also realized that the term “digital immigrants” implies that the internet is a country. But I would argue that it is a whole world of its own. I may not be a digital native but I feel I am a google native. This class made me travel to new digital countries.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Final Project

I am so proud of all that I have accomplished in the last few weeks!

I made a class website with an easy domain name 

Here is where I stored all the new tools I created and plan to upload the things I have used in the past.

Here is my pecha kucha about the behind the scenes work I have done in the last two weeks:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Wesch and Turkle

I found Sherry Turkle's argument in "The Flight from Conversation" and Michael Wesch's argument in "Crisis of Significance" to be independent of one another. Turkle is making a statement on society as a whole while Wesch is specifically targeting classroom structures. In addition to this, Wesch talks little of technology at all. His focus is how to maximize student product rather than what tools we use to get there. 

If I had to place them into boxes of technology advocates or technology nay-sayers, I would put Wesch as an advocate and Turkle as a nay-sayer. Turkle found that technology is keeping us from living. She feels it limiting conversational skills and lessening a need for actual companionship. Although Wesch does not explicitly discuss technology in his article, he does focus on creating relevance in the classroom and making students into producers. These two mind sets oppose one another in terms of technology use.

I am hesitant, however, to categorize them this way. If they are these categories then I, as an educator, need to chose a side. This polarity is difficult to decide between. I fully agree with Wesch's ideas to make students invested in content by changing the way we teach to make classwork more relevant and functional. However, I also agree with Turkle's view that the world is relying too heavily on technology and losing touch with interpersonal skills. I feel that discussion and technology can be taught alongside each other rather than as two opposing realms.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marketing Sexism

I read Mile of Aisles of Sexism by Sudie Hofmann as my chapter to focus on. This article further explores gender roles and expectations through the lens of children's toys. Hofmann found "several areas of concentration such as gender segregation, career-related toys, militarism, and themes in packaging such as color usage and marketing language" (208). 

In her study she found links between male toys and violent weaponry as well as female toys and domestication. Male targeted toys "encourage violence during playtime in the name of peace and justice" (208). Female targeted toys focus on either appearance or domestic. Household items such as kitchen toys, childcare toys, and cleaning products are marketed only towards females projecting the image of stay at home duties although this role rarely exists in modern day society. These results are frightening because  trips to the toy store are common place for parents and often made without much thought. The shelves promote gender roles to many unknowing consumers.

Even more dangerous is the gaming aisle. Science kits, chess sets, and games that required intellectual thought only have males on the packaging. Only simpler games and workbooks marketed using females; for example, bingo and coloring books advertised using young girls. This divide suggests that girls are not capable of or not allowed to enjoy academic engaging activities. These products promote the image that males are mathematical, scientific thinkers while females should stick to the arts.

In addition, woman were exploited throughout the store. In all the video games displayed "the only women shown were in 'compromising positions' with 'major cleavage'" (213). In addition to this unrealistic female body image portrayed for boys, Barbies come with features including Barbie's scale set at 110 pounds.  Hofmann found "girls' toys promote unattainable physical perfection and materialistic values and typically strengthen the cultural messages of inferiority... [that] affect self-image and academic performance for many girls" (211).

With Hofmann's research in mind, it is interesting to see the history of male and female marketing. Here is an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

“Children weren’t color-coded at all until the early twentieth century: in the era before Maytag, all babies wore white as a practical matter, since the only way of getting clothes clean was to boil them. What’s more, both boys and girls wore what were thought of as gender-neutral dresses. When nursery colors were introduced, pink was actually considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red, which was associated with strength. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness, symbolized femininity…Why or when that switched is not clear.. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Our Media Myths

Myths and propaganda are everywhere in our daily lives. It is important to acknowledge that some of these myths have been ingrained into us as consumers of American society. 

Disney has been a big producer of American cultural propaganda. Growing up, I was a big Disney consumer. My sisters and I grew up watching every Disney movie and singing along. I have continued this tradition as I have gotten older, viewing every new Disney movie as it is released into theaters. These texts shaped a lot of my views as a child. My cousins and I spent many afternoons re-watching Disney movies together and playing dress up. In play, I was always a beautiful princess. For a period of time I even insisted that my parents, sisters, and dance friends refer to me as Jasmine from Aladdin.

This confession aside, I also studied some of the Disney movies with a critical lens during my undergraduate courses. My thesis umbrella was popular culture so I spent the majority of my senior year analyzing atypical texts. Acknowledging the hidden myths embedded in these Disney experiences is frightening. Ariel Dorfman says it best when she describes these hidden meanings as a "secret education" that teaches the expectations of society. Although reviewing these films from a critical lens can be humorous as adults, it is scary how subtle these messages are. 

Here is a TED talk that shows the dangers of these myths that we reproduce over and over.

I found Brave to be an excellent push against the norms of princess culture. The biggest part of this push was resistance of marriage and tradition. Unlike most Disney princesses whose goal is to get married, Merida has no interest in getting married. In fact, she has no male love interest throughout the movie. 

Although her father fits the strong, protective male role and her mother fits the thin, ladylike female role, Merida fights against her female duties. She learns to use a bow and arrow better than any of her suitors, she keeps her hair wild and free, she does not use a crown or tiara, she snorts, and she eats freely. Her father even seems to support her male traits. He gave her her first bow, he tells her she can eat however she wants, and he even jokes with her while her suitors compete for her hand in marriage. Despite her mother's push for manners, she eventually finds usefulness in the "male" survival traits her daughter has accumulated.

In this same respect, her father does not seem to be the head of the household. Although he is the protector, Merida's mother arranged for the clans to meet. She also is a better orator so she often has to take over for him as he stumbles through his speeches. She makes the main decisions including ending the tradition of betrothal.

With these great strides towards a gender-ly neutral narrative, there are still some underlying negative views expressed in Brave. For example, the overweight baker is often fooled and taken advantage of throughout the movie. Macho traits are bragged about and seen as badges of worth. And even more importantly, when clans were competing their were constant femininity comments that suggested homosexuality in a negative light. These slight issues still play a major role in a movie's message. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Digital Native" terminology

I feel digital native is a good term to use to describe a person who has grown up with constant access to technology. We live in a digital era where smart phones and Ipads are more common than purses. It is wrong to assume that because this generation has more access to digital media, that they can access all features and truly understand the capabilities that are available to them.

As Danah Boyd states there is has been a long standing "digital divide", which is only more apparent now that technology is so ingrained into not only the social but also the professional realm of life. Media literacy is now just as important as any other form of literacy, and, like reading a book, using and deciphering media is a skill that needs to be taught.

The problem with this concept links with Mike Wesch’s concern with classroom settings. Although the skill sets students need for the workforce are changing, their school environment is not. In order to truly succeed after high school students should be active producers, with the help of technology. Currently, however, classes are not structured in that format. Teachers provide students with key information and then are assessed on their ability to remember and maybe analyze that same information.

So although these digital natives have an unique opportunity that their predecessors did not, they are unable to utilize it fully because of teaching expectations. Teachers are unable to dedicate time or resources to teach technology skills and restructure their grading materials to assess these new skill sets. Additional some urban school students do not have access at home, meaning they will be unable to harness these skills independently or with the help of parents. These two factors add to the educational and career readiness divide that already exists between high and low income students.

Although there is no simple solution, it seems that it is now more necessary than ever for students to be provided with a technology course. Unlike in the past, where typing was the main concern, this course should focus on key programs, finding research, creating powerpoints, etc.

First Generation Digital Native

Since I am relatively young and graduated college recently, I feel that I am strongly connected to media natives. I grew up with a cell phone, although not a smart phone, and I was a part of the shift from myspace to facebook. Therefore, I consider myself as a first generation media native. I was a participant in the shift of media use instead of access and thus have a firm grasp on many current tools and websites.

In this sense, I feel I have many digital native qualities but not all of them. I am CONNECTED; I obsessively check my email and facebook throughout the day on both my phone and my computer. I expect and practice RANDOM ACCESS. I switch back and forth between tabs constantly. I switch subjects of conversation rapidly and multitask in all situations. 

Since my district has shifted to 1:1 technology, I currently use a lot of online tools in my classroom to introduce students to appropriate technology use. For example, my students love to play kahoot, which is a quiz style game that students can play using computers or smart phones. We have practiced using music based kahoots and evolved into quizzes on literature.

I also use google classroom for many assignments now. Instead of making copies of an assignment and waiting at a copy machine ad nauseam, I post a google document of a task and have students submit them to me online. This reduces paper usage for producing assignments and submitting them.

In my after school program, my students created a video as a commercial for the the program. Here is the video they made: