April 27, 2008

Ska Music

Powerpoint Link:
Download file

I do not have a great deal of knowledge about ska music, but after some cursory research, I have found that it has a fascinating path through history. I did not know that it had such long roots. I would use this PowerPoint and the concept of ska music to show how music travels through time and continents when its qualities are needed by a group or culture to express a thought. The Jamaican, British, and Americans all found a use and message to package in ska music. The driving force behind the ‘waves’ of ska as well as the message contained within it is an interesting thing to study.

One comparison I would make would be the political situation surrounding the development and growth of ska. Even though there were political messages which may have been anti-establishment, the government still embraced it because it was unique and could be claimed as “ours? by the Jamaican people. Similarly, when the English got their hands on it, it became the perfect backdrop for a message of tolerance and “melting? for some groups because the music itself is a melding of art forms. When the music finally got to America in a large way, we put a rock-spin while honoring the jazz and calypso roots. We have used it as a social medium with an ‘underground’ type of message, but some groups have experienced commercial success and continue to play this ‘catchy’ style of music.

The main point of this study would be to see how one form of music can be adopted, molded to fit the needs of those using it and then passed along a bit like the “telephone game.? We would talk about other situations when the ska beat might resurface and how it can be a medium for further messages.

March 30, 2008

News Blog

I watched Kare 11 at 10:00 on Sunday. The chart I created will not transfer here, so on the left you'll find the time code and on the right is a short explanation of the events during that time. The original chart has the story time as well, but the formatting keeps failing, so I'm going with this.

Times Story and summary
10:00:00-10:02:09 Snow Warning—Anchors joked about the final snow storm and are dreading it
10:02:10-10:04:15 Dome and baseball opener with Torii Hunter returning and wondering if the no-roof baseball stadium is a good idea
10:04:16-10:04:45 First pitch by Citizen honored from 35 W bridge collapse and then Nick, 9 year old boy with an illness, will sing “Take me out to the ball game?
10:04:46-10:05:10 Drunk driver who killed Seeley in DWI trouble again
10:05:35-10:06:00 Family from Cottonwood bus accident driver accused of causing the crash spoke positively about their daughter
10:06:00-10:06:20 Moundsview apartment fire displaces residents
10:06:21-10:08:04 Whitehouse Financial oversight changes and how it impacts MN homeowners with foreclosures and how they hope it might positively impact future consumers. Some expect it to be “fought? in the House.
10:08:05-10:08:33 Gunmen still on the loose from Saturday’s shooting, names of those known to be invovled and how each of the victims are doing
10:08:34-10:09:08 Iraq curfew is ending. Some progress but still plenty of violence in the region.
10:09:08-10:09:38 Biggest single religious group isn’t Catholics anymore; Muslims are now 19% of religious groups
10:09:39-10:10:02 People representing the interests of Tibet protest hand off of Olympic torch. They are against Beijing earning the Games and plan to boycott and protest.
10:10:03-10:10:23 Light-Rail back on track after a first ever accident that tore down wires
10:10:24-10:10:44 What’s coming next: weather, cupcake, Wild, Extra “Going Green?
10:10:45-10:13:45 Commercials
10:13:46-10:14:01 Intro to extra
10:14:02-10:17:02 Going Green Extra section about eco friendly home and how it was built here in MN 10:17:30-10:17:57 Plug for the next “Extra? story on Tuesday.
10:17:57-10:22:08 Weather—snowstorm coming, so big story.
10:22:09-10:22:46 Biggest cupcake at the MOA: Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes. It maybe a Guinness record and the proceeds benefitted the fight against childhood hunger
10:22:47-10:23:00 Preview: Wild, Torii Hunter, NCAA tourney
10:23:01-10:26:25 Commercials
10:26:26-10:26:49 Scores
10:26:50-10:31:18 Sports: Wild, UND goes to frozen 4 by beating Wisconsin, Twins opener and Torii Hunter now playing for the Angels, NCAA BB, Wolves, Nascar
10:31:19-10:34:22 Commercials
10:34:23-10:34:43 MN Bound is up next
10:34:44-10:35:03 Weather recap and goodbyes

Tonight’s focus was all about two local stories: the coming weather and the arrival of Torii Hunter in the cities playing against the Twins as an Angels. The amount of time spent on local stories was much higher tonight than some other nights I’ve seen. One piece that kept appearing was the focus on the weather. A big storm is about to hit the region, so the weather was given very high priority because of its relevance and local interest. People usually tune in for a weather “teaser?, but tonight they were given a long dose of weather as the lead story and then the average weather coverage.

There were relatively few international and national stories. They were given 20-45 seconds per story (Iraq, Muslim religion popularity, and the Tibeten protests) as compared to the 30-2:00 that the local stories were given. There were no “bleeding? stories tonight other than a one day old murder, so there was not much death and gore in the news this evening. It was a refreshing change.

I found it interesting that a FORMER Twins player lead the story about the Twins home opener. Rather than focusing on the team and just mentioning that Torii Hunter was coming to town, they produced the story the other way. The Twins season opener was sandwiched in the Torii Hunter story. I believe this was motivated by his name having a large draw to the general metro audience as well as his personable nature. Other Twins were interviewed about their season, but the majority of the sound bites used were them addressing the absence and now presence (in red) of Torii Hunter.

Something that caught me off guard was the length of the stories. I had never timed the news before, so I didn’t know how long the average story usually is. As I look back at the log, I notice that stories are either 20-30 seconds or over one minute. A lot of “clips? of life can potentially fit into one news cast. This bothers me as well in some ways because they will choose the most convenient and powerful soundbite to match their need, throw it out there in their 20 seconds and then move on. There is little regard for the possible “hurt? or even “help? that can come from that 20 seconds. For example, was it necessary to tell us that the man who was convicted of a DWI that caused the accident which killed T-Wolves player M. Seeley was arrested for another DWI? What about the embarrassment caused to his family or to him? I think it’s awful that someone like that is allowed to “offend? again, but does anyone consider how that one little soundbite might reverberate through a community? They dig up emotion because it works, but they are not accountable for the emotion they stir.

“Quick and dirty? is how most of these stories were presented. The “Green? story was obviously in support of recognizing the idea of “care for the environment.? That is something that KARE-11 is big on, and they often tell stories which support the theory of Global warming (though it is ironic that their own chief evening meteorologist does not openly believe in the concept of Global Warming as it is widely understood). Overall, I got a “liberal? political feeling from tonight’s news cast, but there wasn’t much political talk (other than the housing situation which had a slight "blame the current administration" feeling and the green story which may or not may not be political in nature depending on who you ask).

We have some of the best news stations in the country here, and I would like to think they will strive to be balanced. Tonight was a ‘happy’ night on the news, but overall, news is not usually so upbeat.

March 21, 2008

You Tube Says "Support Our Troops"

You Tube Debate “Support Our Troops?
I thought I would consider the image of the veteran, like I did a few weeks ago, but when I was going around You Tube, I was fascinated by all of the people using the phrase “support our troops.? I decided to do a search with this phrase, and I found some interesting pieces.
The Results:
The search returned over two thousand hits, and of the ones I flipped through, almost all of it is created by average people. There are a few pieces that are clips from news shows or Sunday morning profiles on programs, but almost all of it is created by soldiers, sailors, marines, veterans, wives, husbands, and political people who all have something to say.
The Content:
There were plenty of the pieces created with a political voice by people here on American soil trying to make their voice and opinion known. One of these clips is a man reciting answers to the question “You want to know what it means to ‘support our troops?’? It was posted originally on the Propaganda and Politics site according to the poster. The screen shots are mostly single, tight shots of this man talking. Eventually there is an establishing shot near the end which shows him as a member of a panel. The audience members clap at the end of the recitation. I liked this clip because of some of his points, but I disagreed with a few as well. It spoke to me in the way he is asking their sacrifice to be celebrated and their efforts appreciated, but his final conclusion doesn’t add up with the rest of his speech. See below.

Many videos are photo montages set to music. The musical selection says a lot about the tone and motivation for the piece. They all include something in the comments section about 1)the bravery of the people fighting and their families or 2) how it’s terrible that they are there and need to be brought home NOW. It’s interesting that sometimes the same photo will appear in clips of competing points of view. It’s all in how you look at it. Many of the works that people have put together are moving and very powerful. I wish I had seen these before creating my trite contribution that is currently posted on the discussion board. The photos selected are usually of couples hugging or kissing, soldiers/sailors with a brand new baby (assumedly it is a first meeting), soldiers supporting each other, soldiers/sailors near a war zone (fire, guns, dust, etc), or a funeral setting, flag draped coffin, gun/helmet memorial, etc. There are hundreds of these, but these two videos are representative of what you would find here. They take different strength in how they approach the issue.
The first video is ‘softer’ and appeals to our sense of squishy emotions. I liked this one because it balances all the points of view without being committed to anything. You can watch it and think “GO AMERICA? or “BRING THEM HOME NOW? and have photos to back up your point of view. It is a feeling piece. The second is a montage of harder and sadder shots set to “Hurt? by J. Cash. It’s much stronger. I liked this one because it has an ‘F*** You? Attitude (literally and figuratively) about supporting the troops. Both are powerful and effective pieces.

Aside from the videos, the REALLY interesting thing I found on You Tube were the comments. Many of these posts have decided to allow comments. You can see and feel the HOT debate about this phrase “Support Our Troops? as well as all topics relating to the war. There is something for everyone, and the entire spectrum of opinions is covered. You Tube is serving to be a debate forum as much as it is an entertainment forum. I think that is good in some ways. I am concerned about our lack of interaction with people, but on a forum like You Tube, people are having discourse about tough issues. I just wish people could do it face to face instead of saying things ‘faceless’ in a world where they are not accountable for their comments.
I spent hours watching these videos, but they really boiled down to the same ideas and topics over and over again. It is interesting to me, however, how one phrase can bring out so much love and so much disdain at the same time.

March 9, 2008

Analysis--Personal Blog

Always one for personal reflection, I’ve decided to keep this week’s work VERY close to home. It was really fun to reflect and process all of this. I didn’t even know most of this was going on until I considered it through the lens of this class!

Setting: The blog that my husband and I created to share our experiences during his deployment. (www.djiboutijames.blogspot.com)
Tasks: I am part of the group I am studying, so I will refer to myself often and will include personal experiences and reflections. Over the past three weeks, my husband and I have both posted to the blog, and our friends and family have read and some have posted comments as well. When this assignment came up, I didn’t really want to do Facebook or MySpace. I did want to find out if people liked the “It’s Africa Hot in Here? blog, but since it’s a little self-centered to ask for feedback on your own blog, I didn’t want to directly ask (I am a feedback hound though). This assignment was the perfect opportunity to learn about how people are using and enjoying (or not) the blog. I’m also curious if the targeted audience has been keeping up with the posts and our story. (Sneaky, I know—I’m sly like that). The targeted tasks included the following:
1. Reflect on the purpose for the blog
2. Consider the posts and the information shared
3. Look at who is posting comments and what information is in those comments
4. Ask others why they read but choose not to post
5. Talk to the ‘readers’ and ‘posters’ about their experiences and reasons for visiting
6. Reflect on how the purpose for the blog and the current use and purpose are similar or different.

1. The purpose of the blog was to allow our friends and family to know our deployment story. We didn’t want to have to tell the same story several times over; we wanted a central clearing house for information about the deployment that was fast, jointly controllable, and central to all of our family and friends who are scattered about the country. We are also people who enjoy sharing stories and have a fairly clear sense of style to our writing. I wanted to have a journal of this experience as well. I think also, looking back, I see that I needed to have an outlet for this experience. There is an odd balance between wanting to shout from the rooftops that you are in this situation being fiercely proud of your spouse and knowing that this is an intensely private and individualized experience that cannot truly be shared—only empathized with. There is comfort knowing you can bring people in on a controlled level. We announced the blog site on a little card in our wedding “thank you? cards, so over 100 invitations to the blog went out!

2. To date, there have been 12 posts, 9 from Lisa and 3 from James. The topics mostly include what has happened and how the timeline played out leading up to this point. It is interesting to note that there is more emotion coming from James’ posts than from Lisa’s. This is EXACTLY opposite to how life usually works. There are reasons for this that I am only now reflecting on. The reason that he has more emotions in his post is because I am letting him take the lead on most of this. I am new to the military (having only been a Navy wife for two months) and still learning. I also didn’t want to give away too much to our friends and family until I knew where he was with information sharing. The posts are beginning to change in tone as we both explore the blog as a tool for communication and cathartic purposes. Once James started openly ‘loving’ on the blog and talked about ‘breaking down’ when he deployed, the boundaries for allowable topics was expanded. Most of the blogs continue to be about events and how we perceive them from different ends. Only recently have I begun to talk about myself in relation to this experience and not just report on James’ activities as reported by him.

3. There have been 19 posts from 5 people thus far. To my knowledge, there have been at least 11 other people who read the blog regularly but do not comment when they read. I will explain this phenomenon in the next section. The comments are words of support and encouragement to James and Lisa. They are from James’ twin sister, Lisa’s sister, Lisa’s mom and James’ best friend. The comments also have a personal touch, and it is interesting to watch the dynamic of each relationship find a place on this medium.
James’ sister is very literal and shares information from her own experiences trying to make our situation better. Her posts are directed at both James and Lisa, and when asked, she says she likes commenting “because I like to make sure [they] know that I am thinking of them and that they have support from the other people. I am a Navy wife too and know what this experience is like.? Her support is welcomed by both of us, but it is frustrating when her literal understanding leads to oversights. When James and I write, we are a bit dry and sarcastic. This is lost on Aimee sometimes; this is one way the medium fails for some people. She thinks she gets it and is making comments to be helpful, but she is missing the point and may be making one of us feel stupid in some way because we are being ‘taught’ something that was a joke to begin with.
The posts from Lisa’s sister and mom are also personalized and match the dynamic shared between James and that person. I like reading these because I know the relationships really well. When asked, Lisa’s sister said she left a comment “because I don’t have another way to contact James right now. I’m sure he’s stressed out and busy, so it’s fun to send him a little inside joke to brighten his day.? This is true of all the posts. They all have an ‘inside’ piece of humor. I did not expect this to happen, but it has been wonderful to see! James has enjoyed it a lot as well.
There has only been one comment from a guy on the post. It is from James’ best friend. He said he has been busy and only just started reading the posts. James was really excited that his friend finally commented; I he James was beginning to feel ‘unloved’ that so many people weren’t reading the blog. I know that there are many people reading the blog, but they aren’t commenting. More on that in the next section.

4. As I mentioned before, there are at least 11 people who I know to be reading the blog on a regular basis who are not posting any comments. Many of these people are Lisa’s co-workers or cousins who are not really close to the couple. When asked why they aren’t posting, one of Lisa’s co-workers said “I don’t really know James very well, so it doesn’t seem to make much sense to say anything, but I like to keep up with what’s going on.? One of Lisa’s cousins said, “It’s wonderful that we can be in touch like this, but I don’t want to put information on the internet.? These two comments sum up a lot of what I heard when asking this question of the ‘non-posters.’ Many of them are unsure who this blog was designed for and are hesitant to join in the discussion until they are clear on the guidelines and who is a ‘member.’ I have sought to clarify this, but the phenomenon is interesting to me. We meant for this to be open and free flowing, but it still seems to be governed by some social rules that exist in face-to-face relationships as well. People who read the posts seem to see themselves as asking ‘how are you’ to the couple, but they are content not to reply for themselves or not sure what to say. I would like more people to read and post because, as I mentioned earlier, James equates readers with posters, and I want him to feel supported!

5. All of the readers and ‘posters’ are motivated a few common factors. I sent out an e-mail to them asking about their experiences, reasons for stopping by and posting/not posting, etc. The responses were really fun and interesting. The most common reasons were (in order) 1. Curiosity about how things are going 2. Feeling like it is a ‘soap opera’ that they are invested in (same comment from others, but this was the best wording, ha!) and 3. Wanting to show support. It’s great that the purposes mostly match the reasons that people read. They do share a common goal/experiences, but how they experience the site and their level of interaction with it seems to be controlled by normal social interactions (if you do not know the person well, you casually listen but do not pry. If you are close, you get involved and interact). This has been really fascinating for us to watch!

6. All in all, the 3 weeks this blog has been up and running have been very successful and fun. It seems that it is catching on among our friends and family. The original purposes for the blog still hold true, but I am finding that James and I are filtering our experiences in different ways through the blog. Only a small piece of what really happens makes it onto the blog. I have enjoyed getting to share the inside thoughts of the man I married with so many others. James is a quiet man, so it is fun for others to see his wit and humor (traits I see often)! I am learning that this blog is a way to be honest and still keep boundaries. People at work and friends in general do not refer to the blog when in person. It seems to exist as a separate place and does not currently make it to the ‘real world’ of conversation. Sometimes I am glad for this, but sometimes I think one of the purposes for the blog was for people to keep up and recognize the need for discourse as a means of processing. Perhaps that has turned out to be the biggest blessing from this blog. People are able to see what is going on, and we are able to boil down the day to the most basic pieces leaving the private pieces to be dealt with off-screen. The blog has become its own community in some ways, and I truly look forward to continuing to interact with it and to see how it grows and changes as this experience progresses!!

March 2, 2008

Video of Troops and the Media

I could not upload the video I created to this website. It is posted on our class blog under discussion week 5.

Veterans in the Media

The way the media portrays current war veterans and their families is highly political and therefore not consistent. In moving from site to site, I found that the coverage and portrayal of veterans (refers to active, deceased, retired, etc—anyone who served in any of the recent war efforts around the world) varied greatly. Here are brief summaries of the major networks:
CNN: Because no major action occurred this week, you have to hunt to find information about the wars. On the “World? page there is a ‘troop deaths in February drop’ link, but it is on the bottom of the page. The story was posted on Saturday, but it didn’t lead on the front page of the site on Saturday either. There is a page dedicated to Iraq war stories, but the only way to get there is to search or to open a buried story and click on the “Iraq War? topic hot link. CNN reports with a left slant—when reporting something that goes ‘for’ the war, they immediately counter with something ‘against’ the war. They do not always do this in reverse, but the reporting is fairly balanced. I know about the “heroes? campaign, and typed in cnn.com/heroes to find that page. There are no military “Heroes? listed—there are a lot of other things going on in the world, I realize this, but no mention is paid to their service.
MSNBC: An Iraq war headline was on the front page. When clicking on that, a story page appears and other war information is given. There is a “first person? section that has photos of veterans and their families. At the bottom, there is a “War in Iraq? topic page that brings. Of the 6 stories headlining the Iraq War page today, four of them are ‘bad news’ and two are ‘good news’ about the war.
FOX: On their front page, there are three stories today connected to the Iraq and Afghani wars. All of these stories are also on CNN and MSNBC, but you have to go to the “Iraq War? pages to find them. This site has a link for the “Military? when you open any story. The other networks have this as well, but only on the “Iraq War? pages. The stories have a more right/conservative slant in that security seems to be more of a focus than it is on other sites.
Overall, there is not much going on in the war that is “headline catching? lately, but these three networks have fairly equal coverage of the non-events. Instead of searching for good news and reporting progress, they all report what is going on as reported by major advisors, etc, but there are not many (if any) stories told by the veterans or their families. The news is event based and does not have a face.
In Hollywood and movies, veterans and war participants have long been painted in different ways. Sometimes they are the vigilant heroes (Transformers, Saving Private Ryan, the Patriot, U-571, etc) where they can overcome anything and always have the right information and equipment to get the job done or find a creative way to succeed in the environment. They almost always make it home as a unit or if they don’t, proper respect is paid by the individuals/team and by the country upon completion of their duty. Sometimes troops are portrayed as ‘punch the clock’ guys (Top Gun, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, M.A.S.H, etc) where the characters are able to dial into a ‘focus’ to get their job done, but spend the other times lounging and having a good time given the situation. There are other portrayals too including the promiscuous sailors/soldiers, all-go-all-the-time marines/soldiers (Jarhead), gentlemen who look good in a uniform and can get a woman (Top Gun, An Officer and a Gentlemen), and conflicted officers/leaders who make the right decisions but face major challenges to do it. Unfortunately, there are stories also of how we as a culture reacted to these people (Forrest Gump, We Were Soldiers, Flags of our Fathers, etc). There are other stories following one soldier/sailor/marine showing how they overcome a challenge as an individual (Men of Honor). Women in the military are often portrayed as either too masculine (and implied lesbians) or ladies who cannot get the job done and require a second set of standards. This is progress considering they used to only be able to serve as clerical or nursing assistants) Public opinion seems to be changing on this one a bit, but it’s difficult to say how people think of female sailors/soldiers/maries. No one likes sending them to war, but they seem to be capable even if they are not the front page image projected by the mainstream media.
Websites, blogs, churches and other areas all have different takes on the war and those fighting it. There are people who write openly about how wrong the war is and how we have to bring them all home before any more of them or the civilians die. Others fight this concept and see pulling out as a bad idea because it will only cause more unrest and issues. Churches generally (in my personal experience) seem to support the individuals and families and see this lifestyle as a struggle which can be overcome with community. There are people out there protesting all things military like the group who protests at military funerals calling the deceased an abomination, or “CodePink? who protests recruiters—these groups get media coverage, but the general public seems to be somewhere in between. People say ‘bring them home’, but then turn around and say “support our troops.? There is not a clear message of what supporting our troops means.
If you look at Veterans websites, however, “support? has a clear definition. They want to see a successful conclusion of the current actions and do not want to pull out or give up. Support in their opinion is providing morale, supplies, and a general ‘we’re here for you’ attitude. If you look at the major news media for a one day snapshot, you could forget the war is on. To the veterans, being forgotten is the worst thing that could happen.
Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force commercials and websites all have positive information about the opportunities available to people who join. They put a positive outlook and spin on all of benefits of being part of this team and being a ‘good American.’
There is always the “hero? perspective portrayed as well. The disturbing thing is when this is laid out against the ‘we’re killing innocent people’ image—these are difficult to reconcile. The media portrays the later, but when someone dies, they are a hero and we should feel sorry for them because they died “senselessly? (true or not??). They don’t take time to realize that by saying it was senseless, you invalidate their sacrifice and the feelings of their family—how shameful!
It’s all sticky and difficult to define, but there are many images out there. Because I am a military spouse, my slant here is pretty clear: support out troops by believing in them and their jobs—we fail them, we fail our country. Anything that takes away from the truth and real life of what our men are doing and when they succeed is wrong, in my opinion, and hurts our country and our unity (what’s left). Balanced reporting is necessary, so it can’t all be rosy, it’s war! BUT—it has to be fair…not for ratings or profits. They aren’t there in vain—they are doing their JOBS!

Chapter 5

In chapter 5, I found a lot of interesting ideas about representations. One of the quotes that stuck out was in the beginning of the chapter. Beach comments that instead of determining media representations as true or false, we should "assume instead that media representations "re-present" or actually create a new reality, which in turn mediates or shapes the ways in which people perceive themselves and the world." It harkens back to the old chicken-egg questions that are around and were raised by Beach in earlier chapters.

The one thing I couldn't shake though, was on page 53. I was thinking about doing a representations of veterans of current wars for the assignment this week, but I wasn't sure. After reading this chapter, I am FUMING and HAVE to do that representation. I respect a lot of what Beach has to say, but how dare he suggest that the current media presents an accurate picture of the war and its participants. Or WORSE, to suggest that the story they tell cannot be true because it is shaped by the generals and commanders the journalists are working with. That is insulting and untrue. It makes my blood boil to think about how many people blindly follow the message the media is portraying about the war and its progress and purpose. When journalists go to those areas and report the truth, they aren't finding the CRAP that they are publishing over here. Those men and women are working hard and sacrificing for something greater than personal glory or ratings--a concept no journalist can POSSIBLY understand. For Beach to suggest that media is driven by politics rather than DRIVING politics is one sided and inaccurate. How frustrating!

February 10, 2008

Teaching Film/Editing

This post is also on the discussion board:

I have had some experience already teaching film to my students, but after reading these websites and Chapter 3, I am not sure I’ll ever admit that again! I was asked to teach the classes because I was ‘tech-savvy’ enough to handle it, but I didn’t have enough knowledge to make it work. We are no longer teaching that course because I did it for three years and it never flexed the way I wanted it to. Below I’ve described some ways that I would handle film study in my classroom in two different situations; a ‘film study’ class and integrated as a unit in a regular language arts classroom.
Chapter three’s distinction between teaching film with different focuses was very logical and focused my ideas in a way previously not considered. Ideally, film study and appreciation could be instructed in a course singularly designed for that purpose. In this way, I would move through the four categories Beach describes beginning with vocabulary and intelligent discussion and ending with production.
To know where we are and how we got there, we would need to consider the historical context of film, but we would need common vocabulary to discuss elements. This is why I would begin with instruction in the areas of vernacular, elements, and identification. Movie clips as well as still shots would be used to establish understanding of techniques used in film. Students would need to begin discussing these elements using terms and concepts commonly used in the film industry. After we acquire the common vocabulary and understanding, we could move on to basic identification. I would probably use techniques I usually use in vocabulary instruction (use, examples, scaffolding) and would expect students to do an assignment similar to the one we were asked to do for week 3.
Beach makes a distinction between analyzing historical context and film analysis. I don’t know that I would treat these as separate and unique outcomes. Once we acquire the terminology to discuss the elements, we could study film’s history and investigate its changes. In that, we would be analyzing the movies and considering history as merely one more element to factor in. To accomplish this, I would use one or two movies from each decade in a montage to establish the tone and change over time. We would then look at each film (in parts) and consider the techniques used and the cultural expectation of the time. After guided practice, students would be expected to choose another film and independently break down the pieces and analyze the techniques and historical context.
Moving into more current movies/films, students would continue to apply the vocabulary and technical ideas to consider what makes a movie good or great. We would consider questions like: who is the primary audience? Why do certain movies win awards? Why is there a distinction between ‘independent’ and ‘mainstream’ filmmaking? How is filmmaking an ‘art?’ How much of the movie experience is fulfilled by the watcher (similar to how each book is made unique because of the reader)? And other thought provoking ideas. At this stage, students should be beyond ‘what is lighting’ and moving on to “why? and “how? questioning as it relates to the film industry.
After students are at a point of appreciation and they have the ability to deconstruct elements of a film, they are to a point where reconstruction and production would be appropriate. In this part of the course, students would be expected to learn the technical aspects of filming (equipment handling, etc) as well as the ins and outs of editing programs. They would be instructed in CONSTRUCTING story boards, as opposed to creating still shot storyboards for analytical purposes. Once they have considered the elements from earlier in the course, they would be given guided free reign to create. This is where it is vital that they had a thoughtful understanding of the material as we are now moving to the application piece of learning. The exact project would depend on the course and students, but I would love to see a ‘through my eyes’ kind of piece that allowed for individuality as well as giving credit to their unique points of view. They would need to constantly evaluate and determine the success of their goals and change course as needed. At the end of this three/four tier approach, students would have a much more thorough appreciation and understanding for film and how to create it.
If I was asked to teach these concepts within the time constraints and limitations of the standard Language Arts curriculum, I would choose to keep the same conceptual framework, but the depth of coverage would be decreased. We would still start with a basic understanding of film vocabulary and elements through a study of stills and short clips. I would move into historical context and analytical skills, though this would be far less complex than with a full course. Finally, I would never skip production. Students should be given the opportunity to learn the basics of editing programs and filming technology as well as be given the opportunity to show what they know. This project would probably be a team approach due to time and equipment limitations, but they would still have the chance to storyboard and create a short production.
I am hopeful that maybe I will be asked to teach this course again and can bring a brand new approach to it. I have many more questions that I need answers to before I am any kind of a film expert, but this framework is logical and complete enough that one could easily create a worthwhile course which would integrate learning, technology, current popular opinions, and critical thinking into a fun and hands on approach. If I do not have the chance to work with a course like this, I will find ways to integrate these techniques and concepts into my current curriculum and framework.

February 9, 2008

Commercial Break Down

I analyzed a brief commercial featuring Peyton and Eli Manning. It was fun to take a look at this silly commercial and see what went into it to making it work.

The commercial can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b68_pU2wes

For whatever reason, I am not able to upload my Word file here. I have uploaded it to the class discussion site under week 3.

January 31, 2008

Rationale for Teaching Media

Below you'll find a rationale for teaching media. I've started with an outline of my school's opinion on these issues and how I would approach them. You'll then see a 'pitch' which would be given to the school board encouraging them to consider a media course and reasons for that. I believe the presentation would be successfull--schoo boards LIKE new ideas, right?? :)

Currently, my school’s high school language arts curriculum consists of materials selected by teachers based on student need which is guided by IEP goals as well as state standards. We do have a new book/reading program by McDougal Littell, but it is not right to call a book “curriculum.? We teach in and out of these books in an effort to increase student skills in the areas of literacy (speaking, writing, listening, viewing) as well as their use of the language to convey and critically analyze thoughts. For better or worse, there is flexibility in each classroom to create an environment of materials and instruction appropriate for that group which will increase their skill base according to need.
The general opinion of media in my school is positive. We look toward various online sources as a means of communicating current events in the Deaf culture as well as trying to upgrade our technologies to be able to utilize and create greater amounts of media. There are always concerns about appropriateness of content and appropriate use of media devices (huge social issues with Sidekicks, texting, e-mails, web cams, etc), but these are slowly improving through consequence based education rather than positive instructive education (i.e. a policy has been created, therefore you WILL do the following…) There is a huge difference between teachers in regards to knowledge, skill, and motivation, but the administration is mostly supportive. Support does not equal use and results, however, and we are still often guilty of integrating films, websites, and other media pieces as a means of ‘add-ons’ to enrich ‘standard’ curriculum pieces and not studied in their own right. If a move was made to teach media studies, I believe the administration would be supportive as would much of the current teaching staff. They all recognize the direction of education and information today and value our impact on our students today in relation to how it will impact them tomorrow. We are often responsible for teaching the gamut when it comes to real-life skills, and this would be one more piece—it’s critical importance may be lost, but the concept would be supported.
To this end, our school will be launching a partner program with the neighboring residential school within the next 2 years. The “We Create? program will be media and technology based where students will have opportunities to learn programs, create media/inventions with programs and fabricate final projects. For example, a student might learn the CAD program while another student is developing a new robot and a third student is editing a movie. Students will not be required to work in all areas as some students learn better though formalized program training and others would rather just ‘hop on’ to figure things out. This program will be one of the first of its kind in MN and will allow for integration and direct instruction of technologies as well as some media creation (movies and music mostly). This is an exciting step that we are hopeful will breathe new life into some of our outdated ‘vocational’ programming.
Families and members of the community I do not express great concern over media and its use that I have heard, though I would assume they are worried about the media their students are exposed to. If our school were to make a move toward media studies, I believe the reaction would be mixed. Because many of our students have language delays due to lack of exposure, many would question why we would teach such a skill; there would be an equally enthusiastic crowd screaming, “It’s about time!? I believe this group would be so vocal because they recognize that abuse and misuse of media is not a problem which can be solved through avoidance. This group would recognize the value of teaching critical thinking skills in regards to media and appropriate use.

A potential presentation to my school board:
Media is a part of our lives—like it or not. We all have a TV or a computer or the internet or subscribe to a newspaper or watch movies or listen to the radio or read magazines. Many of us do all of the above--many at the same time. But when you are exposed to media, how do you analyze what you see and hear? What guides you in making decisions about what to watch and what to think of information you’re exposed to? Can you create media? These are just a few questions students today must be able to answer if they are to be productive, critically thoughtful and engaged citizens. You are able to do these things because you have developed your senses of critical thinking and analysis. But for our students, it isn’t that easy. They live in a world of dynamic media with a static education system.
Media today has a lot of negative connotations. It is often blamed for the increase of violence, sex, profanity and other negative behaviors. It is true: there is a plethora of this material available to students today through the internet, television, radio/music, and other media outlets. The issue with students and media today is not THAT they are exposed to these issues and messages but rather what they are able to MAKE of the messages that they see. Our first instinct as parents and teachers is to shield our students from these concepts, but sticking their heads in the sand will only work for so long. Empowering our students to think critically about what they see, judge messages for what they are, and think as individuals in a ‘lemming’ world are all vital competencies if our students and children are to be equipped to deal with their world in a thoughtful and healthy way.
We all recognize the need for skills often referred to as “basic? such as reading and writing. These are vital skills, but we are failing out students if we assume these skills only occur in a text-based world. Providing students with the skills necessary to READ materials is crucial, but if they do not a have the ability to categorize, filter, or process the information they read, the best we will ever get is regurgitation. Basic reading skills and basal readers are static. Once mastered on the proficient level, reading skills should be seen as tools used to process the world. For students below proficiency levels, a change in course will renew interest and provide richer practice experiences. Students must be part of the educational equation—if we teach with methods and content that are relevant and motivating, students will be engaged and more likely to apply and generalize skills leading to greater student achievement. Media studies should not be seen as additional to any current class offered at our school. It should be taught on its own, with its own scope and sequence of objectives and skills.
So what’s in a “media course?? These are just two of the potential areas and skills which would be covered.
Students in these courses would begin by identifying their relationship with media and how much time they spend using, being exposed to and creating media. By evaluating their current level of interaction with media, students will begin to recognize the importance of understanding the ‘force’ of these pieces on their lives. They already know that media is everywhere in their lives, but they need to be guided through a process which allows them to consider how they interact with it and to recognize that, with the right mindset, they can shape it and be shaped by it without folding into ‘everyone else is doing it’ mentality.
The class would focus also on the messages in media and key motivating factors which must be raised and analyzed for a student to evaluate the worth and accuracy of a message. Websites on current issues, videos and news clips which are on tape, DVD and streaming would be used to provide catalysts for evaluative discussions. Why are commercials aired when they are? What is a target audience and what is the relationship between media, marketing and information. Students MUST be able to critically think about where the messages in media are coming from and what is driving them. These are skills which are VITAL for students to become engaged and thoughtful citizens and consumers.
As you can see, by combining modes of learning which are engaging for students with current information and critical analysis practice, students will be better able to filter and understand their world—no matter if their level of media interaction is hourly or weekly. We will have given them skills which are dynamic in this fast paced and ever changing world—the key to successful futures for all of our students.

January 24, 2008

Catch 22

I think it's interesting that we get information from media, but we inform media--or do we??
I was out in Washington DC a few years ago, and I was listening to a woman speak at the Watergate Hotel about her experience as a journalist in a 'hot' city like DC. She told stories about meeting people in 'dark alleys' and driving by a certain corner at a predetermined time to get information dropped through an open car window. This was how she got 'dirt' on the world and learned about the underside of Washington. She was willing to ask the hard questions and get the interesting answers.

It seems today that we do not have the motivation to ask the tough questions. "Investigative Reporting" is a joke in most cases that is motivated by bordem and the need to poke fingers in other peoples pudding. I'm not sure when we went from being active and involved in INFORMING the media about what we want and when the media started informing us what we want. Not a healthy relationship...

About class stuff this week...
1. The first video about politics was interesting but felt old. I watched it when it was 'hot' back in 2004. The idea that we can all get involved is a good one and nice that it seemed neutral.
2. The second video was kind of boring. I'm sure that kind of thing happens from time to time, but does it happen in such a BOLD way? I'm not sure. Plus, is that really the best way to go about resolving that issue??? I'm not sure. They'd never actually air her rant--good as it may be.
3. The "history" video is really interesting to me. We did take big steps backward when education started using video AS education rather than a SUPPLEMENT to education. Lots of people got the idea that education had turned into a 'filmstrip' fest where any idiot could show up and play a movie. Media got a bad rap, but now that we have higher quality and standards in media and it's use, it might be time to re-examine that idea and stop seeing it as a supplement.

I'm not sure that just because we HAVE free speech doesn't mean everyone is qualified to use it... :)

January 20, 2008

First Post

Hello to my blog! I'm just giving this a test run to make sure all is up and running. More to come...