Production 9: Connecting Connected Learning to Everyday Worlds/Practices & Passions

Connected learning is a learning model that broadens access to learning practices that are within social contexts, interest-driven and oriented towards academic goals. Connected learning practices are when students learns more about a specific passion or interest while collaborating with peers and linking this learning to collective academic goals and objectives. Connected learning attempts to merge formal learning with informal learning practices, as many students are able to use digital media during their leisure time at home to participate in shared interests with peers through the use of open-source software such as websites blogs. This also assists in solving contemporary educational problems by bridging the gap between intergenerational disconnects such as those between different class structures, new equity gaps and by creating more opportunities for addressing non-dominant youth who would otherwise have low participation levels in formal learning environments. During the connected learning process, the students would have access to a variety of different digital tools which would provide the students with several opportunities for experiential learning through creating and producing content specific to their shared interests. The students would then be able to communicate and share their content using open source software such as social media, websites that would help to form communities around common topics and interests.

Connected learning environments are also guided by design principles such as participation, learning by doing, challenge is constant and that learning is inter-connected. In the connected learning environment students actively participate in experiential ways while producing content specific to there shared interests while actively contributing in different roles in an interconnected way. Students are always challenged during the learning process, as they are motivated to continually learn more about their interests through a variety of different means.

I would implement the connected learning model in the classroom by instructing students to think about a variety of different interests and passions and then get students to generate inquiry questions regarding their interests based on what they want to learn about that interest. I would then group the students according to their shared interests and get students to conduct analysis and research collaboratively according to their questions. In addition to this, I would get students to focus on collaborating on a production with collective goals and objectives based on their shared interest. This would promote and foster creativity, as students would be utilizing digital media tools and reframing practices while collaboratively producing, creating, experimenting, and designing content. Furthermore, the students would realize a sense of purpose while engaging in the connected learning environment, as students would be oriented to accomplishing shared academic goals. This somewhat solves the problem of student disengagement in formal learning practices, as students would be highly engaged while realizing a sense of academic purpose when learning more about their interest and passions through creative practices with their peers. In my own experience, I find that students may not want to learn about a concept, as they do not understand the purpose of learning the subject due to their inability to relate the concept to real life contexts. Interests provide motivation for students to learn which would inevitably increase their engagement within the learning process. In the connected learning model environment, students would want to learn more about their interest as they could easily relate to the interest and would thus easily collaborated with others with same interest. The students can then proceed to address how the learning process regarding their interests relates to academic learning goals so that students feel a sense of academic accomplishment and achievement. The connected learning model would also bridge the gap between informal and formal learning practices as the learning environment extends from the school, to the home and community through the use of openly networked platforms such as social media, websites, blogs etc.

 

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Doing Cultural Studies: Critical Media Analysis

“Ignoring the

educational worth of games, especially those that evoke the collective intelligence of fans

the world over, is to “save” young people from being recruited by a form of learning that

for some, at least, equates to profound pleasure (Gee, 2007).”

 

 

Overwatch is a popular role-playing first person shooter game that I enjoy playing from time to time and during that time I am highly engaged while playing the game. Therefore, I believe there are definitely several opportunities for students to learn from video games as the students can easily relate to video games as they are highly engaged while playing video games during their leisure time according to research that concluded “Computer and video games sales topped $10 billion in the United States in 2004 (Secko, 2005, para. 5). “‘For people under 30, they [digital games] are almost an indigenous cultural form,’ says Jim Gee, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin and a leading researcher on the role video games can play in learning” (cited in Secko, 2005, para. 13). However, students require the necessary tools in order to analyze the social constructs of the video game such as the story, characters, problem etc. from a variety of different lenses. Overwatch producers and designers generated a variety of different heroes with unique narratives and problems and thus they have created their own imposed representations of these characters based on the gender social constructs, which the players react to, by the degree that these representations resonate with their own social representations and biases. For instance, the producers and designers of Overwatch impose their representation to position gender and embodied social roles with the player’s relation to the hero’s gender and specific functions and roles of the hero in the game. The male heroes in the game dominate the offensive roles of the game and are substantially larger in size than the female heroes whom dominate the healing/support roles of the game. While communicating with other players via microphone, I have noticed that the majority of time most male players want to play an offensive role or tank role while most females play the healing roles which I suppose is due to a the players’ identification to the role and the abilities of the heroes based on the social constructs they have formed regarding gender roles from their past experiences. “Such marketing could only be effective, however, if it latched on to a reservoir of social beliefs which gives meaning to the representations within the toys. There can be little doubt that such a reservoir exists and that within it can be found many assumptions about men and technology which keep the cultural representations afloat.” (Varney p.167) Thus, I agree that “Young people need opportunities to inquire into, and debate, who controls the media system and whether a predominantly corporate commercial media system is compatible with democracy.” (Stack & Kelly p.10). In regards to Overwatch, students should be given the necessary tools and strategies and then critically analyze the representations based on gender and determine the imposed representations that designers and producers are intended to create to a resonance with the player so that the player will be highly engaged and spend more time playing the game which equates to more income potential for the corporation in terms of extra loot box purchases, future game purchases etc. Therefore, the students will come to their own realizations through the process of analyzing the imposed representations that these representations may not be true and then will proceed to resist and disidentify from the imposed representation to the extent they discover it is not true. This is also in alignment with the statement that “With Carmen Luke (1999), we believe that: It is therefore important that media studies pedagogy be guided by social justice or equity principles that will enable students to come to their own realizations that, quite simply, racist, sexist, ageist, or homophobic language and imagery oppress and subordinate others.” Students can then be given opportunities to reform elements within the game such as the characters, narrative etc. in order to create their own unique representations into new or modified heroes and stories which are similar to examples shown in research “….and an 8-year-old boy’s use of video games as a source of subject matter and form in his own writing and drawing (Ranker, 2006).Teachers in each of these studies were supportive of students’ uses of popular culture texts in their classrooms.” (Alvermann p.16). It would ideal to create a culture where we as educators give our students opportunities to challenge and question gender constructs in the games they play. Educators should encourage their students to discuss, analyze and understand the imposed social constructs of a game’s elements and then they should follow up by creating and reforming the game elements into their own unique and broader representations which includes equity and fairness of gender roles and they way they are portrayed.

 

Works Cited

 

Gee, J. P. (2007). Pleasure, learning, video games, and life: The projective stance. In M. Knobel & C. Lankshear (Eds.), A new literacies sampler (pp. 95-113). New York: Peter Lang.

 

 

Luke, C. (1999). Media and cultural studies in Australia. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 42(8), 622‐626.

 

Ranker, J. (2006). “There’s fire magic, electric magic, ice magic, or poison magic”: The world of video games and Adrian’s compositions about Gauntlet Legends. Language Arts, 84, 21-33.

 

 

Secko, D. (2005, June 16). Are computer games rebooting our minds? The Tyee. Retrieved June 23, 2005 from http://www.thetyee.ca/News/ 2005/06/16/GoodGames/

 

Stack, M., & Kelley, D.M. (2006). “Popular media, education, and resistance.” Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 5-26.

 

Varney, Wendy (2002). Of Men and Machines: Images of Masculinity in Boys’ ToysFeminist Studies, 28, 1 p. 153-174.

 

 

 

 

Production 6: Video Game Analysis

Overwatch is team based role-playing first person shooter game developed by Blizzard Entertainment in which players can select from a variety of different heroes to work together with their 6-person team in order to collectively achieve the objectives of the game mode. Players typically choose their heroes based on the extent to which they are resonate with the abilities/functions of the hero as well as the specific role that the hero plays on the team. For example, my favourite role to play is Offense as I enjoy seeking out and destroying the enemies and my favourite character is named “Pharah” and she is my favorite hero due to her unique abilities which are flight, and rocket shooting. Each hero has a different set of abilities, which is similar, or different depending on the roles that hero plays. The four role categories for the heroes are offensive, defensive, tank and support/healing with each having their respective roles within the team.

overwatch roles

 

The game operates to position gender and embodied social roles in terms of the player’s relation to the hero’s gender and specific functions and roles of the hero in the game. For instance, there is a female hero named “Mercy” who is a support hero and her primary objective is to heal and revive teammates. While playing online with other players that are using microphones, I have noticed significantly more females play the hero “Mercy” as well as other heroes with support/healing roles than male players. Also, I have found that when there are disputes between players as to which role to play that males are more likely not to want to play in a healing/support role as I discovered that the majority of males prefer to play a character which either has an offensive or tank/protector role. I suppose that these male players are identified with the characteristics of strength, power and are attracted to roles of seeking and destroying the enemy due to the totality of their gender associations they have made in the past based on the marketed roles of different games or toys they played with. Thus, I agree that “Such marketing could only be effective, however, if it latched on to a reservoir of social beliefs which gives meaning to the representations within the toys. There can be little doubt that such a reservoir exists and that within it can be found many assumptions about men and technology which keep the cultural representations afloat.” (Varney p.167) as these males are more attracted to these roles due to their own social beliefs, which validate the representation within the heroes. In addition to this, 3 out of 5 heroes in the support/healer role category are female heroes, which shows that the majority of female heroes are associated with healing/support roles such as sustaining, nourishing, healing, supporting etc. Likewise, 3 out of 8 heroes in the offensive role category are female heroes, which shows that female heroes are underrepresented in relation to males for offensive roles, which include seeking out the enemy, attacking and destroying the enemy. Overwatch developers produce an implicit narrative in which they identify the roles of heroes with their imposed representation of the gender roles of the heroes. Therefore, the implicit narrative they are producing in this scenario is that of an imposed representation of gender roles associated with embodied social roles as they are associating the majority of female heroes with healing, nourishing, support functions and are associating the majority of male heroes with offensive roles such as attacking and destroying the enemies.

Production 5: Critical Academic Literacies and Pop Culture

The Tree Little Pigs is story that I know very well as I have read it several times while in elementary school.  The story is about three pigs that are being hunted by a wolf that is depicted as greedy while the pigs are depicted as lazy and each sequential pig in terms of houses is less lazy then the previous pig. The three pigs’ degree of laziness decreases in degree in direct relation to the how much effort they put into building their houses with the first house being made of straw, the second of wood, and the third of brick respectively. As a young child while reading this story, this caused me to form a representation of how I view pigs as being lazy, weak and scared which comes directly from the author’s imposed representation of the pig as a general category. I did not challenge the author’s imposed representation in the traditional narrative and therefore confirmed it as a way in which I perceived pigs even though I actually had never observed a real pig in my own experience. This reminded of the Carmen Luke (1999) statement that “If students begin from a theoretically grounded understanding that inequalities and oppressive discourses (including mass cultural texts) are always socially constructed, then they will have the analytic tools to reconstruct in their own productions more inclusive, less denigrating meaning systems.” (p. 625) I believe that my problem was when I was reading the traditional narrative as a young child was that I was not given the necessary tools to analyze the story from the perspective or lens that the plots representations are socially constructed and then proceeding to analyze these representations by relating it to true experiences such as that with a real pig. Therefore in this case, the basis for my representation of the pig was from that of a media narrative in the form of a children’s story.  In direct contrast to this, the post-modern version of the story The Three Pigs by David Weisner depicts the pigs escaping the traditional narrative while then going on an adventure and then assisting other characters to also escape their own stories which is representative of the pigs manipulating and changing their own representations in contrast to the author imposing the representation of the pigs as lazy, scared and weak beings. The post-modern version depicts the pigs imagining a narrative in which they are the creators of their own story and therefore they are the creative thinkers by virtue of the creative solutions they form throughout the story.  The narrative then changes to focus on the pigs as they reflect and learn from other characters while then imagining creative solutions to their problem in contrast with the traditional narrative in which the pigs attempt to use the same fixed solution to the main problem, which is based on the material structure of the house they live in. The traditional narrative depicts the pigs fate as being fixed and determined solely by the author while the post-modern narratives is from the perspective of the pigs as the creators of their representations based on their actual experience as oppose to the author’s imposed representations which may or may not be true in actual experience. Therefore, if the post-modern version is analyzed from this perspective of the pigs, as the creator of the narrative then the student reading it such as myself would be able to disidentify from the imposed representations they formed from prior media narratives, which were from the author’s fixed perspective. This reminded of the statement that “Education plays a central role in providing people with the ability to denaturalize everyday media narratives” (Stack & Kelly, 2006, pg. 20) As an educator, I feel that is imperative that I provide students with necessary tools and strategies in which they can use to critically analyze and relate representations in media narratives to actual experiences of those subjects being imposed upon. This would assist students in the process of identifying misrepresentations in media narratives while simultaneously relating those to their own representations and then disidentifying from the media narrative if they discover it is not true in the actual experience of the targeted individual/group.

Production 3: Critical Lenses

Throughout my entire elementary school experience, I was not subject to anyone’s imposed representation about my supposed identity, appearance, class, cultural background etc. The majority of students I went to elementary school with had an Italian background as the majority of students had either parents or grandparents that immigrated to Canada from Italy. My grandparents are immigrants from Italy so I belonged to same background as the majority of my classmates and therefore I was not subject to anyone’s imposed representation, as I would consider the Italian-Canadians as the privileged class that imposed their representations upon non-Italians at my elementary school. I noticed that many of my Italian-Canadian classmates imposed their representations upon students of different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. For instance, I observed students imposed their representation upon those with Canadian backgrounds by calling them “mangia cakes” which is a slang word Italians use to identity non-Italians. The origin of this “mangia cake” representations comes from a story that was derived from Italians who first immigrated to Canada who supposedly perceived Canadians as lazy people who would just stay at home and eat donuts and cake and so they called these people “mangia cakes” . After conducting some self-analysis on this stereotype of “mangia cakes”, I realized that I formed this bias as I would hear my grandparents repetitively refer to non-Italians as “mangia cakes” which I accepted as mere fact while then reimposing the representation onto other non-Italians at school. I began to slowly disidentify from this imposed representation throughout highschool as I realized that most of the representations I imposed on other people were infact stereotypical and had no truth in reality such as the “mangia cake” story. Another example of an imposed representation I experienced in elementary school was when I observed my classmates telling Asian students on several occasions that he/she should not be allowed to use a calculator because of the premise that “All Asians are good at math”. After reflecting on the causal factors of this imposed representation, I realized that this representation was also social constructed as a result of a combination of both the media’s repetitive narratives as well as the subsequent  acceptance and dissemination of these media narratives by the persons observing them. Therefore, I agree with Carmen Luke (1999) statement that “If students begin from a theoretically grounded understanding that inequalities and oppressive discourses (including mass cultural texts) are always socially constructed, then they will have the analytic tools to reconstruct in their own productions more inclusive, less denigrating meaning systems.” (p. 625) . I strongly agree with this statement as I think that the most effective way for students to understand and challenge these representations is to begin with the root understanding that these imposed representations are socially constructed and then to determine how to change these socially constructed representations based on the true experiences of those included in these representations as oppose to the media’s portrayal of these target groups.

 

 

 

 

Production 2: New Literacies and Pop Culture

New Literacies Studies is the study and practice of how various forms of reading and writing are integrated into a multi-modal literacy format. This multi-modal literacy format is involved “primarily with communication in its widest sense (visual, oral, gestural, linguistic, musical, kinesthetic, and digital), social semiotic theory attempts to explain how people recruit various resources (or signs) to represent ideas they wish to communicate through a variety of modes across a range of media.” (Alvermann 7). In my opinion, this allows for users to form a variety of different meanings from these multi-modal media forms in which they can then reconstruct and communicate in a variety of different modes of representation based on their own personal preferences. On the contrary, traditional literacy teaching is a literary approach, “which characterizes reading and writing as neutral processes that are largely explained by individual variations in cognitive functioning and the motivation to achieve a literate status in life, assumes a universal set of skills necessary for decoding and encoding mostly printed text.” (Alvermann 5). This approach assumes that literacy teaching is to be used primarily a motivation to develop a universal set of skills while ignoring the relation between the individual’s unique social context and literacies, as it perceives reading and writing as neutral processes. In my opinion, this approach then limits the number of personal connections the individual can form between them and the text, which would then also limit how the individual communicates their own meaning in different literary forms.

 

 

I believe that are several opportunities for teachers to implement ‘popular culture’ practices in ways that express the New Literacies approach to socially contextualized learning. In relation to the second debate which questions “whether or not young people’s participation in reading, viewing, listening to, and creating popular culture texts (especially digital texts) is an educational experience that has potential for transfer from informal to formal learning environments”, I believe that it is always possible for students to transfer their learning from informal to formal learning environment but I believe that it may be easier if a bridging technique is implemented which combines the informal learning experience with the formal learning experience. An example of this would be when a teacher implements a compare and contrast lesson while allowing the students to compare and contrast a popular culture text of their own choice with a traditional novel that is read by the entire class. Furthermore, instead of the teacher implementing a form of traditional writing in which students write in their notebooks, the teacher can take an alternative approach and allow students to write using online digital tools such as blogs and social media. In most cases, I believe that students would choose the option of writing online as most students in today’s world are acquainted with a variety of different technologies during their leisure time. A specific example of this could be for a high school English course in which students are allowed to choose from a variety of different forms of texts in order to write their own blog about each chapter and include a summary, plot development, character development etc. According to (Marsh, in press; Xu, 2004) “Literacy practices (whether traditional print-based literacies or new literacies associated with technological innovations) that can be integrated into meaningful hybrid curricula appear to stand a better chance of being considered educational worthy than practices that lack this integrative element (Marsh, in press; Xu, 2004). Therefore, I believe that an approach of combining the informal and formal learning experiences would be effective as it would be easier for teachers to initially implement as it combines that traditional curriculum with a variety of different multi-modal literacy forms based on the students’ personal preferences.

“Power-Up” Essay

The most significant learning ‘power up’ in my history as a learner was when I started to teach myself how to play the guitar through reading guitar tabs and guitar chords from guitar tab websites. This was a very significant moment in my learning experience as a guitar player as it was the first time that I learned how to play a song without the guidance of my guitar teacher. This “power up” experience was a major motivating factor in my career as a guitar player as it motivated me to learn how to play more songs on the guitar. For instance, after I learned how to play an entire song (Back in Black by AC/DC) on my own, I started to learn several other AC/DC songs, as that was my favorite rock band at the time. Furthermore, once I learned how to play several songs from several of my favourite musicians, I began to improvise and create several songs on the guitar using different modes. I learned how to play guitar using a hybrid of formal learning and informal learning techniques. My formal learning experience was occurred when I was enrolled in guitar lessons and my informal learning experience occurred once I started teaching myself songs from online guitar tabs. In addition to this, I taught myself how to record and edit audio clips on my guitar through the GarageBand application. The technological tools I used in this learning process are a MacBook Pro, http://www.guitartab.com, AudioTechnica Microphone and the GarageBand application. I was taking on several roles in this learning process, which include being a learner, and also as both a writer and producer of my own songs. However, I never released any of my finished songs to the public, as it was my original intent to improvise and create new songs for leisure purposes. The main lesson I learned from this “power-up” process was that creating and editing music is a spontaneous creative process, which requires several adjustments before the final product is completed.