Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SCED 4200 Blog Post 11: Practicing Teaching Analysis

We had many discussions about activating a student’s prior knowledge and incorporating affective approaches to literacy this semester, and during my clinicals at Logan High School I noticed that one of the teachers I observed did this quite well as the class read Romeo and Juliet.  I must say that when I learned the class would be reading Romeo and Juliet during my time in the class I was somewhat disappointed.  To this day the play remains my least favorite of Shakespeare’s works, but in the class I gained a new appreciation for how the opinions of the students, as well as those of the teacher, can be used to further appreciate the text.  Also, it’s often difficult for young readers to see through the different language and cultural references that Shakespeare uses in his plays, but this teacher did a great job of helping his students make connections with events and ideas from their own lives and draw on their own knowledge to understand the text.  Love is a common and obvious theme, and I really liked how the teacher validated the opinions of the students in class discussions.  Some students felt that the romance was charged with drama and closely matched (in terms of that drama) situations that the students themselves had experienced; others saw Romeo as a creepy boy falling head over heels for a thirteen year old girl after breaking up with some other chick.  This disparity among the students made for some very interesting discussions, and led to some in-depth analysis of the play that I don’t remember happening when I read the play at that age.  Making those connections really made the difference, I think, and I plan on doing the same thing in my own classroom.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SCED 4200 Blog Post 10: Critical Literacy

Literacy is generally regarded as the ability to read and write, and that perception is what gives the impression that English classes are difficult or at the very least that a student can’t find practical application of literary skills or techniques taught in the classroom.  My view is that literacy, in its most basic sense, is the ability to understand the nuances of a given topic.  A person who is literate in wilderness survival, for example, is aware of the strategies and skills necessary to live in the wilderness and can converse with those who share that literacy, speaking in common terms and jargon.

Critical literacy isn’t terribly different from my conception of “normal” literacy.  It’s the ability to not only understand the specific terminology of a given topic but to make decisions based on that understanding.  With the example of the literate wilderness survivalist, knowledge of techniques allows one to make decisions that can lead to survival even in dire situations.  My wife and I actually found ourselves turned around in the wilderness after dark, and we decided we needed to start a fire and wait until sunrise so we could see where we were going.  If it wasn’t for my wife’s familiarity with starting and maintaining fires, we would have been in for a night much colder than it was.

This definition of critical literacy prompts me to challenge my students to not only come to class and fulfill the minimum requirements of the class but to become experts in fields relevant to their futures.  While this should certainly promote competency in chosen careers, it also includes the ability to make informed decisions in social or political issues.  Students should be able to glean life lessons from whatever they read, whether it’s the literary “canon,” or texts the student reads freely, growing as individuals and as members of society.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blog Post 8: Digital Literacy

Technology surrounds me, and I like to think that I've maintained some level of independence from digital technologies, but the facts just don't support that idea. In a given week, the hours I've spent watching a screen can be measured in days. I'm online almost perpetually when I'm home, even though my attention may not be on the internet itself. I work nights, and while I carry out my duties there I've either got an I-Pod to surf the web or an old palm pilot I use as a word processor (which I actually used to type up this post). I engage in some correspondence through Facebook, but the majority of my online interaction is through the forums and message boards of communities that share my interest, in which I'm often a vocal, central member.

With all that said, I do try to keep my 'online time' prioritized, and to keep it from becoming the addiction I know it can be. At certain times in the past our home has not had the internet, and those times were actually quite relieving; a sanctuary from the outside world, if you will. Though I would have to go elsewhere to turn in online assignments, it actually forced me to plan for such events and organize my life. Such occasional limitations have proven to be a constructive element in my life, and have helped me draw a line more clearly between what digital technology is a necessity in my current lifestyle and what is merely a luxury I can currently afford.

I'm old enough to remember times before the internet, and when a mobile phone was one that had no cord attaching it to the wall but was limited in range from its cradle. A memory of those times helps me appreciate the benefit they are and gives me a frame of reference for how technological innovations have shaped our culture. I think this awareness will help me show students how to use technology for their benefit within the classroom. While I think that students will already come to the classroom more tech savvy than me, I can help them see the constructive uses of the internet and other information tools.