Monday, April 6, 2009

React with a Sledgehammer or the Kid might Win

I must first say thank you to the "Henry Jenkins Interview" piece for mentioning something that bothers me every time. It seems to be the consequence of fear that those who feel they are losing their control tend to react with a hammer rather than a needle. If something seems threatening, it is irradicated rather than dealt with. Myspace and Facebook aren't evil things intended to destroy youth today. While I agree that some degree of regulation when it comes to predators would be prudent, I also agree with the fact that the social network is an environment that can be beneficial to the development of teen identities. Even if it weren't, fighting against it in this day and age is swimming against the tide. Understanding seems to be the best way of adapting to this change and it would do everyone some good, all generations that is, to begin the learning process so these inernet sites don't seem so threatening. That being said, the "Testing Horace Mann" piece was distressing in itself. The idea of the effect of class on the teenager has been previously discussed and my attention was immediately drawn to the fact that these teens that were being so malicious are privileged kids. It was truly unnecessary for them to behave the way they did, and I think that is why their actions seemed so shocking. It's extreme behavior like that that causes the public to react so strongly and to actually fear digital mediums. No jokes this time around. Learning these mediums and understanding their cultural impacts is truly the best method for stopping things such as the "Testing of Horace Mann" and internet predations.

Teenagers and their Articles

Yes, that title is a pun and it's there for a reason. It seems to be the norm to have articles about teenagers be of a materialistic nature. Does it matter (or, for that matter, do i care?) how many text messages teens these days are using? Apparently it's a topic of such interest people need to take the time to research, write, and publish pieces on it. According to one article, teens don't feel like they need a landline in their current or future homes, preferring instead to just use their cell phones. Does that fact matter? No. Is it even mildly interesting? I again say no. But what else can they write about teens? A gander at recent teen articles would show nothing good. Another is devoted to how our generation, today's teens, are absorbing less information, thus seeming dumber, than the teens of previous generations. While one writer made a point of saying that it's unfair to judge the intelligence of the masses off the basis of memorization, this returns me to the idea of Digitive Natives being taught by Digital Immigrants and how learning styles haven't adapted to the times. My final printed article was on teen marijuana use and how it's declined, but I still wonder why they couldn't find anything better to write about. I can't help feeling that teens are represented in articles as being obsessed with Sex, Drugs, and Possessions.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sheep following a Shepherd in Pimped Ride.

When I was 11 I began calling all those annoying little girls that never traveled in groups of less than four and for some reason looked creepily alike "pod-people". They were foreign to me. A seperate entity. Then, as I watched the girl I babysat coo over Bratz dolls (which I still find disturbing), I asked her what she thought was an attractive outfit. Within seconds I got back, "A shirt that shows your stomach." She was seven at the time, consequently holding a doll whose skirt was wider than it was long and a shirt that probably wouldn't have passed as a bathing suit top. That startled me into the realization that we are not only driven to emulate what we see, but we start incredibly young. Fast forwarding to a few months ago, my young friend told me she was frustrated with the fact that her parents wouldn't buy her different clothes. Her's weren't emo enough for her. It was like she wanted to display bodily what her favorite band, Tokio Hotel, liked to display in an effort to claim kinship with them and their style. I looked at her, at her white jogging suit with pink stripes, perfectly combed hair cut short, and black nailpolish spread messily over her nails (her only defiance) and told her "Just be yourself, people will be more than willing to categorize you in high school. You can love something without having to change everything about your appearance to suit it." I wondered why she would want to place herself into a preset mold when she could make her own. I already knew the answer to that question, but I asked myself anyway, like I never was faced with it. Kids aren't kids anymore. They're very small 25 year olds. It's the natural inquisitiveness and cruelty of a child with all the impertinence and body consciousness of a "teenager". Greenfield caught that strange combination in every photograph. One in particualr, of a young girl named Ashleigh, actually made me laugh a little when I saw it because she looked like a 45 year old woman trying to look like a 20 year old woman who is trying to look like a mature woman of status. She should have tried harder to look like a little girl named Ashleigh. Not that I don't think it's wonderful for kids to grow up in a financially well off home, but sometimes I think it gets out of hand and promotes the idea of getting adult things and dressing like what you're exposed to. I just wanted to feed sweets to that poor young girl on the scale, I truly did. But I digress. My point is that the pressure to emulate what we see in the media and mature quicker than is natural is almost too great to feel. It surrounds us so much, we don't even notice it anymore, myself included. So yes, I do own a pair of slouchy boots. And yes, I'm pretty sure someone somewhere decided they were cool and it rubbed off on me. But the truth is, seeing those young girls like that pains me. Seeing those young men thinking only of wealth because apparently that's the only thing that is important makes me want to weep a bit. It all brings me back to the painfully shy, eager to please young girl who called those other girls "pod-people" in flared jeans.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'd Keep Cross on my Bookshelf too.

I loved this reading. Partially because I wasn't being told much of anything, and partly because it was in the form of a story. I was left wondering what became of the main girl and Cross, whether her tears ever dried because he was sitting in front of her again. Whether years later she still fit perfectly within the curve of his arm or if she thought of him sometimes while she changed her earrings. The only thing that truly made her different from the girls around her was the lack of silver spoon leaving its metallic taint across her tongue. Or more specifically, hers and others knowledge of the fact. Perhaps that's part of why she came to adore the first female prefect so much: she was the same as our girl and she'd made it. She'd not only survived the halls of the prep school, but she traversed them with an ease and grace learned only through practice. This social divide, however, doesn't seem nearly as easy to conquer as she'd made it seem. Lee isn't a target of theft. Why? Because the thief wouldn't steal from the poor. Lee was easy to spot, and easy to overwhelm. Even today money dictates your station in life. Prime example of someone without the talent but with the money to make it look like their contributing something useful to society: Paris Hilton. What would I, or Lee, be standing next to her? Poor. No other qualities are going to pervade for quite a while, because first and foremost, I couldn't afford the beaded strap on one of her shoes. Yet the reader can look at Lee and think her the heroine of the piece, even if she is rather weak at times. She hasn't actually done anything, but Lee looks better for all her faults because she is a drop of quiet, poor talent within a sea of rich kids. I truly do hope that she gets to feel Cross's thumb strumming the sensitive spot behind her ear, or come to understand the act of not acting upon or declaring anything. I hope she continues to pity Dede for her shallowness, yet understand her startling innocence beneath her normal unpleasantness. But most of all, I hope she leaves that place, educated and feeling comfortable with the roots that make her feel so much below her peers.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

I readily admit it. I don't even rank. I am below the Digital Immigrant. Paper and I have a long standing relationship, but technology? We've always been at odds. So no matter what faults they may bear, however unwilling they are to integrate with the Natives, I have an almost grudging respect for the Digital Immigrants for being able to do what I cannot: walk the digital walk, and talk it's stupid lingo. That being said, I can also understand what I percieve to be frustration coming from Marc Prensky on the subject of non-integrated, out dated teaching methods. While I personally enjoy SOME lectures, I too have fallen victim to the attention span that wishes, just once, that someone would teach me Mathematics in a way that didn't make me want to jump out a window. Kids these days (I never really pictured myself ever uttering that phrase) were born into a world that moves at a staggering pace. It's become much easier to understand information placed in an interesting digital medium, especially since video games seem to dominate books in young childrens lives (much to my dismay). But I digress, the point is that what once worked, may not always work. Trying to resist changing with the times is like fighting the tides, tiring and ultimately a losing battle. If administrators would only work with those who understand kids, learning could be presented in a manner that benefits all involved. This may sound like a silly example, but does anyone remember School House Rock? It sang you information in fun, though slightly outdated now, tunes and enjoyable characters. I could sing/recite the preamble, give details about the revolution, give you at least five examples of interjections and tell you the job of a pronoun without breaking a sweat by the time I was seven. To me, that is a perfect example of a technological media being used for learning purposes in a way that makes learning fun. And please, if you ever need to know about the U.S.'s westward expansion, I have a song for you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager" by Thomas Hine

The question of what exactly the percieved notions of the teenager are has always been a fight for me. Looking back at my early "teen" years (from my lofty age of 18), I still understand why I found it insulting to be called a teenager. I was quiet, I minded myself, read often, had good grades, never argued with my parents... so why call me a "typical teenager" the one time we don't agree? The few times it happened, I was livid. Thomas Hine makes an excellent point when he says on page four that the teenager "is a social invention". The idea of the "typical teenager" is so vastly different from what it was a century ago, that I personally question the existence of such a group. At the time this country was founded, a woman my age would have been married for a few years and in the process of risking their life to pop out a few dozen kids, only a few of which would survive to live to the age where they could marry and attempt to produce a brood of children of their own. They were considered mature under the stituate that their bodies, their very biological make up, said they were. Today, teens are sexually maturing faster than in past generations, but age strictures pen them in under one label: Teenager. Thomas Hine put it a little more calmly to be sure when he said, "The concept of the teenager rests in turn on the idea of the adolescent as a not quite competent person, beset by stress and hormones". So what is todays teenager exactly? Who the hell knows? But one thing we do know is that it isn't good. The teenager is a sullen, frightening creature, who rebels for fun and thinks they know everything while in truth their head is full of questionable music that dissolves their moral standards and leads them to question their elders and betters. Hine, and myself, don't see a clear solution to the social branding of the teenager. Blame rests on no one instance, no one generation, for its forming. I honestly feel that if the word "teenager" would retire to simply being a description for that fun, anxsty stage you look back on from adulthood and think how silly you were to think your little kid problems carried any weight, then "teenagers" wouldn't be a problem. "Teenagers" as a group label however is unfair and unjustified. Not to mention annoying for those of us who know they will be considered a teenager by their extended families until they collect their pensions and enjoy the senior discount on only half a sandwich, because they're sure they could never finish a whole one. If teenagerism, if you will, were considered an individual trait, I wonder how many true "Teenagers" still exist in every sense of the word? And on the matter of teenage crime, why such a focus on the age group? It's more interesting and morally and socially demanding to focus on the misbehaving children than the ones who do right by themselves and others. As someone around the age of these miscreants, I can't say I'd like to thank the media for lumping me in with young women who commited horrifying deeds just because I attended my senior prom not so long ago. My being a young woman should not be all I am seen to be. The lack of focus on the individual is astonishing. So maybe that's the answer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Media Literacy, studied within acronyms

The first thing I found during my googled search of media literacy was the CML page, the Center for Media Literacy ( I must admit it was a comfort to find a source dedicated to something like Media Literacy, when I sometimes fear no one thinks much at all anymore. In fact, to my pleasant surprise, I found a myriad of sites devoted to the understanding and analytical reasoning of the media. I can only surmise that there is far more of a present awareness of stereotypes and underhanded messages within the media than I'd first assumed. So, no more assuming for me. There are many organizations, most large enough to have important sounding acronyms like the previously mentioned CML or NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education) that deal with the idea of Media Literacy. Capital letters aside, each one seemed to share similar messages and goals. Think. Look at what's around you for what it is. Question its purpose, its desires, its very being, because if you don't, it will think for you. Of course, they didn't word it in so crasse a manner, but the point remains the same. Anyone with even the slightest inclination and access to a computer can find a steady stream of exceptionally useful information. Which leaves me wondering, why is the majority of the population still so ignorant upon the subject?