Monday, July 14, 2014

Final Project

                As soon as we started thinking about what digital tool we wanted to use for our final projects, I had the idea to make a website. What I really wanted to do was to use technology to develop a lesson to flip my classroom, but I felt as if it would be a large undertaking, and I didn’t have all the materials I would want to develop it at the current time. I thought having a website that my students would check regularly would be a great plan, and it would be a place for me to post the videos I hope to create to flip my classroom this year. I also thought it would be a great plan because I post agendas with assignments and homework for two weeks in my classroom, and my website would be another good alternative. I had some other fun ideas for it also, like posting my Mathematician of the Month on my website in addition to in my classroom, and having a number of online resources for my students to reference. I thought this would be a good way for parents to stay informed as well seeing sometimes handouts don’t always make it home!
                I think using the website I created is a small but important shift for my classroom. I think it will help students feel connected outside of school, being able to check their assignments or use resources to help them complete their work. In the past year I also tried to incorporate more online lessons into my math class in order to better prepare my students for PARCC. Having a website for the students to reference to find directions and links makes much more technological sense than handing out a piece of paper with that information. I think this will also help my relationship with parents. Many parents feel “out of the loop” at this stage because students in middle school aren’t talking to them as openly. I think having this website with resources and assignments will help parents keep tabs on their students and receive information they might be missing.
                 I think passing out a piece of paper with instructions and URLs to an online assignment was demonstration of me being a digital immigrant, and this website is a small shift in my status. I also hope some of the projects I have planned for the upcoming year to work in conjunction with my website help students become producers of knowledge rather than consumers. Some of my favorite lessons while learning and teaching were through discovery, and it makes me sad the curriculum in my district has moved away from some of that. I hope to help students connect math to their lives and see its importance, as well as integrate more critical thinking and higher level questioning. With so much strict and scheduled content to cover during the year, I felt as if I was not able to do this as much as I wanted to last year.
                As I also mentioned briefly in my presentation, advisory over the last year was tough. We had 25 students per advisory for 35 minutes per day. This year we are moving advisory to only one day per week, and hopefully we will have slightly smaller, more personal class sizes. I’m hoping to get to investigate some of the other tools with my advisory class during the course of the year, and even work on some projects to have them creating. Adding some of the tools to my website if I can, such as my own StoryMap, would engage my students and help inspire them to make their own.

                This course was really one of the best I have ever taken and I feel as if I learned many useful strategies and tools to use in my classroom. For the first time ever I felt as if I wanted to teach social studies because I kept thinking of ways to use these tools with our 6th grade curriculum. I also know I learned a lot about my own beliefs and the way I view the world. It was unlike any other course I have taken, and is the reason why I love teaching in the first place. I really hope to gear my teaching in such a way to use more technology in the classroom, but in a meaningful way. This class has helped me realize that using technology doesn't always enrich a lesson or a student’s experience, and I hope to create more projects over the year that help my students become critical thinkers who are producers of knowledge, now just consumers. Who are digital natives because they can analyze digital texts, not just because they can navigate social media. The world is moving in a direction where it is increasingly important that they have these skills, and I hope to help influence this aspect of their lives in a positive way.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Turkle and Wesch: Allies or Opponents?

What is the relationship between Turkle and Wesch? Do you see them as allies, or opponents in this discussion of new media and technology?

Turkle’s article, The Flight From Conversation, reminded me a lot of a video I shared in an earlier blog post. Technology has definitely impacted social relationships, and Turkle seems to believe it has been in a primarily negative way. She believes in a world where we are always communicating, we have sacrificed conversation for connection. I have been in social situations many times where every person, or almost every person, is looking at their phones, or trying to get the right picture to post. I try to take the "spend time with those you are with" approach when it comes to social situations, which I believe is good tech etiquette. Multitasking and trying to be a part of an event which simultaneously looking at a phone can come across as very rude, and made a person look uninterested. And as silly as it seems that you even need it, my husband and I have no phone times when we spend quality time with absolutely no interruption. 

Watching Wesch's TED Talk, you would think he has the opposite viewpoint. He makes very powerful points about the use of technology to connect individuals all over the world, and as an educator makes the point of explaining how it transforms students into produces of knowledge rather than consumers. He says students should go from being knowledgeable to knowledge-able. However, towards the end of his video, he makes the point that while it is technologically easy to connect, share, collaborate and publish, those are actually very hard concepts. 

I believe Turkle and Wesch are allies in the discussion of new media and technology, even though they have different views. I think they would both understand that both of their views are equally important, and that the use of technology varies depending on the situation. Turkle makes the important point of how to put down technology and pay more attention to the very important relationships in life, but Wesch believes in using technology to change the education of students. A well rounded, technologically savvy student would be able to understand the appropriate times and uses for their devices, which is something that needs to be modeled and taught.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mulan: Building one up, only to tear another down?

During our hour lunch break, I thought  getting a jump start on tonight's blog post would be an excellent idea. It seemed simple enough: read a chapter from Rethinking Popular Culture and Media and write in a way that will help teach the chapter to those who had not read it. I am sure I am not alone in this, but it was extremely difficult to choose a chapter and I spent the entire break skimming chapters. I certainly can see myself finishing this book in my spare time this summer, something that has happened few times with texts assigned in class.

While there were so many excellent chapters to read and write about, I ultimately decided to choose Mulan's Mixed Feelings by Chyng-Feng Sun. A selfish part of me wanted to continue discussing princess culture, and I thought this chapter made some extremely important points about it. We have discussed many dominant ideologies that princess culture promotes such as heterosexual relationships, the idea of beauty, the relationship between females and males. There are stereotypes, generalizations and issues that appear over and over in these films. One facet of princess culture is the notion that girls are meant to 'sit pretty, waiting for a prince.' Many people argue that Mulan challenges this characterization, with Mulan being a "heroine that is emotionally and physically strong and does not wait for Prince Charming to save her" (page 106). Mulan is also positively represented in her looks, not depicting her in the same way Chinese people were in children's classics, and although she is portrayed as an attractive female, she is not seductive or voluptuous. However Sun makes the important point that "in order to put Mulan on a pedestal, Disney stomps on the people and the culture around her."

When Mulan came out in 1998, I believe many people were thrilled to see a strong female character as a Disney princess, one who has bigger aspirations than marrying a prince. However, it is important to understand that our dominant ideology, and the secret education that we learn it from, is multifaceted. While Mulan is a strong heroine, she is part of a society where she must pretend to be a hero in order to achieve her role. At the very surface this movie it shows girls that they can't be the heroine of the story unless they can somehow trick everyone into thinking they are a man. But even deeper than that, it leaves a very distinct impression about the Chinese culture that isn't a positive one. 

Mulan was actually a traditional Chinese legend that was rewritten for the Disney context, which many people were not pleased with. In the legend Mulan was portrayed as a woman with a job, goals, and place within her society. When her father is drafted to war Mulan chooses to go in his place. She returns 12 years later and the emperor promotes her to a high official position, but Mulan would rather go home to her family. Her military excellence earns her the deep respect and friendship from her colleagues, who accompany her to her home and only then discover that that she is a woman.

Automatically, that is a huge difference than the movie version. Perhaps Disney wanted Mulan to reject the wishes of her family and an arranged marriage to show a subtle change in princess culture, but once again where they put Mulan on a pedestal, they bring the others down. The discovery of Mulan as a woman during the war is also a major change, one that meant Mulan should have been executed for impersonating a man in the military. Because she had saved her Captain's live, he spears hers, and leaves her alone and worthless just because of her gender. Again, at the surface this says a lot about sexism, but there is also the representation of the Chinese as only an "oppressed, cruel, and sexist society" (108).

Viewing and critiquing these films from a Western standpoint, it's not a surprise many people are unaware of the original legend and the disservice Disney did to it. There are many facets of our dominant ideologies that are ingrained in children's film, but one that is perhaps questioned far less is the subtle way other cultures are negatively shown.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Shift in Princess Culture?

What is your relationship to Disney and animated children’s culture? What role did these texts play in your life as a child, if any? In that of any children you share time with? How do your memories challenge or reflect Christensen’s claims? How does Brave meet or challenge your memories of princess culture?

I grew up watching Disney movies, owning an entire shelf full of VHS movies I would watch on repeat. I had all of the songs memorized, I knew every character and story line, and the stories of me throwing fits in the Disney store because I wanted something are probably not exaggerated. However, I also never thought of this as an abnormal childhood experience for someone my age. The thought of a Disney movie still makes me light up, and I'll watch one every time it comes on TV (now that my VHS movies are long since gone), I still know the words to almost all the songs, and admittedly I dressed up as Princess Jasmine only a few short years ago.. I am sure that growing up amidst the princess culture has influenced my life today in more than one way.

I certainly believe and agree with Christensen's claims of stereotypes and the "secret education" of cartoons and children's movies. One of the quotes that resonated most with me was one from Christensen's student, Justine: "It can be overwhelming and discouraging to find out my whole self-image has been formed mostly by others or underneath my worries about what I look like are years of being exposed to TV images of girls and their set roles given to them by TV and the media.. The idea of not being completely responsible for how I feel about things today is scary." Princess culture goes beyond Disney and Saturday cartoons, it's in magazines, commercials, advertisements, movies, TV shows, any outlet imaginable. I am not certain when the phrase 'princess culture' was coined, but something I would imagine to be true is it was much more recent than the first Disney princess movie in 1937. This culture revolves the thoughts and ideas associated with women (along with socioeconomic status, race, body image, and many other issues that are very real in these movies and cartoons) but for the longest time, were not questioned. Women were actually expected to sit at home looking pretty, waiting for a prince. And while the idea that there is more to a woman now than who she marries, we have a lot of catching up to do to ingrain that idea into our society that is full of adult-sized princesses.

I had never seen Brave before this assignment, and unfortunately I think it proved Christensen's point in all too real of a way. Right from the beginning of the movie, while the Queen is chastising the King for giving their young daughter a bow because "she's a lady!" you could tell this movie was supposed to be breaking the norms. I found myself trying to dissect every character and determine how well they fit or broke the traditional roles. There were certainly some differences.. Our main character was certainly created to break the perfect, pretty princess stereotype. With her unruly red hair, archery skills and desire for adventure she is supposed to be a "new age" princess. She wants to compete for her own hand in order to avoid a betrothal, while every other princess seems centered around finding their prince. While the lord's sons are introduced as potential love interests, she doesn't actually have a love interest in the movie. The central relationship in the movie is the one between a mother and daughter, which is a heartwarming take. And while I am in no way saying Brave fits the traditional model in all other ways, there were still many disconcerting characterizations.

The Queen is certainly old school, preaching princess culture strong, and fits the bill. She is slender, fair skinned, modest, intelligent, obedient, uptight, prim and proper, nurturing. I might be wrong, but the only other female character I recall seeing in the movie besides our Queen and Princess is the maid/cook/hand lady.. who can really be sure. She doesn't have a strong characterization besides being lower class, short, plump, unattractive, and her primary purpose in the movie is to scream at the sight of bears. There are many, many men featured in the movie, however none of the fit the "Prince Charming" model. While I am sure this is done intentionally, even the King himself is sort of goofy, it also made me wonder if one of the love interests was depicted as more promising if it would have had a greater impact. The three love interests she was supposedly given were not shown in the kindest of lights.

I found Brave to be a very interesting movie, and it was certainly meant as a shift in ideology of Disney princesses, however I saw it as just that.. a shift. It's not there. There are still many issues and many stereotypes within this movie, and it's not really until the climax of the movie that everyone is left with a sense of "okay" in the breaking of the social norm. The part of watching Brave that Justine would agree with me is hard to admit, is the fact I didn't enjoy it as much as I felt like I should have. While I certainly relate to the unruly curly hair, I found a hard time identifying with the characters. Honestly, after watching the entire movie, I'm still not sure of any of their names. It's difficult to critique myself and identify why I had these feelings: Did I not like that there wasn't a love component? Did I not identify with the Scottish nationality? Did I not like the fact our princess wasn't perfect? And if any of those are true, why do I even have these ideas? I am aware of the unreasonable beauty standards females face, but that doesn't mean I am immune to insecurities and worries about my own looks. I have admirable professional and educational goals, but I have always viewed relationships as more important. Not because I needed a man to be happy, but because the love and time shared with family,children, friends, and even a significant other are more valuable to me than my career and education. My favorite princess was never Cinderella because she's blonde, and I'm not, and I just didn't like characters that didn't look like me very much. There is a lot to be said about where my ideologies come from, and why I am the person I am today. 

To end with another quote from Christensen's student Justine, "True death equals a generation living by rules and attitudes they never questioned and producing more children who do the same." Is it not to say there is always something wrong with the beliefs, but questioning them is vital to understand why we believe them in the first place.In the case of attitudes and rules that aren't constructive to our modern society, questioning is the first step towards change.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Boyd, Prensky and Wesch: How does the terminology stand up?

What do you make of the divergent positions of Boyd, Prensky and Wesch? Where do you stand on the “digital native” terminology?

While reading Chapter 7 of “It’s Complicated” by Danah Boyd, I was reflecting on the title.. “Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?” I felt as if reading this helped me articulate ideas I was trying to come up with for my earlier blog post.

One quote from the article I connected with was: “Many of today’s teens are indeed deeply engaged with social media and are active participants in the networked publics, but this does not mean that they inherently have the knowledge of skills to make the most of their online experiences.” I believe assuming that all students from a younger generation are technology native would be a na├»ve assumption. While students growing up in a technological age will likely adapt to the terminology, beliefs system and way of life, there are academic and professional skills that aren’t learned through sites frequently visited by students. A fluency in social media and gaming builds certain skills, but even using these outlets to their fullest potential isn’t always the case. Students need to be taught to use technology in a mature context to help growth.

Another quote I thought was important is: “Technology is constantly reworking social and information systems, but teens will not become critical contributors to this ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive.” This closely relates to the last quote from the article, the fact that just being born in a certain age bracket does not mean students will have the knowledge or skills to make the most of their online experiences. Students need to be shown and taught the opportunities that are out there. A student could develop a webpage about a passion of theirs, contribute to a wikipage about a topic that they are particularly knowledgeable of, create amazing artistic pieces online to share with the world, join a fanfiction site or a blog to share original writing, even vlog about a passion. There is so much more to the web than chatting with a friend on Facebook, and being of a certain age doesn’t mean they understand the possibilities or the means of achieving them. Students can express themselves in a seemingly infinite way when it comes to technology, more than just the traditional five paragraph essay. But if all they have ever known is the latter, how can we expect them to use these creative outlets?

The last quote I thought was interesting was: “Most formal educational settings do not prioritize digital competence, in part because of the assumption that teens natively understand anything connected to technology and in part because existing educational assessments do not require this prioritization.” I mostly found this interesting because it is outdated. PARCC. This looming, new, technology driven standardized tests that is sweeping in to replace the NECAP. While discussing PARCC with fellow educators we come across the same issues with our students over and over. We can only do so much in the classroom (hypothetically speaking, unattached from technology) to teach the content and material on the test. The students will need a certain comfort level, as well as skill level, to be able to succeed on a computer based test. PARCC is going to be unlike NECAP, the dreaded test they seem to have been programmed to take. It is no longer which bubble do I circle? It’s dragging, and using computer symbols, more than one answer, or infinite answers. Students need to understand how to solve and express these answers using computers. In districts such as mine, it’s something we need a lot of work with.

Overall, I believe Boyd, Prensky and Wesch have a lot of commonalities in their beliefs, but the biggest difference is the assumption that age alone dictates a digital native or immigrant. While these are interesting terms to use, and can certainly be paralleled for how cultural native and immigrants feels in a society, I think it is much more difficult to assign a label to someone for digital literacy. Many people, young and old, fall on the broad spectrum of being in between.

The Digital World: Native or Immigrant?

While Dr. Bogad was explaining what a 'digital native' and 'digital immigrant' were, I couldn't help but try to classify myself. It was difficult to do, as I'm sure a lot of people in my age bracket feel. I always grew up with technology around me, and I distinctly remember family members always exclaiming that I was extremely tech savvy, picking up technology quickly. However, I feel as if older family members had the same outlook that I now have about the younger generation. I know toddlers who owned iPads, and knew how to work them, before I even had my first smart phone. As technology develops and changes, the literacy and ability to use said technology is bound to change as well. So while I "pick up on" technology fairly quickly, modern technology is far from what I grew up with, and sometimes makes me feel out of my element. Somewhere in between a native and an immigrant, I feel as if I fit in with the natives.. until I actually have to fit in. I believe my biggest downfall, which pushes me into the digital immigrant category, would be my use of technology in the classroom. My school lacks some most of the technology the faculty would agree we need, including wifi that works consistently and in all classrooms, however I know there is a great big world full of opportunities for teachers that I haven't dived into as much as I would like. Using technology in the classroom is really meant to benefit my students, and I have a long way to go to feel like a "native" in the eyes of tech savvy educators. During this past school year I started to help students develop their skills through use of online scavenger hunts, research projects, and other mathematics-based lessons because my school faces the very real issue that students need to be technologically ready to take the PARCC, even though many of them don't have access to certain digital means and lack the skills. I look forward to a long career and the ever-changing technology that will inevitably go along with it, as well as learning and developing my techniques along the way to best teach my students. This class a first step in that long road!

Verdict: Digital Immigrant

While technology is captivating, exciting, and unquestionably helpful.. sometimes we all need a little reminder.


Hello, my name is Tanna Marchetti! I received my Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Middle School Math from Rhode Island College in 2012. I am entering my third year of teaching at Slater Middle School in Pawtucket, RI. I am taking two summer classes during summer session 2, CURR 501 and FNED 502. This coursework is for a Master's in Teaching English as a Second Language and I will be completing my internship in the Fall. My summer so far feels like it hasn't quite started! In addition to the two summer classes, I am working summer school at Slater. When I am not working, or in class, or working on classwork.. I like to spend time with my husband and my dog, read, and watch TV. I am up for trying anything and have a long summer list of activities I would like to do. I look forward to completing this course; I feel as if I will learn a lot of relevant material and skills to use in  my own life. Here's to the next 6 class periods. :)

Kiwi, is a 6 year old Boston Terrier and my husband and I treat her like our baby.