Friday, July 10, 2009

Media Literacy Reflection

Media Literacy Reflection

One day my partner, John, asked me if my children would know
whether or not they were being ripped off when they paid for something at the checkout.
I pondered that question for a bit and said to him that they may not know they should get $6:00 back in change instead of only the $2:00 they got back from the cashier. They do however seem to have a sixth sense within them that indicates to them that if a person is sincere or not and they will act upon it accordingly.


One day this past spring I went upstairs in Mount Pleasant High School to visit my friend Karen, a veteran art teacher. She had just returned from checking her mail at the main office. She was looking at a bright lime green flyer advertising this Media Literacy course being held this summer. We both read the flyer and thought it would be a "cool class to take". We had worked together in the past at Brown University. There we made a documentary film about the traditional Laotian culture, history, customs and their acculturation into the United States way of life. I asked her if she wanted to take this class with me, but unfortunately she needed to save her money to help pay for her daughter's wedding this August. I was still interested in taking this class, to learn and discover how mass media affects our psyche and molds our ideologies. I also hoped to learn how to become more literate myself because I do not have the "technology gene" as I used to call it. Now, after taking this class I know I am a "digital immigrant".

When I arrived to class I was overwhelmed by all the technology in the classroom and wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I wished I had taken a technology class prior to taking this one. As time passed and as I listened to the other teachers in the classroom, I knew I could not use the media in my classroom as they could.. My students do not synthesize material the way most people do. It would be meaningless to them. To understand my dilemma, I need to tell you about my children at Birch Vocational.

Birch Vocational was established almost 30 years ago by parents who insisted that their children are part of the Providence community and they deserve a school that will serve their needs instead of shipping them out to places like Bradley Hospital and Meeting Street School. Today Birch Vocational is located on the ground floor within Mount Pleasant High School. There are 72 - 75 students in Birch and 45 teachers staff and specialists. Although they are grouped in one wing of the school, we do include them into Mount Pleasant High whenever possible. A few may take some or all academic classes in Mount Pleasant and receive all other services (such as medical, OT, PT, ADL, speech and counseling) in Birch. Whenever possible, Birch and Mount Pleasant teachers collaborate with each other on projects. Flexibility is a must.

My kids are just like every other adolescent. They are trying to make sense of their sexual feelings toward others. They want to be accepted. They are trying to find their identity and so on. However, at the same time they are dealing with a myriad of other internal and external issues that impede on their growth and development that we may or may not take into consideration. These include: Downs syndrome, mental retardation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, seizure disorders, spina bifida, heart conditions, traumatic brain injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome , prenatal drug addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, poverty, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and poor nutrition just to name a few. Most of these children at Birch Vocational have multiple disabilities and many are considered medically fragile.
The project I chose to do is geared to assist my students with special needs become more independent and productive citizens in this fast paced ever changing world. Everyday tasks like reading community safety signs and using public transportation to get to work, the grocery store, bank, mall and even visit friends may be second nature to the average person but for my kids it is survival.
Description of the Curriculum and Links

In this unit the students will use the following media:, Writing with Symbols word processing program, Microsoft Word,, http://www.RRI and Microsoft Windows and Fax Viewer and a digital camera, community signs and symbols. The students will learn how to travel via public transportation from the house to School and recognize all the necessary safety signs along the way. The following goals will be addressed and assessed throughout this unit:
· The student will be able to recognize, match and identify _#__ safety words and signs around the community with _____% accuracy.
· The student will identify various coin values with ___% accuracy.
· The student will make a simple purchase.
· The student will read the bus schedule in order to increase his proficiency to tell time.
· The student will write his/ her name and address ____% of the time.
· The student will utilize The Writing with Symbols word processing program to write sentences/stories that will assist him/her in learning new words through picture prompts.
NOTE: The above objectives are intended to span the whole class. Each student will be responsible only for those objectives he/she is working toward at that time.

· digital camera
· computer
· Internet
· Photo Story 3
· Writing with Symbols
· printer
· school bus
· public bus
· money
· paper
Photo wizard

Activity 1: Discussion about transportation
In this activity I will talk with the students about the different ways we get from one place to another (foot, bike, car, plane, bus, etc). The discussion will be guided toward using RIPTA bus transportation and how we can find out when the next bus will arrive at Mount Pleasant High School.
I will guide the students to sign onto the Internet and connect to the website. They will click on the schedule and fares and find the scheduled bus route that services Mount Pleasant High School to Kennedy Plaza. All the students will each print the schedule. Given the schedule, I will show them how to read it so they can determine what time they need to be in front of the school to get to their destination on time.
Activity 2: Determining the cost of the bus fare from school to Kennedy Plaza and back again.
The students will click on the schedule and fares and find the total cost of a trip to and from Kennedy Plaza. The students who can multiply will multiply the two fares. The students who can add will add the two fares. Using the play money, the students will determine what bills and coins they will need to pay for the fare. On the day of the trip, the students will make the correct change with real U.S currency.
Activity three: Safety in the community:
This discussion about the safety procedure and rules that need to be followed include:
· look both ways before crossing the street;
· always cross at crosswalks;
· hold an adults hand when crossing the street;
· stay in your seat while the bus is moving;
· use your “indoor voice” while on the bus;
· take notice of where the emergency exits are on the bus;
· pay attention to where you are on the route;
· be sure to get off at the proper destination;
· obey all safety, caution and street signs.
The students will copy these rules from the board to their notebook. They will then type and print these rules using either Microsoft Word or the Writing with Symbols word processing program and keep them in their booklet. Each day we will spend 5-10 minutes reviewing these rules for reinforcement. Some of the students will review them more than once each day depending on their need.

Activity four: Safety signs
In this activity we will explore all the safety signs we will encounter along the route and learn what each one means. While en route, each student will point out these safety signs and demonstrate their knowledge by responding accordingly whenever possible or by identifying them and explaining their meaning. For reinforcement activities in the classroom, the students will play games such as “Memory”, “Bingo” and “Hangman”. The students can also role play some of the safety rules such as crossing the road and waiting for the light.
Activity five Bus trip: From school to Kennedy Plaza and back practice
This activity will be a practice run for all the students. Each student will have their printed schedules with them and the proper route highlighted.
· We will board the bus in front of Mount Pleasant High School.
· Pay the correct fare.
· Sit properly on the bus.
· Along the route, we will discuss all the safety precautions, signs and proper procedures when
travelling by bus.
· We will exit the bus and walk to the bus terminal.
· We will take note of the safety signs rules and information area.
· We will read the TV monitor to determine at what time the bus leaves the plaza for Mount
Pleasant High School.
· We will wait at the proper bus stop for our bus.
· We will return to school and again discuss all the safety precautions, signs and proper procedures
when travelling by bus.
This trip will be photographed in order to make a practice Photo Story.
Activity six: Personalized bus trip from home to school
Once the students have practiced travelling by public bus and are comfortable enough doing so, they will personalize their trip by mapping their own bus route from their home to school. Our bus driver will drop the class off at one student’s home in the morning and we will photograph him/her from their front door back to Mount Pleasant High School. All of the above discussions will be repeated. This will continue until all students have travelled their individual routes.
Closing activity one: Recapping their experience
Each student will input their pictures into their own Photo Story in the correct sequence of events. Given the abilities of each child, some may be able to independently sequence these events while others may require various modifications and amounts of assistance.
Closing activity two:
The students will also import their photos into Photo Wizard and print copies of their photos. They will then type and print the same sentences for each photo using either Writing with Symbols, or Microsoft Word. Next, they will cut and paste the proper sentence for each photo. This will then become their tangible story book they can take home.

Connections to Our Course Themes

It took me a couple of days to figure out how to make meaningful connections for my students to utilize digital media to teach my students necessary daily living skills. I realized that according to Stuart Hall's Theory of Spectator Positions I fell within the negotiated ideology group. Although I am a teacher and was eager to learn this new material, I realized I had to shift my thinking to make this class work for me and ultimately my students. The discussions within the class revolved around higher level thinking strategies like synthesizing and analyzing semi-abstract to abstract thinking that as teachers we all try to get our students to achieve. I knew that I could not take a vogue magazine cover or a movie clip and have my children analyze that text and make connections to historical events, ideals, propaganda etc. I knew what I had to do was right under my nose the entire time. I had to do what I do everyday with my children. I had to modify the material and make it as concrete as possible for them to understand, find meaning and make connections to their own personal egocentric lives. I feel that I accomplished this effectively through my above unit plan and cannot wait to use it. They are going to love doing this. They will feel like movie stars and will want to show all their friends and family. By giving my students the equal access to the technology they deserve in return they will also have equal access to public transportation. Many of them will eventually be able to independently or semi-independently take public transportation to school, work, the supermarket, the bank, recreational activities and to visit friends. FREEDOM! What's better than that?

On the flip side of the technology coin, I have also come to the realization that this technology can only go so far when working with my children. Their medical, physical, emotional, developmental issues and delays will always require the human element. Children with developmental disabilities as well as early childhood will always need the most human interaction in order to fully develop. Technology can greatly greatly assist everyone with the teaching and learning process. Though the political economy question remains, to what degree is it beneficial and is it cost effective for school districts to invest "X" amount of dollars for technology for a few students who ultimately will not raise test scores for NCLB? This is a major issue I face every day. Prior to NCLB, I received most or all of the supplies I requested for my classroom. Since NCLB, I have not received any supplies. The school department has even cut our Shaw's Supermarket account that we used to purchase food to teach our children how to cook. It is everyone's business especially families, parents, teachers, doctors and support personal to continue to fight for the equal access and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. We have made a lot of ground over the past 100 years, but we need to regain some lost footing from the past eight years. We need to begin again to close this divide between the able-bodied and the disabled.

Just an aside: The term disabled came into use in the 1990's. Before that, the term handicapped was used. I discussed with a professor of mine about this change in terminology. She dutifully explained that the term handicap lent itself to insinuate that a person can only reach a certain point and cannot develop beyond that level. Therefore it has a negative connotation. That is why we use disabled. I explained to her that the term disabled to my ears sound much more negative. The prefix "dis" means: denoting the absence or contrary of a quality. In other words, this new term in effect means "not able". I question whether the powers that be chose to change "handicap" to "disabled" were all able-bodied individuals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Apparently, "Up!" speaks to its audience of children and their parents. Most According to Entertainment Weekly, most of the movie reviews thought the movie was "cute" "superb" "sensational" "an A+" and so on.
On the other extreme, one particular person who reviewed the movie opposed it. Greg says:
"This movie SUCKS and needs to go DOWN DOWN! Star Trek is by far the best movie of the summer so far. Screw UP!!! Quit wasting your dough on this one...."

One parent did give a negotiable/oppositional review after discussing it with her son. It appears that she initially liked the movie, but then changed her mind. jtiii wrote:
"SPOILER!! Try to keep an open mind on this. Can you name another Disney or Pixar "kid" movie where a human character attempts to murder a human child? When Muntz ties Russell to a chair, puts him on the ramp, and walks out, as far as he's concerned, after he closes the door, that child is dead. Any jury would convict him of attempted murder. I think this went over many adults' heads, inc. mine, but not my son's. He didn't "know" as we do that there's no chance Pixar would kill the child."

Personally, I saw the movie with my students and thought it was just cute. I was impressed with the depth of one of my student's take on the movie. She was sad about the death of Ellie, but thought that Carl's determination to keep his promise to Ellie was touching and wonderful. I was so impressed by this child's reflection. Maybe this movie evokes insights from kids that adults miss.
Commodifying Kids: The Forgotten Crisis

The brainwashing tactics that these corporations including Disney use on our children is dispicable. To use our young merely as profitable beings and thought of solely as easily manipulated consumer targets is unstainable. As the Roman Empire collapsed, so will the United States. During the fall of the Roman Empire their tactic of bread and circus (Keep the masses fed and entertained while the politicos rape and pillage their countries future) so too is our corporate society providing a false sense of want, need coupled with apathetic individual political involvement in our government policies.
The corporate lobbiest have a much larger stronghold on our politicians than We the People. Today we are working so much in order to afford all the stuff we "need" that we dont have the time to lobby or protest for our own self interests. Ronald Reagan used woman's rights to get them into the workforce and create a two-income household. Unions have been villionized and unfortunately brainwashed most of American workers to despise unions. The divide and conquor tactic has now become entrenched in our system. Today two incomes is not so much a luxury, but rather a necessity. Wall Street has our political system in a headlock while Madison Avenue is brainwashing our minds and baptizing our youngest citizens to worship material goods over any other ideology This tactic is all in the name of profit for the fat cats here and now with no concern for future generations. This is unsustainable.
We have gone from being a country of the People, by the People, For the People to Of the Corporation, By the Corporation, For the Corporation. We are at an economical time where we as The People could and should take a long hard look at the direction our country is moving and ask ourselves: is this the the value system we want? Is it more important to value material goods over social justices, freedoms and rights?

The Amish plant trees not for themselves, but for their grandchildren. They understand that they need to invest in their children. We need to stop feeding off our childrens' futures and start feeding them to insure our American society and the ideals under which it was created will be here for generations to come.

Monday, June 29, 2009

first day reflection

I was really interested in Leslie Grinner's "SCWAAMP" that defines America's dominant ideology as a nearly invisible pane of glass that we look through and don't realize is there until someone taps or breaks it. These past couple of years we have been tapping many different panes and this has stirred much debate among the various groups in our society.

As a gay special education teacher in an inner-city school where the majority of the students are minorities and live below the poverty line, I was able relate to the daily discrimination that occurs. I look around the school in which I work and see crumbling walls, inadequate classroom spaces, outdated materials arts and sports cut to the bare bones. On the other hand, my blond haired blue eyed niece is provided with all the advanced academic courses, electives and extracurricular programs imaginable. She lives in a predominantly white middle class town here in Rhode Island. All the while, the same standardized tests is distributed to every student in every community. How can both communities even compete to get the same results when the experiences are vastly different?

As a white male I can not empathize with my students, but as a gay man in this society, I can. I can understand the bigotry and hatred some people feel toward them just because they happen to be minority or poor or an immigrant just learning english. I take that empathy and try to make my classroom as comfortable, safe and accepting of differences as I possibly can.

About me

My name is James Egan. I am the youngest of six children. I was born and raised at Spring Lake in Glendale, RI. If anyone knows where Spring Lake it, you would know it is rather rural. I spent more time swimming, skating, boating, bike riding and exploring the vast forest reserve all around my house. There was always something to discover under a rock, in the rivulets and streams or up in the trees.

I did not sit in front of the television unless the weather forced me to stay inside. We only received three television stations. However, if the weather were good we would get channel 2 or if the cloud ceiling were low, we would receive channel 11 out of Hartford. Cable didn't arrive at Spring Lake until after I moved to college. I personally did not own a television until after I graduated college in 1994. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I now own four televisions all connected to cable.

I would label myself a digital immigrant. I have the technological equipment I need to survive - a computer, a basic cell phone and a digital camera (I love photography). I do not consider surfing the web or talking endlessly on the phone entertainment. I much prefer visiting with friends in person, working in my gardens, renovating houses and going hiking with my camera. I know I need to learn more about computers and technology and I will.