Multimedia Reflective Essay #1: Ideas, Applications and Connections, Oh My!

wateringOur seminar in digital authorship has helped to water a lot of my thoughts, opinions and experiences of digital literacy.  Before I did the Digital Literacy Institute two summers ago, I wouldn’t have placed myself very far along the continuum of digitally literate folks.  My brother had convinced me to join Twitter, but outside of that, there was nothing to really point to as evidence that I had any interest in or knowledge of digital and media literacy.  As I move along the continuum, I encounter new texts and ideas and classmates who continue to shape my learning, and EDC 534, for me, has been kind of like a beautiful, giant street art girl with pigtails pouring water on my tree of understanding.  How’s that for a metaphor?

Students tomorrowThe first key idea I’ll point to here is about empowerment.  We explored this concept through reading and watching texts about critical and creative production.  My major takeaway was that providing opportunities to create media is an excellent way for educators to encourage and engage students to form and share their own ideas, but that framing it as “giving voice” to students doesn’t sit right with me, because that implies that the educator is in a position of power, giving something to the student, when in reality, students have voices already.  I’ve also been thinking about how students who are lucky enough to have Kara, Mark, Brien (from DLI), or many of the people in this class for a teacher are going to get the opportunity to be digital authors, whereas some students just won’t ever be sitting in front of someone who’s “into” this “kind of stuff,” and it makes me sad that students have to play the Russian Roulette like that, when they should all have access to education that emphasizes media literacy and digital authorship.  I’ll temper that with the following quote from Elisabeth Rosenthal in “Can a Computer Replace Your Doctor,” even though that was written in a different context:


Copyright is another key idea for me from our work so far.  Larry Lessig’s TED Talk, “Laws That Choke Creativity“, was really eye opening for me.

I can be curmudgeonly sometimes.  Next time I feel myself slipping into my “Kids these days– they’re always on their phones and they don’t know how to focus!” moods, I am going to try to take a page from Lessig’s sensible, historical view of appropriation, digital authorship and copyright, and place young people’s actions online in context.  I don’t want to sound like this:

Ruining language

And I know that, unfortunately, sometimes I also sound pious, like this:


My third key idea is privacy.  Just the title of Patricia Lange’s book Kids on YouTube gave me a little chill before I had to remind myself to stop being old and ornery and try to keep an open mind.  Her chapter on representational ideologies connected so eerily with some of the readings I had to do around the same time for my WRT 524 class, Histories and Theories of Writing Instruction.  James Berlin’s “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class” offered what I saw as a very removed, theoretical definition of ideology as “always already” present ideas, values, and perceptions of what’s “normal,” through which people see, but may not necessarily recognize as their lens.  In contrast, Lange seemed to be very practically showing us a definition of ideology by giving examples of the values and beliefs of people making media and people represented by media.

For instance, Lange’s description of  the mother Lola, who posts a video of her daughter Ashley dancing in order to get more subscribers, helped me to understand that I don’t have the answer to that situation; I have an opinion about it based on my ideologies.  Ashley’s sister tells Lola that the video must be removed once they discover that it had been reposted on a pornographic website, and Lola “struggled with the decision to remove the video” (163).  My first (and visceral) reaction was:

Hell no

How could a mother even question such a thing?  Following Lola’s explanation about eventually reposting the video a second time but disabling the embedding feature so that it “couldn’t… link to any outside website,” Lange explains:

“She displays the digital literacy that one can choose to disable embedding functions for future videos.  But an additional digital literacy would acknowledge awareness that a video can be re-appropriated even if YouTube’s embedding feature is disabled” (163).

Analyzing where Lola is coming from in terms of digital literacy helped me to analyze where I am coming from in terms of ideology.  For me, privacy is an important right, and I feel very in line with Commenter #8 from the Verdi case study:

“[D]ocumenting your own past online is your choice– and you take away [kids’] agency by letting your parental whims follow them into their virtual (and tangible) futures” (176).

ListenThis brings me to my participation in this course.  I don’t want to live in an echo chamber, so I really appreciate when things that I feel strongly about, such as privacy, are discussed by a group of smart people with different ideologies.  Our conversations on Flipgrid and in Google Hangouts and on Twitter have done a lot to make an online course feel like a collaborative learning experience.  One of my strengths as a learner comes from working with others, listening to others and making meaning with others, so the opportunities to engage with others in this class have been important to me.

During this time of career transition for me, as I am moving from ten years in the classroom to my first month in a state education department, I am really missing the part of my identity that is a teacher who teaches students every day, so thinking about digital authorship (1) as a student myself, (2) as a teacher up until very recently, and (3) through the perspectives of my classmates, many of whom are teachers, librarians, and media makers, has allowed me to make connections and applications beyond those I might be making in my new role alone.

While this course is figuratively watering my understanding, it’s also raising a lot of questions, so why don’t I bullet a few of them here for you, hey?

  • In what ways can I be a part of the digital literacy and media education movement in my new role, now that I don’t get to actually see students every day?
  • Where are the intersections between the stuff we’re learning in this class and my other interests, such as ELL education, humor communications, and writing and rhetoric?  (Potential answer: One of the reading options for next week is Jenna Pack’s “Remaking the Future of Multimodal Composing by Examining its Past,” from Enculturation, a rhet/comp journal– wahoo!)
  • How can I hold on to my personal values about privacy while still moving forward in our increasingly “shared” world?
  • Will I ever be as good at creating media as Mark Davis?

Looking ahead, I cannot WAIT to work through some of my ideas around analyzing the show Drunk History and possibly build my own sequence for an episode about stand-up comedians for my final creative project.

Sneak Peek: Here’s the clip I’m planning to use for my Critical Analysis of a YouTube video…

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