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).