Inner-city digital natives?

Josh Widener

Attending P.S. 11 of the New York
City public school system, for the beginning of my academic career definitely had
a significant impact on me as a student. I never considered myself a computer “nerd”,
but I was always interested and proficient with computers. At P.S. 11 every
classroom had a computer and we would get to use them as a class. Conversely, because
the student to computer ratio was too high, we were never able to fully immerse
ourselves into the technology. We would take turns playing interactive games
such as Oregon Trail, but as soon as you started to get into the game and understand
manifest destiny it is the next kids turn. I assumed that was the norm one
computer per classroom.

Until, the day I realized my parents love my
older brother more than me. I went to Trevor Day School to pick up my older
brother and discovered my first computer lab. I remember being speechless, a
room full of just computers so that every student could have a computer for
themselves. This seemed like a revolutionary concept to a young public school
boy. Eventually, my mother bought a personal computer in the mid-nineties,
which she taught me how to use and I would mostly just play games on. When I
was 10 years old I moved to Denver, Colorado and my mother was able to get me
into one of the top public school districts in the country, Cherry Creek school
district. My elementary school Willow Creek and Campus middle school were both
blue ribbon schools while I was there. I was able to witness the astonishing difference
in funding between public inner-city schools and suburban or private schools.
Experiencing different school from different socio-economic backgrounds gives
me a reluctance to believe the fundamental assumptions held by those in the ‘digital
natives’ debate. The ‘digital natives’ debate assumes this generation of young
people live their lives completely immersed in technology, which is usually the
case. However, it is hard to immerse yourself in technology and be “fluent in
the digital language of computers and the internet”, if you barely have enough
money to keep the bank from foreclosing your home.

In high school, I knew nothing about
conducting an internet search compared to the knowledge I have attained here at
Temple University. Like students in Illinois’ I overused Google searches, misused
scholarly databases, became flustered, and became more likely to change my
search topic then talk to a librarian. I felt intimidated by most of the
librarians and never had a question I felt comfortable asking them. I did not
learn how to do scholarly research, or to truly critically think about sources
of material until I took a Writing Intensive African American studies class
with Aimee Glocke. She taught me to question everything on a factual level but
also to see who the author is and what their hidden may be agenda. Many of the previous
concepts I learned associated with critical thinking, have been investigated on
a deeper level in your class with the remote control.

My strengths would most definitely be my
ability to critically think and analyze situations to undercover prejudice. I
can think about particular situations from a number of perspectives to
understand how different people would interpret media messages differently. My
weakness would be the fact that I am very opinionated and I definitely suffer
from selective retention. I will only remember information that is agreeable
with my opinions and forget information that might not support my opinion.


Bennett, S., & Maton, K. (n.d.). The ‘digital native’ debate. Brithish Journal of
Educational      Technology .

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Multimedia Literacy in Schools

Josh Widener

Children learn the most when they are engaged in the subject matter. The more hands on and interactive the curriculum can get the better. Some educators are already using video games to effectively teach children. Students acquire information by playing the game. To move on to the next level, they must demonstrate mastery of the material by presenting it to peers. If a student can teach the material to someone else, then most likely she or he fully grasps the information.  The future of video game technology could possibly eliminate the need for standardized testing, since students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge through the video game. This has the potential to revolutionize education, and allow K-12 schools to focus on multimedia literacy as opposed to standardized testing preparation. These are just a few reasons why I think “Digital Schools” are more effective than traditional schools. Quest to Learn in New York City for example follows the New York state learning curriculum, but also teaches digital literacy.

The only thing that is unrealistic about this approach to learning is the expense associated with digital schools. Not every American has the resources to send their children to these schools. Digital Youth Network, founded by Nichole Pinkard and housed at DePaul University in Chicago, gives inner city students opportunities to learn multimedia skills which they may not otherwise be able to learn. These teenagers at DYN are learning to use programs and software, like Pro Tools and Final Cut, that I am just beginning to use as part of my college education. When you consider the role of digital media in our modern society, these “digital” kids undoubtedly have an advantage compared to your average public high school student. The power is definitely in the hands of the student to use these new technologies for learning purposes and not just for having fun. That’s one negative consequence of this approach: if a student is not motivated to learn, they could choose to just sit on the computer playing games while his mom thinks he is learning. It has been said literacy changes as technology changes. These kids are arguably more digitally literate than both adult competition in the workforce and their peers graduating from traditional schools.



Digital Youth Network:

Quest to Learn:

IML Institute for Multimedia Literacy USC:

Microsoft Digital Literacy Assessment:


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2012 Republican Presidential Debate

Joshua Widener

Weekly Response #3

2012 Republican Presidential Debate:
Nomination for the White House (Eliminating faith in humanity)

            This video was uploaded by TelegrahTV which is a British News service.  The video
features excerpts from the 2012 Republican Presidential debate which features our
main “authors” Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul. Although, these puppets do not write their own talking points, so undoubtedly campaign managers, political strategist, and speechwriters for the GOP could also be considered “authors”. There are many messages in this video but the main messages include: Obama being socialist, pessimist, and oppressive president that hates America. The Republicans whole argument against Obama is constructed around one huge fact that has been omitted: Obama did not cause our current economic crisis. The video selectively omits the fact that George W. Bush got us into our deficit
with tax breaks for the wealthy and financing avoidable wars.

Techniques used to attract your attention include: bright lights, patriotic colors, covert racism, Tim Pawlenty adding new words in the English language. Tim Pawlenty’s brilliant speech writers coined the term “Obamneycare”; to get the tea party against Mitt Romney. Next, Tim Pawlenty then goes for the home run with an old tea party favorite: concealed racism. To see Pawlenty’s clandestine racism we must read between the lines. Jerome Bruner states “language can never be neutral” and this is a perfect example. Pawlenty states “This President is a declinest, he views America as one of equal as around the world.” Tim Pawlenty is inferring that it is “bad” that Obama is not a xenophobe and that he should not view other world citizens as equal to Americans.

The lifestyle, values and viewpoints
represented in this video are those of the “tea party”. The tea party won’t
openly admit it but they are a party of religious fanaticism, racism,
homophobia, and an economic policy that works against their own interests, as one
assumes they are not of the richest one percent of this country.

Different people are definitely going to interpret this message differently. Michele Bachmann’s political constituents would think “America F*** Yeah!!!!! We are going to take this country back from the minorities and the homosexuals, and we ain’t not never
gonna have no damn Arab in the White House Again”. Sane people and critical
thinkers would interpret this message differently. After viewing this video an
educated person would immediately and simultaneously say their favorite expletive,
lose faith in humanity, realize why the terrorist hate us, place their skull in
a trash compactor and hope that this is just a an LSD flashback.

The fact that Bush caused all our current economic problems over his 8 year term as president and not Obama is by far the largest, most important fact omitted by this video.

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Name that Discourse!

“By “a discourse” I will mean: a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, and of acting that can be used to identify oneself as member of a socially meaningful group or social network” –James Paul Gee, “What is Literacy?” p1.

Literacy is being able to comprehend the socially accepted
values that each culture has placed on phrases or symbols in a given society or
language. Discourse in Gee’s eyes is otherwise known as an “identity kit”;
which teaches you how to act and talk so as to take on a particular role that
others will recognize. In theory, I believe this can become problematic because
it promotes conformity. It does not support free thinking or critical thinking,
and instead teaches you how you should think.

“Finally, discourses are intimately
related to the distribution of social power and hierarchical structure in
society. Control over certain discourses can lead to the acquisition of social
goods in a society. These discourses empower those groups who have the least
conflicts with their other discourses when they use them.” -James Paul Gee, “What is Literacy? “p2.

Gee talks about social power, although he does not get in to explicit
detail he is talking about the political powers that be. He states “discourses
are “intimately” related to the distribution of social power and hierarchical
structure in society.” According to Gee if you are not a part of the political
discourse in this country you can only watch politics from the sidelines. That
means if you are not born (George W. Bush) or bread (Barack Obama) into the Ivy
League ilk, you will not have a legitimate chance at national politics. Gee
states control over certain (political) discourses can lead to the acquisition
of social goods (money, power, status). This is exactly how the powers that be
want it to be. If you want to change policies you must be in politics. If you
want to be in politics you must be in the political discourse, and if you want
to be in the political discourse you must be part of the Ivy League ilk, an
industrial lobby or own a fortune 500 company.

“I will distinguish these two as
follows: Acquisition is a process of acquiring something subconsciously by
exposure to models and a process of trial and error. Learning is a process that
involves conscious knowledge gained through teaching. Gee, “What is literacy? “p3.

Acquisition is learning subconsciously through experience and being
exposed to different things. Often knowledge is acquired through the trial and
error process. This is the way people gain knowledge in the “real world”.  Learning is a process that features knowledge
gained through teaching, which involves explanation and analysis. This learning
is typically the type of knowledge gained through formal schooling.

“16. Performance before Competence:
Good Video games operate by a principle just the reverse of most schools: performance
before competence. Players can perform before they are competent.” –James Paul
Gee, “Good Video Games and Good Learning”

This is the best way to gain knowledge, in my opinion. Students
find hands on learning more exciting, then traditional teaching. Also, giving
students the ability to make mistakes but then to go back and self-correct is a
priceless teaching tool.

“ Publics play a crucial role in the development of individuals…..Learning society’s rules requires trial and error, validation and admonishment; it is knowledge that teenagers learn through action, not theory.”-Danah Boyd, “Why youth heart social networking sites” p21.

It seems as though formal school is one of the last places that people learn through teaching. As teenagers learn society’s rules and the rules of social networking it is all done through acquisition. The Acquisition of knowledge is done through trial and error, and it seems most things are done that way except for formal schooling. Maybe if formal schools adapted more of these ideas they could foster more learning. Hopfully, this trend toward digital lieracy will continue to grow along with other socail networking sites.

From James Paul Gee’s Good Video Games and Good Learning I found a reference to diSessa’s Changing Minds: Computers, Learning and Literacy. I searched the interent database at the library to find the artcle in MIT press. The key to motivationg students to do school work is similar to motivating them to play video games. The players “regime of competence” is what it is all about. The student must feel like they are capable of the task but that it is also challenging. Keep them engaged by creating just the right level of challenge.

diSessa, A. A. Changing Minds: Computers, learning, and Literacy. Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 2000

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Are we effectively teaching our kids how to ethically access digital media?

Teaching in almost any context relies heavily on media as a source material, and digital media is revolutionizing the way people learn today. For millennia our source of information has been almost exclusively print media. Largely a result of technological development, other forms of media came recently in the intellectual evolution of our species. Sound, visual, and digital media are all less than a century old. They each can uniquely enhance the learning process, but they also raise unique questions about the ethical use of media. The internet has revolutionized education due to the near instantaneous access to almost any information ever stored on a web server. The ability to quickly disseminate digital media using sophisticated peer to peer networks has caused what could be called an epidemic of theft and piracy. What do I know about piracy? My internet service provider has reported me for downloading copyrighted media several times. Most recently they threatened to cancel my mother’s internet service. I feel like I’ve matured a lot since I received the last warning from the RIAA, and these readings gave me a fresh perspective on digital piracy. I realized that I started illegally downloading music well before I could fully comprehend the consequences of my actions. I found myself wishing that my parents and teachers would have played a more active role in my access to digital information. By actively teaching students about media ethics, I think we could lessen the number of students who adopt such a casual attitude about breaking the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by illegally downloading media.

Dr. Renee Hobbs states on page 4 of Digital and Media Literacy, “As it turns out, many teachers are unfamiliar with how students actually watch movies and television today.” I would say this statement is true of most adults responsible for raising my generation. I’d also like to focus not on the licit acquisition of digital media from sources like Netflix ( and Hulu ( but the peer to peer file sharing networks like BitTorrent ( and the original Napster (before Best Buy). In my personal experience, the adults in my life simply didn’t understand computers well enough to educate me on how to ethically access the internet. I only ever had one teacher who knew how to use Napster to download copyrighted music to his computer. My 6th grade teacher was barely older than I am now and frequently talked about his own habit of downloading movies and music illegally. Unfortunately for me he had never had much of a digital ethics education either.

In the Appendix of Our Space: Being a Responsible Citizen of the Digital World, Henry Jenkins shares something on page 2 that really made me reevaluate how I learned to access digital information: “As a society, we have spent too much time focused on what media are doing to young people and not enough time asking what young people are doing with media. We need to embrace an approach based on media ethics, one that empowers young people to take greater responsibility for their own actions…” Nobody ever taught me about the ethics that should accompany an almost limitless access to media, and I wondered if I still would have chosen to illegally acquire my music, tv, film, and even electronic book media if I had been properly educated about how serious the consequences can be. Teach your children and students that stealing media online is still theft! If a child is old enough to be on the internet unsupervised, then he is old enough to learn what information is unethical, not to mention illegal, to access. Over time this could do a lot for the movement to end theft of digital media!

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