Sunday, 29 November 2015

Week 12: Collage: An Art-Inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics

 This blog post is a word collage of thoughts I had while reading Saara Sarma’s article!

World events cross the Internet at astonishing speed, through Social Media and blog posts and collaging is a way of collating and making sense of it all.


·      Makes international participation possible for all or most of us
·      Is playful
·      Visual
·      Thematic
·      Theoretical
·      Pop Art
·      Enables creativity
·      Allows for a humourous and light-hearted approach to research material
·      De-hierarchises (is this really a word, or did she make it up?)
·      Is thinking beyond language
·      Changes the relationship of writer and reader by involving the reader than merely informing him/her

We sometimes see politics or political events on the internet first as a parody, then with some searching or news feeds, the reality is explained. Laughter makes the seriousness of the situation(s) more palatable and more easily tolerated. On the other hand, laughter can be both inclusive and exclusive because it necessitates laughing with and laughing at.

“Collaging as a methodology creatively engages with the internet as a specific modality of knowledge production.” (p. 115)

More key points that I took from this reading:

-       the visual technique of collage-making emphasizes the intuitive parts of sense-making processes
-       collages can maintain a sense of playfulness to sense making and scholarly work
-       collaging produces laughter – an under-examination of the facts
-       collaging is aesthetic and conceptual
-       collaging emphasizes certain aspects of the research while indicating new ideas
-       collaging promotes thinking beyond language
-       collages produce pop culture artefacts while studying them
-       collages can serve as a vehicle for further thinking

This is one of Saara Sarma's Dissertations Collages, entitled: Gluttonous Kim. The irreverence and humour is evident and makes me want to learn more about what is actually behind the images and the caustic comments.
On a personal level, this article resonated with me because I quite often employ the collage as a means of collating and sharing information with others. My mind works in a thematic way when I create collages – I force connections through the selection of the images. They are my connections and to be honest, it never occurred to me that others might not choose the same images, given the same destination. I wondered as I read the last part of the article if Sarma gets permission to use her Google search images, particularly in light of this article by Alice Keeler:

In closing, collaging is an accessible method of research and meaning-making because it doesn’t require artistic skills (in the traditional sense) and it is visual, thematic, can be theoretical and is informative

Saara Särmä. “Collage: An Art-inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics.” Caso and Hamilton, Eds. pp. 110-119. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Open Letter to the Bully

Dear Bully:

Yes, it’s been years, actually - decades, since you had the power to humiliate me and make me feel inferior. I’m not sure why you felt the need ….well, now I think I know, but back then, I didn’t. All I knew then was that no matter what I did to try to ‘please’ you, I would end up feeling horrible. I would cry. I would think up ways to not be your target. I gave you my best snacks/lunch – both when you demanded them and even when you didn’t, because it would look like a favour I was able to bestow, which gave ME that good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone. In reality, I was trying to buy your good graces. I did whatever you wanted me to do, in order to not be insulted and made fun of, even if it went against my values, because I felt that was the only way to survive. It rarely worked. I was selling my soul to the devil – I couldn’t have termed it that way then, but I had that understanding. Most of this happened in elementary school. When we went to high school, you tried to do it there too, but – there was a much bigger population and I found my niche and it didn’t include you, so I was able to dodge your bullets. But ohhh- you tried – over and over again. And since, we’ve grown up and made lives for ourselves. And – you are an employee of my school board now – not as a teacher, but in another capacity. And I’ve run into you a few times in the past 20-some-odd years, most recently yesterday at our PA day. And I really wonder if you remember what you did. I really wonder if you feel the same way now about yourself? About me? I have forgiven you, but I have not forgotten -  and for me, you will always carry that aura of a not-so-nice-person.

I write this as something of a catharsis and as a thought-provoker for anyone reading – how do YOU want to be remembered? Is there an apology you need to speak? It is never too late to say sorry, I messed up. On the other side – does someone need to know s/he hurt you so that s/he can apologize? Life, as we all know, is short!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Week 10: Mirrors

            De Castelle’s (2012) chapter in the course text comes off as a soapbox rant. She covers a brief history of gamer-designed avatars and user interactions (as avatars) in virtual worlds. Her chapter discusses “troubling issues of agency and accountability in the design and use of these environments”. I think she is suggestion that as people redesign and reconfigure themselves as players or participants in virtual environment that have no policing or laws, they are in danger of losing or adversely altering their sense of global citizenship. And that this will translate to their “real” lives – the abandonment of civility and global empathy. She states: “the virtual transforms the real, materially, politically, not just semantically.” (p. 213)

            I would counter that these virtual worlds allow people to escape their reality for a time. Similar to costume parties, Halloween and dressing up play from Kindergarten days. People have often found the escapism of being someone else, attractive for the respite it gives from every day worries.

            De Castelle points out that being proficient in a game gives one credibility in discussing gamer research – which makes sense. Being a king or super-warrior in a game and then devising a country’s defense strategy because of that experience and designation, well THAT would be a problem!

            The author poses the following question: “Where are the ethics of social and indeed educational technologies?” (p. 218). She claims that there is extensive silent complicity in online and virtual world technologies. And this, then, is why we have the need for explicit and specific teaching of digital citizenship. So that we can counter the impact of unaccounted-for and unaccountable design in these virtual worlds that threaten to overtake one’s good sense and judgement.

            It seems to me that the affordances of the vastness of the virtual worlds have highlighted for us the dark corners of the real world and therefore, somewhat conversely, can be used to sweep them clean.

Your avatar

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Week 8: Social Justice and DIY Citizenship

             I found the readings this week to be very interesting and engaging. The topics were relevant and touched on thought-provoking concepts. The article by Fields, Magnifico, Lammers and Curwood (2014) also highlighted some excellent web resources that I want to share with colleagues and students.

            In Rose’s chapter, she effectively outlines how ‘documentary’ is or can be a form of DIY Citizenship. “The idea of the documentary subjects becoming agents in the making process is such a phenomenon.” (p. 201). The phenomenon to which she refers here is personal testimonies and witness accounts by the key subjects in the documentary. I was immediately reminded of Humans of New York ( where regular guy, turned social anthropologist, Brandon Stanton shares snapshots – both pictorially and through words – of people in the world. His work/hobby has allowed for extensive exposure of peoples’ plights and accomplishment with the results of heightened awareness and even of aid and assistance from decent citizens everywhere. This Fall, Stanton released his second hard cover book of some of his most poignant stories.

            Rose goes on to outline the history of televised documentary and the evolution of it towards a participatory, collaborative concept. This framework of collaboration has birthed the phrase of “Do-It-With-Others”. Collaboration is a key concept we are trying to instill, explicitly, in our TLLP project classes. I can envision using the documentary form in order to promote social justice and citizenship among the students in the grades 10 and 12 English classes and the grade 9 Geography class.

            I read DIY Media Creation (Fields et al., 2014) with increasing interest and explored the two collaborative sites highlighted in the article. is a very intriguing repository of youth writing. I’m sharing it with my colleague and it makes me wish we offered the Writer’s Craft course at our school.

            The Scratch site looks pretty amazing also – especially if one is involved in coding projects. I like how it allows users to be part of a bigger community – where all are passionate about the same thing. There’s a lot of opportunity for feedback on this site. This would be embraced by some of my students who are somewhat marginalized by their intense coding/programming interests. What I mean by this, is that they are so into coding, that they have a hard time relating to others who are not. I would need some coders to check out this site for me because I’m wondering if students could use it to create presentations?

            Of the four digital tools recommended at the end of the article, I am familiar with only one – Padlet – which I have used with classes in the past two weeks. I intend to check out the other three in the near future.


Fields, D. A., Magnifico, A. M., Lammers, J. C., & Curwood, J. S. (2014). DIY Media Creation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(1), 19-24.
Rose, M. (2014). Making publics: Documentary as do-it-with-others-citizenship. In Ratto, M., Boler, M., & Deibert, R. (Ed.) DIY citizenship: Critical making and social media. (pp. 201- 212). MIT Press.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Week 7: Social Justice and Hip Hop

 Petchauer’s article (2015) is a revisit of a previous study undertaken in 2009. This “part essay, part narrative review” (p.79) considers hip hop education as it connects to and figures in several areas or disciplines of education. Petchauer (2015) investigates how hip hop education, pedagogy and research impacts urban education.

So, before the end of the second page, I found myself looking up three terms. ‘Emic’, ‘etic’ and ‘heuristics’ – although I think I’ve seen this third term previously. Emic is related to, or involves the analysis of cultural phenomena from the perspective of one who participates in the culture being studied, while etic is from the perspective of an outside observer ( .  Heuristics is involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery or problem solving through experimental and trial-and-error methods. (

Petchauer (2015) connects hiphop threads from outside education (visually, sonically, linguistically and kinesthetically, through dance) with an eye to improving education. The author explains sampling, layering, flow and ruptures as aesthetic forms and credits Rose (1994) as the anchor for this analysis. I found the diagram in Figure 1 on page 83 an excellent visual representation of layers, flow and ruptures.

Petchauer (2015) poses several questions that provoke thought and exploration within and because of hip-hop. These questions focus on how to take the elements of hiphop and incorporate them into education. An interesting question posed is: “If these aesthetics make up a style nobody can deal with, how might we imagine a pedagogy nobody can deal with?” (p.89)

Petchauer (2015) goes on to explain how hip hop aesthetics are realized in two real-life contexts – one, a school in St. Paul, Minnesota (HSRA) and the other, a “critical education initiative in Philadelphia called Stop Coonin’ Movement [SCM]” (p. 89). The article goes on to explain how sampling, layering and ruptures exist as a new pedagogy within these two educational institutions.

This article was interesting in the questions asked and answered. It was very intense and complex, using vocabulary and context-specific examples relating to hip-hop. I am not a fan of hip-hop music as I find it too intense and angry and abrasive for me. As such, I am not overly familiar with the culture within or artists who perform it. Due to study within this M.Ed and exposure to hip-hop and rap as a literacy tool, I have come to appreciate its richness and effectiveness in delivering a message and to be used as a tool/medium of speech and thought. This article furthered my consideration of hip-hop to reach into pedagogical research in order to establish a new space of educational practice.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Week 6: Teaching Toward the 24th Century - Star Trek as Social Curriculum

 What an interesting read this week! I was amazed at the number of “Trekker” teachers that the author was able to interview and shadow. Also surprising is the level and depth of commitment (obsession?) of these people.

Anijar (2003) claims: “Klingon is ostensibly the fastest growing language on the planet.” (p. 128) And I wonder if this is true? I suppose it could be, given that it is relatively new, and is based in a globally popular movie. I was curious and searched the app, Duolingo , and guess what? Klingon is expected to be available to learn, for free, on November 26, 2017! The implications of this are pretty incredible. I was quite taken by Anjiar’s (2003) anecdote about the lost traveler in Japan who was able to get directions from someone who also spoke Klingon

At the same time that Klingon was finding its way into universities,
schools, camps, and your home, several language issues emerged in the
United States that were not met with the same enthusiastic embrace as
Klingon. It does seem somewhat peculiar that languages spoken by real
people, in real situations, living real lives are trivialized and disparaged,
whereas Klingon does not engender any protest. (Anijar, 2003. p.139)

A very interesting observation! Is this because “Klingon” is based in science Fiction and is therefore, non-threatening in terms of a communal take over? Perhaps people don’t take the speaking of Klingon seriously. Similarly, Pig Latin is not taken seriously.  In my younger days, when we spoke Pig Latin, it was a way to talk about and around the adults in our lives, without them having a clue as to what we were saying. Unfortunately for me, my parents were very young (only 17 years older than I) and hip and they actually knew Pig Latin better than I or any of my friends did (much to my chagrin!!). Nevertheless – DID YOU KNOW??? That by November, 2017, one can learn Klingon through the APP, Duolingo? How cool is THAT?

So, to wrap this up – I read both chapters – all about Star Trek as social curriculum and the wonderful ideas that teachers used from the movies or series in order to incorporate social justice and community etc. And I thought it was brilliant. And then today, I asked the two grade 9 classes in which I was guest teaching … “Do you guys know Star Trek?” And, surprisingly, in the one class, of 15 students,  not one person knew! One girl said: “Is that Luke Skywalker and stuff?” Ummm – no. In the other class, of 16 students, 7 students thought they knew what it was. There was that vagueness – like maybe their parents had spoken about it before – kind of like milkmen and doctor housecalls! And then I realized that this book was written in 2003 – 12 years ago – so perhaps Star Trek isn’t as enduring as one might have originally thought. It’s more about using popular culture to make connections and to globalizing students’ views by utilizing what is grabbing their attention, no matter the genre!

Karen Anijar. Teaching Toward the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum (Pedagogy and Popular Culture). New York: Falmer Press, 2003

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Week 5: Fan Culture

 The Harry Potter Alliance? Zombie Apocalypse? The Walking Dead #1: Special Edition? WOW! The readings this week were, at first glance, kind of odd, kind of weird. Or was that just my old age talking? When I told my kids, they were thrilled, envious and…superciliously pitying!

Henry Jenkins’ chapter, “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics :The Case Of the Harry Potter Alliance (2014), put a brilliant perspective on collaboration and activism based on fiction and fandom. On the one hand, it makes sense that people who believe intensely in something, would gravitate towards one another in many facets of life. The idiom “Birds of a feather, flock together” comes to mind. Jenkins states: “The HPA embraces a politics of “cultural acupuncture,” mapping fictional content worlds onto real-world concerns” (Jenkins, 2014, p. 65). And this stretches my sensibilities just a bit. As I read the chapter, I tried to put myself into this space. Would I align myself with others who are fans of my favourite shows/movies? #GreysAnatomy, #MadamSecretary, (retro)#WestWing, #HungerGames, in order to raise funds for Syria; defeat the Harper government? I really don’t think so. So, I wondered, as I read …what’s the ‘draw’?  I would think it is because the HPA marries the Harry Potter content world with real life events in order for people to understand what is going on and how global events impact us all. And, (this is a judgment on my part) maybe these people aren’t solidly connected with people in their real time lives, who would provide them with a face-to-face forum in which to exchange ideas, politics, and to problem solve. Alternatively, maybe they don’t like the people with whom they’re connected in their real-time lives. Either way – it’s a powerful statement on the power of the fictional worlds created by authors such as J.K.Rowling that fans would activate based on a shared love of said world and its characters.

Watching the “Zombie Apocalypse” was quite an entertainment. I honestly thought that at any moment, the people in the documentary – the ‘Preppers’ were going to take a bow and that we would find out that this was an acting class and they were students doing a culminating activity! I was quite surprised at the statement that there is ‘scientific proof’ that there is a possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Phrases that had my eyebrows raising: “Inside the Zombie Mind”; “Zombie-proof the house”. The woman, Patti Heffernan, is so convinced of the imminence of a zombie attack, that she chose her community and house location accordingly. I also gave this woman Understatement of the Year Award: “When a being turns and growls at someone who has just shot them and goes back to eating, ummm, that’s a red flag for me…” (5:18 – 5:25). And I found it quite chilling when she says: “Even my daughter knows we only shoot zombies in the head” (8:37). The time and energy that the Preppers put into this survival preparation was very revelatory. I had no idea. No wonder gun laws don’t pass in the US! And how about the high school English teacher who suggests going off the beaten path to stock up on nutrition if one is caught unprepared? His idea – go to the pet food store and buy cat food! And I was very relieved to find out that there is an organization one can join called the Anti-Zombie militia.

So – here was my thought after the documentary. What if these Preppers got together and collaborated and pooled their resources to help the homeless, hungry and displaced people in their own country? Or reached out to help Syrian refugees? Like those in the HPA, they could connect with people who are like-minded, committed and driven to help out real people in real distress.

Henry Jenkins. “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics: The Case of the Harry Potter Alliance.” DIY Citizenship. Eds. Matt Ratto and Megan Boler. Cambridge: MIT, 2015. pp. 65-73.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Week 4: Imperial Imaginaries: Employing Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics

 In his piece, Saunders outlines how science fiction (sf) can be used in the classroom in order to teach international relations and geopolitics by facilitating students’ connections between real life and the realm of science fiction. He describes films, novels and television shows that outline one society attempting to achieve dominion over another, and explains that sf employs allegory to promote an understanding of real-world global conflicts and/or situations.

I found the fluency of Saunders’ (2015) writing a bit difficult. His word choice and phrasing made for stilted reading and I had to look up a number of words. For example: “autarky” (p. 151) – which means self-sufficiency or economic independence; “auto-didactic” (p. 153) – self-taught. On the other hand, I like words and learning new ones, so that would be the benefit, despite the staccato flow of the reading.

“Science fiction is the genre of the unknown, but imaginable, and as a result contemplates possible futures” (Gunn, 2014, p. 34 as cited by Saunders, 2015, p. 151). Brilliant line! This entire paragraph on page 151 of the chapter frames the legitimacy of the genre of science fiction in the classroom.  Saunders (2015) explains (through referencing) how science fiction mediates real social dilemma, and how it critiques the actions and ideologies (or lack thereof) of current national and international leaders. And so, proposing why sf can be used for teaching connections – a tenet of all curriculum documents currently in Ontario. 

I know that Saunders (2015) is speaking primarily to higher education courses in International Relations, but I could transfer what he was saying to the context of the secondary school classes with which I work. In fact, reading about how he uses film (Star Wars) and television series (Star Trek) (p;. 153, 154) to help students understand imperial geopolitics has made me think about how secondary teachers use film in their classes. Many parents get quite upset when they find out their kids are ‘watching another movie’ and often students will sign out, particularly on a Friday afternoon, telling their parents “We’re just watching a movie…”  Like anything, this medium can be misused – but, if teachers follow the model and pedagogy that Saunders describes, then film can be a very effective tool. Saunders (2015) cites Weber (2001, p. 282): “Not only do I find that the current generation of eighteen-to-twenty-year olds are better readers and writers of visual images than I am, I also find that they understand how to approach these media critically”.

This week’s reading has given me something to think about and consideration for a possible topic for the essay for this course. I also might not be quite as critical of my colleagues who seem to show movies 4 days out of 5 – without investigating how they (the movies) are helping students connect to the curriculum.

Saunders, R. A. (2015) Imperial imaginaries: employing science fiction to talk about geopolitics. Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, and Pedagogies. 149-159

Monday, 28 September 2015

Week 3: Media Spaces

Advertising and Consumerism: A Space for Pedagogical Practice

“Advertising is, overwhelmingly, an enemy of the classroom” (Funes, 2008, p. 159).

This quote sums up the focus of the reading for this week. Funes (2008) is determined to pit advertising and education against one another, claiming that they are viewed as being enemies. She failed to convince me of the validity of her stance, but the teaching strategies derived from the project described are usable and valid in the classroom.

Funes (2008) explains how television advertising convinces people of the normalcy of images, representations, social situations and the need for people to have whatever is being advertised. This is not a new idea, by any means, as seen in the documentary, “Century of the Self”: Happiness Machines. This documentary introduces us to Edward Bernays, the father of the theory that psychology dictates consumerism and therefore, the consumer can be manipulated to desire something before it’s needed and to have one’s desires overshadow one’s needs (18:23). I found this documentary extremely interesting and I’m actually in awe of Bernays. His ability to manipulate and sell and get into the heads of the consumer is rather scary!

In both the reading and the documentary, the message is quite clear that people need to employ critical thinking and make informed decisions in all aspects of life if they don’t want to be puppets of corporate giants. I think what struck me most about “Happiness Machines” was the careful plotting of Bernays to use psychology to get consumers to buy, through subliminal message techniques.

I wonder, with the influx of commercial-free programming, on radio, television and the Internet, how will advertisers get their messages to the consumer?

Funes (2008) says that students face a dichotomy because school education is focused on the written and spoken word while in society, that same student is exposed to audiovisual messages. I don’t see why this is a dichotomy? Why isn’t it a kaleidoscope that changes and morphs depending on the light and position of the elements?  I question her statement: “This collision of ethics leads to situations that are a symptom of teachers’ uneasiness when approaching advertising, and of the particular scandal advertising discourse arouses in teachers …” (Funes, 2008, p. 169). What teachers? Why uneasy?

On page 172, the chart that outlines a framework for analysis of commercials looks very useful and usable. I would like to try and incorporate this with the grade 10 Applied English class in my TLLP project. I also think the grade 12 University Prep English class would be fascinated with “The Happiness Machines” documentary.

Youth, Media, Pop Culture: Week 1


The first class of Youth, Media and Popular Culture has come and gone. This is a relatively new course and the syllabus is being fleshed out by being put into practice.

The class started rolling after some technical difficulties, with a group activity where we had to read an article and do a mini presentation on it. My group (of 2) was to read an article on a new publication – a peer-reviewed journal called Punk and Post-Punk.
            The journal intends to serve the international academic, journalistic and industry communities engaged with punk and post-punk music, media and culture. It will explore notions of the ‘alternative’ and the ‘independent’ during the heady days of the punk explosion and the ensuing post-punk era.”(p.7)

I felt out of my comfort zone here because I do not listen to punk music. Or so I thought. When I looked up bands of this genre, I realized I have liked some of these songs for their edginess, their politicizing and their rebellion. And it’s a very intriguing concept to marry this with academic research and scholarship.

I’m wondering if the Punk movement is that prevalent in today’s youth? I think I will have to poke around amongst my students and see what they have to say.

When I came home from the course, I got involved in a conversation with my 23 year old son about the course, the presentation and the essay. He is very excited about tutoring and mentoring me and he gave me some excellent ideas and food for thought. We talked a lot about YouTube and its influence on today’s youth. I hadn’t even considered YouTube as a possible topic but I think I’d like to explore the possibilities.