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    • Digital Literacies

    Creating Room for Humor in Critical Media Literacy

    By Addie Shrodes
     | Feb 05, 2021
    CreatingRoomforHumor_680w

    Digital media is an important tool for broadening access to knowledge and skills. Yet digital content and platforms can also reproduce structures of power. From white supremacist Tweets to ableist TikTok algorithms, oppressive ideologies show up everywhere online. Young people need critical media literacy practices to learn to identify and challenge the oppressive ideologies that undergird digital media and technologies.

    That said, young people already use digital media to organize for justice and speak back to power. How can educators build on what students learn on social media to support and sharpen critical media literacies? To answer this question, we first need to know more about how students use digital media toward justice-oriented ends. I turned to LGBTQ+ YouTube to examine how young people resist intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and sexuality.

    Critical media literacy on social media is serious work, but it can also be funny. Humor is nearly ubiquitous on LGBTQ+ YouTube, with reaction videos modeling a common form of critical humor. LGBTQ+ reaction videos respond, often comedically, to discriminatory media like right-wing political advertisements. I began to wonder: How do YouTubers who watch and comedically react to anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Black media perform critical media literacies? And how is humor functioning in reaction videos?

    Humor as political possibility in digital culture

    Through a multimodal analysis, I found that humor nurtures political possibility and supports critical media literacies. I approach political possibility as the sense that social change toward a more just world is possible. This possibility of transformation is vital for marginalized young people who may encounter injustice every day.

    Humor also plays a central role in the YouTubers’ critical media literacy practices. Moments of humor defuse hatred and amplify agency to resist social injustice. Satire and parody in these videos challenge ideologies that undergird oppressive digital media, accomplishing important intellectual and political work. Viewers may learn moves for anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic action. Humor as a performance of joy, exuberance, and care also lays the foundation for a better world.

    Although humor may saturate new media, the use of humor to respond to injustice is not new. Queer and queer of color activists and artists have long used humor to disrupt hate and create community. As scholar Danielle Fuentes Morgan has argued, satire in Black communities subversively unmasks the unethical violence of white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Reaction videos expand these practices of satire and parody to subvert phobic ideologies, build power, and cultivate joy.

    Using humor in justice-oriented teaching

    From YouTube to the classroom, humor has a place in social justice learning. Here are some ways educators can nurture humor as political possibility:

    Develop a vision to value humor. Develop an expansive vision for how you can value practices of humor as political possibility. Build on the experiences, identities, and knowledge of your students and consider the sociopolitical context of learning. Consider making a point to better understand how funny digital media such as TikTok videos are meaningful to students as sites of learning.

    See and support student digital activism. Marginalized students are using social media to get involved in social justice activism in their communities and online. Take notice of and find ways to support the everyday work students take up to resist and transform oppressive ideologies toward more just futures. For one, consider what knowledge students hold about social injustice and what desires they share for a better world.

    Critically analyze everyday digital texts. To teach critical media literacies, bring in the digital media texts that students encounter on social media. Incorporate analysis of comedic multimedia texts such as reaction videos, memes, multimedia collage, or other forms of anti-oppressive remix. You might ask students to submit digital texts (videos, memes, images, etc.) from their everyday activities on social media.

    Incorporate satire and parody in critical pedagogy. Educators engaged in critical pedagogy might incorporate parody and satire as forms of critical resistance in the pursuit of educational freedom. Through this approach, you can better understand the role of humor in critical literacies young people learn online and compassionately sharpen these practices with pedagogical assistance.

    Design media production with digital mentor texts. Involve students in digital media production that engages the media they may encounter online, such as reaction videos. I tend to approach media production as an iterative cycle to engage ➝ explore ➝ reflect ➝ make. Engage with a mentor text, in this case a reaction video like that from YouTuber Mac Kahey, aka MacDoesIt. Explore other videos or posts of its kind on social media. Reflect together on what students noticed, thought, felt, liked, and would have done differently. Try it out by making a video that takes up and transforms the practices they saw.

     

    Every educator needs to incorporate the important practices of social justice work and critical media literacy into their instruction. By examining these principles through the lens of humor, students connect with valuable lessons in how they can counter hate, create community, and speak out against potentially heavy topics in a way that keeps spirits high.

     

    Addie Shrodes is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her dissertation work examines the roles of humor, play, and protest in the critical digital literacies of trans and queer teens. You can follow her on Twitter @AddieShrodes.

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  • Keeping Your Students Engaged in the Virtual Classroom

    By Jerie Blintt
     | Jan 29, 2021
    Girl at laptop

    During the current times of social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning has become more commonplace. As such, educational institutions, teachers, and other entities in the industry have been doing their best to transition classes online.

    However, it’s no secret that it’s harder to pay attention to a computer screen than to in-person lectures. There are plenty of distractors that can cause students to lose focus. Educators need innovative approaches that can keep students engaged until the day ends.

    Use live media

    Presentations that contain only blocks of texts are boring. To keep students’ attention on the screen, Dustin York, an associate professor for Maryville University’s online bachelors program, uses trailers, animations, music, polls, and other forms of media to make his classes feel more dynamic. In an article on University Business about creating meaningful online engagement, York says that this encourages his students to pay attention, keeping them engaged. Those who teach English and literacy can insert videos that can help their students visualize how to enunciate words.

    Encourage students to chat

    Virtual meetings can become chaotic when everyone’s microphone is unmuted, which is why putting students on mute is all but required during most online classes. But this doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t express their opinions or ask questions. That’s why the chat box is there.

    In their Literacy Now post “Engaging in Reading, Authoring, and Community Through Virtual Literacy-Casts", Devery Ward and colleagues touch on how they leveraged chat features by encouraging students to drop ideas in the chat. During the lecture, the teacher can then read students’ names and their thoughts aloud to pull the students into the discussion. This demonstrates to students that they’re not just a passive listener and further builds a sense of engagement that’s unique to virtual classrooms.

    Conduct breakout sessions

    Of course, listening to lectures for hours on end can be tedious or feel overwhelming. “Students may find it more difficult to participate or think out loud in this environment,” says Jennifer Brown, a K–12 education strategist for tech solutions provider CDW. A breakout session is one way to cut the monotony, but you want to make sure that your students are being productive rather than just taking a break. To this end, Brown emphasizes the importance of assigning clear tasks for students to accomplish. You can also use collaborative organizer tools such as Pear Deck and Jamboard to facilitate the discussions.

    Play games

    You already have technology as the platform for your lectures. Use the medium to the fullest by having students engage with their learning through online games. Have you ever heard of Quizlet? It’s an online, customizable flashcard platform, which can work well with vocabulary and spelling lessons.

    There's also Kahoot!—a learning platform that can be used to create multiple-choice quizzes. Students can access your quizzes via a web browser or the Kahoot! app. It's good for testing your students' knowledge on any literacy topic, from grammar to vocabulary.

    Show them how their skills apply in the real world

    Online learning can sometimes feel too detached from reality, which is another reason why it can be difficult for students to stay engaged during classes. To get past this, include real-world problems and scenarios that pull back the virtual veil and show your students how the skills they learn online can be applied outside of a class.

    A good example of this happening at a higher education level is how modern nursing degree programs, many of which are being conducted online, are combining virtual teaching with practical training. The classes under Maryville University’s online RN to BSN program include intensive online coursework on practical clinical and primary care skills. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the program uses Maryville’s advanced user-friendly digital learning platforms to teach hands-on skills that lay the foundations for professional competence in a variety of healthcare settings. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, community services, home healthcare settings, and more.

    When students can experience how the skills they learn online can apply outside of the classroom, they’re not only more engaged but also more prepped for the real world. Although not every educator has access to the advanced learning platforms used by top online universities, today’s online learning and remote working tools and platforms can simulate real-world scenarios for authentic learning and content creation experiences.

     

    Keeping students’ attention in such a distracting environment can be challenging but not impossible. Work with the students in your virtual classroom to see which of these online learning tips work best for them and for you.


    Jerie Blintt is an avid reader who is passionate about bringing technology and literature to the forefront of every classroom. When she's not writing about the latest innovations, you'll likely find her meditating in her local park.

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    Four Tips for Teaching Early Readers Remotely

    By Katy Tarasi
     | Jan 22, 2021
    Student on Zoom

    As a first-grade teacher for nearly a decade, I enjoyed nothing more than teaching early readers to unlock the code and discover the joy of books. Three years ago, I was hired as the literacy coach for my district. In this role, I led professional development sessions on teaching reading in the primary grades, training teachers and support staff on explicit, systematic instruction, and managed committees on English language arts curriculum.

    Then in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our district moved to remote learning. Everything I had been teaching other educators involved in-person, hands-on instruction. I was dismayed. How could we ever reproduce literacy instruction in a distance learning format?

    But no matter the venue, whether on-site, remote, or a hybrid format, teachers can continue delivering high-quality literacy instruction. The following tips have helped me, and I hope will do the same for others tasked with teaching reading and writing virtually.

    1. Remember your classroom must-dos.

    When teaching reading, replicate good practices virtually. As you would with a traditional lesson plan, begin with your goal in mind and then consider how it can be achieved through the screen. What do you want the students to learn? How can you get them there? Then consider your learning plan, materials, and opportunities for practice and frequent feedback.

    For example, our primary-grade teachers deliver daily phonics lessons with the learning goal that students will accurately encode and decode words with a targeted skill. Teachers must start with explicit instruction, just like they would in the classroom. In a remote setting, rather than using printed letter cards, use an online letter program such as Really Great Reading. Or, when it’s time for guided practice, have students create letter tiles on small pieces of paper to manipulate at home.

    Encourage participation by asking different groups to answer a question using a cue such as “Everyone wearing a red shirt unmute yourself and share out.” For individual practice, have students submit a picture of written work through digital platforms like Seesaw or Google Classroom. As you would in the classroom, form small groups for remediation or enrichment. You can schedule a breakout room or office hours for students who need more one-on-one support.

    2. Let parents in on the learning.

    Understandably, most parents are not experts in reading instruction. Part of our job during remote learning has been to provide parents with tools to support their children and give parents context and background about the instructional practices we use. Sharing the purpose of strategies and routines and offering specific ways to help at home is critical.

    I put together a bitmoji classroom for parents. This page includes a range of videos, from the technical side (the five pillars of literacy) to the practical (what is phoneme segmentation, and how can I do it at home?). When I communicate with parents, I offer this page as a resource for at-home practice. For those who are not easily able to help with work at home, they can at least build an understanding of the work their child is doing.

    3. Mix it up!

    One of the biggest complaints I have heard from teachers (and students) amid the pandemic is that they are teaching whole-group lessons for long blocks of time. This is not something we typically do in elementary school. So, let’s consider how that can be adjusted for virtual learning.

    What if you create small groups for learning centers? After setting up expectations, create five breakout rooms. Just as you would in the classroom, pop into each room for a few minutes to answer questions, check progress, and monitor behavior.

    Is there an opportunity for students to work in pairs, writing together? Create different Google slides, each with a prompt, and assign two students to each slide. To make it purposeful, come back together and have partners share out with the whole class.

    Do the students need to work on something independently? Have the students turn on their cameras, set a timer on the screen, and let them work at their own pace. Then, come back together to check on their status and make instructional decisions based on their progress.

    4. Take it off screen.

    Students need to read to learn to navigate text. Reading aloud to students or just guiding them through activities is not enough. Give students time to read away from the computer screen. I know releasing that control over to students, not knowing what they are doing when you can’t see them, can be scary. But I encourage you to give them off-screen tasks and gather feedback on how they do. Make the learning purposeful, and the students will be engaged in the task.

    For example, our third-grade students have to find text evidence from the nonfiction book Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster by Mary M. Cerullo. When off screen, the students can look through the text to find interesting facts and write those down to share the next day. Students can use this information to create something—a paragraph, a drawing, or a diorama—allowing students to express creativity, own their learning, and demonstrate understanding.

     

    That there is a lot lost during remote learning is true. I miss the clamor of a full classroom talking excitedly about a favorite book, the coming together around the carpet for meetings and lessons, and the expressions of friendship you see on the playground and in the cafeteria. But if we get creative, focus on what matters, and work diligently to meet students’ needs, we can still teach in joyful and effective ways.

    Katy Tarasi is an elementary literacy coach in the Avonworth School District near Pittsburgh, PA, and a fellow with the Great Minds’ Wit & Wisdom English Language Arts team. In that capacity, she delivers professional development and coaching to educators around the United States.

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    Planning for the Day After: Talking to Students About Traumatic Events

    ILA Staff
     | Jan 15, 2021
    WhatWillWeSay_680w

    “What were some of your day afters?” asked Matthew R. Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, at the beginning of ILA’s free digital event on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

    Kay’s session, “‘What Will We Say to Them Tomorrow?’: Tackling Tough Conversations in the Classroom” is available on demand for free on ILA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

    Answers from the nearly 1,000 educators participating in Tuesday’s webinar came pouring in: Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook. The Boston Marathon bombing. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

    In the days after the violent insurrection that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, educators grappled with how to address the attack in their classrooms—or if they even should. Students ask questions, of course. How would educators answer them?

    Kay took to Twitter the day after, giving advice and reminding fellow educators that students need engagement and substance, not quick fixes.

    MattKay_Twitter1

     

    Those looking for with additional resources from Kay may be interested in the following:

    Follow Kay on Twitter, where he regularly shares valuable resources from others.

    MattKay_Twitter2

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    ILA’s 30 Under 30 List Honors Emerging Leaders in 12 Countries

    By ILA Staff
     | Jan 11, 2021
    30 Under 30 collage

    ILA released its biennial 30 Under 30 list today, an initiative that shines a spotlight on the next generation of leaders who are working to create positive change in the global literacy landscape.

    The 2021 list of honorees includes educators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. Though their roles may differ, they all belong to a growing cohort of young innovators, disrupters, and visionaries in the field.

    “The start of 2021 is filled with much promise thanks to the work of this year’s class of honorees,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their work—whether it’s research on multicultural literacy, helping young students find the power of their voice, or dismantling systems of oppression in education—is impacting the lives of countless individuals and communities. Not only do these emerging leaders share in our mission of literacy for all, but also they are helping to ensure that the post-COVID era, when we get there, will be grounded in equity for all.”

    Representing 12 countries, this year’s list celebrates emerging leaders such as

    • Patrick Harris, 27, founder of Good Trouble Media and humanities teacher at The Roeper School in Michigan, U.S., who helped transform his middle school English department into a humanities program geared toward preparing students to tackle social justice issues. Through his media company, he also creates education-focused podcasts, most notably The Common Sense Podcast, in which he and his cohost showcased the highs and lows of being Black teachers.
    • Ondřej Kania, 28, CEO/cofounder of JK Education in the Czech Republic, which began as an advisory organization for students in Central Europe by assisting them with obtaining scholarships and financial aid to attend schools in the United States. Now, the organization is working to transform the education system in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the founding of four schools grounded in personalized, project-based learning.
    • Havana Chapman-Edwards, 10, founder/executive director of Girls Have Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, whose youth-powered nonprofit aims to eliminate barriers to girls’ education. Chapman-Edwards, the youngest honoree on this year’s list, has raised more than $40,000 for girls around the globe for items such as books, school supplies, toiletries, and transportation.

    ILA’s 2021 30 Under 30 list also includes the following individuals: 

    • Saurabh Anand, 28, Graduate Student Research Assistantship Fellow, University of Georgia, Georgia, U.S.
    • Anna Bjork, 28, English Language Learner Teacher, Minnetonka Public Schools, Minnesota, U.S.
    • Ryan Brady, 18, Founder, Hippkids, Ohio, U.S.
    • Candace Chambers, 27, CEO, Educational Writing Services; PhD Student, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
    • Jimmie Chengo, 23, Founder/Executive Director, Afribuk Society, Kajiado, Kenya
    • Cedric Christian Ngnaoussi Elongué, 27, Founder/Executive Director, Muna Kalati, Accra, Ghana
    • Enwongo-Abasi Francis, 24, Ambassador, World Literacy Foundation, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria
    • Seth French, 29, English Language Arts Teacher, Bentonville High School, Arkansas, U.S.
    • Shayla Glass-Thompson, 28, Literacy and Language Equity Specialist, Badger Ridge Middle School, Wisconsin, U.S.
    • Tiyana Herring, 23, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Kate Sullivan Elementary School; Graduate Student, Florida State University, Florida, U.S.
    • Tori Hill, 27, Executive Director, Writers and Artists Across the Country, California, U.S.
    • Mahdi Housaini, 25, Founder, Parande Library, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
    • Jigyasa Labroo, 28, Founder/CEO, Slam Out Loud, Dharamshala, India
    • Roman Lay, 28, English/Drama Teacher, Alcoa High School, Tennessee, U.S.
    • Andrea Liao, 18, Founder/President, Book the Future, Washington, U.S.
    • Josephine Lichaha, 28, Teacher, Go Ye Therefore, Livingstone, Zambia
    • Austin Martin, 25, Creator/Director, Rhymes With Reason, California, U.S.
    • Simpson Muhwezi, 29, Founder/Creative Director, Wandiika Literacy Initiative, Kampala, Uganda
    • Erin O'Neil, 26, Founder, Fishtail Publishing, Ohio, U.S.
    • Akash Patel, 28, Spanish Teacher, Ignite Middle School; Founder, Happy World Foundation, Texas, U.S.
    • Rebecca Quiñones, 28, Second-Grade Spanish Dual Language Teacher, P.S. 139, New York, U.S.
    • Zachery Ramos, 21, President/Founder, Traveling Library, California, U.S.
    • Dwayne Reed, 29, Fourth-/Fifth-Grade English Language Arts Teacher, Chicago Public Schools; CEO, Teach Mr. Reed, Illinois, U.S.
    • Kelsey Reynolds, 25, Literacy and Education Advocate, California, U.S.
    • Mari Sawa, 29, Literacy Specialist, Earth8ight School, Okayama, Japan
    • Olivia Van Ledtje, 12, Founder, LivBits, New Hampshire, U.S.
    • Tien-Hao Yen, 29, Founder, LIS Education, New Taipei City, Taiwan

    ILA’s 30 Under 30 honorees are featured in the January/February 2021 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s bimonthly magazine, which published today. To view the Literacy Today feature and read more about the honorees’ accomplishments, visit literacyworldwide.org/30under30.

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