Saturday, November 27, 2010

Readings for 11/29

While I certainly do agree that we need to teach people to consume media critically, I would have to say that the article clearly came with an agenda. The author stated the need for children to "challenge" the standard ideas presented in their entertainment. Instead of challenge, I prefer to think that we should teach our children to be critical. As long as they are thinking about their choices, we should be accepting of the choices they make. Even if that means they choose something we wish they wouldn't. (As a parent, I must state here that as long as my children live in my house I will not permit them to make dangerous choices. But for the rest of them, I share my opinion, present my arguments, and then try to bite my tongue.)

Jill and Julie have both written about how they felt that old media should be shown for what it is: outdated. We can use those old entertainment vehicles to talk about how our attitudes about "others" have changed as well as how much work there is to do. We can talk about how culture influences what we, as a society, create. Rather than encouraging children to rage against the machine (as if because someone else thought of it, it must be bad), we must teach them to be part of the discourse that creates our society. We must teach them that they can also contribute to the art of our society and not just be consumers of it.

Let's face it: much of the things the author is complaining about are the direct result of our current culture. If you reach a certain age and you don't have a spouse, you're judged. If you don't have the right "look," something must be wrong with you. If you can't consume all the junk that's out there to consume, you're not as important. These messages are not always embedded into entertainment in a nefarious plot, but they are part of the fabric of the culture we live in. Sometimes marketing figures into the decision-making, and sometimes the artists simply aren't aware of the biases they bring to the table. That's why critical consuming is important.

While I was reading the article it occurred to me that the teacher could also have brought in written versions of the fairy tales to compare them. In the earliest versions available of fairy tales you can see some of the same stereotypes. It would be great to have some time to talk about why those stereotypes existed and even to bring in some history surrounding when the tales were first written down. The people who did the writing brought their own biases to the stories they recorded from storytellers.

There is a lot of information out there about the media our children consume and the toys they play with. I could go on forever. As I get older though, I get a little more mellow about all the injustices heaped upon our youth by evil corporations. If we don't want it, we need to find something more positive to replace it rather than just complaining about it. I find a lot of parents are unwilling to do that, and it's something outside of my control. It's just too easy to go with the flow. I sign petitions and do what I can to change the flow, but I can really only influence the consumers in my own house.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Video Editing

Is anyone else as excited about learning to edit videos as I am? While I can think of plenty of ways to use it in the classroom, I'm more interested in it from a personal perspective. I have tons of video that we've taken over the years, none of which has ever been viewed or edited. I realize that the tool we're using isn't that fancy, but just to learn the basics is exciting to me.

I hope everyone has a great break. I won't be able to do much school work over the break, so I'm predicting a little bit of a panic for myself when we all get back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Readings for 11/15


Powerful stuff.  We have a child in our field placement who, until the beginning of this year, spoke only Arabic.  It's amazing the progress he has made.  He hasn't really gone through the silent phase described in the chapters while we've been in class, but I'm not sure how long he was here before school started or what his background truly is.  Instead, he learned a few key phrases that didn't always have a meaning that made sense in that context, but he's always had SOMETHING to say.

I traveled to China as a 10-year-old and spent a day in a school while I was there.  How confusing!  I knew I was only going to be there for a day so it wasn't so tough, but I can only imagine what it feels like to be someplace where you are trapped inside your own head, unable to communicate.  I couldn't help but agree with the section about hurrying them up so they won't fall behind. Students can only learn what they are able to learn at a given point in their lives. Rushing only makes things take longer.


To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to be getting from this reading other than an example of what can be done with different forms of literacy.  If you'd like to see the actual multiliteracies map that's being discussed, I found it at an Australian website. It's interesting stuff, but maybe I'm not getting much out of it because I'm happy to try anything and everything to get my students excited about literacy in all its forms. I don't need convincing!


I saved my favorite for last. As the parent of two technology natives, I find that critical literacy is, well, more critical than ever. They don't watch much commercial television, so when they do get to see commercials (which they love--it's like frosting on a cupcake for them) we have to explain their purpose because they just don't get it. It's now become something of a habit to describe why a particular "text" has been created and what we're supposed to get out of it. I think many children in their age group would surprise adults with their critical literacy savvy. They've all already learned that the cool pictures on the web page are only trying to sell them something and don't really go to anything interesting.

The discussion on popular culture intrigued me. Personally, I don't like to see commercial stuff in school. I'd rather figure out what's so compelling about the commercial characters and products and create that for the classroom.

I also see loads of potential in some of the newer immersive instruction ideas. Augmented-reality "games" (which are really just ads right now) have some real potential to be educational and assessment tools. Allowing students to "paint" their knowledge onto real space would be particularly powerful for any studies involving the local community or the school. There are people working on educational versions of augmented reality, but I think it would be more useful as another way for students to demonstrate their learning than for them to be the recipients of a prepackaged reality. As far as I know, there aren't any handy tools for doing this with students, but I'm sure it's coming.

One thing I wonder about is reading. Futurists have been predicting for years that someday only a small portion of the population will learn to read because the rest just won't need it. We'll have other ways to get the information. The newest forms of literacy do seem to point in that direction, even if it's far off. What do you think?

Saturday, November 6, 2010


It's almost done! We just have to put our poster presentation together. Yeah!

The creative aspects of this project were a struggle for me. You'll all see my lame attempt at simple coloring on Monday. I was NOT the child who spent hours with coloring books. Despite my artistic difficulties, I learned a lot and I'm glad we did it. I do think that the genre pieces would be more powerful for some of the topics chosen by the students in Allen's book. "Spelling" doesn't really lend itself to creativity that also showcases some of the research results. At least I didn't find it to be so. Lynne didn't really have that problem, so maybe it's just me!

Everyone remember to turn your clocks back tonight and get an extra hour of sleep. You'll need it for the final MGRP push!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Readings for 11/1


Chapters 5 & 7 in Allen's book cover both how to make writing come alive and some examples of how to use the arts for a multi-genre research paper.  While I appreciated the tips in the writing chapter, there are probably many more books available with even more information.  I did like that the author did a rewrite for her students so they could see the process.  So often we only show children the steps to the final product but not the process, with all its bumps and decisions.  I certainly see myself encouraging students to include the arts, but I'm not sure how to incorporate them into my own MGRP.  Lynne has ideas simply flowing out of her.  It will be a bit of a challenge for me, I'm afraid.


I've already read this book twice, so I confess to skimming.  If I end up with a little spare time before class on Monday I'll do a more detailed rereading.  The first time I read it I remember thinking that I would have preferred someone warn me about the organization of the book.  I went in looking for a full narrative that would bring in all the voices in some big, final ending.  I had to reread the book with an adjusted perspective in order to really enjoy it.  This book is more a collection of vignettes about the same space.  There is some small narrative movement that gathers steam at the end, but by that point in the book I almost wanted time to slow way down so I could live with the characters through the whole growing season.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Readings for 10/25


I literally laughed out loud while reading that poetry was a good way to ease into writing. What? Is Allen ON something? There are very few poems that touch me when I read them and I certainly don't like to write them. Perhaps I'm just insensitive. Perhaps my love of sci-fi leaves me predisposed to ignore anything that doesn't happen far, far away. I don't know.

Luckily, Allen presented some very doable forms of poetry I think I can probably work with. We'll see, I guess!


I first learned about invitations for the tradebooks class, which I took two years ago. I remember the things we read from Van Sluys. I think invitations are a bit hard to wrap your head around, particularly when there's so much other stuff that has to happen every day at school. Once you try making one I think you'll see where they can have a place. When I took the class the instructor insisted that our invitations be on a social justice issue. The process of creating the invitation was worthwhile, though I have no clue if what I think will be interesting will be interesting to students.

One thing that struck me as I was reading: differentiation. When Lynne and I did our presentation on differentiation last spring we learned that differentiation is not about giving everyone a fun activity, but about making sure each student learns a certain minimum (and much more) by engaging them in the way they learn best. This brings me to to the invitations. I think it would be very tempting to create fun invitations that really didn't involve much deep learning. The point of the invitations is to give students the opportunity to get even deeper into the thinking process regardless of the topic.

I really enjoyed making one on a social justice issue two years ago, so I'm hoping I can do one with some other topic to get some broad practice.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Readings for 10/18

Mmmm, Donuts...

The Powell and Davidson article, "The Donut House..." made me think about how, when trying to spread a good idea around, the true benefit gets diluted. How many of us have gone on a field trip, maybe taken notes or drawings during the field trip, written or drawn up a report, and maybe written a thank-you note? The field trips of my youth certainly weren't wasted, but they weren't milked for everything good that could have come out of them. The classroom in the article didn't just go on a field trip, they investigated, explored, and recreated the process of setting up a business. The teacher made the effort to sustain the activity until real work (aka, learning) happened. While I don't know this for a fact, I'm guessing the teacher made sure that props and equipment were available during all free play times so that her students could continue to refine their ideas and extend them in new ways.

To me the approach in the article is reminiscent of some of the philosophies behind the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. You may have seen schools advertised as "Reggio-inspired" and the like, and there have been attempts to bring the philosophies to the US with varying degrees of success. The students in those schools study things, and much of their learning revolves around the things they are studying. Young children are expected to take notes, build models, and have ideas that the teachers use to extend the learning as far as it can go. Through their study topics they cover literacy, math, science, music, art, and history. Isn't that more interesting that studying the letter of the day or writing whatever the teacher tells you to write? I think so. Typically, they study something close enough to their school that they can walk to it, much like the doughnut shop in the article.


Allen's book on multigenre research papers has so far been practical and filled with good examples. I'm feeling a little better about the genre part of our paper, but it's still scary for me. One thing that stood out, that I'm sure the author didn't intend, was the internet portion of one chapter. Note to self: If I write a book, don't be specific about technology! Any teacher following the advice in the book due to ignorance would find herself losing credibility with her students. This is the second book in the last few months that has had the same outdated tech problem, so I would encourage anyone who publishes anything to be less specific.