Literacy

FIRST AND FOREMOST

Posted: September 24, 2009

First and foremost concerning media literacy at any institution…get each comp student on a computer. Each comp class needs to be held in a comp lab. As a TA, there is not one lecture that goes by that could not benefit from student’s “hands on” skills with their computer, reinforcing what I have just taught. After reading the article “Reimagining the Functional Side of Computer Literacy,” I appreciate the need for media literacy to not just be functional, but pedagogical. This ideology broadens, to say the least, the capability of student involvement in learning. Field of Dreams still holds true: “Build it and they will come.”

LITERACY, ARTIFACT, AND THE BROWNIE

Posted: November 11, 2009

In my library on the top of one of my shelves sits a humble display of media nostalgia. The Royal type writer reminds me of my mom working hard at home while my sisters were in school typing income tax returns after she and my dad started up their own accounting business. The Fisher record player with the dual tape deck reminds me of my young family and how we saved “small change” until we could afford to purchase this amazing piece of equipment. Other odds and ends of media line the shelf, all bringing back fond memory of “days gone by.” The most significant item on the shelf sits unassumingly in its space, simple and unadorned. This piece of equipment means the most to me as its past captured memories that I shall always cherish: my mother’s Brownie camera.

Growing up, my mother designed photo albums the way today’s women scrapbook. She used black paged albums, creating layouts with photo corners and delicately labeling each page in her lovely script writing in white ink. As a child, I enjoyed carefully setting the then over-sized album on my lap and while carefully turning the pages, viewing my grandparents and great-grandparents who I never knew. Viewing these photos felt as if I was wrapped in a blanket, snuggly and warm. As our family of six grew, my mother continued to photograph special events and maintained these lovely books.

For myself, I did not engage in the exercise of taking pictures until I married at age eighteen. My husband and I received a small rectangular Minolta camera with a stem-like attachable box-shaped flash. As I began to document my new life, I soon discovered that lighting was an issue and depth of field and, and, and. Cutting off heads was not a problem for me, but nonetheless, I wanted to photograph with more light and less light and whatever it took to have a balanced exposure.

As my family grew and I decided to continue my education, I considered moving into journalism. Every journalist needed to know photography and so my husband bought me a Canon AE-1 Program. As I cradled the lenses in my hands, I decided then and there that I needed to know what all of those “numbers” meant, and I learned. Photography led me to graphic design. Graphic design led me to web design. Web design led me to English. All were comfortable stops along my “road of life” and literacy.

The Brownie camera means more to me than pictures on a printed piece of photo paper. It represents a tool for writing and then reading a visual history. I am not sure I would have realized this if I had not gotten into the English MA program and then backward mapped, making the connection.

In any photograph, a story is written. In that photograph, whether subliminally planned or carefully manipulated, there exists a foreground, middle ground, and background. There is color or lack of, lighting, composition of forms, texture, and style. The landscape of the photograph can tell era, place, time of day, and season. If there are people in the image, positioning of one to another tells of relationships and economic status. Even an empty photo, nothing at all, can be seen as an image and something that would be displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, SF or NY. But, all of this is now.

Back in 1839, photography appeared as the “new kid on the block.” According to Donna M. Wells in her article “Visual History and African-American Families of the Nineteenth Century,” “[Photography] revolutionized the way in which Americans perceived themselves and how they would be perceived by others” (Wells 59). In this article, the author discusses how photographs were first utilized only by artists and scientists. Economically, photography brought in a fair income. Scientists used the camera for documentary work.

In reality, photography captured the greatness and injustices of our society. No longer could anyone turn their back and ignore life around them because it was being validated in a permanent medium. According to Wells, photography captured even women’s history, labor, the middle-class, urban life, science and invention, and religion.

Furthermore, photography records milestones in people’s lives. They flash congratulations at weddings, graduations, births, and family gatherings. And today, bizarre as it seems, they are commonly seen at the most humble funeral.

In a more theoretical cultural sense, photography became “the great equalizer of race and class” (63). Until its invention only the rich could afford to have their portraits painted by an artist. Until just recently, middle class use consisted of adults only. Now, everyone can be a photographer.

As simple as the Brownie camera was to operate, simpler still is the camera in a cell phone. Portraits are literally a “dime a dozen” and even cheaper than that and much, much more dispensable. Where in the past a photograph was staged and taken for cherished for posterity, today it can be snapped, manipulated, uploaded, and replaced all in one day without a second thought. Furthermore, where the image once resided solely in someone’s living room or above someone’s fireplace, it now permeates the internet, available to anyone at most any time, all around the world.

Where does that leave me with my simple memories of my mother taking our family pictures with a Brownie camera? Were all of those later photography classes for naught since everyone and his neighbor can create excellent photographs now without the advanced training and help from Photoshop?

The literacy of the process of photography holds a value that cannot ever be replicated. My many hours in the dark room contain memories of developer and enlargers, all part of the creation of an image. The literacy of understanding what photography actually creates and represents is not common knowledge. It is the meshing of the product with the meshing of the process that gives photography its depth and warmth and life and value. And that is literacy.

OZ AND THE INTERNET

Posted: November 5, 2009

Even today, the old adage “What goes around comes around” is alive and well. Or, wait, maybe its “Cheaters never prosper”…?

When it comes to Mirko Tobias Schäfer’s article “Participation Inside,” it seems once more that civil disobedience just doesn’t quite get the final results middle class society fights so rightly to receive. Is it government control or merely capitalism, or both, that causes the continual battle between the two, that wonderful dialectic confrontation?

Napster produces an excellent example of civil disobedience. Representing the consumer audience, Napster usurped government/capitalism control with its P2P. Copyright infringement does present a valid issue, well, to a point. Technically, Napster wasn’t buying or selling music, it was “sharing. ” However, yes, its glory was not long-lived, and government/capitalism realized the benefit of consumer control.

Smartly so, “they” allowed the consumer, the audience, to enjoy their childlike frolick across the internet, accumulating, archiving, constructing… smelling the flowers here and marking so in Facebook, or inviting friends to a tea-party or whatever event and whimsically sharing it with the world. Well, the consumer does not get the last laugh. Once again. They are marked, numbered, and categorized by their actions. Oh, yes, and marketed to too. Or is that “Toto, too? ”

The Wizard of Oz…oh, I mean, The Internet. A consumer agency with a consequence.

TECHNOLOGICAL AGENCY

Posted: November 12, 2009

“The iPhone… is sterile. Rather than a platform that invites innovation, the iPhone comes preprogrammed. So too with the Internet,…designed to accept any contribution that followed a basic set of rules.” Both, “tethered to a network of control.”

The preceding quotes taken from Zittrain’s article, “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it,” assumes that “sterility” comprises a potential problem for society. The issue that I am addressing concerns sterility in relation to society’s agency.

Firstly, we do not “have” to use these appliances. They only run our lives or cause us to be stunted in our growth if we let them. They are simply tools that assist us in completing the “work” we deem important to accomplish. A pencil, in many cases, can accomplish the same things.

This may sound simplistic, but sometimes we create more work for ourselves by involving a computer, rather than a pencil.

In any case, when most consumers in society purchase a technological product, it is with the understanding of its capabilities. In most cases those same consumers are thrilled, and with the advancements of software, don’t even come close to utilizing their new product purchases to their inherent potentials.

Those who want more become hackers. Hackers may only seem a concern when it comes to capitalism, but that is another thought for another blog post.

Even from a comp instructor’s point of view, there currently exists plenty of software to meet the need to engage students with new challenges. I believe the word for it is “creativity.”

This comment serves as a sweet segue into the next article by Dana Boyd entitled, “Why Youth (Hear) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” Youth have become creative in their use of social networks.

According to this article, youth even go so far as to create “mirror networks” to keep their lives private from peeping parents. I suppose these youth can be labeled as a type of “hacker.” Essentially, they beat the system.

This all comes back to the issue of agency. Youth buy into “sterile” social networks with an outside group threatening to control them because they know they either can walk away or find a way around it.

Isn’t agency a marvelous thing?

LITERACY GAMES

Posted: November 14, 2009

After considering the latest class chat on rhetorix about gaming and the articles “Learning and Games,”by James Paul Gee and “Productive Gaming: The Case for Historiographic Game Play,” by Kurt Squire and Shree Durga, I put more score on the comment that if a student studying new media does not become involved in video games and game/literacy theory, then the student may be debunked.

Not that I believe video games are “bad” for you, but I tend to support the idea that they waste time. At least, before I read these articles. I am fascinated with anything that has to do with literacy and video games supply another arena for writing.

In these articles, the authors deeply analyze numerous aspects of video game theory. Simulation seems to be the “hot topic” but in these games, simulation involves collaboration and a lot of thinking and processing virtual data. I agree that experiencing an event and then storing it in memory helps people have the necessary ‘hands-on” training that allows them the memory muscle to be able to more naturally repeat the action. I also agree that video games can assist learning in the compostion classroom.

I especially like the correlation to literacy. The writing process is similar to the thinking process of playing a game. It seems many things correlate with essay form. Ideas in a game like those in an essay, ones in the US or ‘English” anyway, are straight forward and no nonsense. Additionally, game serves to build identity, community, critical thinking, etc. etc.

I totally agree with all of those aspects. I found when my son gamed, he developed some pretty sweet characteristics. He was so aware of all things going on around him, made him a better driver on the streets! He also became extremely quick and sensitive to sound, that is, he was aware of more noises and sounds around him.

So, again, where I am now on the gaming issue? Anyone up for Battlefield?

ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS

Posted: October 20, 2009

As I attended the Computers and Writing Conference at UC Davis this past June, one of the “hot topics” of the conference surrounded the idea of “electronic portfolios.” The concept made total sense to me. This definitely will be the future status of the “resume,” whether academic or professional, easily updatable and accessible, and always ready to send or post anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Leaving the conference, I made a mental note that electronic portfolios would be something I would look into soon as something I would teach in the composition classroom.

Walking into one of my MA classes earlier this semester, I overheard the instructor from the previous class discussing electronic portfolios with one of his students. Highly interested, I excused myself for interrupting, and asked if he could give me more information. His eyes lit up and he quickly engaged himself in the newer conversation. Ironically, this professor, Dr. Mark Beck, developed an electronic portfolio file for the agriculture department at CSU Stanislaus. He explained that he has been working with this program for twelve years now and completed numerous revisions and updates in order to perfect the document and process.

Kindly, Dr. Beck shared the URL to where I could locate the PDF of the document. The document, not copyrighted, allows for easy personal updates. I “urled” the site and downloaded the PDF. A long document, it covers every aspect needed for an online resume. I am anxious to work this new writing assignment into future lesson plans. As the curriculum for this semester has been “set in stone” since last summer, I now plan to utilize the electronic portfolio in my 1001 class in spring 2010.

In researching the topic, I found that the electronic portfolio in essence epitomes “literacy.” According to OED Online, literacy involves being “literate,” or “letterate,” and having the ability to “read and write.” As a composition instructor, I envision my students not only covering the basic literacy requirement, but utilizing current new media helping them stay in step with technological progress. The electronic portfolio therefore not only “calls to action,” but then can be “acted upon” in the composition classroom. This inherent quality of new media serves as motivation for students who require instant results from their efforts. If they print out a hardcopy of their resume to hand to their professor or a potential employer, the process of getting the portfolio to this “audience” seems halted between “printing and handing” and in need of additional stimuli to actually “get the portfolio out there” to an audience. When publishing the portfolio online, at the very moment of publication, the professor or potential employer has instant access to the file. The call to action has resulted in a call realized. Before getting to that step of self-actualization, though, ground work needs to be performed.

The beginning steps of designing information for the electronic portfolio involve students creatively “essaying” their strengths. They need to approach the organization of an electronic portfolio the same as an academic essay. Assuming students want to present themselves in a professional manner, they benefit by understanding their purpose and audience, being aware of appropriate and supportive rhetoric that represents them in their “best light” in order to prepare portfolios that get them the responses they desire: a job.

Working on their portfolios, students in the composition classroom now have the opportunity to join ranks with other “digital natives” or align with the ever growing group of “digital immigrants.” In either case, when the semester is over, all students will better understand the practical application of an essay. Their purpose, or thesis, will revolve around what job or opportunity this resume promotes. Their thesis will need to be carefully considered so that the support information they supply indeed supports the position they promote.

Once having a strong thesis, best results occur when students internalize the concept that they write for an asynchronous audience and imagine and finally “realize” who will be reading their portfolios. This will cause them to consider and reconsider their image, or identity, online and cause them to focus more so on their word choices in the portfolio. In Danah Boyd’s article “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life,” this very topic comes to light. Identity becomes a huge issue for those students who use their virtual world as a developmental arena for who they want to be. Sometimes this causes a deceptive outcome which may put them on the spot when they meet their audience in person. As word choices become proxies for who they are, those who in the past did not think English and grammar important, now come to an “eye-opening” understanding that English plays a vitally significant role in their personal representation.

Personal representation comes not only in word choice, but likewise in the visual rhetoric involving mechanics, layout, and style of their portfolio. These elements give a sense of each student’s character and exemplify how well they handle technology in the form of software and computer hardware. Once published, the boundaries of digital native or digital immigrant become blurred and basically nonexistent. All can be successful candidates through a composition class that teaches utilization of the electronic portfolio.

Electronic portfolios serve well as vehicles for literacy. They actually expand the horizon on the simple ideology that literacy consists of reading and writing well. They help train students in new media preparing them to be competitive in computer technology. Students work to develop each piece in the “essayed” portfolio, keeping purpose or thesis and audience in focus, while bringing in appropriate rhetorical supports aiding their cause. Once complete, publication of their document gives their actions instant results by making their information readily available to their instructor or employer audience. The business world comprises utilizing technology. It comprises using software and hardware. It comprises literacy.

PEDAGOGY FOR SPRING 2010

Posted:  October 10, 2009

Computer literacy entails more than sitting a student in front of a computer. It entails more than turning the machine on and viewing Facebook and checking email…or even, typing a word document.

Computer literacy involves functional, critical, and rhetorical elements. I agree with Stuart A. Selber in “Reimagining Computer Literacy.”

Most students in Comp 1001 will know how to turn the computer on and login. There still exist those students who do not know how to email their professor a link to YouTube. Some do not know who to embed an image in an email or even to save it first before attaching it as a jpg.

In the critical thinking realm, do they know how to judge a valid website? They need to be taught to “analyz[e] the currency, authority, and reliability of Website content” (20).

Rhetorically, they need to understand “asynchronous discussions” and how to “generat[e] visual images that represent data relationships accurately and convincingly” (20).

I only list those elements because as a comp 1001 instructor, I would like to follow this pedagogy next semester in my comp class. I still feel strongly the importance of teaching how to write an academic essay. These writing assignments can revolve around any of the preceding elements. Finally, I can integrate more seamlessly the two ideologies.

Furthermore, as a graphic designer, I am intrigued with the designing of an interface that would best accommodate a composition student….

COMP 1001 ON MEEBO

Posted: November 14, 2009

For anyone svelte in new media, leading an online class instruction falls under the realm of “been there, done that.” But, remember the thrill of the first time!? I shared that “first time” experience with 28 class members this very morning at 8:00 a.m. as we held our Comp 1001 class in a Meebo Chat room entitled “CSUS Comp 1001.”
This story officially begins with my New Media MA class that I attended last Thursday evening. As students, we needed to add some sort of “tool” to our blog sites. I spotted Meebo and thought that it would be engaging to finally try that chat site out with my 1001 class. So, I embedded the Meebo code on the homepage of my class blog site.
Getting to class on Monday, I basically tested the idea with one of my students, Randy, who is an engineering major and quite “techie.” He not only got on to Meebo, but Rashee sitting next to him followed suit and even pulled up the web cam and got it operational. I then invited the rest of the class to get on Meebo. They all did, some right away and some with struggles. Randy troubleshot the rest of the class who needed help while I introduced the assignment that they would be doing while we were on the chat for the next Wednesday instead of meeting in the classroom.
Instead of signing onto Meebo on the blog site homepage, each student, and myself, had to sign on the Meebo site. I need to figure out how to change that.
But, anyway, here I am at 8:00 a.m. sitting in front of my computer at home and wondering if this will fly or flop. Low and behold, everyone began signing on. It was downright exciting! I realized that I needed to get them over to a chat room or we would not be IMing everyone at once, so I popped a message into everyone’s singular IM window. I did not notice until later that there was an “invite” button on the chat room where I could have invited them all at once. Okay, so now I know.
As students entered the chat room, they happily greeted each other and then began to ask specific questions about the assignment.
The assignment was for them to break into groups of 3 or 4 students each and prepare a PowerPoint presentation to teach to the class on Friday. They each had a topic for a section. Sample chat questions that I received were: What is my topic? How many pages should it be? Is the sentence I am going to send you okay? Besides these questions, the students had a good time “bantering” among themselves and being “kids.” What a great experience!
The hour class session went by quickly. There were no problems among my students, but we did have two chat room “crashers.” I see that I can make the chat room private and so I might do that next time.
But, again, an historically successful moment for my 1001 Comp class and me.

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Comments
  1. 130.17.66.93 2009/10/16 at 8:12 am
    I liked working on Meebo. It was a good way to interact with the class. It was a quick way to get things done. It kinda felt like we were in class getting our questions answered.

  2. 130.17.66.81 2009/10/16 at 8:11 am
    It was really difficult at first, but that’s just because I am anti-tech. I think it was a good way to hold class; although I couldn’t follow all the conversations because me and my partner were working on our powerpoint.

  3. 130.17.66.64 2009/10/16 at 8:11 am
    have the class online through meebo was quite a different experience. i stayed home and was in class potentially at the same time. communication was really simple and easy and i wouldnt mind having another class period through meebo again.

  4. Rocio says:

    130.17.66.74 2009/10/16 at 8:10 am
    I like the way this class works. And i love the way we work and interact as a class. Using meebo was good.

  5. 130.17.66.83 2009/10/16 at 8:09 am
    I found Meebo very useful. My group had a lot of questions. Meebo allowed us to communicate with other members in our class to have our questions answered.

  6. Aimee Cerda says:

    130.17.66.86 2009/10/16 at 8:09 am
    I thought the meebo was a good idea and i liked how it ended up working even though i had problems setting it up at first but i think it was successful

  7. rogaribay says:

    130.17.92.38 2009/10/16 at 8:09 am
    I found it a bit ineffective since so many of us were on, while only one administrator was available. the experience was different and fun!

  8. 130.17.66.80 2009/10/16 at 8:09 am
    Meebo was really complicated for me especially since i really don’t chat much. it was a good idea though because you could really answer out questions right away.

  9. nguerino says:

    130.17.66.73 2009/10/16 at 8:08 am
    Meebo was very useful and enjoyable. It added a different aspect to the class and was fun way to give the students freedom and structure at the same time.

  10. 130.17.66.55 2009/10/16 at 8:08 am
    we should have every class on meebo!

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