Monday, December 10, 2012

What can we learn from Batman?

Below is a very handy little resource from Peter Gutierrez about what can be taught and discussed with senior students in regards to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. It is an excellent resource, and is a great example of the rich resource that pop culture can be if properly approached.

(Published by Metromagazine's Screen Education)

I hope that we can see more discussions and resources like this in the future as parents and teachers take the time to understand why students like certain films, and then help them understand the social and political climates in which these films were created in.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The end of fall semester 2012

Well the months have sped by, and it is almost time for a short Christmas break and a new year. Looking back on my experiences this semester, I am amazed at all I have learned. More than a cumulation of facts and figures, this semester has brought new paradigms and perspectives to how and what I learn.

Cool pond place in Colorado - we were there this summer

The following points are prompts provided by my professor to help me think through what I have learned about digital culture this semester - followed by my response.  

1. Self-directed Learning / Personal Blog Posts

This semester I have tried approaching a variety of topics in digital culture. Indeed, a great weakness of mine is narrowing my interests down! Perhaps the most prominent concepts I focused on this semester are those related to my educational startup idea which is closely tied to business and entrepreneurship as noted in my post "Making Curriculum POP" and practiced on my Beta site. I spent quite some time building new prototypes and getting feedback from others. These activities of agile development and social proof helped me as I began the semester with my toe in many different themes and topics.

Starting in the summer, but only increasing once the semester began, I got into listening to the podcast - On The Media - which led me to exploring things like Facebook and privacy as well as elements of human nature in the digital age. I also began tweeting and learning to have conversations around hash tags (rather than just speaking random things into the void). Digging around for educational content to support or supplement the badge project, I found many interesting things and people like the New York Times' education blog. Proper consuming practices enabled me to read and curate a large amount of helpful resources and articles about media education.  I read David Buckingham's Media Education and later discovered that he is probably one of the most important scholars of the field I may be interested in going into. Also I read Renee Hobbs' Copy Right Clarity which led to two great phone conversations with her about my video database. This was extremely motivating and a great testimony to me of the power of social proof. 

I started using Google Reader and Diigo and connected both of them to my Evernote account through IFTTT enabling me to consume very effectively and efficiently. The library of materials I have started curating there, along with my Twitter and Pinterest accounts are beyond the scope of this post. Of the most worthwhile findings that I have logged away in these tools, these three articles are among the top related to education and digital/media culture:

2. Collaboration

Our group started out as five people interested in badges. As we started choosing the direction we wanted to go, we each played a different role in getting the first iteration up. I put together a Prezi with the content provided by the other team members and recorded a simple screencast explaining the badge group scope. I also created a wiki (which went largely unused it turned out). When our team split, and Katie and I started focusing on badges for middle school kids, I helped produce a short explanatory video which integrated elements of After Effects and screen casted Prezi content. Katie and I worked hard to best understand the directions we should go, and under her direction I designed some badges and visited with her Mom about the class we were working with. Katie is a very hard worker, and I did my best to add anything I could to help her and our project be more successful.

In regards to other group projects, I did tragically less than I originally hoped for. However, I was able to meet with Grace and Allie at the library and spent some time playing a level on Little Big Planet. I gave some feedback to Grace, and was blown away by her hard work. It was really neat to see some of the changes she integrated after that feedback session. 

3. Others’ assistance

This semester I have been largely influenced by Katie Wilkie's relentless personal research on open education and badges. It has been really helpful to bounce ideas off of her, and build this project from the ground up together. Jalena and the Remix group have also been inspiring to me in regards to my personal project (to which this blog is normally dedicated to) and its relationship to copyright and Fair Use. Josh's blog on memes was very helpful as I was trying to explain the phenomenon to my family.

4. Digital Literacy

As mentioned earlier in this post, my digital literacy has been enhanced to in significant ways. Using the categories of "consume, create, and connect" I will review over some of the details.


I already talked about using Google Reader, Diigo, and IFTTT to properly consume and curate things online. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are more informal but still very helpful ways I gather both fun and relevant information in regards to my interest. As a part of my Google Reader feed I subscribe to a few blogs/curators that are already organizing information, such as Devour and Annie Murphy Paul's blog, thus helping me focus information one step further before I even get to it. Filters or consuming streams are important, but I have also been made aware of the dangers of creating a personalized bubble where I am only exposed to ideas that don't challenge me and so forth.

This semester I have started to be more effective with my time on the Internet. I have learned to only get onto Chrome when I have a purpose (even if that purpose is to have fun or check up on a friend). I guess you could say I have become more conscious of my habits and how I use the amazing tools that are available. These have been extremely valuable lessons to learn, and I imagine I will only come to learn them better as time goes on.


Being a filmmaker, writer, and photographer, I was already using the Internet to a small degree to make things. However, after learning about the mantra "release early, release often" my perspective of creating online has changed dramatically. I am less concerned about getting it just right before hitting publish/share, and I am more eager to jump into a new tool and try things out. One example of creating I have done is making a new website (actually it is a Wordpress site . . . ) which was a challenge for me, but worth the effort it took to learn how to operate the system and manage things. I also spent a significant amount of time creating the google site that is associated with this blog - The Relevant Classroom project. Before this semester I had a little experience with either Wordpress or Google Sites, but I now I am comfortable enough to create quick and rough prototypes of projects or web site design proposals. Agile development and social proof are two other key aspects of creating I have learned and practiced this semester. I am excited to continue expounding on these principles with my photography, film, and educational design plans.


An important part of this semester has been my realization of just how amazing the Internet can be when it comes to meeting new people, collaboration, and networking. I mentioned social proof in the paragraph above, and connecting with other people was definitely a large part of that. After getting feedback on my "idea" from family and friends, I was able to connect with professionals in New York and Rhode Island via email,Twitter, and phone.

There is something quite neat and uplifting about connecting with others across the world, sharing meaningful ideas, and trading feedback with one another, that is unlike anything I have experienced before. Of the many things I joined/signed up for this semester, my favorite has been a social network for educators to discuss using pop culture in teaching. On that site I have connected with K-12 educators in Australia, professors in West Virginia, and graduate students along the East coast (among many others).

In connecting with others I have learned more about myself and how to approach new ideas and challenging issues. Social research, or using networks and online communities to learn about a topic, has become a new habit. I know now to check a variety of places when I think I have some "new idea" because the chances are - someone is already executing that very concept!