For my final project, I created a Flexbook textbook. I chose this tool to use because I do not currently have resources to meet the needs of all of my students. I teach ESL Science to 7th and 8th graders at an urban middle school in Pawtucket. Though we have textbooks to use in our classroom, they are designed for English proficient children who read and write on grade level. These textbooks elicited so much stress and anxiety with my students that I purchased smaller, leveled books with far less text. Although this was a HUGE improvement, my students that were entering or beginning still found difficulty with the text. Another issue with the books is that they will soon become outdated and need to be replaced. By using a Flexbook textbook, I can control exactly how much language I want to include on each page. I can insert pictures and videos that cannot be access from a traditional textbook. Supplemental resources can also be developed to support the text. Now students in my classroom can feel much more confident in their reading abilities in English. With anxiety levels minimized the students will allow themselves to really take in the content and absorb its meaning.
Before I could make the textbook however, I had to become more familiar with technology. I learned how to screen shot, hyperlink, blog, create digital comic strips, make videos, use Google drive, and experiment with Pucha Kucha before/ during the development of the textbook that I created. Each new bit of technology and media that I was able to include in my textbook will enhance the meaning of the text for my students. However, there are still many more tools that I have yet to discover. I look forward to exploring what technology can do for me and how to incorporate it into my teaching practices.
One major lesson that I learned in this course was that just because you are a digital native does not mean that you are technologically literate. I learned that although students may be able to navigate through technology they may still be unaware of how to properly use it. Until I took this course, I was under the belief that our students intuitively know how to use technology and are far more advanced that I am in the field. I am even guilty of asking my students to help me figure out issues on my computer! Now however, I understand that many students can figure out how to use technology enough to "get by", or do the things that they are interested in such as gaming. Very few students know how to use technology academically and must be taught to do so.
The impact of media on culture and individuals within it is also another area of media literacy that I was unfamiliar with. Prior to taking this course, I was under the impression that famous models and Barbie dolls were responsible for giving your girls unrealistic body image complexes. I had never allowed myself to analyze classic TV shows or movies. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that Disney princess movie from my childhood were so negatively impacting the self-esteem of young girls. Once I finally allowed myself to watch the videos with a critical eye I was very dismayed. As a youth I remember watching these movies and fantasizing about my own prince charming. I used to idolize princesses like Snow White and Cinderella. Now that I have seen these movies with a new adult perspective, I no longer idolize such characters; I pity them.
I remember as a little girl wishing to have a small waist, long hair, long legs, and a beautiful voice like they did. I tried to diet and exercise and practice my singing all before the age of 10. It seemed like everyone around me thought it was cute. I however, was on a serious mission that was met with failure over and over again. The body type that I was striving for did not exist. Neither did the Hercules looking hero/prince charming. I was left feeling inadequate. People would tell me to love myself, so I thought "Hmmf. I suppose I will just have to accept what I am and settle with my appearance." Only now do I realize that I should not have thought of it as settling. I wish I had been excited and happy to be myself.
Yet despite all of these delusions of girl-hood, I never once linked these feelings to the media that I was immersed in every day. Times have changed a bit since I was young, but messages conveying the importance of perfection still permeate our lives. There are still toys out there that are impossibly thin, wear too much make-up, and are unnaturally disproportionate. I am very grateful that the wool has been pulled back from my eyes. I will be sure to be more sensitive to such harmful messages when I have children of my own. I think it is also important for me as an educator to be sure that my students are aware of the harmful messages that can infiltrate the media that surrounds them.
Another element of this course that I will be using with my students is the digital toolbox that was shared with us from Dr. Bogad. I think that it is important that students learn to value their technology as an educational tool rather than an instrument of entertainment. As an educator that has now explored the many opportunities that technology has to offer I will be sure to share them with my students. I feel that they should all know how to gather relevant input and be able to develop meaningful output. They should be the collectors as well as the contributors. In my experience I have seen students simply collect information on the internet. The only information that I have seen them put out is subjective and released through social media. I would love for them to experience creating something new from collected information to contribute to the world.
Overall, this class was a wonderful experience for me. I learned so many new things that I can take into my classroom and share with my students. I truly feel like a catalyst for something big. I look forward to sharing my new skills with my students and finding new ways to incorporate it into my curriculum.