Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Messy Classroom

Here's our spoken word poem, "Messy Classroom," inspired by Shel Silverstein's "Messy Room."

Here is the modified text of our poem. To get the audio recorded over the slideshow, we used the Google Chrome extension Screencastify. Then, posted the video on Youtube and edited out some of our extra recording.

Pecha Kucha

Here's my Pecha Kucha from Dr. Bogad's class in the fall!

The Power of Naming

I really appreciate Michael Wesch's optimism about new media. As a teacher who believes that learning happens when students and their teachers are provided space to explore what is significant to them, I look forward to his idea that "the new media environment provides new opportunities for us to create a community of learners with our students seeking important and meaningful questions." As I mentioned in my previous post, this is the approach I tried to take with my "Media Busters" unit, using questions and texts the students wanted to explore to drive the content of the class. This emphasis on questions means that "it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique and create information." Because he frames students as producers rather than consumers, he says that students "need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able."

While I agree with his premise, I worry that his assertion that his anthropology course subjectivities cannot be "taught" will be misinterpreted. He says that, "We can only create environments in which the practices and perspectives are nourished, encouraged, or inspired." This comes in direct conflict with Danah Boyd's ideas about teaching and learning. She would say that his approach of nourishing, encouraging, and inspiring is not quite enough to ensure that digital citizens will have access to and acquire the skills needed to become media literate.

Boyd's observation that "teens may make their own media or share content online, but this does not mean that they inherently have the knowledge or perspective to critically examine what they consume" (p. 177) connect with Lisa Delpit's arguments about educating other people's children. Here are Delpit's five aspects of power and some quotes from Boyd that go along with them:

Lisa Delpit says...
Danah Boyd says...
And so...
“1. Issues of power are enacted in classrooms” (p. 282).
“From this perspective, teens are ‘digital natives,’ and adults, supposedly less knowledgeable about technology and less capable of developing these skills, are ‘digital immigrants’” (p. 176).
Like Delpit, Boyd recognizes that naming people as “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” is way that people use their power.
“2. There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a ‘culture of power’” (p. 282).
"In describing youth as natives, both Barlow and Rushkoff frame young people as powerful actors positioned to challenge the status quo. Yet many who use the rhetoric of digital natives position young people either as passive recipients of technological knowledge or as learners who easily pick up the language of technology the way they pick up a linguistic tongue" (p. 178).
Boyd notices that there are codes/rules for media literacy, specifically when she mentions that there is a “language of technology.”
“3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power” (p. 282).
"Worse, by not doing the work necessary to help youth develop broad digital competency, educators and the public end up reproducing digital inequality because more privileged youth often have more opportunities to develop these skills outside the classroom" (p. 180).
When Boyd says that “educators and the public end up reproducing digital inequality” she is acknowledging that media literacy reflects skills that those educators and the public already have.

“4. If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier” (p. 282).
“When they engage with media— either as consumers or producers—they need to have the skills to ask questions about the construction and dissemination of particular media artifacts. What biases are embedded in the artifact? How did the creator intend for an audience to interpret that artifact, and what are the consequences of that interpretation?” (p. 181).
Here, Boyd explains that adults who call youth digital natives are setting them up to stay in their position. Those adults can help youth  become literate by teaching them to ask certain questions (which she gives two examples of). If students are taught how to ask these questions, they can then become media literate.
“5. Those with power are frequently least aware of - or least willing to acknowledge - its existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence” (p. 282).
"Rather than assuming that youth have innate technical skills, parents, educators, and policymakers must collectively work to support those who come from different backgrounds and have different experiences"(p. 180).
Boyd’s use of the word “assumption” shows that the adults in power are not necessarily willing to acknowledge their role in reproducing the inequalities inherent in the digital world, particularly for youth in underprivileged situations.

Ultimately, I agree most strongly with Boyd in that media literacy skills can and MUST be taught. Otherwise those with privileged access (to digital tools and resources) will continue to gain power over those who don't.

Calling it a "digital world" is so appropriate because the interactions and hierarchies that exist in our "real world" have been so easily reproduced online. Critical voices like Boyd's are important to point out that the playing field is not even and that not everyone is starting from the same place. Certain groups have privileges/advantages and those with power must recognize this and use their power to ensure more just outcomes for everyone.

Monday, June 29, 2015

From Immigrant Student to Assimilated Teacher

Don't let my age fool you. As a kid, I kept a handwritten address book and snail-mailed letters in doodle-covered envelopes. When I was finally old enough to walk around the mall without my friend's parents, we carried walkie-talkies in our sparkly purses. Only my dad had a cell phone, and it was strictly for work purposes.

All of this makes me a digital immigrant.

I would say that I had a slower entrance to the digital world than most people around my age. I used my computer to play a floppy disk version of Jeopardy and my dial-up Internet to write a paper about Sandra Day O'Connor - not to send rapid-fire instant messages to my friends. I never personalized a MySpace and my Facebook profile picture has been the same for five years.

My aversion to certain social media platforms originated from my parents' rules against them. (My mom works for lawyers and has seen the worst.) But through college, I've definitely explored more. I kept a blog to capture my student teaching journey, I try to tweet updates from my classroom (follow me @BrittanyRicher), and my team teachers come to me when their Google Drive is wonky. This year, I even learned how to make a screencast!

Nevertheless, as I've assimilated more and more into the digital world and grown into my beliefs as a teacher, I worry about the harmfulness of certain messages that are sent via social media, pop culture, and through other digital texts. I recognize the way that straightness, Christianity, whiteness, able-bodiedness, Americanness, maleness, and property ownership are privileged. I recognize the way that these cultural norms are reproduced. I recognize that my digital native students' brains are changing because of these things.

As a result, I take a critical pedagogical stance in my teaching. I had the opportunity to teach a "Language Arts Extra" course this year, so I designed a unit I called "Media Busters." One day, my students and I analyzed these commercials to see what their message was about what it means to be a man in America.

In addition to analyzing media texts like these, I also believe that it is important for students to be producers of their own texts. One way we did this was by conducting a Photovoice research project. Instead of just reading articles to gather information, we used the participatory action research method of Photovoice where students took their own pictures of the issue at hand in order to come to their own understanding of the topic and advocate for change. One of my classes chose Digital Citizenship as their topic and here is Susan's* final presentation. Another student, Laura* made a video using the song "Stolen Dance" in the background, drawing a parallel to the way that spending too much time on social media steals us away from the humans in front of us. Unfortunately, because it contains images of many of my students' faces I cannot post it publicly here.

At different points in the school year, my digital immigrant accent was audible. When planning a project for students to create an advertisement for a play we read, I figured they would make posters or a DVD case cover. However, they all requested to make video commercials. Because of my limited experience with making videos, I was tempted to just tell them all no. Luckily, I took a risk, gave up some control, and allowed them to pursue their interest. And I am proud to say that it led to some of the greatest levels of engagement all year. They were eager to figure out the technology on their own.  They were eager to make revisions because they knew it would be shared with their peers. Like Sir Ken Robinson said, "their curiosity was the engine of their achievement."

All in all, I love what Dr. Bogad said about learning being the point. It is important to acknowledge my status as an assimilated digital immigrant not for the sake of being able to name myself as such, but to make changes in my teaching accordingly. Similarly, it is important to acknowledge my students' status as digital natives not just to name it, but rather to make changes that will improve their learning. It is important to continue to recognize where my life and my students' lives both stray and intersect. There should not be a value judgment on either status - immigrant or native. Rather, the labels can be a way to help frame conversation and questions about the way we approach education.

Welcome back!

If you take a peek at around my blog, you'll probably be able to figure out a little about me, but here goes...

-Last year I taught sixth grade English in Jamestown and I'm really pumped to be coming back again in September - with some revamped ideas for the media literacy work I already try to do. This year I created a course called "Media Busters" where we explored the portrayal of gender in various media texts including commercials and a few Disney movies.

 Image result for little mermaidImage result for frozenImage result for walle

-After this class I plan to spend the summer outdoors. It's my favorite place to be!  Image result for girl mountain biking