Monday, July 13, 2015

Media Journey

My narrative has naturally began from my parents. So when I was thinking of how to create my narrative for this project I reflected on my “This I Believe” statement. All of my “This I Believe” pre-statement words were linked to my background and upbringing. I am where I am today because of my parents. My support system is my rock and I want my students to have the same. As a Head Start preschool teacher, a huge part of my job is teaching my parents their role in their child’s education. This is why I created a Facebook group for my student’s parents. I wanted to meet my parents where they were and give them the opportunity to have an active link to the classroom. I can post anything from videos to files. My parents can post things and I can check them before it is view-able by the rest of the group. We can use messager to communicate. This accessibility is important to me because I believe in parents. This Facebook group has the potential to cultivate parent’s interest and involvement. It could raise my home activities participation and support student’s quality learning. Over all, it could make me a more a effective teacher.
In the past school year I have been a techno-traditionalist. I use the computer to document student work, my observations and students assessments. I use email to contact my boss and other school professionals. I have been resistant to letting my students use the computer for long periods of time. I have felt that preschoolers do not need any more screen time than they already have at home between television, tablets and cell phones; I just think it’s too much. After completing this class I believe I still want to limit student’s time with technology but I want to work on becoming more of a techno-constructivist. I want to use student’s time on the computer to question, make observations and talk about secret education as it is part of my student’s lives. I want to use the technology center as a place to form ideas, like any other center. I want to spend more time asking my preschoolers “why Elsa where’s a dress?” and “why is Spiderman only for boys?” I want to use the computer as another place to ask questions and push our thinking of “What is normal?”
My hesitation with technology and my students doesn’t explain my lack with my parents. I had no reason to not use technology with my parents. I just never thought to. I am so glad I have taken this course because now I feel ready to use the Facebook group with my parents. I am excited to see how my parents respond and where I am able to take it. This group will support my transition from techno-traditionalist to techno-constructivist. I want to allow parents and students to post on the group and learn from its resources. Before this course I never would have thought to create a Facebook group for my parents. I always compartmentalized Facebook as a personal pass time and school as something different. I recall being super uncomfortable last year when I parent tried to add me. I never thought I would be using it as a tool. This fall is defiantly going to be interesting.
This course has allowed me to question and rethink things I enjoy and my beliefs. I love Disney movies each and every time a new one comes out I scoop up the little people in my life and bring them to the movies. They may believe it is for them but very few 22 year olds want to go to the movies alone, less want to go alone to a children’s movie. I know there is nothing wrong taking the children I babysit or my godchild to the movies is a bad thing; however what am I doing to help facilitate their critical thinking. Am I asking about why characters act a certain way or why they look the way they do? I need to take the opportunity of a movie night and support it with conversations.

What are my beliefs about technology and social justice? Do I see my beliefs in my classroom? If not, why? Is yes, where? I can bring my iPad into circle time. I can ask why and hold students to answering the question to the best of their ability. I need to let students “do” and be comfortable with the fact that it may be organized chaos. Geralyn Bywater McLaughlyn reminded me the importance of social emotional teaching with my age group. She made each and every part of her day about learning to play, socialize and be children. My students are not little adults they are children that need to pretend and play to learn. Wesch reminded me to “focus on the quality of learning, rather than the quality of teaching,” the learning in my classroom is not about me it is about my students. 
Media Literacy, Popular Culture and Education has helped me find "my people," has helped me refine my beliefs and become more comfortable with technology in my classroom. The activists and literature I have come in contact with has taught me and challenged me. They have provided me with informed individuals that I can use to support my classroom. I was unsure of my beliefs of technology in the classroom, now I have had the opportunity to reflect and form beliefs that will adjust as I continue teaching. This course has also given me technological resources, as well as, peer resources, through the class blog. I am excited to explore more of the tools and hear from my fellow teachers. Happy teaching! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The fight for communication and learning...

I believe the relationship between Turkle and Wesch is complicated but connected. My interpretation is that both value active communication and learning. I believe they could be allies or opponents in the discussion of new media and technology. They both are interested and invested in technology, they just see it in different light. Turkle understands that we are in a technological world but she doesn't want that world to take away from quality communication and connection. Wesch believes in the community of the current tech savvy world and he uses it in his classroom to facilitate active learning. I would argue that they both believe technology is a tool. Turkle may argue that less is more, whereas Wesch may say we have it, us it and learn from it.

Both articles were extremely informative and cultivate insightful conversation. First I will unpack my views and my understanding of Turkle and then I will do the same with Wesch. 

Turkle articulated beautifully what I have observed as a waitress and what I have observed as a teacher. THE PHONES NEVER LEAVE OUR HANDS. As a waitress and an early childhood major, I could not stand it when people went to dinner and never looked up from there technology. I'm sorry, if you have not spoke to your child all day, the last thing you need at the table is your phone. Children should NOT be watching videos during a meal, they should be engaged by their caregiver. I had families were the mother would tell me the order for everyone at the table because dad was on the phone, the teenager was listening to music, the school aged child was playing Angry Birds and the toddler was watching a tablet. Give Me a Break. TALK TO EACH OTHER. Turkle opened her article with "WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection." We may be connected with our 2,000 Facebook friends and our 1,000 Instagram follower, but what about our own families. As a teacher I have seen parents pick up and drop off while they are talking on the phone. There children excited to show them a new book we were reading in class or an new art project they completed. My students struggling to get there parents attention for 5 minutes. Slowly I observed the students not trying as hard to show off their work. The look of disappointment is overwhelmingly heart breaking. 

Turkle stresses in her writing the need for personal connection. She shares with us a boy who wanted to ask technology about dating advice and an elderly woman finding comfort in a robot seal! Turkle explains “Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”” If I have a feeling, I want a person to talk to. Yes, I do text my friends, but I am one of those rare people that would rather call and if you can grab and ice cream with me, you are truly the best. As anyone can sense from my personal stories I agree with Turkle's final statement “So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.” What I found most helpful in her article is she offers solutions to our technology overdrive world. I hope we can all take some time to listen.

Wesch has a different focus, but like Turkle he understands the importance of community and learning from each other. When I was student teaching in a first grade classroom in Central Falls, I began rethinking my career choice. I was choosing to work in a system that does not support young learners. Let's sit in a seat for 5 hours of your day. Let's only have time for 10 minute recess. You all were too loud yesterday, so today we are having a silent lunch. We understand how important individualize lessons are but you have 30 students in your class. I'm sorry, are you kidding me?

My concerns for my profession were explained beautifully in Wesch's article, “consider the often-heard lament, “some students are just not cut out for school.” The statement passes without question or even a hint of protest, yet think about what the statement says when we replace “school” with what school should be all about: “learning.” Some students are just not cut out for learning? Nobody would dare make the statement. Learning is the hallmark of humanity... If our students are “not cut out for school”, perhaps we have made the mold too narrow or inflexible, or more likely, just not meaningful enough to inspire a student to fit in. That’s the significance problem.”

Wesch observed that students are not thinking critically because the goal is the grade, not the learning. He shares about his disgust for “What do we need to know for this test?” but he also understands that "such questions reflect the fact that, for many (students and teachers alike), education has become a relatively meaningless game of grades rather than an important and meaningful exploration of the world in which we live and co-create.” This is a complete and utter shame, that needs to change as soon as possible. Wesch says we need to be “focusing on the quality of learning, rather than the quality of teaching... I have increasingly focused less on simply trying to convey good information and more on inspiring good questions. It struck me that all learning begins with a good question, and if we are ultimately trying to create “active lifelong learners” with “critical thinking skills” and an ability to “think outside the box” it might be best to start by getting students to ask better questions.” Learning has to be meaningful, otherwise what is the point?

I believe that Turkle would agree that both adults and children need to "recognize their own importance in helping to shape the future of this increasingly global, interconnected society, the significance problem fades away. But simply telling them this narrative is not enough. The narrative must become pervasive in the learning environment.” Both Wesch and Turkle hope for a critically thinking population, who ask questions and facilitate answers. I would also argue that they would want a community that strives to learn more and help others be interested, as well as, invested in the world around them. 

I will close with something that I wish to remember is “My job becomes less about teaching, and more about encouraging students to join me on the quest.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

"Six, Going on Sixteen"

The author of the chapter I chose to read was Geralyn Bywater McLaughlyn and she wrote about "fighting 'age compression' and the commercialization of childhood." She provides countless examples of inappropriate conversations and the over-sexualization of the students in her classroom. She writes about her struggles with her kindergarten and first grade students. McLaughlin highlighted a bunch of strategies she used to help her students and families push through the media's "secret education" and help children, be well, children. I believe her overall thesis was “Children are complex, and pop culture and media are not the sole cause of their troubles. However, protecting them from a corporate world that forces them to grow up too soon, and promoting their creative play are two giant leaps in the right direction.”

I chose to read this article because my students are only a tad bit younger then McLaughlyn and I have witnessed my students making similar comments or having similar ideas. McLaughlyn began her article began with different phrases that she observed in her classroom. For example, "my butt is hot!...She thinks she's cuter than me." I have not heard these words exactly, but I have observed my students making comments like, "I look so cute today" or "I wish I looked more like Ariel or Elsa, because they are soooo beautiful." McLaughlyn explained how she was caught completely off guard by the comments and felt unprepared of ways to support her students. As the lead teacher in her classroom she worked with her teachers aid to put strategies into place to support her students. She shared that battling the "negative effect of mainstream media... was an ongoing, uphill battle."

Learning through her trial and error of the previous year, she went into a new year focusing on finding "ways to bring back childhood." Her method, reduce technology and increase play. She incorporated her parents with updates of the classroom "struggles, conversations and solutions." She knew it was important to keep the families in the loop because their support would help facilitate success. Her curriculum supported students observation, problem-solving and pretending skills. She share with her colleagues the changes that were occurring in her classroom and worked to make changes school wide. The school used the weekly school newsletter to "share ideas, reflect, inform, pose questions and stimulate conversations." The school created a Toy Lending Library so that students could share community toys that incorporated creativity and problem-solving. They also participated in family "TV Turnoff Week" and "Family Game Night," these activities helped students and families better understand the importance of play.

McLaughlyn reflected on how she had "felt hopeless," in the past. but through gathering information and support she now feels not only "hopeful" but "empowered" as well. She supports children on how to "learn how to just be kids;" in the world we live in, with the media we possess, her efforts are not only needed but necessary.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I don't want to be like Cinderella, I want to be like Merida!

          As a preschool teacher and a godmother of the three year old boy children’s animated culture is a part of my every day life. I take a stroll around Kohl's or Savers, I am automatically looking through the books shelves for options to add to my library. I am teasing through books with characters my students might recognize and cultural stories they may have never seen before. I can not pretend that my interest in animated children's culture only stems from my profession, I personally enjoy watching Disney movies. Whenever I new one comes out I am grabbing my godchild and off we go to Cinemaworld. I think it is important for me to know the characters that my students are learning from and most of the time I truly enjoy watching the movies. However, I feel that during the course of this class my enjoyment may be ruined.

          As a child I had a great deal of Disney VHS movies but I remember spending more time watching Land Before Time, Arthur and a lot of PBS. I, of course watched the princess movies, but they were not a huge interest of mine. I remember being told I was deprived because my dad never called me a princess, I only had basic cable and I had never gone to Disney. I never noticed that my dad never called me a princess because my sister and I were never really interested in being called one. We had our own nicknames and we would rather watch Spy Kids or other more family action movies. I had basic cable because my mom found at an early age that I was an auditory learner and I would repeat full episodes of TV and she quickly decided there were better ways to spend her money. I did not go to Disney until I was 18 and I went with family friends. My family went to museums, Washington D.C, Canada and Puerto Rico. My parents valued culture over Disney attractions. Disney played a role in my childhood, but I do not believe that role carried any real weight. 

          I believe that my students and family are more attached to Disney media than I was as a child. Some of my students would come into school this past year, with their Elsa dress, or their Elsa braid. Every day I wore french braids "Miss Bryana, you have Elsa hair today." Through out dramatic play I would hear, "you be Anna and I will be Elsa and he can be Kristoff," "Miss Bryana can you put on the Frozen CD," "Let it GOOOOOO!" My godchild and his brother are three and six they defiantly enjoy watching Disney movies but I believe their attachment to the characters are less then my students. However, they do mention ideas that I now believe they receive from the "secret education," things like "Madrina you smart cuz your a girl," or "I want to be big and strong like my daddy." This need to be strong because they are males and my need to be smart because I am a female. I must add that I have to be "super smart" because I am "a teacher and teachers know everything!" :) 

          I believe in some ways my childhood reflects Christensen’s claims and in other ways it challenges them. In reflection, I always wanted to be pretty, but I understood that my looks did not reflect those of a Disney Princess. I have brown eyes, brown hair, freckles and tan skin. I have never been super skinny. A part of me wanted to be perfect, but a large part said I am not and that is alright. So in a way I reflected her claims, I saw the princesses and wanted to be perfect. I challenged her claim because my want to be a princess never overwhelmed me. Even as a pre-teen Cheetah Girl's Cinderella resonated with me more than wanting to be a princess.  

Brave is a giant step in a new direction. I believe Merida meets some of my memories but challenges more of princess culture. Merida is physically shown differently, her hair is a flowing mess of curls, she has freckles, simple eyes and not particularly beautiful. She is pretty, but not perfect. Merida isn't interested on being a princess, she doesn't want to be tied down to a prince. She wants to be free! She does not ride horses side saddle, we get to observe her hate and discomfort for her clothing. Talk about a change in plot line, she is so different from my perfect princess image. Both mom and dad are part of the story. Men are depicted in some very negative lights, strong, but not well spoken and not very bright. Her mother is an extremely strong character and they both end up saving the day, no help from the big strong men. Good job Disney, a step in the right direction.