Saturday, July 27, 2013



In Linda Christiansen’s (2011) article “Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us” she discusses the influence the media has on our young people. She talks about the “secret agenda.” “The “secret education,” as Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman dubs it, delivered by children’s books and movies instructs students to accept the world as it is portrayed in these social blueprints. And often that world depicts the domination of one se, one race, once class, or one country over a weaker counterpart. My student Omar wrote “When we read children’s books, we aren’t just reading cute little stories, we are discovering the tools with which a young society is manipulated” (pg.1).  If you haven’t read this article it is worth reading. She will have you looking more closely at the media and how its messages influence our young people with the wrong message.

Her ideas connect to Newkirk’s (2009) chapter 5, “Pop Culture as a Literacy Tool.” Newkirk also agrees with the negative self-image that can derive from the mixed messages the media can elicit. “The Barbie phenomenon has, of course, been blamed for presenting young girls with an impossible ideal of feminine beauty, thus leading to the negative self-images  young girls develop , and in extreme cases to eating disorders”( Pg. 92). What I would disagree with here is the phrases “extreme cases.” I think since 2009 statistics may show more cases not so extreme.  What Christiansen doesn’t discuss in her article is the violence that can derive from media exposure. This is more relevant with boys and the violent T.V. shows and video games. “In the months after the Columbine school shootings, I began to collect cartoons depicting the pernicious effect of the mass media on boys. These cartoons typically depict youth violence as caused by the media exposure (not poverty or dysfunctional families)” (Newkirk, 2009, pg. 92). The media is very powerful.

Bakari Chavanu (2013) is a teacher who did a media unit with his 11th graders on advertising. In his  article “Seventeen,Self- Image, and Stereotypes”  he discusses the issues the media cause for young people but he was adamant about teaching a lesson that helped his students understand the “hidden agenda” in the media and it was successful. As educators this is very important the media is a huge part of their lives. “They will have seen 350,000 television commercials by the age of 17” (Chavanu, 2013, pg. 24).

Here is an interesting videos about how the media influences our students.

The Color of Beauty

In chapter 6, Newkirk discusses the literacy of reading. Last semester I did a Capstone Project on reading and teenagers. Unfortunately my research revealed that many students just don’t read once they get to high school. Mostly because they say it’s boring, they don’t have time, or the text we read do not interest them. Many students say they hate reading. I never really thought about the unnatural feeling that Newkirk (2013) talks about. “Nothing seems more unnatural to the nonreader than the isolation reading seems to demand” (113).  The word unnatural seemed so foreign to me but it; makes more sense. My students who really hate to read never really grew up reading; their parents didn’t read, maybe their parents didn’t read to them, their siblings didn’t read for pleasure. It doesn’t come natural. When my kids were little we would go to the book store and spend hours. I always read and so didn’t my boys. It was a natural thing to do. So as an English teacher how do I get my non-readers to read? Well, I don’t. I tried, and I will continue to try but most of them in high school will not become readers. It is a terrible thing to say but unfortunately it is true. I tried a lot of strategies and nothing seemed to get into these reluctant readers. However, I did get two or three kids to enjoy the novel and they all said they would read another King novel this summer. So my strategies paid off for a few.   I have embedded a few videos of my students discussing their lack of motivation to read.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Troy Hicks

In Troy Hick’s text, Crafting Digital Writing he presents many points of discussion and useful tools that are useful to me as a teacher. He is obviously a proponent of digital literacies and enhancing the digital skills of our students to provide the understanding that it is a digital world and these skills matter. Michael Wesch would agree with him. Wesch also is a strong proponent of changing the educational system to include the twenty-first century student. His article   I do believe that schools and teachers are changing their curriculums and patters to adapt, however, many teachers still feel if their school doesn’t provide the technology then their hands are tied. However, teaching like a twenty-first century teacher doesn’t mean you have to be a full technology school. I think Hicks gives plenty of ideas to help these teachers discover tools they can use. If you haven't viewed Wesch's video "A Vision of Students Today" it is really worth watching.

 In Hicks' first chapter he states “Yet it is clear that students in the twenty-first century are doing much more than alphabet print on paper; they are increasingly exploring images, video, slideshows, wikis, podcasts, digital stories, and other types of digital writing that allow them to share their work beyond their classroom walls with other students, their parents, and eh broader audiences that the Internet allow” (Hicks 2013). As a teacher I am very much aware that students are doing this, however, I am also cognizant of the fact that many of these students do not identify it as being academic or they have never heard the term “digital writing.” This makes me wonder how I can get my students to understand how to take what they put in the “cloud” as important and real.   They look at these venues as “fun” and not serious to learning how to write.  I also believe many teachers do not look at these venues as tools to enhance student literacy.  After all, it is not how they grew up writing. As a teacher of writing I need to incorporate these tools on a daily basis because it is the world these students live in and technology is the way they communicate today and in the future. This motivation factor is highly important. In my classrooms so often I get the “how is this relevant to what I am going to do when I graduate?” Well, learning how to be digitally literate, at the same time enjoying the “process” is extremely valuable to a teacher and student.  “For some teachers and students, technology provides the real audiences, purpose and publication venues that allow them to grow their communities of writers, to discover digital writing, and to invite parents and families into the process“(Hicks 2013). The key word for me in this quote is “purpose.” This is the word that needs to be evaluated and constructed to my students, to their families, and to my administration. Hicks does a great job in conveying the importance of this because it is the way we, as a world, write and read.

“In some ways, creating a web-based text is very similar to creating a print-based text. Authors brainstorm, develop idea, scratch those ones, develop new ideas, and continually revise” (Hicks 2013). I love this and he is absolutely correct. The skill of critical thinking goes hand in hand with the “process.” Hicks’ list of composing different digital writings through the media and how they compare to the different genres of writing has given me, as a teacher, various ideas already swirling through my lesson plan brain.

After, it doesn’t get more relevant then digital literacies. Technology is certainly not going away; it will only get more advanced. The pen and paper, is almost a lost art, soon be a lost art. It is scary, and sad, but real. To many of our students the thoughts of writing a five paragraph essay seem so irrelevant compared to creating a web site or commenting on a blog. This ‘digital writing” is crucial to their future. We, as educators need to try and make this connection to them so they can take it more serious and be proud of what they write.  Students still need to read and write but encouraging digital literacies is “a way for students to truly understand what it means to be literate in their ever more digital world” (Hicks 3013).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Extended Comments: Twilight directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Extended Comments:
Ron discusses in his blog the stages of teenagers; “Becoming” and “The Storm.” He mentions throughout the film the character of Bella portrays some of the characteristics of Raby’s teenager. First off, Raby’s “Becoming.”  As Ron states, Bella and her parents are a good example.  This rebellion she portrays is actually a mask to help her parents. She knows her mom loves this new guy and that she is really just in the way, and when she gets angry with her father and leaves it is to protect him from the vampire.  Although, her overall quite, keep to herself, demeanor toward her father and others in general  is very conventional to teenage behavior.  Like Raby says they are finding out who they are. Becoming is a time of self identity that forces the teenagers, such as the character of Bella to seem rebellious. “they assume that all teenagers rebel just because this is the age when we start to become our own person’ (Raby). This is certainly apparent with Bella. She is figuring out who she is and where she fits in. She doesn’t fit in at school, she feels out of place, she doesn’t like to be around too many people, hence the prom and social situations.  Obviously her biggest issue of self identity is the fact that she wants to become a vampire. This is definitely a sign of self discovery.

“The Storm,” Bella’s character can also fit into this category. Raby describes it as “ahistorical understanding of adolescence in which teens are inherently inclined toward experimentation, risk taking and uncertainty.”  Bella completely puts herself at risk by choosing to be with Edward. Although he tries to convince her to move she decides she can not live with out him. She says “I want you always” knowing that she would have to give up her life as a mortal to be with him. She is uncertain of the future but as long as she is with him it doesn’t matter. She not only puts herself at risk but she puts her mom and dad’s lives at risk also.

This brings me to two other points that Ron doesn’t bring up in his blog. Firstly, Bella as the good girl. Last weeks reading “How Being a Good Girl Can Be Bad for Girls” the authors discussed the good girl and the bad girl. In the third film Eclipse Edward asks Bella to marry him, she replies “People will think I’m knocked up.” Bella is obviously worried about her good girl status. This was surprising to me considering her love and devotion for Edward.
Secondly, the choices Bella makes. As opposed to Alice and Atalanta, Bella conforms to the ideology that women need a man to survive. Edward is a perfect example of the male, ( SCWAMP ). “The common belief is US culture is that anything associated with the feminine is weak, while masculine traits are deemed stronger and more valuable to society” (Grinner). Edward, although a vampire, is the protector, the fixer, the everything in Bella’s life. Her choice is to give up her whole life to be with Edward. Her future; college, exploring, and family is not thought of because her value is how she feels when she is with Edward. She is still a young girl but thinks she has found happiness.
There is an interesting article how media represents and therefore influences teenage girls to want boyfriends. Twilight is one of them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quotes: Tolman and Higgens; Alice in Wonderland; Atalanta

“How Being a Good Girl can be Bad for Girls” by Toman and Higgins.
Alice in Wonderland  and “Atlanta”
“The cultural anxiety precipitated by unbounded female sexuality is perhaps most apparent with regard to adolescent girls.  Coming under scrutiny from across the political spectrum, girls’ sexuality has been deemed threatening either to girls themselves (potentially resulting in rape, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy), or to society (as evidenced by the single mother, school dropout, welfare dependent). Although none of these issues is limited to teenage girls, all frequently arise in that context because of society’s sense of entitlement, or indeed, obligation, to regulate teen sexuality” (Tolman).
Tolman argues that adolescent females do not fit into the “good” girl category. Teenage girls are more in touch with their own sexuality that they do not restrict how they feel and for many,  how it effects the male. This behavior is threatening because for a girl to be aware of your sexuality and to not be afraid to reveal it is seen as bad. The “bad” girl appears and girls are seen as “wanting” it. The double standard applies here because “boys will be boys’ but when a girl is seen a provocative it opens up society’s views of them as being promiscuous and a tease.  AS usually, the burden always seems to fall on the women; it wasn’t rape because you teased him and wanted it, you are pregnant because you chose to have sex. 
This reminds me of Grinner’s “Hip-Hop Sees No Color” when she discusses  SCWAMP  through the film Save The Last Dance.  “Her body represents sex, as in one scene where she  “steals”  Derrick from Sara on the dance floor and begins dancing in a sexually explicit and provocative way in contrast to Sara’s innocent movement” (Grinner).  Although this fits into the “Good girl, bad girl” category also, I want to emphasize  Nikke’s  body language . This may certainly be seen as “threatening” behavior that Tolman discusses in his text.  If she were to be raped that night the prosecutor would most likely bring up her dancing as sexual behavior.

“Perhaps more than any other group of men, teenage boys are assumed to be least in control of their sexuality.  The responsibility for making sexual choices, therefore, falls to their partners, usually teenage girls, yet these “Choices” are to be enacted through passivity rather than agency. Girls who attain good girlhood are at constant risk of becoming bad girls if they fail in their obligation to regulate  their own sexual behavior and that of their partners”(Tolman).
Here Tolman discusses the fact that boys cannot control their sexual urges, thus making it the girls responsibility to say yes or no. However, the choices the girls make usually tend to let the boy have control, as opposed to the girl being in control to say yes.. if she wants to. Although saying yes and succumbing to their sexual desires puts them into the bad girl category.  It is a no win for the girl. Tolman goes on to discuss the fact that many teenage girls use their sexuality to please the male.
This is unfortunate but true. Women and girls,  from the beginning of time have always wanted to please their man, as opposed to a man pleasing a woman. This is not just for sex, but when it comes to taking care of others. It has always been the job of the women.
“Teenage girls interviewed in the Sentinel story explained their peers’ behavior in terms of girls giving boys what the boys wanted. One suggested that “sometimes girls, in order to get certain guys, will do anything the guy wants. And that includes sex” (Tolman).
This statement suggests that girls want a boy more than they value their own sense of self and body. Girls are also much more aware of what their sexuality portrays and what their sexuality arouses from their partner or men (boys) in general.  Many use their sexuality  it as a tool as opposed as pleasure for themselves.

Perhaps here I can connect “Atalanta”  and “Alice in Wonderland.” Both Atalanta and Alice go against this behavior. Although neither one of them have the sexual qualities that Tolman brings up on his text, both females seem to fit into the “good girl “ category as they refrain from “getting their man” by  arousing them with their sexuality. Most importantly  Alice and Atalanta do not fit into the ideology that a woman needs a man and the male is of dominance. They are confident and that stereotype is exactly what they are not. They go out to experience the world or at the very least, they respect and act upon their own needs and desires. If Alice were portrayed as more sexual I am sure she would have acted on her desires without hesitation or the thought of what people may think.  
When thinking about Christianson’s “Myths that Bind Us” I was reminded of the “Secret education” he discussed. It is interesting that Alice in Wonderland is a Disney film unlike most of the other films Disney films like Cinderella, Snow  White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The Little Mermaid all have female heroines who focus on who they will marry as it is the most important thing in their life. In the end, they get their man and live happily ever after. They do not need anything else. They represent to the viewers (mostly young kids) that a female’s worth is the man at the end. However, Alice is portrayed as a educated, dominant female who puts any desire for a man aside to fulfill her own destiny. The vidoe has many of Disney's female leads waiting and wanting thier man.

Something to think about: Don't we all want soemone to love in the end?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another Final Project Idea

After reading some other ideas I too, like Alexis and Ron, also thought that it would be interesting to compare two films or TV shows from when I grew up to the present (yes, this is a popular idea) but I would like to get the teenagers reaction. But I would like to see if teenagers have changed so much that they don't enjoy the films of today, that are much more explicit, and supposedly geared toward this age group. Does a film have to have sex, drugs, and/or violence in it?  Do we just think that our teenagers like this stuff as opposed to a film that focuses more of a good theme?  It would be fun to give out questionnaires and see what the response is. What is in in the text that attracts the teen?

Risky Business/ Fame/Dirty Dancing/ 16 Candles vs. Save the Last Dance

This can also be done with TV shows.  Brady Bunch, or The Cosby Show vs. current TV shows.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Project Ideas..

Well I am always interested in teenagers and technology. Not how they are represented but how teenagers use technology and how it effects their learning, their brains, and their social lives. I am not sure if this fits into the final project category though. Often the media does have a negative portrayal these "digital natives" as to many parents. However, is all this technology bad for our teenagers? Perhaps it is good for their brains but bad for their communications skills, I don't know but I did a little research and found many different  opinions and research that has been done on this subject. These videos are very interesting. Watch the "Teens Brains on Technology "until the end. The father suggests something about technology and teaching that is very interesting.

The first idea that I thought about was to write a hip-hop song/ rap/ slam poem. Whatever it turns out to be, but preferably with a beat to it.  I though it would be fun to write the lyrics about the media's representation of teenagers. I thought I could mix it with lyrics that represent real teenagers. Once the lyrics are written I woul have my studetns sing the words while I video tape it.  Challenging but fun!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Relection: "Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the MIrror"

“Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the Mirror”
by Jared A. Ball Ph.D


     The idea of Hip Hop being seen as remotely colonialized, or having a “poor/inaccurate representation” as Ball states, at first seemed inaccurate to me. We are talking about Hip-Hop; this genre of music is heard all over now. My students in EP High certainly listen to it, and my son and his friends from the SCWAAP area of Barrington, listen to the ever popular lyrics. I, too have my favorites. So when reading the article through the perspective of Ball I didn’t quite get it, until I realized how I was, and in some aspect still am, a part of the “Colonialism” of Hip-Hop.
     In ever really gave a Hip-Hop a try. I am talking about years ago, before kids, I had a prejudice view of Hip-Hop music. Prejudice is ignorance so I was ignorant. I didn’t really listen to it or its lyrics. Although, in the 80’s when Rap or Hip-hop (please ignore my ignorance here, I know there is a difference) started to become popular I really enjoyed it. It was the days of  MC Hammer and The Sugar Hill Gang.  I loved the beat and the lyrics. They were fun to listen to and Roller skate to (roller skating was big in the 80’s). So in my early 20’s I did listen to whatever was on the radio and Rap and Hip-Hop were played. Then something happened, I am not sure what it was but I remember Rap and Hip- Hop getting a bad “rap.” The lyrics were no longer fun and enjoyable but they seemed to take on a message that many wanted to ignore. Parents didn’t want their kids listening to it and the offensive words and messages were too strong. I also felt like I didn’t want to listen to words about jail, and guns, and drugs, and poverty.  Rappers were getting shot and I think this is when the “Colonialism” may have started. Again, this is my prejudice view  because I know there were some very inspirational and wonderful lyrics from the music, but no one was hearing it. Who do we blame for that? I can go back to the text here with Ball’s words;” “the people,” “the artists,” “radio stations,” or “record labels.””
     As a high school teacher and a parent of teenagers I have had no choice but to listen to Hip-Hop and Rap. My inaccurate view of this music and its artists has changed dramatically. I think about Ball’s frustration at the inability for many to be exposed to this genre. Although I do believe that the venues may be scarce, the availability is not. Nowadays, our ability to listen to anything, and being exposed to all genres of music is astounding.(I am still shocked that some of my students didn’t know who John Lennon was) The radio is something entirely different from  when I was a kid; there is satellite radio, I tunes, computers, and the numerous channels on digital TV. Hip-hop is here and it can be heard. I often find myself in the car hitting one of the pre set stations that my son set and listening to some Hip-Hop. Exposure is the key to understanding.
     To me, Hip-Hop seems to be ruling the airwaves. Maybe it is because that is what is around me.  Recently I have had a bigger revelation and respect for this genre of music. I realize that words are words. Some words hit harder than others. When I say hit harder I mean they make the listener feel emotion. I recently started listening to Slam Poetry. This opened up my eyes to words; the spoken word. Without the music, all songs are words, saying something about society, life, love, or feelings. They make us feel; they make us cry or laugh. They make us angry or melancholy. John Lennon, Eminem, and Daniel Beaty all have something to say. They just all say it with a different tune. We as a society need to have a diversity of words in our vocabulary.
To Think about:  How can we expose people to all types of music?
I have included Daniel Beaty’s “Knock Knock” slam. If you have never heard it then take a look. It is very powerful