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:

Who Am I?

My name is Kara DeAngelis and I am a teacher at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls. I am 23 years old and I just finished my third year of teaching English and Special Education. In the past two months, I have moved into my first house and got engaged. These life events means my summer will be filled with home improvement projects and wedding planning!

In addition to this course, I am also taking a language acquisition course this summer. When I am not in classes or working on personal projects, I hope to read a lot of new books and spend as much time at the beach as possible.