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.


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 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.


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