Sunday, July 13, 2014

Written Assignment

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 Another issue with the books is that they will soon become outdated and need to be replaced.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. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Turkle vs. Wesch

After reading the article by Turkle and watching the TED talk from Wesch, I see that although they have very different approaches, the issue that they are both combating is the same. I think most tech savvy Americans can agree that they spend a large amount of their day consumed by technology. Some people are embedded in technology for work. Some are swimming in seas of social media for recreation. Whatever the reason, people are definitely spending more and more time "connected" in a digital world then ever before. 

As mentioned earlier, Wesch and Turkle agree on this front. The areas in which they differ are in their suggestions on how to rectify the issue of lost personal human interaction. Turkle suggested in her article that folks should simply forget their devices and start interacting with each other LIVE. For most digitally connected people, this idea sounds nice, but would never work in a practical sense. Many people need to stay "connected" due to their line of work. Others have made their digital lives so much a part of their real lives that to disconnect would be more of a distraction and cause for anxiety, anger, and inattention. Instead, Wesch suggested that we teach our students how to do the things that are very difficult for humans, that technology makes easy for us. These things include being able to: connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish. As mentioned, technology gives us all of the tools that we need to complete each one of these tasks. It is up to the human however to use these tools in a meaningful way. Wesch also pointed out that meaning cannot be sought. Information is everywhere across the digital landscape, but information and meaning are very different. Students need to learn how to make meaning from the information that is available to them. They must learn how to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish in a meaningful way. 
Technology is a wealth of knowledge that should be explored. However, students really must learn how to explore it and utilize it. Ignoring technology and the possibilities that it holds does a disservice to our young people. By ignoring this resource, we are only contributing to the misuse of this powerful tool. 
Though Wesch mainly focused on young people (mainly students) Turkle focused on all  people. She mentioned that adults are choosing to email rather that converse in a live setting. I agree that many adults are beginning to turn away from two sided conversations. I disagree however that these adults are only engaging in one sided conversations where only their ideas are getting posted all over their social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In almost all of these social media arenas the conversations are dimensional. You post an idea for the world to see and respond to. It begins a global conversation in some cases. The only one sided conversation to be had in the world of technology is email. In some emails, an idea or message is sent out to your co-workers and not meant to be responded to. In this scenario, the conversation is one-sided. But this does not differ from classic mail correspondence where an informational letter is sent out to many people with no intention of getting responded to. 
Overall, I think both Wesch and Turkle recognize the same issue. The way in which they differ is the way in which they suggest their solutions to this issue. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why We Banned Legos

Part 5: Why We Banned Legos (p.258)

Children and authoritarianism
Examples to Explain Point:
Exclusion of some children from using the Legos
Unfair rule over which Legos can be used

In an after school day program, a situation that began as a learning project turned out to be a dramatic tug-of-war between children over power and ownership.
The dilemma began subtly as children worked together to build a Legotown.  As resources grew increasingly scarce, some children took the lead and began excluding others from participating. These leaders also took control over the rationing and ownership rights of “cool” pieces.  
One day, and outside group of children that rented the school over the weekend, destroyed the village “accidentally”. The following Monday when the program’s children returned, they were devastated. Some children suggested taking the loose pieces, throwing them into a bin and collectively rebuilding. The leaders however, did not like this idea because “cool” pieces would be thrown into the communal bin. This was a problem because they felt the “cool” pieces belonged to them because they had used them in buildings that they built themselves.
In response, teachers confiscated the Legos until an agreement was made. I thought it was interesting that the teachers did not face authoritarianism with more authoritarianism by dishing our new rules for the Legos. Instead, they let the children decide democratically what should be done.
The children discussed the issue for months. I found it interesting that some of the children suggested giving the other children the “cool” pieces, or letting them use them. Other children argued that when stated that way, it’s obvious that some children in Legotown still have more power than others.
Other children suggested that each house be required to be a specific size. Others in protest of this argued that special buildings like the firehouse need more Legos because they need to be bigger.
In the following days the children discussed power. They explored its meaning, benefits, and dangers.
Teachers then conducted an experiment where they chose 2 leaders at random to develop rules for a Lego trading system game. The game was designed to be unjust. Children with the most points were allowed to make the rules for the game.  In this exercise the children got to experience what it was like to be a leader and to be a follower. They were able to experience the frustration and helplessness that accompanies being a follower, and the joy and control that comes from being a leader.
This experiment led to a collaboration of laws that the children made concerning the Legos:
  • ·         If I buy it, I own it
  • ·         If I receive it as a gift, I own it
  • ·         If I make it myself, I own it
  • ·         If it has my name on it, I own it
  • ·         If I own it, I make the rules about it

The teachers suggested bringing the Legos back into the classroom if the children could all agree on some set rules. The rules they set forth are as follows:
  • 1.       All structures are public structures and anyone can use it. Only the builder has the right to change the building.
  • 2.       Lego people can only be “saved” by a group of people not by one person
  • 3.       All structures will be a standard size. Kids won’t build structures that are dramatically bigger than others.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


My relationship with Disney animated children's culture is tight knit. Our family was very up-to-date with the newest Disney movies. Each Halloween, myself or my two sisters would choose to be one of the princesses. Whenever we played any type of role-play game with Barbies or dress-up clothes, one of us was always the princess. I was usually always Belle, my oldest sister was Aurora, and my middle sister was Arielle. We strayed from these characters on occasion, but these princesses where the ones that looked most like us and therefore, they were the default choice. I remember when we played this role play game in the school yard, my black friend LaRae was upset because she could not be a princess. We had her play the role of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid instead. Then and now I feel awful that LaRae was the only girl in our group that could not be a princess. I can't imagine how she must have felt that day. Although, I did want to add, and am surprised that Christensen did not mention it, there was a princess movie that was put out in 1997 that had Brandy as the lead princess role. I loved it as a child! I had my mom record it and I watched it all the time.

I completely agree with Christensen's claims as far as racial and sex inequality is concerned. I did notice however that violence is not mentioned very much. I have always wondered if removing cartoon weapons and violence from popular cartoons really mattered. It seems like since those things have been removed, violence in young people has only escalated. The action of removing these elements from cartoons was almost like putting the cookies on the top shelf. Children knew these things existed, but were only to be seen and used by adults. It almost increases the desire in children to use these things. In modern day American culture it is difficult to even find children's toys that resemble guns, swords, knives, etc. I am curious to see if there is a correlation between the lack of these resources for children and the increase in violence for children.
Brave challenges the typical Disney stereotype of princesses in many ways. Rather than being the weak, thin, pretty character, Merida was more realistic. She wielded a weapon, was adventurous and boisterous. I am happy that the media is changing its portrayal of leading ladies, but there is still a long way to go. Merida still fell under the "white" stereotype of princesses. She was also not overweight, which is another issue that Christiensen pointed out.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Digital Native vs Digital Immigrant

After reading the text about the digital native and digital immigrant, I was left scratching my head. I wonder how many children either of these men (Barlow and Rushkoff) have come in contact with. The young people that I have met are a mixed bag of digitized skill. Some students struggle to use the internet while others seem to navigate through the web like an experienced traveler. Likewise, some adults that I have met do not even know how to add contacts into their cell phones, while others have have even their vehicles individually digitized to meet their digital needs. Overall, I get the impression that people fear what they do not know. Those that know little about the inner workings of technology do not trust it, nor do they trust those who know it well. They feel the need to name this group of individuals and identify their differences. We all know from experience throughout history that until people truly understand what it is that they do not know, they have difficulty embracing it. I think that is exactly what this book points out in this section.
I think the book also neatly points out that if we buy into this division of them vs. us, we eliminate the possibility of extending our guidance into this vast arena. Young people need the guidance from more experienced adults to sort out fact from fiction and deduce the most credible content from multiple sources. If we remove ourselves from the largest pool of sources that has ever existed, we are doing our young people a terrible disservice.

Immigrant or not?

I am 27 years old. I consider myself to be a digital immigrant that has now been digitized. I am able to navigate through new foreign technology quite well. I am noticing as time progresses that technology is adapting to our needs and becoming much more homogenous. I believe that my acclimation to technology developed through the numerous cell phones that I have owned throughout the decades. I began my cell phone ownership with an old Nokia phone. It was before flip phones became popular. It was very simple in form and did not have a camera, color screen, music storage etc. If fact, I am not even sure if there were different ringtones available. I remember that my phone had a changeable cover and texting took forever! Since then, my cell phones have seemed to become increasingly more technical and complex as time passed. I had no choice but to acclimate in order to continue owning a cell phone!

Other technologies have also been in my life since I was  kid. We did not own a computer until I was in high school but was lucky enough to have a Gameboy and Sega Genesis. Later, in high school, my sisters and I also got a Nintendo 64. As these systems became more complex and added new buttons and commands, our knowledge of technology evolved.