Inventing the Humanities

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Definitions of Diversity

I plan to take Rodriguez's cue and discuss the tensions between public and private. As a white hispanic with a Jewish last name, I am often baffling to institutions (and the individuals within them) whose definitions of diversity do not account for someone like me. As this would be an instutititional autobiography, I'll examine how color, language and culture play out at institutions where I've been a student and an instuctor. I'm not really sure whether this is enough, but I'm still sorting out ideas about the paper.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Final Project

Inventing the Humanities

For my final project, my proposal is to write an institutional biography based upon the two cultures in which I attended school, and the effect they both had upon my education, and on my teaching. In class last week, we discussed student-teacher relationships in terms of the distance students are removed from teachers. As I intend to explore in my institutional autobiography, some of it may be the result of the different cultural worlds the teachers and students live in, and the level of respect society has for teachers in general.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Distant Voices: Teaching and Writing in a Culture of Technology"

Chris M. Anson's article entitled "Distant Voices: Teaching and Writing in a Culture of Technology," examines how multimedia is becoming a neccessity in the classroom. Throughout the text, he discusses the issues, fears, benefits, and possiblities that emerge from the new technology and the teachers who are obliged to utilize it. The article even provides a glimpse into the next possible generation of classroom teachers, an image projection of a teacher from thousands of miles away. Anson continues to explore the impact and the effect of technology on students and teachers throughout the article. Nevertheless, he often generates some of the following questions in his writing. What does the influx of new technology mean for the everyday teacher? How will it impact the social skills of the students who are privileged enough to be a part of it? What will happen to those who cannot afford this luxury? Chris M. Anson delves into the benefits and issues surrounding this shift of the traditional classroom setting to the unprecented world of technology in a way that not only informs, but warns educators as well.

Intially, many enthusiastic teachers used, and still use, hypertext and multimedia in "...linking such texts to their social and political contexts, revealing connections to pieces of art of the time, playing segments of the music that the characters may have heard, or showing brief clips of famous stage presentations" (265). Although this makes for a good lesson, students remained virtually uninvolved only "...receiving deposits of knowledge from authomatic teller machines that supplemented the more direct, human method" (266). The article examines how the integration of technology has shifted from using the computer in this way to a more interactive learning experience. According to the author, instead of simply using the computer to write or revise a composition or witness a text, students are now able to communicate across nations, learn at thier own pace, discover new ideas, texts, and mediums at the stroke of a key. Technology is moving from the passive to the active. In other words, students are observing less and taking part of their own education more.

Anson continues to explain how computer interaction may be implemented in the students' lives through distance learning or independent study. This is an individualized program that relies of technology to integrate multimedia with student-centered learning. The author does this by creating a futuristic scenerio of a student fully interacting with technology. The student starts her day by plugging her "...multimedia computer 'tablet,' just a half an inch thick...into a slot on a little vending machine...and downloads the current issue of USA Today" (267). Then she "goes to class" comprised of specialty professors thousands of miles away via pre-purchased CD-ROM. She can also enter a computer lad and receive a digital image of her professor offering personalized comments on her composition. Once the student revises her work, including audio and visual attachments, she can add it to the class webpage. All of this happens at her own pace and in her own time with little to no social interaction. It is important to note that Anson makes it clear that the student never interacts or negotiates any part of the learning process with a peer. Therefore, the student remains devoid of real human experiences or contact throughout her entire educational development. Chris M. Anson cleverly denotes that although all of this may seem farfetched and futuristic, much of this type of technology is already being used and/or developed. However, with this new and expensive techonology comes a price, and not one that revolves around money.

The most striking and somewhat disturbing line is when the author states, "because Jennifer is a privileged, upper-middle-class student who has a paid subscription to an online service, her own high-end computer system and modem, and the money to buy whatever software she needs for her studies, she can continue her schoolwork at home" (268). This student has access to this advanced technology at home. It is in this statement that a particular class divide may in fact leave some children behind. The students without access, or personal motivation, may not be able to contend with those who do. How then, can these students of lower-income status compete? What will happen to those students whose parents cannot afford these multimedia luxuries? Are these our students? What then, can we do for them?

Anson suggests that teachers must become a part of this ever-changing world of technology for the sake of our students. He explains, "...we must learn to assess the impact of each new medium, method, or piece of software on our students' learning" (278). He also indicates that the conversations about the technology need to be not only local but "...broader, institution-wide dialogues about the effect of technology on teaching, paticularly between students, faculty, and administrators" (278). It is not enough to just expose students to the computer and claim that you have provided them with techonology in the classroom. This type of claim is dangerous, for the students are not taking part in their own learning. But rather, as teachers, we need to find ways in which we can incorporate technology so that the students interact with it and advance their knowledge of it. It is time we realize that whether we like it or not, technology is moving forward and we need to move students, and ourselves, along with it.

Questions for Discussion
-Do you have access to technology in your school?
-How readily available is it for you to use?
-Do you feel that your students have ample opportunity to interact with computers and multimedia?
-What are some activities that you have used or would like to use with technology in your classroom? Do you think that this is a beneficial use of technology for your students or is it just to say that you use technology?
-When using techonology, are your students actively engaged or passively learning? What is the difference between the two types?
-In response to Jennifer's situation: How can students of lower-income status compete? What will happen to those students whose parents cannot afford these multimedia luxuries? Are these our students? What then, can we do for them?
-Will a reliance on multimedia classrooms create antisocial students? Why or why not? Will it matter in a computer-centered world?

Final Project

I am writing an Institutional Autobiography for my final project. I have always been annoyed when someone looks at how students behave in the classroom and comments, "In my days..." I would self righteously comment, "It is not fair to compare these students with the students of your time." Then they would get a lecture on the evils of this comparison. It was when I sat down to really think about my project, that I realized that I am guilty of some of the same things I am chiding others for. It was then that I realized how much my high school education has influenced my expectations in the classroom. I have started examining the voices of my education, and looking at how I had to rethink my norms, without, or possibly with compromising my standards, in order to be effective in the classroom.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

denis baron pencils to pixels

Denis Brown discusses the usages of computers and how we have moved from pencils to pixels; the title of this chapter! He states how he is addicted to computer usage and how he is unable to draft a memo without a computer.
“a way of engineering materialist order to accomplish an end.”
*DENNS BARON- I will be the first to praise computers, to acknowledge the importance of the computer in the last fifteen years of my own career as a writer, and to predict that in the future the computer will be put to communication uses we cannot now even begin to imagine, something quite beyond the word processing....
*…concerns of the computer communication today involves their authentication and their potential for fraud. The Unabomber is mentioned and how he excludes humanists and as being harmless.
*…Henry David Thoreau disparaged the information superhighway of his day a telegraph connection from Maine to Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Bill Henderson who is a director of the Lead Pencil Club, a group opposed to computers and convinced that the old ways are better, further boasts that Thoreau wrote his anti-technology remarks with a pencil that he made himself.
*Writing itself was once an innovation strongly resisted by traditionalists because it was unnatural and untrustworthy. Plato was one leading thinker who spoke out strongly against writing fearing that it would weaken our memories.
*William Harris argues convincingly that no more than ten percent of the classical Greek and Roman populations could have been literate. One reason for this must be that writing technology remained both cumbersome and expensive.

1) Does using to computer deprive you from using your mind to its full ability?
2) Can we trust literature and its authenticity such as the Greek play? How true is the translation as Denis Baron mentions?
3) Can we consider information on a computer or on the Internet literature or is it just words?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Final Project

I have been spending quite a bit of time this year writing my thesis in Secondary Education. For my thesis I have focused mainly on the America's Choice Ramp-Up to Literacy Program. I feel that I have acquired quite a bit of research in this area and I feel very comfortable writing about it. My final project for this class will be using this program as its main focus. I will attempt to write a manifesto which argues why this program is ineffective in several areas. I will propose to make several changes within the program in order to make it more realistic and ultimately more affective for the teachers, schools and the students.

project proposal

I have debated for the last few weeks whether to write the biography or the manifesto. After a lot of thought, a trip to florida to see my grandmother, and run in with my principal, I am now going to write a manifesto. This manifesto will focus on the idiocy of the American schooling system. Students do not want to be in school. They suffer through the agonizing seconds of every period of every day. And then many end up failing. Few really care. My manifesto will explore the problems with this and offer solutions to the problem: Let students choose their path. Give them the opportunity to drop-out and explore the "real world". When it becomes fashionable for them to return to school, they will be allowed to after a one year waiting period...This is where I am with my project right now and my ideas can and will flourish and save the educational system of the United States of America.

I also have not "finalized" my project, but I think that I would like to create a manifesto. This is my 6th year teaching English at the high school level, and it amazes me how the students that I have now experience many of the things that I did as a student. The way I teach my students is a combination of my education and life experience, but a big piece of this is reaction/reflection to how I was taught in high school. Some teachers made class so interesting and some teachers made class seems that my learning happened because of my reaction to my teachers, not necessarily the content taught or the ability to learn, but more in the reaction. Today, I hear this type of thinking from my students; some teachers they are able to "learn" from, and some they are not. I would like to explore how education and life experience affect learning, but to somehow focus on the "how" you learn and not the "what" you learn.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Final Project/Writing Proposal

Final Projects/Writing Proposal

Although I have not yet finalized my “ideas” for the writing proposal, I do know that I will be creating a manifesto. There are very many good things that go on in today’s schools, but there are also so many things that need changing/ amending. My primary focus will probably be on “tracking” at the high school level and the responsibility of all parties (students, parents, administrators and of course, teachers) to the high school student’s successful outcome. No one wants to be held responsible anymore. Administrators, under the politically correct guise of equality in education, “randomly” (or not) create classroom rosters that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Sadly, there are way too many parents who do not feel the need to supervise and encourage their high school students to do their best - as many of our classmates have already stated. I plan to explore these "ills” and make proposals for positive change based upon my experiences as a student, parent, and teacher.

"Project Proposal"

I am planning on for my project to create an "Educational Manifesto." As a junior high school teacher I am exposed to students, their needs and the problems they have everyday. I am an English teacher and some problems the kids have really hit home for me. When I began teaching three years ago I was placed at a low achieving junior high school. Kids had problems with reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. This year I got placed in a better, different junior high school and thought that these issues with vocabulary, grammar, and spelling would go away for the most part. However, after giving my first spelling and vocabulary quiz I realized how wrong I was. Then, my epiphany occurred and I realized that this was a problem everywhere no matter what the school or where it was. Now, I believe that this problem of poor spelling, vocabulary skills, grammar, and writing needs to be fixed. I feel there are simple ways to fix this problem. Schools need to use textbooks in the English classroom. Each student would get a vocabulary book learning new words each week and how to spell them. Also, each child would receive a grammar book that will teach them basic writing rules like subject-verb agreement. These simple changes just may increase students reading and writing ability. All we need to do it is a few new textbooks to help the children learn. For sources I plan on using some of the manifestos we read for class by taking some ideas that I like from them and applying to my "Educational Manifesto."


For my final project, I have decided to write an Institutional Autobiography that examines they way in which the school I have been working at for the past three years has shaped me as a person. I would also like to examine how teaching has influenced my role as a student and my views on education.

project proposal

My Manifesto will include autobiographical accounts (for evidential support purposes) of my secondary education, university education, and current status as a teacher at my former high school. The Manifesto will discuss the issues surrounding standardized exams and then transition to exposing the "underbelly" of corrupt administration. The Manifesto will provide answers and how to apply new teachniques in order to achieve a desired utopian education system.

my proposal

i still have not finalized my proposal but i do believe i want to discuss the issue of how teachers have to teach and student have to learn the material. how each day needs to follow a particular structure. this does not allow freedom for creativity. in my manifesto i would like to state the problem and ways to fix it. iwould use one of the sort readings from last week and outside sources

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Excellent Adventure

My initial plan is to write an institutional autobiography in which I explore the ways in which educational institutions have both shaped and unshaped my identity and purpose as an educator. In my neverending quest for the ideal "career," I have both attended and worked at an interesting range of institutions. I have observed the ways in which politics and institutional culture can deeply impact one's education.

What does it mean to learn?

I am having a difficult time deciding which of these proposals to write. I like both projects, however I think that I am going to write a manifesto.

I would like to write a manifesto about the way in which we learn. I think that learning has changed so much over the years and I do not necesarily agree with the road education has taken. Many of the stories we have read in class deal with how students were taught and in turn how they learned things, mainly academic topics. I would like to use the novels we have read in class as well as some of the movies about teachers and learning to try and strengthen my argument.
I am planning to compare education in our day with education in the past. I might choose to compare our education in the United States to the education process of those in other countries. With this, I would like to identify the problems I find with our educational process and write a list of solutions to some of these problems. Who is (was) most successful at learning? Why?

Tell me what you think.

Proposal - High School auto

I’d like to work out an institutional autobiography that focuses on my high school years. Learning became something real to me when I started to understand how it actually connected to me as a person in this world. There were a series of teachers, moments, and works that made me a learner and helped me start to see.

There is also the fact that I now teach at that same institution that could create an important perspective, but I’m not sure how to etch it out.

Project Proposal

I would like to write a manifesto exploring the role of the America's Choice Program and its impact on the public school system. Since I am obliged to teach under these conditions, it has a direct impact on what and how I teach each day. Needless to say, I do not enjoy having to adhere to strict guidelines in my teaching. I feel that my creativity is destroyed and belittled. I hope to write a manifesto that examines how America's Choice is demeaning towards teachers and students. I expect to offer several solutions and possible outcomes that should benefit the children. I think that I will be able to use Garber's A Manifesto for Literary Studies and some newspaper archives, possibly UFT or the New York Times.

"The Cinematic Representation of the Personal and Professional Lives of Teachers" by James Trier

As a supervisor of student teachers with the College of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, James D. Trier developed a program that “engages pre-service teachers in a critically reflective practice” (127). The program’s inward and outward reflection “challenges the notion that teachers can remain neutral about pedagogy, curriculum, and classroom organization and management in order to critique the institutions where they will work” (128).

One of the obvious examples occurred when Trier came across “Preparing Monocultural Teachers for a Multicultural World: Attitudes Toward Inner-City Schools” where the subjects of the article had negative assessments of inner city schools. Trier showed images from films such as The Principal and The Substitute to reinforce how media shapes our perceptions and beliefs. School films invite pre-service teachers to “experience situations vicariously and engage the students to examine their assumptions, beliefs, and knowledge about a range of educational issues” (129).

Trier’s Introductory Activities:

The “Resentment” school film and the “Lullaby” school film

Read Cameron McCarthy’s essay “Educating the American Popular: Suburban Resentment and the Representation of the Inner-City in Contemporary Film and Television”.

Students analyze how inner-city school films construct “inner-city” students, teachers, schools, and the surrounding communities.

Write an essay comparing the cinematic constructions with their own assumptions, beliefs, and knowledge about so-called inner-city schools.

Read Mitchell and Weber’s “Reinventing Ourselves as Teachers: Beyond Nostalgia”. View films following these questions

Describe the scene that affected you the most.

How does it connect to your social or political contexts?

Do they remind you of real life experiences?

What images or stereotypes of teachers, students, or schooling are introduced or perpetuated?

Secondary Texts

Critically read and analyze VHS/DVD box covers: how do ideological icons such as images and colors shape misconceptions of suburban verse inner-city school films (i.e. inner-city films are often violent dramas involving death with covers in black/red tones and a teacher holding a weapon. Suburban films are often romantic comedies with a cover including bright colors and smiling white kids.

Relationship between the Personal and Professional Lives of Teachers:

  1. Films representing characters that immerse themselves solely in their profession.
  2. Films representing characters that immerse themselves solely in their personal lives.
  3. Films that represent characters who struggle with the two (i.e. either their personal life conflicts with their professional or professional conflicts with their personal).

Common Perceptions/Reactions towards School Films:

....To be a great teacher means devoting all your time to work at the expense of having any kind of personal life (To Sir with Love, Dangerous Minds, and Stand and Deliver).

....Teacher as “Savior”: Teachers have a special pre-destined “gift” for teaching to save kids who are heading nowhere (Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me).

....Desires to become a teacher: Many are fulfilling an emotional need/desire (This is My Father).

....“Professionalism” and the ability to separate one’s own personal life from one’s professional life for the good of the students (Waterland).


Do idealistic new teachers perceive dedication and ambition as devoting all their time to work? Think back to when you first taught. Is this realistic?

Do you believe teacher’s are born or made? Do you have some sort of special gift?

Do teachers try to “save” kids? What are some dangers and ethical challenges teachers may experience?

What made you become a teacher? (And don’t say “I love kids”) Do we desire control, attention, maybe even love?

Describe a time when you had trouble separating your professional and personal life. Did one of these facets enter the other’s world? (i.e. think of the teacher going through a divorce who became emotional in the classroom, or “Jaime” who neglects his family life because of his obsession with teaching).

Create a school film adaptation based on your own teaching experience: What would the title be, genre, characters, plot, cover box imagery?