HUXTABLES, KITT, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, and more…80s TV love

My television watching days began with an old TV in the lounge room. It didn’t have a remote and if you wanted to change channels you had to get up and turn the dial to switch between the two channels – ABC and channel 10, our only commercial channel. I enjoyed watching the popular culture of the day when I was growing up. My teenage years began in the 80s and the TV shows from then still hold a special place in my heart.


First of all I want to give a big shout out to some Australian series. TV watching in our house was always family time, usually after dinner. Our parents worked long hours so this was the time we relaxed together after catching up at tea time. I always liked mini-series because they told a story over a length of time and you got caught up with the characters and the story. A Town Like Alice (1981) starring Bryan Brown is one of the ones I remember that really affected me. The portrayal of World War II and prisoners of war really made what happened more real for me than any lessons in primary school did.  Other favourites were The Sullivans, A Country Practice and The Flying Doctors. It is amazing how much seeps into your everyday life…to this day, if you are being nosy or gossiping there will be somebody in the family that will call you Mrs. Jessop (from The Sullivans), and who didn’t cry when Molly from A Country Practice died? The best part of watching a series is getting attached to the characters, becoming part of the family and their lives and getting caught up in the emotion, drama and adventure.

I enjoy action when it is mixed with comedy and American series like The Greatest American Hero, 21 Jump Street, Knight Rider and The A-Team were some of my favourites.

The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero had a bit of sci-fi twist with high school teacher Ralph Hinkley being given a red flying suit by aliens during a field trip to the desert. As well as being able to fly, the suit also gave Ralph the power to become invisible, to see things from great distances and to see through solid objects. The F.B.I convinced him to use the suit to fight crime and occasionally he included his students in his crime-stopping adventures. Can you imagine the risk assessment you would have to do for that today? What I really enjoyed though, was the theme song ¯Believe it or not, I’m walking on air, I never thought I could feel so free…eee..eeee¯

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street was my first introduction to Johnny Depp and what an introduction! It was a police show about a squad of undercover police officers that were youthful enough to pass as high school or college students. Working undercover in schools, they could fit into the crowd and investigate crimes such as date rape, teenage drug use and violence. It didn’t always have comedy to lighten the atmosphere but Johnny Depp was there which made up for it.

The A-Team

The A-Team was definitely a whole lot of action. The show is based on four Vietnam veterans who were sent to military prison after their superior officers, who ordered them to rob the Hanoi Bank, denied any knowledge of the event and their part in it when they were caught. After escaping, they hired themselves out as soldiers of fortune for any good people being oppressed or wronged by someone. Like it says in the opening credits – “Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find them…maybe you can hire the A-Team. I loved the way the crazy mismatched bunch of characters always managed to stay ahead of the law and still manage to save the day, usually without Mr. T as B. A. Barakus choking Murdock.

Knight Rider – Michael Knight and Kitt

Knight Rider was ‘the Hoff’ with a talking car instead of red speedos. David Haselhoff played police detective Michael Long who was rescued by billionaire Wilton Knight after a near fatal shot to the face. Michael was given a new identity through plastic surgery and a new name – Michael Knight. Together, with his partner KITT, they worked for the public justice organisation, the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) dealing with the bad guys when ‘direct action might provide the only feasible solution’. KITT was the coolest Pontiac Transam that was operated by computers and artificial intelligence. I loved the Herbie movies too so a car that talks and is bullet proof, has a sense of humour and can drive itself, has to be a winner.

The Huxtable family from The Cosby Show

My favouritest favourite show of the 80s though has to be The Cosby Show. Airing for eight seasons from 1984 – 1992, The Cosby Show shared the lives of the Huxtable family. The family consisted of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), his wife Clair (Phylicia Rashad) and their five children Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy. Every Thursday night I welcomed the Huxtable family into my home and my heart. What I loved most about the show was that, bottom line, there was a lot of love. They were a multi-generational family who dealt with life’s lessons through comedy. Children were never disregarded and parents and children talked to each other. The show touched on issues faced by families such as death, learning disabilities, dating, and growing up.

As a child I could relate to the kids on the show. As a teenager I wanted to be just like Denise because nobody understood me either and she had the coolest clothes. As an adult I can see it from the parents’ perspective and the grandparents added a timeless wisdom and history. I loved Cliff’s crazy colourful sweaters and his expressions, the way Cliff and Clair were still so much in love, the way the kids always tried to talk and reason their way out of punishment, the way art and music was woven in and most of all, I like the way the show looked at and dealt with issues that made them meaningful, honest and true…and I got to laugh….lots. I have really enjoyed reliving some of my favourite shows. I hope you have been reminded of some you’d forgotten as well. I will leave you with one of my favourite moments and a look back at the opening credits from the eight seasons. Enjoy!

Now if we were talking about the 90s, it would be Friends all the way but that’s another post…

 

Gaming = fun + learning

Engaging with video games from an early age.

The outdated mode of delivery of formal educational institutions where students passively come to be ‘filled up’ with knowledge delivered by ‘the expert’, does not accurately reflect the multi-modal technology-filled world our students are actively engaged with outside the school gates. Students from an early age are accessing and engaging with technology on their parents’ iPhones or iPads and can often operate them better than older generations while they are still in nappies. Computer and video games have often been targeted as ‘the enemy’ by parents and teachers alike for dragging students away from their learning and reducing them to unresponsive zombies, mesmerised by the annoyingly repetitive and catchy music or by constant gunfire coming from the television or computer speakers. Perhaps though, educators and parents need to look at games and recognise their potential as an avenue for 21st Century learning and developing digital media literacies.

Today’s youth are the digital natives in the computer and video game world where aural, visual and digital literacy overlap.  In the article Looking for my corpse: Video games and player positioning, Bradford looks at understanding literacy in the digital world through her interaction with video games. Her study comprises three strands: Video games as textual forms; young people’s experience of video games; and professional development of teachers in relation to video games (Bradford, 2010: 55). What is clear from the article is that traditional tools of analysis such as narratology which looks at the structure of narratives; ludology which looks at how rules function in game-playing; and film studies, which draws from literary and cultural theories, are rather ineffective when used to analyse digital media such as computer/video games. This is because traditional tools of analysis are incapable of accounting for the complexity of games and experiences of playing (2010: 54). Activity is an important part of the game experience and the players’ depth of experience can depend upon the textual knowledge they bring to the game. There is also the social component that exists with games where players can invite others to play within the game as well as playing together in a group outside the game that doesn’t exist with other text types. Bradford makes a good point when she states that ‘games are worth taking seriously because they activate new forms of textual pleasure and new forms of sociality; and  because, like other kinds of texts, their possibilities are never exhausted or their meanings ever absolute (2010: 63).

The participatory culture of video and computer games is modifying the skills necessary to engage with media literacy. Students need the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power; work in multi-modal levels and layers of understanding; assess the reliability of data and develop technical skills as well as still being able to read and write. Just as the emergence of written language changed oral traditions and the emergence of printed texts changed our relationship to written language, the emergence of new digital modes of expression changes our relationship to printed texts. Youth must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new (Jenkins, 2007) which goes against the popular-held belief that students switch their brains off when the game goes on.

Jenkins has identified a list of eleven core skills that are needed to participate within the new media landscape as our students move from ‘the realms of play and education and into the adult world of work and society’ (2007: 99). The skills he identified and benefits of playing computer games are listed below:

  1. PLAY – through play, students can experiment, explore their immediate surroundings and try on roles. Play can motivate other forms of learning and integrate other experiences, skills and practices.
  2. SIMULATION – the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real world processes which allows students to deal with large bodies of information, to form hypotheses quickly and test them against different variables in real time.
  3. PERFORMANCE – the ability to adopt alternative identities and to understand problems from multiple viewpoints. Performance also provides opportunities to respond to changing environments and assimilate information.
  4. APPROPRIATION – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content. Meaning is created by pulling apart existing media content and adding to it. Often, remixing involves the creative juxtaposition of materials that otherwise occupy very different cultural niches. Appropriation in this case involves both analysis and commentary.
  5. MULTI-TASKING – learners filter out extraneous information and sharpen their focus on the most salient details of their environment. Young people can scan for relevant shifts in the information flow while simultaneously taking in multiple stimuli and often responding to stimulus outside the game at the same time.
  6. DISTRIBUTED COGNITION – instead of intelligence being contained and limited to an individual, the technological and socio-cultural environment of game playing allows meaningful interaction with tools that expand our mental capacities.
  7. COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE – game playing also allows social production of knowledge when groups of people (usually online) come together with diverse skills and knowledge to confront a specific complex challenge. In this model, everyone knows something, nobody knows everything, and what any one person knows can be tapped by the group as a whole.
  8. JUDGMENT –  the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources by learning how to read one source of information against another and to understand the contexts within which the information is produced and circulated.
  9. TRANSMEDIA NAVIGATION – the ability to deal with the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities. Game playing offers multiple points of entry, enables many different forms of participation and facilitates the interests of multiple consumers. It also allows young people to become adept at interpreting meaning in sound, music, still and moving images and interactive components.
  10. NETWORKING – knowledge production has become a collective process and communication occurs across an array of different media, so the capacity to network is emerging as a core social skill and cultural competency. Learning in a networked society involves the ability to search for, synthesize and disseminate information as well as effectively tap social networks to disperse one’s own ideas and media products.
  11. NEGOTIATION – the ability to travel across diverse communities and acquire skills in understanding multiple perspectives, respecting and embracing diversity of views, understanding a variety of social norms, and negotiating between conflicting opinions.

It is obvious from the list of skills that games are worth taking seriously because they activate new forms of textuality and create learning opportunities that are necessary in real life. Primarily, students play games because they are fun. Watching them play computer or video games you can see they are engaged, interested, competitive, cooperative, results-orientated, and actively seeking information and solutions (Prensky, 2003: 1). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students had the same attitude towards school and their learning?

I think video and computer games are useful motivators to get disengaged students engaged. Programs like Reading Eggs and Mathletics are used at our school to engage students. Students with low literacy or English as a second language use Reading Eggs and they enjoy it because learning becomes learner-centred, it is fun and motivational because the student can see themselves (as their pimped out chicken) progressing along the pathway and earning certificates. A lot of people dismiss games without trying them or learning about them. Television is a more powerful (and educational) experience if you watch shows together and talk about and discuss what you have seen together, so why not talk to teenagers about what they are playing? Students enjoy playing games on the computers at lunch time in the library and I always use it as an opportunity to see what is new and popular. I make a point of asking them as well, ‘what skills do you need to play that?’ At first they used to just look at me funny, but now they can tell me that they are making predictions or using their memory Often they don’t see it as a learning opportunity at first but over time, they have been able to tell me what new skills they have gained which goes to show how important it is to talk about learning students are interested in.

Perhaps game designers can teach educators how to create more fun, engaging and effective education by using gaming techniques to keep students interested and motivated. Why shouldn’t learning equal fun for students and teachers? Play on!

 

Bradford, C. (2010). Looking for my corpse: video games and player positioning. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 33(1), 54 – 64

Jenkins, H. (2007). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture – Media Education for the 21st Century (Part 2). Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy 2, 98 – 112. Accessed from:   http://www.idunn.no/ts/dk/2007/02/confronting_the_challenges_ofparticipatoryculture_-_media_education_for_the?languageId=2

Jonsson, S. (2009). Are games more than fun? Motivational aspects on digital games. Accessed from: http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CEsQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fliu.diva-portal.org%2Fsmash%2Fget%2Fdiva2%3A377815%2FFULLTEXT01&ei=vfKDUIPkH7C0iQfSyoGQCA&usg=AFQjCNHS11Ac50ovMyqWKlHkNbnbA-wulg&sig2=2jz_L_Kcweb4SulZn0VRPg 

Prensky, M. (2001). Fun, Play and Games: What Makes Games Engaging from Digital Game-Based Learning. McGraw-Hill. Chapter 5. Accessed from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20digital%20game-based%20learning-ch5.pdf

Prensky, M. (2002). The motivation of gameplay: The real twenty-first century learning revolution. On the Horizon. 10(1) 5 – 11. Accessed from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20the%20motivation%20of%20gameplay-oth%2010-1.pdf

 

Popular Text – LogosQuiz

Popular Logos

Level 1 – recognisable to most

An app for the whole family!  My two sons came across this app somehow (probably from someone else as school) so I thought I would see what the fuss was about.  They were playing it together (unusual in itself) and seemingly working things out together.  The app is called “LogosQuiz” and basically it’s self explanatory.  As a player, you need to successfully name the logo.  By doing this you collect points that go towards getting you hints.  You start at a relatively easy level with 34 graphic icons to name.  They are the type of logos that are seen everyday in our culture, for example the big m of McDonalds and the BMW logo so this level is not too difficult.  You need to achieve a certain amount of correct answers for the next level to be unlocked.

The next level has more logos but may be a little more difficult.  This is where the whole family concept can come in handy.  Whilst playing the game myself, I was assisted by not only my 2 sons but my husband and mother as well.  If you get stuck, there is the function of being able to get hints – 3 in total for each icon.  The more hints you use, the less points you get for a correct answer.  Of course, my sons like to save up the hints so they choose to use Google to get their answers.

It wouldn’t be a successful app without the inclusion of “Ask on Twitter or Facebook” button.  Another perfect example of connecting participatory culture at its finest.  By asking on Twitter or Facebook, you instantly become connected to others who are ‘sucked in’ to the game.  All in all I found it quite easy and fun to play and also, addictive.  I am already up to level 4 and find myself going to Google for answers so that I don’t have to use up my hints!  I like it so much I have it installed on my phone and iPad!

As far as visual literacy goes, here is the proof that the youth of today are surrounded by images that have influence on them.  They can instantly recognise images or parts of an image and link that to a product or concept that they understand.  The power of visual literacy is alive and well and essential that our students are guided in in their understanding of it.

The Screen Generation

The influence of the media on the youth of today is practically impossible to get away from due to the nature of the “Screen Generation”.  Students are becoming obsessive about being connected via mobile devices to the Internet and all that it offers.  This connection has developed into a popular way of communicating which in turn has given educators a reason to reclassify and evaluate what literacy skills young people are using.  Visual literacy is at the forefront of the on-demand viewing expectations of our youth and as educators we need to tap into this cultural trend to keep students engaged and interested in school life.  Recreational time spent on sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook is fast becoming a necessity in the lives of students and the skills that they require to use these sites can be transferred into their classrooms.

Advertising plays a major role in influencing the youth of today.  “The Gruen Transfer” is a popular television program dedicated to evaluating and deciphering advertisements that are streamed into our homes at an alarming rate of 3000 images per day (O’Hara, 2009).  This program highlights the tricks of the trade to viewers and includes participation from a panel of so-called experts through debate and discussion.  Educators are broadcasting this program to their students to give them a clearer understanding of how advertising works as well as giving them an insight into their world around them (O’Hara, 2009).  As a visual stimulus, the program itself is shifting the way in which literacy definitions are evolving.  Understanding visual imagery and symbolic recognition is essential for the success of literacy learners today.  The era or print based superiority has come to an end (Boyd, 2012) and the move towards visual and digital resources is what 21st century learners require to become literate citizens.

The youth of today are not a very patient generation and perhaps this is due to the ‘on-demand’ nature of their lives.  They can access information instantaneously and, through advances in technology, have constant contact with the Internet through mobile devices.  The term “Screenagers” as introduced by Johnson (2005) is considered more appropriate now than when he first penned the word in 2005.  We see them incessantly connected through screen related devices such as laptops provided by schools, game consoles, mobile phones, hand held miniature screens and of course, television.  Schools are now contributing in a massive way to the screen generation by providing not only the hardware for the students to use but also investing in programs such as ‘Clickview’ and ‘DVC’ software that enables teachers to play movies, documentaries and television programs directly to the students.  It’s instant and easily accessible – just what the youth of today are used to in their personal lives.

Student’s personal lives are filled with influence from the Internet.  It has become relevant to their social survival through sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  The skills that they require to stay connected through these sites are an excellent way to engage them at school by tapping in to what they already know and use.  Students have become disengaged due to schools persisting with outdated pedagogies (Beach, 2008).  We are in the middle of the participation culture (Jenkins, 2011) whereby students learn from one another, share with one another and produce for one another through media.  Their screen culture is embedded in not only their school lives but more so their personal lives. With this being the case, a pedagogical shift is necessary for the students to remain engaged within the school setting.  They already create, produce and publish in their personal lives through media so it makes sense to transfer this knowledge and expertise into their learning.  Students need to have ownership of their work for them to be comfortable in sharing it.  If we continue to prescribe how and what they are producing, we run the risk of disengagement on mass.

Screen time has increased dramatically due to the introduction of online resources such as YouTube.  Not only can the youth of today engage with millions of videos on demand but they are also produces of these videos for the specific purpose of uploading to the site.  It seems that everyone wants to have something on YouTube.  But the participation of the audience is not limited to uploading or downloading videos; a viewer can be transformed into a contributor through the ability to ‘comment’ on what they are watching (Rizzo, 2008).  YouTube has become the “how to” of the screen generation.  It seems as though anything you need to know how to do has already been posted on the site for anyone to look at.  This idea of sharing what you know is a cultural phenomenon in itself.  This being the case, transferring this sharing culture into the classrooms of today is a logical step in the right educational direction.  Another cultural phenomenon is the obsession with the Google search engine.  As quoted by Johnson (2005) “Google is our culture’s principal way of knowing about itself”, transferring the noun Google in the verb – ‘google it”!

Students are connected to screens for a large part of their daily lives.  We have enabled this trend through the distribution of personal laptops and the ease at which they can be connected to the Web.  Advertisers are saturating the web with marketing strategies towards the youth of today through social networking sites and search engines that they use for recreation.  Screen time has increased dramatically through the use of relatively inexpensive mobile devices and ease of connectivity.  The task for educators is to engage students by employing strategies that keep them connected through what they already know.

Screen Generation

Watching T.V., playing Minecraft on Laptop, Getting Cheats from internet via iPod – Multi-tasking at its best!

References:

Beach, R. & O’Brien, D. (2008). Teaching popular cultural texts in the classroom. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear & D. J. Leu (Eds.) Handbook of research on new literacies. (pp. 775-804). New York & London: Lawrence Erlbaum

Boyd, B. (2012, April 19). Literacy and the new media landscape. Post on Bill Boyd – The Literacy Advisor blog. http://literacyadviser.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/literacy-and-the-new-media-landscape/  Accessed: 10/10/2012

Facebook – www.facebook.com

Henry Jenkins TED lecture on participatory culture on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFCLKa0XRlw

Accessed: 06/10/2012

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you. pp. 116-124 ‘The Internet’. Riverbend Books, New York.

Google – www.google.com

O’Hara, M. (2009). EnhanceTV Podcast – Studying “Gruen Transfer” (audio/podcast 6 mins 32 secs) http://www.enhancetv.com.au/podcast/2009/2009_Marguerite_OHara.m4a

Accessed: 10/10/2012

Rizzo, T. (2008). YouTube: The new cinema of attractions. Scan Journal (5)1. Online at: http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/print.php?journal_id=109&j_id=13

Accessed: 12/10/2012

Twitter – www.twitter.com

YouTube – www.youtube.com

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a cross-media pop culture phenomenon

Choose a popular culture phenomenon and describe some of its cross-media and/or intertextual features that interest you.

Few pop culture phenomena have been quite as pervasive as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The series debuted in 1997, and has enjoyed success in many different forms.  The show ran for seven seasons on television, and continued providing material in many cross-media formats long after its conclusion on the small screen, all of which are considered to be part of the “Buffy Verse”, defined as “the shared fictional universe in which the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are set” (Wikipedia).

Beginning in 1998, DarkHorse Comics produced a series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, including a “Season 8” to continue the plot after the show ended.  Additionally, the show spawned a series of original novels – this site provides an annotated bibliography of titles. Five official video games were also created based on the series.

But perhaps the most interesting products to come out of this series were those not made by the network or for profit by the creators of the show as merchandise.  Fans of the show have worked individually and collaboratively to create numerous works of FanFic (Fan created fiction), Fan Art, websites, discussion forums, and wikis.

Furthermore, this article describes Buffy as the most studied pop culture property studied by academics.  A search for dissertations and theses on the topic at the QUT library database returned over 200 results, with subject terms as varied as women’s studies, GLBT studies, philosophy, theology and religion, and postmodernism.  In fact, the topic is so popular, the terms “Buffy Studies” and “Buffy-ology” have emerged to label these academic writings.

The success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in all its forms is a prime example of cross-media and intertexuality, as well as how the collaborative nature of modern technology allows fans to be a part of the popular culture they love the most.  And who doesn’t love a show with a librarian main character?

 

 

 

Goodreads App

Do you get to the holidays and can’t remember the books you wanted to read? Do you get recommendations and then forget what they were when you get to the library or get time to read? With the Goodreads app, available for iPhone and iPad, you will never forget a recommendation or be short on what to read again. Goodreads began as a free website for lovers of reading and books which enables you to keep track of what you want to read, what you’ve read and find recommendations based on what you have enjoyed in the past.

Some of the features of the Goodreads app supplied by iTunes are listed below:

  • Keep track of what you want to read, review the books you’ve read and organise your reading history by adding books to your shelves
  • Find new and interesting books by looking at what your friends are reading and comment on their reviews
  • Use the barcode scanner when you are in a bookstore. Add the book to your ‘to-read’ shelf and read reviews before buying it
  • Read eBooks with more than 2000 public domain books completely free
  • Rate and review any book in Goodreads’ catalogue of more than 12 million books
  • Share notes and progress updates as you read
  • Join online book clubs and connect with other readers.
  • View literary events near you

You start with three default shelves – read, currently-reading and to-read, but you can also create your own bookshelves depending on your interests. Some of my other bookshelves include ‘light and fluffy’ for those times when you don’t want to think too much; ‘professional development’ for work related stuff; ‘colour my world’ for all things colour related and colour therapy, and ‘overrated’ for the highly publicised but really not very well written books.

My favourite part of the app is for finding recommendations. I often use it with older students who are having trouble finding something they like, so we put in a title that they have enjoyed in the past to see what goodreads suggests that is similar. I often look at other members’ bookshelves to see what they have read and what they say in reviews for recommendations. Books for PD are often expensive, so it is good to be able to access a large amount of reviews before committing to purchase anything. You can do it all while you are still in the shop too – scan the book, check reviews and decide whether it is worth purchasing which could save you lots of money (depending on the reviews…if they are fantastic, you could end up spending more than you had planned but at least you will be bringing home some new friends). Because the app is on your phone, it is portable as well, so wherever you have your phone, you have access to a whole library and millions of books.

Another great functions on the app that would be great in an educational setting is the groups function. Groups can be public, moderated, restricted by domain or secret and would be great for bringing different classes together to discuss books they are reading or for book clubs. On the website there is a fun section as well where you can access quotes, quizzes and trivia.

Goodreads is a fantastic app for all readers…and its FREE!

Give students the choice and teachers the training!

Response to Unit Readings

Web 2.0, digital native, digital literacy, 21st Century learner, social networking, electronic medium, Web 2.0 technologies, mobile devices, blogging, multi-modal texts – the list goes on and on but what does it all mean?  In the context of an educational setting, we are becoming more and more familiar with these terms but not necessarily embracing them to their full potential.  It seems as though the shift in educational practices has not yet caught up with the reality of Web 2.0 and the possibilities that come with it.  Today’s youth spend countless hours of recreation time discovering the opportunities that these technologies have to offer yet the use of these tools in the school setting has been lagging behind.

The library’s role in assisting with this shift is central to its success.  As information specialists, the library staff are at the forefront of ensuring that the students gain access to resources that will enhance their learning experiences.   The shift from print materials to online resources needs to happen swiftly as the students are already using this medium for recreational and social purposes.  Students are using literacies that were not recognisable ten years ago (Boyd, 2012). By tapping into these literacies from an educational point of view, the library staff are in the unique position of guiding not only the students but also the teachers in developing new ways of learning.

Students are competent and confident when using online tools (Davies & Merchant, 2009) and because of this we should be capitalising on these skills and transferring them into the classroom.  Many teachers are in the infant stages of technology competency or are considered ‘digital immigrants’ (Crook, 2011) and will experiment with the technologies to do ‘old things’ in a ‘new way’.  Students will become disengaged if they feel that they are able to achieve more outside of the classroom in their free time than they are at school (Davies & Merchant, 2009).  As teachers, we need to work with the students using the tools and technology that they are proficient with to facilitate their learning.  An interesting and logical way to do this is to give students the choice of how they publish and present their work.  There are so many programs and skills that students already use that can easily be transferred into their school lives.

Blogging, for example, is an excellent way to give students a voice and at the same time give teachers an avenue for assessing what the students know (O’Sullivan, 2012).  The content of the curriculum can be manipulated by the students and presented in a way that shows they understand what they are learning about.   A blog can be personalised to represent the student and their views and can ensure that the student is participating in their learning by offering the chance for others to comment (Davies & Merchant, 2009).  Commenting on others work or life has become extremely popular with the youth of today, especially in the social networking areas of their lives.  By using what is popular with the students outside of school, we become more in tune with what students are learning inside of school.  Students participate enthusiastically in the electronic world so as educators; we need to tap in to this rapidly growing resource (O’Sullivan, 2012).

Participation in the online world is becoming a necessity for students in their personal lives.  Any fourteen year old child will tell you that if they are without their personal device for any length of time they start to panic about what they could potentially be missing out on (Beach & O’Brien, 2008).  Students feel the need to be ‘connected’ and it is this connection that needs to be directed into the school environment.  Libraries in school are often considered to be the ‘hub’ of the educational facility.  With this being the case, it is then the role of the library staff to continue this practice and ensure that the students feel connected to the hub in such a way that they gain experiences through a combination of resources (Beach & O’Brien, 2008).

It is the combination of resources that will ensure that students are gaining knowledge and producing a standard of work that will guarantee success.  Professional development for teachers is essential for the implementation of digital technologies within the classroom.  If the shift is to happen rapidly, and indeed it needs to happen rapidly, then teaching staff need to be constantly reviewing their own practices to ensure that they are providing their students with the tools and guidance for their success.  As a teacher librarian, I feel it is my responsibility to be a leader in this area and to provide resources for staff and students to assist with their learning.  By using the tools and the hardware that is popular in the lives of our students in their lounge rooms (Johnson, 2005), we are already ahead by making connections with their personal lives.  These connections need to be maintained and built upon and the idea that students are given a choice about how they present their work can only be beneficial to their success.

References:

Beach, R. & O’Brien, D. (2008). Teaching popular cultural texts in the classroom. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear & D. J. Leu (Eds.) Handbook of research on new literacies. (pp. 775-804). New York & London: Lawrence Erlbaum

Boyd, B. (2012, April 19). Literacy and the new media landscape. Post on Bill Boyd – The Literacy Advisor blog. http://literacyadviser.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/literacy-and-the-new-media-landscape

Crook, C. (2012). The ‘digital native’ in context: Tensions associated with importing Web 2.0 practices into the school setting. Oxford Review of Education. 38(1), 63-80

Davies, J. & Merchant, G. (2009)Out there: Going public with blogging. Chap 3 in Web 2.0 for schools: Learning and social participation (pp. 23-34), New York: Peter Lang.

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you: how today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter. (pp. 1-14) Riverhead Books, New York.

O’Sullivan, K. A. (2012). Books and blogs: Promoting reading achievement in digital contexts. In J. Manuel & S. Brindley (Eds.) Teenagers and reading: Literary heritages, cultural contexts and contemporary reading practices (pp. 191-209). South Australia: Wakefield Press/AATE.

YouTube and the “Cinema of Attractions”

Reflect on something significant you learned about youth popular culture in weeks 6-11.

In her article, YouTube: the new cinema of attractions, (2008), Teresa Rizzo explores similarities between early films (those made before 1906) and those presented by YouTube, in an attempt to determine whether “video-sharing sites can be considered a new cinema of attractions”.  She begins by explaining the concept of “cinema of attractions” as described by Tom Gunning.  A cinema of attractions, she writes, focuses on a “spectatorial” type of filmmaking, one that is created primarily to gain a reaction from its audience through shcok and surprise.  Her theory is that the subjects of videos being created for YouTube employ similar shock tactics to gather an audience.

What is the “cinema of attractions”?

Rizzo describes two types of films popular in the very early 1900’s that she believes helped contribute to popular modes of video creation seen on channels like YouTube:  actualities and topicals.  She describes actualities as focusing on “capturing movement such as a scene of the ocean”, and topicals focusing on current events like “political speeches, wars and cultural events”.  A third and final component used to describe the cinema of attractions is how films of this era were exhibited – as part of a vaudeville program, alongside other acts, and as part of a whole.

The author discusses the topic in three distinct parts.  The first takes an historical approach to the genre by describing film theorist Tom Gunning’s interventionist approach to the way these early films had previously been described, and his work to “contribute to theories of spectatorship”.  Rizzo concludes that to Gunning, the cinema of the period was similar to fairground attractions, and took on a sideshow quality to attract viewers.  Additionally, viewers often also attended these films to view the machinery that projected the films as equal contenders for their viewing pleasure.

Case Studies

Rizzo uses three films of the period to explain “mechanisms of the cinema of attractions”:  The Lumiere Brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895),  Melies’ The Conjurer (1899), and Thomas Edison’s Turkish Dance, Ella Lola (1898), three short, silent, black and white films that are still available on YouTube.  The first is simply a train arriving at a station, with passengers and viewers waiting on the platform. Piano music accompanies the film. The second is a magician and his assistant performing vanishing and reappearing acts, and the third is simply footage of a Turkish belly dancer.  All are under one minute in length. Each of the three films focus on one specific event or act, and the author describes that as such, they rely solely on performance, rather than narrative, to entertain their audience.

YouTube

In the final section of her piece, Rizzo compares specific components of YouTube videos and early films that demonstrate the “cinema of attractions”.  She focuses on three subject areas, similar to those shown in the early 1900’s films: trains, dance, and “re-mediation”, a term Rizzo defines as “the process of reusing or reworking material form one media in a different media.”  A note of clarification here – the second film described earlier appeared to have edited to create the illusion of a magician and his assistant disappearing and reappearing. Rizzo analyses YouTube clips that make use of new technologies like dubbing and subtitles to create a new version as a sort of modern-day comparison to these early films.

By focusing primarily on certain types of YouTube videos and deliberately excluding others (particularly those that have a narrative rather than provocative purpose), Rizzo can clearly discern the ways in which they are prime examples of the cinema of attractions form.

Rizzo describes how many YouTube videos are discovered via email lists with subject lines like “check this out”, and “watch this it’s hilarious”, which can be compared to similar advertising techniques used by vaudeville and sideshows.   Aside from topic similarities (trains, dance, and re-mediation), the common thread between the selected YouTube videos and the three early 1900’s videos mentioned earlier is that they contain no plot or narrative, and rely solely on spectacle and “acts of display or exhibitionism rather than storytelling”. Additionally, due to the 24/7 availability of internet videos, they can be labeled as voyeuristic, and attract a similar type of audience to viewers of original cinema of attractions films.

References

Rizzo, T. (2008).  YouTube: the new cinema of attractions.  Scan Journal (5), 1.

The Authentic Society (2012).  The cinema of attractions in relation to early film – Tom Gunning.  Retrieved 12th, October, 20120 from http://www.authenticsociety.com/about/CinemaOfAttractions_TomGunning.

YouTube (2012).  Retrieved 11th October, 2012, from YouTube.com.

Oh, the spaces you’ll go!

The taken-for-grantedness within my own Resource Centre where I have been at the helm for the last five years has become a habit! The centre runs smoothly, the children love visiting each week, we have a wonderful budget, are able to buy and have access to the newest, highest quality resources, the staff are welcomed and arrive with smiles, it is an overall warm, buzzing hub at the heart of our College. I have taken the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality. However, it has only been this year, due to welcoming a new staff member on board in our centre that I have started to look through a new lens, focusing on spaces and how our spaces are used.

Upon entering the Resource Centre our visitors walk through a newly artificially turfed area topped with large, brightly coloured sails for shade. This area was re-developed a year ago to maximise the inside-outside relationship for staff and students. It has been a great success and become a very special place for gathering before and after school, as well as during lessons and break times. It sets the tone for entering our building and reflects a strong sense of pride, fun and community. This is one of my favourite spaces for reading with the students and sharing conversations. It attracts you to walk in the front door through to a bright, airy and vast space. The ceilings are high, supported by brightly coloured feature walls and windows adorning one complete side of the centre for natural light. This first impression is a positive one and one in which many visitors comment on.

The Resource Centre is divided into three levels. The lower level is devoted to the Early and Junior Years precincts. This is one large rectangular space being divided by a huge bookshelf, on one side is the quiet reading area and on the other side a teaching and learning area. Whilst each section is very well equipped and resourced, the space does not provide the Early and Junior Years students with a great deal of room to simply lounge round and read. It is a space that is often shared by two classes and therefore gets quite crowded and loud, not encouraging quality learning. This is an aspect to be reconsidered as we plan for 2013, some new furniture and rearranging of the shelves would provide a more inviting and usable space. The students do love visiting and borrowing, however they too have become accustomed to the way it has been for the last few years. Certainly time for a change to this space!

Although the space is currently not ideal, there are a number of factors that I feel proud of – the New Books stand shouts at the students as they walk down the stairs into this area, the book tubs are colourful and filled to the brim with exciting and engaging picture books, the six new cushion dots from Raeco are scattered across the bright and fun IKEA mat, the big box of Lego needs a clean from the many hands who adore it at lunchtime, our tub of furry, well-loved plush toys have been packed up with love and care, the signage is clear and visible for all height levels, the pin board is adorned with student work, the coloured series boxes (a new addition) are being used everyday and the aqua and white funky striped wall welcomes the children, down into this special area.

The upper level of our centre has been organised and arranged to suit the needs of our Middle and Senior Years precincts. This area has been rethought this year and improved to suit the needs of these learners. There is one teaching area that is well equipped, a broad range of resources, a study area, a small group learning space and a relaxation area. The resources are arranged in ways to promote access, with clear signage and in some cases ranged in genres and topics as opposed to the Dewey Decimal System. The thinking behind this is to ensure the students are accessing and using the resources, instead of spending half their time searching. The furniture can be easily moved around to suit individuals, groups and whole classes and seems to be functioning well. The area is not overly big and the shelving units do take up a great deal of space, however the areas promote learning and collaboration. In the near future we will need to weed some stock and reconsider the Non-fiction collection, with all of our Year 8-12s have their own MacBook this collection is hardly being used, whilst taking up a large amount of space.

Overall, there is a strong sense that the students are valued and that the spaces being provided for them are attempting to meet a broad range of needs – including educational, social and recreational. It has been a valuable experience reconsidering the spaces for our young people as my taken-for-grantedness has been given a shake up in preparation for the 2013 planning process.

 

Posted by Sarah Scavarelli

Topic: Visit your school library and evaluate the current spaces being provided for young people

Pop Culture in the Library

Reflect on the possibilities and/or challenges when making popular culture artefacts available in the library.

When I was young, I loved books by Paul Jennings.  Whenever I went to check one out of the school library, there were always several students on the waiting list before me.  In a way, this is a happy problem: a series so well loved that it couldn’t be kept in stock.

While I don’t have any experience as a teacher librarian, I do have experience as a classroom teacher and ran into some not so happy problems that arise from making popular culture artefacts available in a school library.  Many of these problems arose because I taught in an ultra-conservative area where parents reacted to the curriculum without any prior knowledge of the content. Books were continually challenged.  Librarians are often placed in a similar position when asked to defend the decision to stock certain materials.  This article explores the issue of censorship and librarian’s rights in the United States, published by AASL (the American Association of School Librarians).

We had a school-wide silent reading period when I was teaching.  I had a hard and fast rule that reading material was student choice.  Many parents failed to see the “academic value” of books like Harry Potter.  Unfortunately, what they didn’t seem to realise is that anything that gets kids reading is good.  If they have something they are interested in reading to motivate them, their reading skills will improve, lending those reading skills to other academic areas.

Similarly, librarians can be faced with the question: “censorship or curriculum modification”?  Stephen S. Gottlieb discusses this question as he describes the 1982 case Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 versus Pico.  In any case, librarians will always be in a position where they have to defend the materials available in school libraries.  Having a clearly defined collection development policy can solve a myriad issues for librarians, and working with school faculty can also help deal with any potential parental and community concerns.  Collection development policies are documents created and used by academic and public libraries that outline what items and formats are selected for the library.  They often contain statements about censorship and describe the reasons for inclusion, and eventual “de-selection” – which usually has to do with currency and relevance, or new editions being printed.  A brief statement about Brisbane City Council Library’s collection development policy, along with a link to download the document, can be found here.