La Divina Commedia di Dante

<i>La Divina Commedia di Dante</i>
I took this in Florence (Nov. 2010) at the Museo Casa di Dante

Monday, February 28, 2011

Providence College Public and Community Service Program

In my post about Wesch's article, I used the Providence College Public and Community Service Program as an example of New Media Education. Unfortunately I posted that article from my phone and wasn't able to get the hyperlink in properly. So here it is: Feinstein Institute for Public Service

Each Public and Community Service major takes a two semester class during their senior year called capstone. In one of their meeting/classroom on the 4th Floor of the Feinstein Institute each capstone class paints a mural as their legacy to the program. This is the mural that my partner - Kaytee - and the rest of her capstone class (2009) did.

Knowledgable v. Knowledge-able: Question/Comments/Point To Share

While re-reading my blog entry tonight, I realized that I forgot to post my Question/Comments/Point To Share portion of the post. So here it is below.

What experiences have you experienced at RIC that demonstrate both the knowledgable system of learning and the knowledge-able system of learning?

Knowledgable to Knowledge-able

"From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments"
Michael Wesch

1) "It becomes less important for student to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgable to knowledge-able."

This quote from the opening of Wesch's piece gets to the heart of what this article is about. As a result of the New Media Environment, the old way of understanding education becomes less important. As he says, "it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information." He says over and over again that it isn't about spitting back the information, but it is about being able to ask the right questions. On page 11, Wesch gets to this best case scenario, "In the best case scenario the students will leave the course, not with answers, but with more questions, and even more importantly, the capacity to ask still more questions generated from their continual pursuit and practice of the subjectivities we hoe to inspire." It seems that this New Media Environment and the educational reforms the Wesch talk about are closely related to the socratic method of teaching - teaching students to learn by asking questions. How remarkable that this time test method of teaching can be combined with the New Media Environment to produce a completely new standard of education and learning. A way that takes information as something hard to find and turns it into something to be created.

2) "Always aware of the hidden metaphors underlying our most basic assumptions, they suggest calling this "the Vaccination Theory of Education" as students are led to believe that once they have "had" a subject they are immune to it and need not take it again."

Here Wesch suggesting that to achieve this Knowledge-able state, we must completely change the way we talk about schooling. The moment I read the above quote, I thought of all the times that I have used that exact same phrase. Think back to all the classes and subjects you've taken. Can you remember the information you gathered in that class and the questions it led you to ask? I know I can't. I think that has something to do with this way we understand courses, but also the larger picture of this article. Most of my classes have been about memorizing and spiting back information. This at times has been literal, where I've had to memorize Constitutional Amendments and copy them on an exam. A week after the exam I couldn't tell you what it said. The problem with memorizing spitting back information is that students generally forget it once the exam is over. They no longer need that information they have "had" the class. There is even an assumption on the part of professors in the rest of the department that once you have "had" a class you don't need to go over that information any more. "You should remember this from 202 so we won't go over it now." When this is said by the professor in my Political Science classes my peers and I look at each other shrug and then go look it up on Google. Wesch is really on to something here. Looking at a subject once and never returning it means that students are fully developing the critical thinking skills that he talks about as the core skills of this New Media Environment.

3) "love and respect your students and they will love and respect you back. With the underlying feeling of trust and respect this provides, students quickly realize the importance of their role as co-creators of the learning environment and they being to take responsibility for their own education."

It is my firm belief, and supported here by Wesch, that without trust and respect students cannot and will not learn in class. A great example of this - not fitting with what Wesch describes - standard lecture classes. The professor stands in front of the class and lectures for an hour and a half - from the start to the end of the class - and assigns the next assignment and leaves. Half time, students don't even show up to these classes, but there is not connection. This, in my opinion, show a lack of respect for the students on the part of the professor and in turn the students do not show respect back to the professor. In classes where students have to take responsibility for their education, they are more invested in it and more likely to actually show up. My partner shares stories all the time from her time at Providence College as a Public Service major. This program at PC is defined by the quote above. The most important thing for freshman and new classes to establish is a sense of community within their program. At the begin of each semester the professors and students define their class norms and assumptions. They work together to define the agenda for the class, and students are encouraged to share articles they find on their own with the class. It is not about memorizing information, but it is about forming community built on love and respect and asking questions while seeking information in the world around them. Much like Wesch recreates the world in this classroom. Public Service majors recreate the community in their classrooms, address issues, create programs, ask questions. They then go out into the world and attempt to put what they have learned and created together into practice. If it doesn't they come back to the classroom with a new set of questions and problems and start the process over again. They are taught to constantly question things. Two years after graduation, my partner still remembers almost everything she learned as a Public Service major. I, on the other hand, in a more "traditional major" that is pretty much based on lectures and memorization can't remember things that I learned in classes last semester. With out love, respect, and investment in one's education there cannot be a true form of learning. If students get to the Knowledgable stage, it certainly prevents them from getting to the Knowledge-able stage.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dancing Through Life

After reading through a few of the blog entries for the Raby piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs from the hit Broadway musical Wicked. The song, "Dancing Through Life," is all about not thinking to hard and just dancing through. To me, it is about popularity and fitting in and not trying to find your own individuality. Elphaba - who is clearly different - is taunted and the like. Most of the taunting comes form Glinda the Good - the popular girl. Thanks Jess for reminding me of this song.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence

Rebecca C. Raby
"A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence"

After explaining the five dominant, Western discourses of adolescence – the storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, and pleasurable consumption, Raby begins to go into the interconnectedness of them. The opening few sentences of the section titled, “Living the Interconnections and the Clashes” made me begin to think about the importance of the five dominant discourses: particularly the importance of being able to go through all of these stages.

Of the five stages it seems that there is quite a bit of importance on becoming. “Less prominent in the more sensationalistic media, but nonetheless present in much literature on teens is the concept of teenagers as ‘becoming’, usually discussed in terms of self-discovery and/or identity formation” (p.433). What happens when a teenager is not allowed the room to explore and have this time of self-discovery? While I think Raby discusses this vaguely I did not grasp and real meat on this issue.

I would argue that when a teenager is not allowed to fully live into their own self-discovery they are more likely to partake in at-risk behaviors. The same could be said for young people who are not supported in their self-discovery or who experience some sort of hardship as a result of said self-discovery. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is done throughout public high schools in the straight of Rhode Island. It looks at a variety of at-risk behaviors and compares the participation in those activities to heterosexual and gay/lesbian/bisexual/unsure (LBG/Unsure) youth.

What the study shows is that LGB/Unsure youth are more likely that their heterosexual counterparts to engage in at-risk behaviors. In every category LGB/Unsure youth are engaging more than their heterosexual peers. This is not true of two categories. The first is current alcohol drinking. Both groups scored at 34%. However, the confidence interval (CI) is greater for LGB/Unsure. This is to suggest that the reality of the situation is that more LGB/Unsure young people engage in drinking alcohol. The only are where heterosexual teenagers score higher than LGB/Unsure teenagers is in Dr. Check up. This is clearly area where score in a lower percentile is not a good thing. The YRBS shows that there is great risk for young people as a result of identity and issues related to said identity.

All of this plays into the concept of Agency that Raby discusses beginning on page 442. She defines agency as “the ability to make choice, to reflect on and influence one’s own actions, and to potentially make change in the world around us” (pg. 442). The YRBS suggests that there is a clear lack of agency amongst LGB/Unsure youth. If so much of the dominant discourses on teenagers is projections from parents and the larger society, it is clear why LGB/Unsure youth have a lack of agency. These dominant discourses seem to dominant in not only the range of acceptance among scholars but also a dominant ideology in their impact on teenagers today.

Questions/Comments/Point To Share
I wonder what happens when to this process - as set forth by the five dominant discourse - when a teenager does not clearly express one of the stages. For example the storm. What about the super involved, honor student, who looks likes s/he has it all together?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dominant Ideologies of Race

In class we've been talking about the dominant ideologies, and in my political science class we are reading about segregation. The two are going together very nicely. The following is a clip of Glenn Beck of FOXNews fame. I think it is a great example of what happens when dominant ideology takes control and becomes radicalized. Glenn Beck talks about race, religion, etc. I find it scary to believe how many people follow Beck's line of reasoning.

Interesting sign of the times

I've seen this commercial a few times on TV and I haven't been able to wrap my head around it. Now you can get facebook updates through your car. Thoughts?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us"

Linda Christensen
"Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us

I teach a Sunday School class at my church called Rite-13 (my students range in age from 12-14). It's part of a larger program called Journey to Adulthood. It's really a great formation piece for young people. This morning we had an open discussion day - a time when the young people can talk about anything and everything that's on their minds. I don't remember how it came up, but one of the students (14 year-old male) made a comment about a "really gay kid" at his school. He continued to go on and talk about how all gay kids (mean young gay men) wear skinny jeans. He concluded he comments by saying, "I'm ok with gay people as long as they don't hit on me." As you can imagine, some of the other students in class were not too happy with his comments. After settling them down, I asked the young man to say more about what he was feeling - explain it a bit. The can of worms that I opened! While things got a little crazy, some really great conversation started to happen. The students started to talk about stereotypes (at first without realizing it). When one student asked the young man who started the conversation where he got that idea about gay people he said, "I don't know." When pressed further he responded, "I see that stuff in movies and TV." He paused for a moment and thought about what he had just said. It was a really powerful moment to watch him work out what that means in his head. Wonderfully enough the sermon helped tie a lot of what we had talked about in class together. After the service, the young man came up to me. He looked really upset. He told me he couldn't believe what he had thought, "I never thought about what I thought before" he told me.

As I read the Christensen piece, I couldn't help but think of him when reading a sections of Justine's dialogue journal: "It's painful to deal with. The idea of not being completely responsible for how I feel about things today." Justine came to the same conclusion as my student did today, just with different words.

My class decided that their homework would be to look for stereotypes at school this week, and think about how they think about their classmates. I had no idea what I was going to do with that for next Sunday. I think I might try some of Christensen's ideas of turning writing into action. Part of the program these young people are in is about becoming adults and taking active roles in society. After reading this article, I couldn't think of better way for them to start taking action.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Ads

Lots of people tune in to watch the big game (Go Packers!) But, that's not all people tune in to see. Advertisers pay ridiculous amounts of money for a 30 second spot during the super bowl. There were plenty of ads, that I thought were just plain stupid. Others that were sexist, and heterosexist. I'll post more of those later, as they are a good example to use SWAMP (See Grinner article). This one however, was my favorite of the night. Sure there is a lot being said here. It is clearly a straight white family of a upper-middle class background. But, besides that I was hooked by the use of Star Wars (one of my media weaknesses). I wonder what your favorite ad was?

Hip-Hop Sees No Color: Talking point #2

Leslie A. Grinner
"Hip-Hop Sees No Color: An Exploration of Privilege and Power in Save the Last Dance"
Argument (I think)

Let me preface this by saying that I have never seen Save the Last Dance. Therefore some of my comments may not be totally actuate without that background knowledge.

Grinner argues that as a result of the dominant ideology expressed in media texts the observe must critically analyze that ideology and what it is saying about the norms of society. As part of her argument she offers SCWAMP as a tool for dissecting that ideology. SCWAMP, as Grinner describes it, stands for Straight, Christian, White, Able-bodied, Male and Property holding.

While I fully agree with Grinner and the application of SCWAMP, I was left dissatisfied with her use of it. I found some of her conclusions to be false, or not well supported via her explanation in terms of the media text at hand.

What Grinner writes about in this section is the concept of Heterosexism. Heterosexism is defined as the presumption that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Her examples of how heterosexism is present in Save the Last Dance seem a bit weak. There is no real comment about language. She gives one example, "At one point, Nikki confronts Sara with the idea that white women are always "creepin' up and takin' our men." That seems to be more a comment about race than about sexuality orientation and heterosexism. She [Grinner] goes on to describe that scene as "one of the few scenes presenting an opportunity to deal with the issues of race and gender raised by the film." The reality is that race and gender have nothing to do with sexual orientation be it heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or any other sexual identity. That comment and scene reflection could have been better suited in the sections on race and gender (Note: using her language here. This concept is really Gender, but rather sex as I will explain later). It seems that Grinner tried to hard to force the connection between race and sexual orientation. Maybe that is a result of the context of the movie, but those are two things [race and sexual orientation] that are actually closely linked.

In the purpose of full disclosure let me say that I am a faithful Christian. I will whole heartedly admit that this certainly gives me a sense of power and privilege in today's society. With that I did have one major issue with her assessment of Christianity. "Many of the legal and moral codes guiding our society, such as "an eye for an eye," are steeped in Christian ethos." The principle behind that sentence [Many of the legal and moral codes guiding our society] is completely accurate. In fact there is part of law known as Natural Law - Law from God or other greater power - that is frequently used in the American legal system. However, Grinner's specific example is not actually true. She describes that teaching of an eye for an eye as one that is "steeped in Christian ethos." That is actually a teaching that Jesus directly counters in the Gospel making it contrary to Christian teaching. "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39 NRSV). Now, if Christians do in fact live by this motto depends on the person and the time. But, regardless of human action, the teachings of Christ are clear "turn the other cheek."

If anything, I felt she could have gone a little deeper into this section. In my opinion, one of the most harmful things about popular culture, is the lack of examples of "successful" black families on television. Despite all the laws, actions, and even the election of a Black present, Whiteness still (and for the foreseeable future) reigns supreme.

Just as with whiteness there is not much that I wanted to add or subtract from her argument. I think the inclusion of nonphysical disabilities was brilliant. So often the term "able-bodied" leaves the hearer with images of people in wheelchairs, people who are blind or deaf, etc. Including people who are overweight and intellectually disabled shows how far reaching this concept of able-bodiedness really is.

The issue I took with this was her terminology and the implications of the terminology she used. To describe male and female, Grinner used the term gender. Despite popular opinion, sex and gender are not interchangeable terms. Sex refers to one's biological sex. Gender refers to the way a person identifies. By using Gender and limiting it to the societal construction of the gender binary, Grinner re-enforces the societal norm that everyone fits into that binary. By using this binary Grinner fails to recognize how male privilege impacts those people who are part of the transgender community - those people who live outside the gender binary.

All that aside, this leaves me with saying "Duh!" Of course males are seen as superior over females in today's society.

This, like able-bodiedness, is a perfect example of how Grinner takes this concept and broadens the readers understanding of it. Her she is not only referring to physical ownership of property, but also economic, intellectual, and cultural property. What a great way to talk about a concept that is deeply rooted in the history and tradition of this nation.

I am a firm supported and believer in SCWAMP, however Grinner's application of it leaves something - at least for me - to be desired.

Questions/Comments/Point To Share
I wonder what others found of her application of SCWAMP, and in which ways our own possession of societal power impacts that opinion.