Thursday, April 19, 2012

The End Is in Sight

I can't believe another semester is over. What is harder to fathom is that I only have two more classes in order to be completely done with an MA in English, with one on of those classes just being my final project. As this semester was dying down and I had to decide how I wanted to present my final project, also known as the final phase of the Cookbook, I realized I wanted to explore something outside the world of this blog. As much as I have enjoyed blogged, I wanted to try something new, something I could take with me and maybe use in my teaching in the future.

On this journey of exploring platforms outside my blog, I fell in love with Wix.  I have played with website builders before, such as Weebly, but nothing I have used or seen before can compare to what Wix has to offer. Yes, I'm doing a plug for the program, but it, seriously, is one of the coolest website builders I have ever used. I cannot wait to come up with an activity that allows me to use it in my classroom.

Okay, off the bunny trail and back on track. My blog played a major role in the formation of this final piece, as I dialogued four of the posts with articles by Winston Weathers and Jeff Rice. I'm not going to say too much more here, other than you should go check it out by either clicking the picture below or the following link: Literacy, Grammar, and English.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Media in the Classroom

If you haven't figured out, I'm an advocate of incorporating new media into the classroom. I came across the Wordle below and realized that each word describes something I'm striving for in my classroom. Even though I don't necessarily teach it and assess it (such as Amazon or Craig's List), I believe an essential (and unwritten but expected) part of my job as a special education English teacher is to teach civil literacy. This means that I've given students access to the skills that allow them to be a successful citizen.

Cynthia Selfe in "Toward New Media Texts: Taking Up the Challenges of Visual Literacy" from Writing New Media emphasizes the importance of new media texts, especially visually stimulating texts. I just love when I read works by people that are advocating for the same things that I'm trying to push for in my own classroom. I don't have too much else to say on the matter of new media literacies and visual literacy because I am a proponent for them, and I have been quite open about that in other posts. However, I came across this diagram (image below), and thought it was a great summarization of why new media literacies need to be and should be incorporated into the curriculum. If you can't read it, I believe you can click on the picture to enlarge it. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Technology as Writing Instruction

Here I am again, discussing all the benefits of incorporating technology in writing instruction. Oh, what digital literacy has to offer! Geoffrey Sirc in "Box Logic" says the following: "I want to use technology in my writing courses; as allowing students an easy entre' into compelling medium and genre with which to re-arrange textual materials--both original and appropriated--in order to have those materials speak the student's own voice and concerns, allowing them to come up with something obscure, perhaps, yet promising illumination" (113). This is exactly what I was trying to get at in my previous post, No Longer Writing as We Once Knew It. There is something about teaching people through technology, through creativity that opens the world to new and exciting things.

Is it possible to teach "writing" through technology? I would argue and agree with Sirc that it most certainly is. For example, my students are constantly contributing to the world of YouTube. Why not take what they do outside of school and incorporate that into the writing instruction? Sirc poses the question as to whether teachers should "teach to life or college" (113). He goes on to state that he would prefer "to err on the side of life" (113). You know what, I completely and totally agree with him. High school and college are only a very small chunk of person's life. However, life is...well life is a lifetime.

Going back to this idea of having writing become relevant through technology, I am once again drawn to YouTube. I think of the thousands of people that are posting videos. Some of them are not so great quality, but it's the effort that counts, right? However, on the other hand, I think of other YouTube posters that create great short stories/films. The example below is one such example of how technology as writing can be and should be incorporated into writing instruction because with the right people, creativity can appear like this:

So I get the story is a little weird, but the idea is to show students that the basis of this clip (or any well thought out clip) has to do with writing and communication. I want my students to dabble in areas of "writing" that have never been explored. I want my students to not fear the world of creativity but embrace it. Writing really is something more than pencil and paper, and I want my students to be able to figure that out first hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Longer Writing as We Once Knew It

"And in the here-now of the World Wide Web, of the blipvert soundbite, of the writing that is no longer writing as we once knew it, we are all finding ourselves responsible for making connections, for finding ways to learn and to teach new forms of making cultural meanings." (Johnson-Eilola, 226)

I'm reading "The Database and the Essay" by Johndan Johnson-Eilola in Writing New Media, and I come to the very end of the piece and read the above quote. I just smile. This line is a great definition on how I feel about teaching writing, or in other words, how I feel about incorporating the new types of writing in the English curriculum.

For examples, I am a huge advocate of alternative forms of writing, especially writing that incorporates technology. For a while, I was really into having students create videos. I also like using videos as a way to introduce material. As I was reading Johnson-Eilola discuss other forms of writing, such as working with sound tools, I think back to a video on YouTube that I used as a way to preface a similar assignment I was having my students do. For my assignment, they students were required to reenact something they had read in class, but with a modern spin. Below is a "music video" on the Oedipus story. Warning: it is very cheesy, but it does a great job of taking an ancient story and retelling it in a modern (maybe more relatable) way.

As a teacher, I completely agree with Johnson-Eilola. I find myself responsible for giving students the opportunity to make connections and find and understand cultural meanings. Isn't that the point of literacy? To just push "literacy" without it being meaningful to the students, are they truly grasping literacy? Between the Common Core State Standards and the many types of literacy, today's society seems to be very much literacy minded. As teachers of English (well any discipline, really), we need to constantly be reminded that writing is no longer what it used to be: pen and paper. It is now something so much more, especially due to the explosion of technology. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Copyright Infringement

I'm working in the media center at the high school. I have a little down time, and I try to finish reading "The Database and the Essay" by Johndan Johnson-Eilola in Writing New Media. However, I have decided to take a moment to vent my frustration. Maybe I'm totally taking it the wrong way, but I think people have gone sue crazy. Remember that lady who bought a hot McDonald's coffee and then sued them for not warning her it was hot. Come on! You just bought a hot coffee. Do you expect it to be cold?

I'm reading the court cases the Johnson-Eilola references, and it just makes me slightly irritated. Today's society is so stuck on owning things that I feel many people are losing the drive to become creative because they might step on someone's toes.

I've taught high school English, and I love when an assignment is able to finally make their light bulb click on. I love creativity. I feel every student has something to say. It's just a matter of finding a way for them to say it that works for them. Every student can write; it's just a matter of finding out HOW they write.

I know, it seems as if I'm jumping all over the place. Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this. Anyway, imagine if someone were to come in my high school English classroom and peruse my students' writings. Many of them would probably be brought to court for stealing someone else's work. Now, I don't mean as in plagiarism, which I'll give a brief comment on that in a second. I mean as in originality of the work.

Every person (not just my high school students) is influenced and impacted by the world around them, whether it is music, movies, books, etc.  Now many times, how they respond and relate to that influence could come out in their writing. Is this really wrong? I don't think is. I think the important thing is that they are writing and expressing themselves. This would mean that half of the words written on a blog (I made up this statistic; it might very well be more than half) are not original. What do you expect when you live in a world with billions of people, and billions more who have existed over the past few thousand years that have left their mark on society?

As for plagiarism, I believe that is a different thing entirely. If you KNOWINGLY cite someone's work, you should give them the credit. If you do it unknowingly, well...that's a different matter. I think a lot of creativity could be lost due to the emphasis on copyrighting and copyright infringement. Yes, there is an importance in it, but if too much emphasis is put in it, it might deter people from writing (or being creative, in general). As a teacher, I want to teach my kids to desire literacy, not pull away from it. Okay, I think I'm done ranting. I'll go finish reading what Johnson-Eilola has to say.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Media = Visual Literacy

As I was finishing reading Anne Wysocki's "The Sticky Embrace of Beauty" in Writing New Media, I was drawn to the time that I was observing a twelfth grade English classroom for students with disabilities. In preparation for reading Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, the students observed, analyzed, discussed, etc. William Hogarth's engraving, Gin Lane. For your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of the engraving:

Gin Lane by William Hogarth

Now, as you're sitting observing the picture, take a few seconds to really look at what Hogarth is trying to portray. Okay, I know that it is slightly disconnected from what Wysocki discusses, but I have realized how much visual literacy shapes a literary work (Wysocki, 149), such as Hogarth to Swift. I think that many times as an English teacher, I find teachers using visuals as just another discussion tool, but why not use it to preface the text and to shape the text? 

I think by incorporating visual literacy this way, it gives students another way to think about literacy as a whole. As seen in previous blogs, I am extremely passionate about literacy, especially since there is a major emphasis in the primary and secondary schools due to the Common Core State Standards. For those of you who know Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, how might you use visual literacy, such as the above picture, to connect and shape the text?

Mapping Readings

Mapping readings -- something I enjoy incorporating into my English curriculum. As I was reading through the various activities that Anne Wysocki suggests in "Opening New Media in Writing" from Writing New Media, I was oddly surprised that I was at least familiar with the majority and had incorporated many of them at some point in the past.

Okay, back to mapping readings. Why do I find them useful? Well, I think it's pretty simple for two reasons: (1) I'm an English teacher and (2) I'm a special education teacher. As for English, I think it is important for students to visualize what they are reading and why. Many times I hear students complain that they don't understand why they are reading a particular novel, short story, poem, etc. However, if I can give them something for them to see how it is connected, it makes my life much easier because they now have something concrete. I also don't have to hear them ask the same question 16 million times and can tell them to just refer to their reading maps. So am I slightly selfish...maybe...

As for special education, well it gives great visual representation. I know, I already said this in regards to teaching a general education English class. But, really, students who are struggling in the classroom need multiple representations in order for them to understand the material. The more visuals they have, the better off they are. I'm a graphic organizer, visual junky, and I having students map their readings just feeds into my love for incorporating visuals into the curriculum.

What I loved that Wysocki suggested was having the students come up with three questions on their own after putting together the map and have them bring those questions to class to help lead the discussion (35). I have done many activities in my classroom that "forced" the students to lead the discussion, but I, honestly, never would have thought of using the mapped reading to be the basis for a class discussion. When I did reading maps it was more for informational purposes.

In my future classes, I would like to have the students use their mapped readings to form higher level thinking questions. This is a great opportunity for them dig into the text and really analyze and synthesize the information they are reading. I will be curious as to how my students with reading and writing disabilities are able to use this extension of the activity to help them better understand what they are reading and how they think about the reading. My assumption is that it will take some modeling and a few practices for them to grasp the concept, but once they are used to working with the model, I know that it will be beneficial.