Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Project

Though I had initially planned to explore the educational potential of micro-blogging, I eventually decided to create a website for our final project, instead. Reasons for this are that 1) I've never created a website before, 2) I think having a website could be a beneficial tool to have as I search for a teaching job, and 3) I'm interested in the idea of having a teaching website some day and thought creating one would be a good way for me to get my feet wet. As for now, I have in mind a few different ways of using this site: 1) To provide visitors with a variety of resources, including 2.0 tools and book reviews of educational literature, 2) To provide employers with a site they can visit to observe some of my technological capabilities.

I created this site via Weebly, which is a free webpage generator. Developing this website was a bit like creating a blog in that, through the basic, free plan with Weebly, it is an incredibly simple process. Including the individual pages I added and posts I made, the entire process took me all of a few hours. Granted, for the time being, the site I've created isn't the shiniest, but I think it serves its purpose and, with time, hope to develop it further.

For what I was looking for, the basic plan with Weebly worked just fine. Though I haven't explored many other website generators, I feel like Weebly is a midrange interface and am satisfied with its aesthetics/usability. That said, however, if you'd like to stick with Weebly, are looking for a few more bells and whistles, and are willing to shell out a few bucks, there are some options available to you. I'm pleased with how the site is taking shape and look forward to contributing to its evolution.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Film Adaptations

As someone licensed in the social studies, I was interested in the HBO series from a couple years back based on David McCullough's book, John Adams. Though I haven't read the book, I thought the HBO adaptation was exceptional in the way in created new possibilities for educators teaching history and fresh opportunities for students interacting with historical texts. Using the John Adams series as an example, several activities come to mind.

1) While reading from a chapter of McCullough's book (and prior to watching a portion of the HBO series), students could create a storyboard (anyone aware of an free online story-boarding resource?) that highlights critical moments in the text, allowing them to develop visual representations of their historical interpretations.

2) Using Fodey (fodey.com), a newspaper clipping image generator, students could respond to part of the HBO series by constructing a handful of newspaper articles. This would enable them to organize historical events and provide their own version of how the events unfolded.

3) Through the writing of a blog or the creation of a VoiceThread, students could review a chapter from the book, along with an episode of the HBO series. In their review, they could explore ways they were effected by each medium. Then, they could compare and contrast the chapter from McCullough's book with one they are reading in their spare time, as well as the HBO episode with a show they enjoy watching outside of school.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Summer Days, Summer Nights Are Gone

As the November Moon leaves us and we brace ourselves for Winter, there is a Bob Dylan track from his album Love and Theft that I enjoy listening to. The song races out of the gates with a bluesy riff and, eventually, Bob works his way in, crooning, "Summer days, summer nights are gone (repeat); I know a place where there's still something going on." As a fellow Minnesotan, I can relate to the yarn Dylan is spinning here. I hear Dylan's connection to place coming through and my mind wanders to a warm spot away from the cold. There is hope, too, in the musical landscape of this song, as if to imply, "Summer may be over, but life can still be good." Being a Minnesotan, we need the tonic of places like the one Dylan is describing in order to make it through the winter moons.

Throughout Dylan's career (and much to his chagrin/amusement), music critics have attempted to categorize the work of Dylan. Dylan has always resisted this and I think it shows in the albums he creates (he just released a Christmas album a little while back) and the songs he crafts. The stories he tells and the characters he develops are relatable, yet never simplified. None of his songs are boxed in and they are open to countless interpretations.

Bearing that in mind, I am attracted to musicians who are able to paint stories. I like being dropped into a scene and appreciate an artist who can articulate their depth of place. Though a bit more difficult to define, I also pay attention to the element of soul. Am I able to hear through enunciations, crescendoes, or key changes that this song means something to the artist? What is their reason for singing it (*thinking of the line from Sam Phillips to Johnny Cash in the movie Walk the Line)? If it is to play victim or be cute, I'm probably not interested. If, on the other hand, it seems real, intelligent, and rhythmic, it may catch my ear. That's all I have to say for now.

Here's a live version of Dylan's Summer Days...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a documentary that connects with people in a visceral way. This gut-reaction to the film is achieved through the use of disturbing images (i.e. pigs being slaughtered on the killing floor), valuable insights from critics of the food industry, and demonstrations of alternative ways of producing food. Watching the documentary, I was reminded of something Upton Sinclair said after his book, The Jungle, had been released. Mainly, "I aimed for the public's heart, and by accident hit it in the stomach instead." Though Sinclair was aiming for the heart, the makers of Food, Inc. seem to have been successful in hitting both the heart and the stomach. The way I see it, the primary point of the film is to get people to think carefully about the ways they are consuming food.

The makers of Food, Inc. tried to include various points of view in the film, but most of the large corporations this film critiques refused to be interviewed and, hence, their voice was not heard. That said, though it seems like the creators of Food, Inc. attempted to strike somewhat of a balance of perspective with the film (authors are interviewed, personal stories are shared, alternative farming methods are unveiled), they are not subtle about having an agenda and I think they arrive at those benchmarks successfully. Along those lines, the way they went about achieving this balance seemed a bit formulaic. Documentaries released on a large-scale seem to have a recipe for success that contains specific ingredients. For example, since hearing from experts gets old after a while, documentary film-makers always seem to include a few heartfelt testimonials from everyday, American people. This is not to say these personal stories aren't real or touching; they usually are, but they are often presented in a calculated manner designed to evoke some sort of emotion from the audience. In the way documentaries are created, I'm not sure the makers of Food, Inc. bring anything new to the table.

I think this documentary did a nice job of empowering ordinary citizens to pay more attention to what they are eating. Though some of the clips and stories from Food, Inc. are incredibly disturbing, a thread of hope runs through the film. For instance, I remember someone saying that each person gets three votes a day (one for every meal) to affect the way food is produced in the world today. That meant something to me and I appreciate how the element of hope was captured in this film.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Powers That Be

First and foremost, I should mention that I currently do not have a dish setup, cable plan, or regular television channels. Hence, I am somewhat in the dark and, in some ways, I was unable to fully participate in the study for this week. That said, though not often, I have watched the news before and feel I am able to provide some commentary on what I've observed. The newscasters themselves interest me and I wonder what makes them do what they do. What's their motivation for sharing the news? For the longest time growing up, I thought the newscasters were the ones in charge of finding and delivering the news. More recently, I'm seeing them as pawns in the game instead.

The inflection of a newscaster seems to be one of concerned stability. In their voices, there always seems to be a hint of sincerity and yet they, the newscasters, present the news in a deadpan sort of way ("professional" would probably be the descriptive term they, the news station, would use to describe this aspect of broadcast). There is no crescendo to the broadcast and nothing visceral in its delivery. Transitions between news stories have been catching my eye as of late. From time to time, a brief, tragic story will be followed by news about a political campaign or something along those lines. There seems to be no connection, no trajectory between the stories. What is the purpose for them being next to each other in the broadcast? Is it to take the edge off, to maintain a public numbness through the avoidance of suffering?

The final 15 minutes, half of the entire broadcast is devoted to weather and sports. Granted, many are interested in both of these subjects, but they seem fickle and trivial in relation to some of the other stories skimmed over. In fact, it seems like a good deal of people watch the news so they can "catch" the weather or "find out about what happened with the game." The actual news stories seem to be of little interest.

As I prefer listening to my iPod when I'm in my car, I don't listen to the radio very often. If I do turn on the radio, I listen to MPR's The Current. Since I don't have any television channels for the time being, I haven't been tuning into anything as of late. I receive internet via Minneapolis Public Wifi and I'm not exactly sure what the source of that is. Though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, Yahoo! tend to be my online news source. Finding information about the ownership of Yahoo! was also tricky.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Improve Education & Help Students


Communication Objective

The idea behind this ad is to improve education and help students through the passing of health care reform. Health care reform would help accomplish this by finally allowing old teachers who lost interest in their craft long ago to retire under a reasonably priced health care plan.

Target Audience

I'm not precisely sure who this advertisement is geared toward. Educators. Politicians. Students. The American Public. All of them seem to fit in their own little way.

Format

I chose to present this ad in the form of a comic including a picture of Lowell teachers from the 19th century.

Concept

There is no shortage of young teachers trying to find a teaching gig these days. In some ways, as an unemployed educator who desires to work with students, it is frustrating to not be working, while also having a hunch that there are a number of "ancient teachers" out there hanging onto their position, not because they continue to love what they do, but in order to maintain their health care benefits (I am embellishing here a bit). Something about this doesn't seem quite right and my hope was to get at this concept in a somewhat humorous and thoughtful way.

The Visual

I decided to use an old photograph as my visual. With the photograph, I chose to edit it via Comic Life in order to bring the concept behind the ad to the table. My idea for the visual is fairly simple and by no means overwhelming for the audience. Of course, if the visual I've created is to have any kind of impact, it requires people to read the comic (which I realize doesn't always happen). That is part of the risk behind the ad I developed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Table Manners

video

Hangover Cure



Twenty somethings seem to be the target audience of this advertisement. As the commercial repeatedly highlights, the steps to achieve a hangover cure are remarkable simple. In this case, one can either not drink at all (and, according to the images, be as lame as an old grandma or middle-aged milk-drinking woman) or one can simply take Chaser while you drink (and, consequently, your hangover will be avoided). With this commercial, in order to demonstrate the benefits of using Chaser, pictures of happy couples (which are presumably taken in the morning) are provided. In these pictures, the couples appear carefree and cheerful in every way. Clearly, using a product such as Chaser Freedom can only enhance the beauty of everyday life.

The underlying thread of this advertisement has to do with enjoying the perks of drinking alcohol without the consequences. The add is attempting to sell a product, Chaser Freedom, and I'm not really sure of its effectiveness. First and foremost, the integrity of the product is questionable, especially when the advertisement closes with the classic line "Please drink responsibly." Naturally, seeing as how the makers of this product depend on drinking irresponsibly, it's easy to question the sincerity of this remark. Second, as I experienced it, the ad is trying to be humorous, but only seems funny in an oxymoronic sense. The contradiction between the product and the final message of the advertisement is laughable.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visions of Blog Use

Having just listened to an EdTech Talk podcast featuring Jan Smith discussing blog failures and successes inside and outside of her classroom, I am brimming with ideas of how blogs can be integrated into learning. What most interested me in hearing Jan talk about blogs was the way she established partnerships with other blogging communities throughout the world in order to enhance the blogging experience of students. The worldwide accessibility of blogs is an aspect of blogging that really draws me to it. Particularly for US History or Current Event courses, I could see blogs being used as a means of promoting and achieving the global perspective theorists of the social studies are always talking about. How fascinating it would be for students and teachers to participate in a dialogue (via blogging) in which national and international viewpoints were shared. Of course, something like this could also segue into the usage of Skype and other tools.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vikings Football: A Hierarchy of Fans

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-0. Undefeated and on a roll, they are beginning to play the caliber of football their fans have long awaited for. Growing up, I never was a diehard Viking fan, but with the acquisition of a few key players over the past couple years, I have started to pay more attention to what is happening in the Viking camp.

The Vikings matched up against a formidable opponent last week, the Baltimore Ravens. For the game, I traveled to Cathedral Hill, where a friend was hosting a get-together at his apartment to watch the Vikings take on the Ravens. As people trickled in and the game progressed, I couldn't help but notice a hierarchy of fans within our little community. Some fans were dressed in Viking regalia and were entirely committed to the game. Late in the game, as things were looking grim for the Vikings, one of these diehard fans remarked that "if the Vikings lose this game, the rest of my day is shot," and I believed him. Other fans, which I will refer to as followers, rooted for the Vikings and hoped for the best, but their emotional state was not affected by the ebbs and flows of what turned out to be a thrilling victory for the Vikings/crushing defeat for the Ravens. The more fair-weather Viking fans, remembering let downs of seasons past, maintained a healthy skepticism throughout the game and occasionally heckled the more involved diehard fans for their relentless Purple Pride. Hence, a Viking fan hierarchy seems to exist and, below, I will attempt to further detail the characteristics of each level.

Diehards

Diehard fans are everyday fans who closely follow the team throughout the entire year (not just during football season). They are fans who have been/will continue to be there for the Vikes through thick and thin. To stay informed of the latest news (injury updates, team strategies, player acquisitions, etc.), they may listen to local radio channels, follow the blogs of sports analysts, and read the articles of columnists in the sports section. For the diehards, the Vikings influence their day-to-day social interactions. For some, this means making an annual pilgrimage down to Mankato for training camp, while others use the Purple and Gold as a key conversational piece. Some, at their worst, may become confrontational with fans of a division rival or an opposing team. During the season, missing a game is not an option for diehard fans. The diehards frequently attend games or social gatherings to watch games. At these gatherings, Viking regalia, which can range from wearing the jersey of a favorite player to dawning a pair of Viking horns, is extremely important. With each Viking win and loss, the emotional state of the diehard is strongly affected.

Followers

Followers are Sunday fans who pay attention to the Vikings only during the football season. Though followers do not support the Vikes through thick and thin, they have found ways to weather decades of disappointment and remain fans. For these fans, the Vikings are not a number one Sunday priority and, if there is something else going on, they are not devastated to miss a game. That being said, if they are to miss a game, they likely would try to find out if the Vikings emerged victorious later in the evening or early the next day. As for social interactions, followers use the Vikings as a fall-back conversational piece and occasionally attend a gathering to watch a game. They may visit the Metrodome every now and then to see a game, but are usually content with watching from home. When it comes to regalia, it is likely followers own some sort of Vikings shirt or jersey (though this isn't required), but they tend to resist anything over the top (Viking horns, face paint, etc.). With each Viking win and loss, the emotional state of the follower is mildly affected.

Fair-Weathers

Though they might not admit it, in most cases, fair-weather fans have followed the Vikings for quite some time. Fair-weather fans have not been able to navigate the decades of disappointment like the followers have and usually tend to be recovering diehards. Their fan-ship is always in motion, ebbing and flowing with the ups and downs of the team. As a new football season begins, these fans, disenchanted and occasionally bitter, start to wonder if paying attention to the Vikes is really worth their time and energy. They may watch or listen to the first game, but once something goes wrong, they turn the game off, grumbling something along the lines of "here we go again." Fair-weather fans take pride in their cynicism and may even project a sinister grin upon hearing of a recent Viking loss. A favorite past time of the fair-weather fan is to create a common scapegoat to blame for each loss. Though this scapegoating helps increase the bitterness of a fair-weather fans, by uniting them against a common enemy, it also sustains the cycle of their ever-wavering fan-ship.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beyond Beats and Rhymes



I chose to analyze a clip from the documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which was created by Byron Hurt and addresses the roles of violence and masculinity and hip-hop culture. To make this documentary, Hurt interviews rappers, social critics, and a host of other people to demonstrate ways in which hip-hop culture has been born and shaped by American culture.

Feminist Critique

Description: This clip includes a variety of interviews (with rap artists, professors, social critics, etc.) and footage of music videos from the past decade or so. Central to this clip is the question What does it mean to be a man in America? One interviewee comments, "Our society limits the way men can express their emotions, in general." Naturally, this directly affects the kind of presence men try to project.

Analysis: Though this is a clip addressing masculinity in hip-hop culture, it is also saying something about women. Mainly, I get the impression that these artists, of all different races and ethnicities, are attempting to present a strong masculinity in order to posture themselves in a way that overpowers weaker men. That being said, what is the aim of this "hyper-masculine behavior" and how does trying to fit this image of dominance affect the way these men view women? Often (and I'm generalizing a bit here), it seems as if these alpha males have a tendency to objectify women.

Conclusion: This video clip explores an interesting subculture that has largely been shaped by American culture. It challenges the role of masculinity in hip-hop and raises important questions about this subculture and American culture as a whole.


Reader Response Critique

Description: I noticed that Byron Hurt, the maker of this documentary, drew upon a variety of different resources to address the role of masculinity in hip-hop culture for this clip.

Analysis: I like the democratic feel to this clip. There is not one particular keeper of wisdom on this subject, but many, each of whom have important insights to offer. I also thought it was good for them to show the ways dominant masculinity affects a variety of things, from the way these men dress to the kinds of emotions (or lack of emotion) they display in public. The evidence provided to demonstrate the way masculinity is represented through hip-hop was purposeful and I felt like it supplemented the topic nicely.

Conclusion: As a teacher, I feel like this documentary is significant because, having worked in urban and rural settings, I notice the trend of alpha masculinity amongst male students. This is not the only way to be a man and I think this documentary does a nice job of explaining the origins of this behavior and exposing the consequences of it.


Classroom Application

I like the idea of implementing the feminist critique in the classroom. To use an example from above, hip-hop lyrics often seem to contain derogatory language about women (hoes, bitches, etc.). In response, some women have claimed that those artists aren't singing about them and this is in interesting opinion for them to have (also one that I think is a bit off). A greater awareness of feminist issues seems necessary in the classrooms of today and I think the feminist critique can help with this.

One thing students have an abundant supply of is opinions. I think the reader response critique offers kids a way to observe, analyze, and respond to an advertisement, video, or commercial in their own voice. Using the example of hip hop, it might be interesting to learn about interpretations students have of certain music videos. Why are certain items (luxurious cars, fancy jewelry, fine champagne, etc.) included in some of these videos? What is the reason for the violence contained in some of these videos? Would it be possible for an artist to write a song/make a video about peace and be successful financially? I think students would have quite a bit to say about these topics and I'd be interested in hearing what they think.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Great Expectations Clip Analysis

Here is a link to my analysis of a clip from the movie Great Expectations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Summer Vlog

Vlog Reflections

I decided to watch a vlog on the Minnesota Stories website called Meet Minneapolis: Skyways. Not having spent much time in downtown Minneapolis, I thought this vlog might show me some places worth visiting and help me understand how to navigate downtown by utilizing the skyways. This vlog is hosted by Carissa and Diana, both of whom seem to work in the heart of Minneapolis. Being a proud Minnesotan, I was hoping the two of them would visit places with local flavor and perhaps even teach me about a new spot worth visiting. As the vlog progressed, it became clear that my definition of local flavor differed with their definition.

This vlog was created for people who work downtown and are at the very top of the socioeconomic hierarchy. Within the first 30 seconds of the vlog, their audience becomes evident. As the hosts introduce themselves, they also mention that they are filming in the "luxurious Ivy Hotel" (establishing shot included). Then, they make their way through the sterility of the skyway to explore some of the great Minneapolis shopping centers: Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Target (?). While the vlog contains shots of the hosts reading magazines in elegant chairs, shopping for fine jewelry, and looking at expensive professional wear, music that seems to be a blend of elevator music and techno provides an irritating soundtrack. Ultimately, in my opinion, the only truly local place they visit during the three minute vlog is the Dakota Jazz Club.

Along with the music, the editing techniques used for this vlog contribute to putting the viewer in a trance-like state. While the fades are blurry, the cuts are choppy and help convey the speed and instinct of downtown life. Though these techniques might capture the pulse of Minneapolis, it makes the viewing difficult and leaves the viewer feeling somewhat relieved when it's all over.