Making Curriculum Pop


"General literacy means being able to read and write the media forms of the day, which currently means being able to construct an articulate, meaningful, navigable media collage. The most common media collage is the Web page, but a number of other media constructs also qualify, including videos, digital stories, mashups, stand-and-deliver PowerPoint presentations, and games and virtual environments, to name a few."


- Professor Jason Ohler's article "Orchestrating the Media Collage" from Educatioal Leadership under the header "Shift from text centrism to media collage."
 

"Forms of representation can be combined to enrich the array of resources students can respond to...displays that make available to students ideas couched in visual, verbal, numerical, and auditory forms increase the resources available to the student for making meaning. When resources are rich, the number of avenues for learning expands."

- Stanford professor of education and art Elliot W. Eisner from his article "Cognition and Representation" in Phi Delta Kappan

I imagine many of you here at MC POP would agree with my philosophy as well as the quotes above; you are clearly the choir. As you've probably gathered by now, my practice and research puts a premium on educators using a wide range of texts to create differentiated classrooms in every discipline. I believe teachers that develop this type of practice create bazillions avenues for all kinds of student literacies and learning.  That said, those of you that work in classrooms and with pre-service teachers probably continually bump into teachers who feel the need to teach primarily with a print text and steamroll through that print text wether students can engage with it or not.

Last week I was reading an NCTE Policy Research Brief on Reading and Writing across the Curric... (RAWAC) that made me a little bonkers. In a section titled, "Research-Based Recommendations for Fostering RWWAC" the authors state that teachers should "Employ variety in texts and their presentation." They go on to say..
"Textbooks are often assumed to be the primary reading material in all subjects, but research shows that effective teachers use many different kinds of texts - essays, primary sources, fiction, scientific reports, inventories and so on - to help students learn in all subjects. By using those different genres, students learn multiple ways to approach reading. In addition to moving away from total reliance on textbooks, teacher can help students improve as readers by giving assignments of varying length or reading difficult texts aloud and pausing to explain their own meaning-making process."
Now obviously, we might be able to interpret the "and so on" as non-print texts. More likely, given the background of these authors (they are in the English Education department at the University of Michigan) they are talking exclusively about print texts. They are making a great point but fail to explicitly emphasize that - as Paulo Freire said, “we must read the word and the world.” I believe we're living in a post-modern world where ANYTHING can be considered a text - art, advertising, garden, fashion even your "crib." All of these non-print texts can be "written" and are generally worthy of quite a bit of "reading."

Note: Lil' Wayne's reading of the statue below ... apropos?

On the flipside I get why teachers aren't down with non-print texts. In my article “Developing Mindful Practice Around Moving Images in the K-12 Class... I noted...
During [my RAWAC course for undergrads], I asked undergrads to interview practicing 6-12the grade teachers about their multi-modal literacy practices; they were specifically instructed to ask teachers about their use of film. While students visited a wide range of schools, there was a stunning similarity to some of the anecdotes they collected.

Students reported that high school and middle school teachers often use the “read the book, watch the movie” method of teaching film. If social studies, math and science teachers used film, they were usually visual lectures or dramatizations of historical events. When students asked about follow up questions about how they scaffolded instruction around a film, they found little scaffolding beyond a few discussion questions.

A majority of the Middle School teachers interviewed by students talked about what can be dubbed as “Disney Week.” Middle school teachers of every discipline told the pre-service teachers that they usually screen Disney movies like The Little Mermaid or Aladdin before winter break because the kids are antsy and showing films are a nice reward for the students. This would not be a loss of instructional if teachers develop mindful curricula around the films, however that does not appear to be the case.

Unfortunately, this anecdotal data has been corroborated by my work as a high school teacher, new teacher mentor and instructor of pre-service and practicing educators at the collegiate level. In many cases film is not viewed as an instructional main course but as dessert. Poorly developed practices that use film as a reward or reinforcement tool cultivates a suspicious attitude toward “fluffy” uses of moving images in the classroom shared by many teachers and administrators.

Film may be the most commonly used media in K-12 classrooms but it should be used in to support well developed questions and teaching objectives. The fact that many teachers lack a robust pedagogy around moving images is not generally the fault of teachers; rare is the staff development program or initiative at the building level that supports the theory and practices non-print media education.

For this reason Making Curriculum Pop and a lot of my other work is build around addressing this deficit and creating collaborative spaces where teachers can share ideas for "Orchestrating the Media Collage" in their classroom.

That brings me to today's Playlist addition. Those of you that work at the elementary level or teach some form of literacy K-College have no doubt used some type of literature circles to facilitate cooperative learning in your classrooms. A few years ago my mom (a Jr. High teacher and doctoral candidate in education) and I took the old school literature circles, spiced them up, and shared them in these early Playlist entries - COOPERATIVE LEARNING I - LIT CIRCLE PT 1
COOPERATIVE LEARNING I - LIT CIRCLE PT II.

With this work as our springboard my mom had the idea that these old models could be dramatically souped up for visual, audio, digital AND print texts. That led to our collaboration two years ago on some cooperative learning documents we call "Media Circles." My mom presented them first at the Teach, Think, Play conference at Columbia (see the related blogs and projects Cheza Al-Kudmani's "Media circles!", Sophy Joseph's "Media Circles Toward Social Action", Daniella Nusblat's "Media Circles", Amy Roth's "Cooperative Learning and Media Circles with Pam Goble"Media Circles Using Pixar Short Films) and then we co-presented the circles this year at NCTE's annual conference.

At the same time we successfully pitched the Media Circles concept to Maupin House Press.** Now we're hard at work on the book that dramatically expands on our "beta" film-focused version of the Media Circles attached below as a PDF. The book's collection will have over 40 circles designed for use across all disciplines with rationales, tips, and examples. We thought it would be cool to share our initial collection with folks as we will be looking for feedback on the newer circles as they come out of the oven. 

I plan to do a bit more explanation of the PDFs attached below in time. For now, please feel free to explore, experiment and share the Media Circles below if you're teaching any print OR non-print texts in the near future!

*The article is not yet posted at the NCTE brief page, but I'm sure it will be there in due time.

** Gratuitous plug - if you're not familiar with Maupin House, I would strongly recommend checking out the work of two MC POPPERS James Bucky Carter author of Super-Powered Word Study and Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels, Katie Monnin author of Teaching Graphic Novels and Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels as well as Steve Johnson's really great book Digital Tools for Teaching - 30 E-tools for Collaborating, Creating....

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So many links... I don't know where to click first!  

I suppose whatever moves you!  :) 

I just put the whole article into Evernote.  I'll have to get back to it some day!  So many good suggestions, so little time to get into all of them... :(

Yeah, all part of our "infinite to read" lists, eh?  I think my Amazon wish list is over 1000 items - nutzo, this world we live in.

completely great! Thanks for sharing this, especially in light of the book coming out!

So glad you like the sampler J-Wiz! :)

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