Freedom is Relative

Freedom is a mental state of being. It is when I feel limitless and open; when I have the most flexibility and feel the most empowered. Webster defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” If put in these terms and taken literally, then no one is free because we all (regardless of nationality, race, and gender) live under governmental and societal laws. In order for me to better understand freedom, I must redefine it for myself as being the mental state of being in control of the choices that are available to me. When put into perspective, I consider 

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Every time a child is born, so is a mother.

The moment in my life that changed me the most would have to be becoming a mother. I did not know at the time that having my daughter would change me like it did! I was in for a treat!

Like most parents, I feel in love with her instantaneously. I did not know that it would propel me into falling in love with everyone’s children! I started to realize that everyone, at some point in time, was someone’s beloved baby girl or boy! Wow…that’s heavy. And I began to realize that my child was innocent just like everyone else’s. So, if parents are fit, it becomes the world’s job to compensate. I decided to become a teacher for this reason.

Children deserve a chance because they can’t choose who they are born to and that chance become our responsibility as we embrace a global community.

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I knew it! My generation is dumb!

Here I was, spending the last few years of my existence behind in technological gadgetry, social networking profiles, and personal-interest blogging, finding comfort only in the authors who share my passionate world views and the books that tell my stories, thinking I was alone is my assumptions about my detached and anti-intellectual generation. After reading Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future or, don’t trust anyone under 30, I’ve realized that I am not alone and that my general synthesis about my peers has concrete backing and support. Bauerlein offers pitifully redundant statistics supporting the truth behind the intellectual decline of today’s young adults. He explains our decline in accessing the endless amount of knowledge available to us through the Internet and, although we are access Internet quite frequently, we rarely it for intellectual growth with social networking sites being our most visited web-destinations, “instead of opening young American minds to the stories of civilization and science and politics, technology has contracted their horizons to themselves, to the social scene around them. Young people have never been so intensely mindful of and present to one another, so enabled in adolescent contact,” Bauerlein explains (10). While it may seem that the world is larger and more open to us now than ever, the generation of people 18-30 years old are only merely interested and concerned with themselves. Despite our overwhelming sense of competition, need to succeed professional, and increased volunteerism, we are adequately behind in social and political awareness. Bauerlein’s book offers much of the statistics to support this claim, however, the reality is all too apparent. I, myself being a member of the “dumbest generation” has fallen victim to the isolation of intellectual integrity, fighting against the ever-advancing social networking era. I have battled with understanding social ignorance and wondering if my consciousness is a blessing or a curse.

My biggest take-away from reading the book is the clear and obvious lack of control in which situation has left us. Social media is not an aggressive scene that preys on consumerism; we have well-nourished and happily accepted the narrow confines of today’s society. We have found comfort in our ignorance. While Bauerlein offers a lot of criticism, the scariest reality is the truth in knowing that in order for this self-absorbed and mind-numbing trend to stop, we must ignite an intellectual movement that values social, historical, political, cultural, and economic consciousness. My only question is where and how do we begin?

Bauerlein, M. (2009). The dumbest generation, how the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). Jeremy P. Tarcher.

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Social Media in the Classroom. Is it necessary?

In doing a basic web search, I found that most explanation of 21st century education include an array of definitions including promoting new ideas and new technologies, with enhanced creativity and critical thinking skills.  Also, globalization and competitiveness. However, when considering what most school consider a 21st century education, is seems to be basically just an implementation of technology in the classroom.

According to the article, “Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults” , 93% of teens ages 12-17 go online, as do 93% of young adults ages 18-29. In comparison to the plethora of statistical data presented by Mark Bauerlien in the book, The Dumbest Generation, our constant internet usage is not making us smarter, but is, in fact, making us dumber.

Following this logic, should 21st century education really include that much integration of technology into the classroom? Is the goal in including technology better proficiency? If so, this is unnecessary. I’m pretty sure most youth as the internet down packed. Is this integration necessary even if the intentions are to show students resourceful ways of using technology? I feel that this is pretty obvious to most of them, how technology can be used productively. I am going to reach even further as say that we’ve dropped the ball on enhancing creativity, consciousness, and critical thinking skills long ago when with basic textbook usage in the classroom. The only consolation can I can add to this matter is that we must attempt, as teacher, to continuously try to reach are students where they are. However, with technology integration in the classroom, I am fearful that we may to be stumping to their level rather than bringing them to up to ours.

I think integration is good for what Rheingold mentions in the article, “Using Social Media to Teach Social Media,”  “to inform publics, advocate positions, and contest claims,” however, we must stay mindful of its limitations and not exclude the powerful elements of an effective teacher, a well-written book, and students’ engagement. Maybe a little back-to-the-basics would not be so bad…

Bauerlein, M. (2009). The dumbest generation, how the digital age stupefies young americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media & mobile internet use among teens and young adults. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2001/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx

Rheingold, H. (2008). Using social media to teach social media. The New England Journal of Higher Education, 25-26.

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The Inevitable Future of Language…?

When thinking of 21st Century language and education, one of my biggest interest is what the future holds with the intensive technologically advancements . Biologist Mark Pagel explores his idea of what langauge will become through discussing the evolutionary past of human communication development. The theory that he formulates leads to a conclusion that most evolutionary linguistic believers (like myself) would like to accept…see what you think.

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Creating a Disconnect: Synthesizing Jonathan Kozol’s “The First Person”

Connecting through the shared human experience is not necessarily a commonly accepted belief. Nowadays, kids are taught global and world issues through abstract presentation of information. Accountability is replaced with apathy and compassion for self-righteousness. The newest generation of young adults is seemingly more narcissistic and portentous than the priors, having no authentic connections to human suffering. In “The First Person,” an excerpt from Jonathan Kozol’s Night in the Dark and I am Far From Home (1990), this idea of emotional removal in society is explored.

Kozol describes this detachment from the universal human condition in relation to how we (Americans) teach writing and history.  Kozol explains how the absences of the first person in academic literature and writing curriculums have created a nation of ignorant passivist. Students are taught, early on, that in order to convey information credibly and with objectivity one must remove one’s voice from the text; using “I” makes it an inaccurate and subjective opinion. He refers to this removal of self as “ethnical anonymity,”[It] lies at the heart of all semantic methods of self-abdication. In a sense, the academic mind “incorporates” itself, achieving the condition of Anonymous Imagination, by just this method of third-person alienation of its own beliefs. It is more than a sophisticated trick of educated intellection. It is a hint of just how much we have already lost and forfeited (110).

Consequently, this method of teaching academic writing has created a generation of inactivity. Students feel disconnected and powerless in addressing global and societal issues, “power is beyond them. Transformation is above them”(113). This sentiment should be frightening to most!

In essence, we are breeding a generation that feels no connection to the larger global society or any obligation to address problematic world orders! How do you feel about producing adult citizen who primarily have their best interest in mind with no regard to the preservation of humanity? Through the history of our capitalist system, we have seen perversions of human relations in the name of the “economic development.” Through abetting such narcissism, we are creating a generation of people with little regard for humanity and more interest in competing socio-economic factors such as wealth and professional outcomes. While this may seem like our inevitable future, through effectively engaging students in ELA and history curriculums in school setting that reflect a connection between them, the students, and affecting change, there is room enough for redemption. Like Kozol, I am an advocate for human rights and equality; education reform serves as my avenue to effect change, teaching as a way to inspire it.

Kozol, J. (1990). “The First Person,” The night is dark and I am far from home. New York : Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Wikis: Where we all fit in!

What in the world is a wiki? Is this just a more academic social network?

These were my first thoughts when I received my first invitation to join a wiki. However, upon learning more about it through reading Lamb’s “Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, ready or not, ” I began to understanding the potential usefulness of wiki’s in the classroom or anywhere.

Wiki’s provide a shared space for the individuals to collaborate and build upon  one another’s ideas. Essentially, it’s a wide open space for exploration, cooperation, communication, and creativity. Ideally, it functions to create a digital space for classroom culture to be built upon, be exercised, and more importantly, shared. As described by Lamb, “what’s unique about wikis is that users define for themselves how their processes and groups will develop, usually by making things up as they go along” (38). This characteristic is rather attractive to me, more so than other collaborative social tools. The freedom is what’s most empowering as a pre-service teacher. Granted, wiki’s are not limitless web-tools; however, the space provided supports free exploration, which, fortunately, is uncapped.  

Lamb mentions the very obvious pitfalls of wikis and that is the instability of material. Because text can be added, deleted, and edited by all members of the wiki, material is essentially unstable and subject to mutilation. Lamb explains saying, “this concern is largely misplaced. Think of an open wiki space as a home that leaves its front door unlocked but doesn’t get robbed because the neighbors are all out on their front steps gossiping, keeping a friendly eye on the street, and never missing a thing. This ethic is at the heart of ‘SoftSecurity,’ which relies on the community, rather than technology, to enforce order” (40). It seems that wiki communities become utopian-like spaces for idea discovery and exploration.

This is definitely a tool that I plan to use in my classroom (if the technology is available) to create a virtual class workspace to store ideas to be revisited, synthesis student material, and allow for free discussion for students. I am excited thinking about what a wiki has the potential to turn into…boy, what a wiki!

 

Lamb, B. (2004 Sept./Oct.). Wide open spaces: wikis, ready or not. EDUCAUSE Review, Retrieved from http://moodle.wolfware.ncsu.edu/file.php/21921/WIdeOpenSpaces_WikisReadyorNot.pdf

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