Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creation, Curation, & Connection

Image source
This post should have been put up a long time ago. I am trying to do better at releasing things early and often rather than refining each post as much as possible. Unfortunately I think the graphic above is a pretty accurate depiction of my behavior online in the last few years. Creating films, presentations, etc. has been a passion of mine, but curation -or gathering and consuming information- has started slowly inhibiting the amount of time I take to do more creative work.

Now what the graphic doesn't show is a third important element that every digitally literate person should be aware of is connection. My English professor, Gideon Burton, made this nifty little tutorial (video above) about these three points, create, consume, and connect, and how they are important to digital literacy. I highly recommend it.

As I reflect on how I am doing with these points of Digital Literacy, I am reminded of the important and often unspoken attribute of balance. Balance seems to be a recurring theme that continues to pop up in my life. I don't think I am alone in this fact though. As the Internet continues to become a more integral part of our everyday living, it is essential that we reflect how we use it. Balance between creating, consuming, and connecting on the Internet - as well as doing all the other important things that don't involve being online- can seem tricky. However, seeking more balance in all these categories we can be more engaged with issues around us.

Indeed becoming digitally literate is an important part of of media literacy. If all we know how to do is critically engage with media, we are greatly limiting ourselves. By learning to create media, consume critically, and connect with other students and people all around the world the media literacy movement will begin to have the meaningful impact on society that it seeks.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TeachersClips - the "big idea" is taking shape

What is TeachersClips? Well, this is the thing I have been working on for quite some time. Recently I've had the help of a team of students, and the dream of a database of popular culture clips that can be used in classrooms is starting to become a reality. Up until recently I affectionately referred to it as "my big idea" -which is kind of lame since I am not the one and only person to ever think it up, but now we have a name and second iteration which is almost ready to be released! (see the first iteration here). We have lots of work to do, but I am excited about how things are going.

Our team has gone out and asked for teacher feedback, and we have two great students who are working on the programming of the actual site. We have some pretty good design options in mind (see some shots below) and a few people have committed to beta testing this thing out for us. Last week we pitched the idea to some local experts and actually didn't get very positive comments. I was frustrated (and still am!) because lots of their written feedback appeared to be directly related to things I said. It is likely I wasn't extroverted and clear enough. That is why we need your feedback!

I am flabbergasted by how little I have been blogging about this experience. I will try and correct my ways and get the news out better.
So what if the home page became your profile or hub of clips once you have set up a profile? We have tossed around the idea of having the home page just be the browse page once you have created an account. We want to enable bookmarking so that if and when teachers see clips they want to use for a future unit they can easily bookmark it into separate folders for later use. 

This "Share" page will probably be a pop out form rather than an actual page on the site. Knowing how little time teachers have, we want to make it as easy and quick as possible to share media. Of course, the more info we get on each clip, the more cool stuff we can do with it later - so it is tough to find a balance.

Notice the big empty white space below the last grey bar? We are hoping to have this space filled in with Pinterest-styled thumbnails/images. The Browse page is not meant to fulfill the same purpose as the search feature. This is a place to get new ideas, look around, and bookmark clips away that look interesting. Thus we hope that as more and more people add things to TeachersClips one can just scroll down and look at what is new. Of course if you want to see something specific or search the tags that is what the search feature is for. The top three lines of clips will be constant ("Related to your subject", "New clips", and "Most viewed?). What do you think? Is there a better way? Would you use this site if it was fully functional?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Media Literacy Community

#medialiteracy on Twitter, NAMLE, MakingCurriculum Pop, and Facebook seem to be pretty good places to discuss education and many other ideas. However, I know of no Google+ presence revolved around media literacy. I wonder if I can cultivate a small network of teachers, researchers, and interested people oriented around Media Literacy on Google’s social networking platform? I think it would be great to also have homeschooling educators, parents, and even students too!

What is media literacy? 

I love these points below which are posted on the National Association for Media Literacy Education website. While they are helpful to better understanding the field, the definition of media literacy is by no means final or secured. 
  • Media refers to all electronic or digital means and print or artistic visuals used to transmit messages.
  • Literacy is the ability to encode and decode symbols and to synthesize and analyze messages.
  • Media literacy is the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze and produce mediated messages.
  • Media education is the study of media, including ‘hands on’ experiences and media production.
  • Media literacy education is the educational field dedicated to teaching the skills associated with media literacy.

I have created the community on G+ and started actively working with it about a week ago. The image above is the icon for the group, and I am hoping to build a network of interested people who have things to say or who are just curious about what is being said. The purpose of a G+ community in my mind is not necessarily about gathering cool content, as it is an opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and engage with others about important issues. Since I am obviously no expert of media literacy, I don't expect to be teaching or handing information to others in a didactic fashion. Rather I see this group as a chance to expand what I am reading and learning about, especially as I begin teaching grade school this fall. 

I am currently reading Media Literacy Is Elementary by Jaff Share. Near the beginning of the book he states, "We live in a multimedia age where the majority of information people receive comes less often from print sources and more typically from highly constructed visual images, complex sound arrangements, and multiple media formats." We spend a great deal of time teaching youngsters to learn how to spell, write, make arguments in essays, and so forth -but how often do we help them understand or deconstruct advertisements, films, and other forms of pop culture? If this is what they are consuming all the time, shouldn't we try and help them better understand these "highly constructed" media messages? I am all for kids reading, I think that is one of the most important activities they can do. In fact I think reading and becoming acquainted with good literature can help students understand issues of technology and media better than almost anything else. However, in our media drenched world where people are getting information in other ways we need to adjust our teaching to include more forms of media than the written word. 

Media literacy should be a very important part of every student's educational experience, at least to some degree. Please Join me and the Media Literacy Community and share the group with your friends.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Medical Media Madness

Jack prepares to do CPR on Charlie as Kate looks on in "Lost"
Have you heard about the recent arguments surrounding the death of an 87 year old woman in an independent care facility? Even though "she had chosen to live in a facility without medical staff and wanted to pass away without life-prolonging intervention" there has been public outcry and talks of doing some big investigation into why the staff member refused to obey the pleadings of the 911 dispatcher. Interestingly enough, instead of recognizing the dying woman's wishes (including her family's), the media and much of the public seem to paint this whole situation as a big problem, when in reality it really isn't that bad. Note the tone of the CNN clip below . . . 

In this amazing podcast from WNYC's RadioLab some astonishing statistics are given about life-prolonging intervention, which may cause you to think differently about this situation at the care center. Check it out.

So apparently, most people when asked if they were dying would gladly welcome life-prolonging procedures such as CPR, breathing tubes, etc. On the flip side, the majority of folks when asked how they want to die say things like, "peacefully in my sleep" or "at home near my family." These two scenarios actually don't go well together. According to this story, only 8% of all people who are given CPR actually live at least a month afterwards, and a whopping 3% survive without any major repercussions or serious side effects for a substantial period of time. With these facts in mind, it seems that the 87 year old woman who died without CPR may have been wiser than the media is letting on. 

As a matter of fact, in this same RadioLab story, the majority of doctors say they would never receive any kind of life-prolonging treatment. Painkillers are the only substance doctors say they would request if they were in a life or death situation.

But what about in Lost when Jack revives Charlie by whacking him on the chest (See the header image on this post)? What about all those episodes of ER where people are miraculously saved? Or this slightly awkward clip from Jurassic Park when a boy is electrocuted and then brought back through some chest thumping and quick breaths? Surely Hollywood wouldn't lie!?

Well, researchers who watched loads of TV shows and movies (I wouldn't mind that research job!) found that 75% of the time, characters were revived through CPR, defibrillation and so forth during their stretch of media consumption. But remember,  the actually number is 3% of all people who receive such treatments survive in real life!

We all knew that we shouldn't go to Hollywood to tell us how to live or attend to our health needs. But what we may not have been aware of is what we have learned from years of media influence regarding what can or can't be done medically. The CNN story above vilifies the worker who refused to perform CPR on a dying woman. Yes, I admit that at first glance it seems terrible. But in the end, if an aged woman wants to die when her time comes - it isn't our place to tell her "no! you must keep living - even if it means living an unhealthy and unsatisfying life." 

Careful critique and deconstruction of media messages is not only important in education, but can obviously be good for our health! What other parts of life are influenced by the media that we may not be aware of? Love, the ideal man and woman, and much much more. What do you think? 

Screen shot from "Disaster: Day of Crisis" for Wii courtesy of

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Teaching the Monster Some Manners

Said Abraham Lincoln, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Similar to this principle, President Ezra Taft Benson of the Church of Jesus Christ stated: “Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach.” Being a sincere and genuine friend is not easy for me with even the people I know - let alone a group of students who are complete strangers to me. And yet generating not only care and concern fo these students, but true friendship, may be the best way to help a child or struggling college student.

A friend listens and a friend reaches out
The teachers in my life who have led me to new heights and helped me in countless ways have always shown me they were my friend first, and my teacher second. Actually, I think it is safe to say that those who we choose as friends become our most influential teachers. Whether we are talking about informal "street knowledge" sorts of things, or purely academics, the principle of friendship as a condition to effective and lasting teaching is an essential one.

A friend doesn't use the first time you meet as a chance to scare or threaten (like some teachers seem to do on the first day of class).  A friend is willing to consider your point of view as well as accept that there are problems without solutions. "A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend loves. A friend listens. And a friend reaches out" (Monson, 1997).

The power of friendship is incredible. Below is one of my favorite friendship scenes, taken from The Bride of Frankenstein. The old man's innocence and kindness work wonders on the very Monster the whole town is seeking to kill. In some ways I see the monster as a representation of what we often think of as "problem children," or even our own fears and inadequacies of teaching and learning.

Perhaps the Monster is a good representation of our country's attitude about standardized testing? Or the ideology the pervades the rhetoric on the political stage about how we must be "better" than every other country in everything. Maybe the Monster in our classrooms is something beyond our current understanding and, like the blind man, we don't understand the "problems" or dangers of what we face.

If our focus is on friendship rather than scores, student's lives rather than their GPA, then perhaps the underlying purposes of testing and classroom management and much of the education revolution debate  could be met or exceeded.

Yes, the Monster can be taught manners - but only by friends.