Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Teaching Colonialism

If you've never seen the show before, it is a Flash-animated show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim featuring anthropomorphic food items as the main cast. Since the episodes are only 11 minutes long, this show makes a wonderful media piece to use in classes and still have plenty of time for discussion. However, with the show's surreal brand of humor, finding the educational connection requires some flexibility in how concepts are represented. One episode, "Mayhem of the Mooninites" (Volume 1) does a wonderful job of portraying several key concepts used on teaching cultural conflict: colonialism, ideology and epistemology. Specifically, the interactions of the main cast with a duo of 2D aliens who look like this:

Show Synopsis: The two Atari-style aliens attempt to rent a room in the home of the main cast, Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad and end up working to "corrupt" Meatwad. Hijinks ensue.

Let's start by looking at how the show represents a symbolic model for understand epistemology. The Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy explains "epistemology" to mean " the study of knowledge and justified belief." Understood from the perspective of teaching colonialism, epistemology is an important concept for students to understand in order to dissect the unquestioned assumptions behind different cultural positions and viewpoints. In the show, the Mooninites attempt to justify their evaluation of their Moon culture as "better" than Earth culture by using vertical leap as evaluative criteria. Since this is not a criterion used in cultural comparisons, the absurdity of the criterion illustrates more clearly the system by which this belief is justified for the Mooninites and gives students an opportunity to discuss the mechanisms of epistemology before having to question their own epistemological assumptions about what does and doesn't count as knowledge.

Students can also gain an understanding of the concept of "ideology" by looking at the total sum of these assumptions as discrete systems of belief and social control. In the episode, one of the Mooninites makes the claim that "Using a key to gouge expletives into another's vehicle is a sign of trust and friendship." This is immediately followed by a neighbor of the main cast's exclamation of "Who did this to my freakin' car?!" This interaction can allow students to analyze the ways in which ideological assumptions come into conflict in cultural contact zones.

In order to understand "colonialism," teachers can have students discuss the Mooninites' introduction:
Ignignokt: Hello Carl. I am Ignignokt and this is Err.
Err: I am Err.
Ignignokt: We are Mooninites from the inner core of the moon.
Err: You said it right!
Ignignokt: Our race is hundreds of years beyond yours.
Err: Man, you hear what he's saying?
Ignignokt: Some would say that the Earth is our Moon.
Err: We're the moon.
Ignignokt: But that would belittle the name of our Moon, which is: The Moon.
Err: Point is--we're at the center, not you.
Carl (neighbor): No, the real point is I don't give a damn.

This interaction can be used to discuss Manifest Destiny and the centralizing effect of an ideology that focuses on an insider/outsider model for understanding the world.

I would recommend that students have this episode paired with theoretical readings on colonization so that students can feel comfortable using these academic terms on a subject as non-threatening as a cartoon. Students may also be given creative writing assignments that would allow them to take on these perspectives and work with these concepts in a way that is not culturally intimidating when you have students from diverse backgrounds. Basically, this show provides an approachable way for students to understand current issues with colonialism in current politics by giving them a sort of "neutral" language with which to talk about these concepts before applying them to real-world situations.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Forms & Student Dietary Restrictions

Today I'd like to share a form I created in Google Docs with the Forms function. Basically, my goal is to go green for my summer classes by having a zero-paper policy. That means all my handouts, surveys and quizzes are going online. One of the first paper surveys that I digitized is a survey I designed to understand dietary restrictions for my students. Often, my students like to bring snacks to eat, food to offer for student presentations, and end-of-semester potlucks. When these circumstances arise, I want to be sure that all students can eat all food offerings.

I was sensitized to this issue after spending three years during high school working in an elder care facility. I was expected to accommodate about 20 different types of diets in preparing food for the elders, and since then, I've been sensitive to the ethical, religious, and health restrictions that many people practice in their diets.

As a result, I have designed this basic Diet Survey that I plan to use for my three summer classes (I'll update on how this is received by students when we begin classes). Click on this link to see my sample survey.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zombies & the Humanities Events Coming This Fall!

I and Ida Yoshinaga at the University of Hawai'i are event coordinators for a series of events coming this Fall semester. We are working with the Drama department on a production called "Uncle Vanya and Zombies." You can check out the website here. We are planning to utilize both campus marketing resources and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully I will be able to apply some of the lessons of iFacilitate to this circumstance as well to draw in students from all of our colleges.

If anyone would like more information, please feel free to post comments and questions below.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Experimenting with Screenr

So I had some students get lost on the way to the computer lab when I taught my lecture on using Google Sites to build Online Writing Portfolios. After my first year of teaching with the bus and my bike as my green forms of transportation, I vowed to never again use physical portfolios--80 students worth of binders is far too much for rush-hour on the bus. This way, both myself and my students could save paper/ink and I could save my sore shoulder muscles. That was when I turned to Google Sites so students could submit online (weightless) portfolios.

 Never again.

This year, I decided to experiment with my new introduction to Screenr by doing a shorter version of my  Online Writing Portfolio How-To lecture. If you might be interested in going from paper to online portfolios
(highly recommended!), then feel free to link to my tutorial videos. The template I designed in the Public gallery is also public as well if you want a more plug-and-play approach to incorporating student programming into your curriculum.

Part One: Getting Starting with Google Sites
Part Two: Selecting a Template
Part Three: Selecting a Design Template & Privacy Settings
Part Four: Editing Tools

If you've tried online portfolios with this or some other application, please feel free to post your experiences in the comments. What worked? What didn't? What did students find confusing about the need for online writing portfolios?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finally Tweeting--I Fail as a Millenial

So while most of my friends (except the ludites) have been on Twitter for ages, I am today starting my Twitter account. Here we go...

In setting up my account, I start by making an account and naming it (ZombieGrammar). I am prompted to follow 5 Twitter feeds before I can continue.

My Five:
  • Lisa Lampanelli
  • David Lynch
  • Jhonen Vasquez
  • Zombie Research Society
  • BitchMedia

Yay, now I get to Tweet! Oh wait, I need five more? Okay...

Five More:
  • Daniel Tosh
  • Zach Galifinakis
  • Steven Colbert
  • Maya Angelou
  • bell hooks

Okay, now I can start Tweeting. Gads, now I have to add Contacts? This is a lot of work for something that I will be writing 160 character Tweets for... Oh good, there is no minimum number for contacts. My list of contacts is sadly quite short.

If you want to follow my adventures in grammar Tweeting, my account can be accessed as @ZombieGrammar.

Review for ScreenR

This week I will be reviewing a technology application called Screenr for the purposes of giving feedback to students' writing online.

I recorded my initial review using the screencapture/audio recording. You can listen to me verbally fumble with this technology here.

Overall Review:

Mac and PC
Smartphone compatible

Not that I could tell--I recorded the capture with 4 bars of wireless Internet access. I would not even try this kind of recording in my office, where I usually have only 1-2 bars.

Video Quality?
While the preview is not in HD, the final published versions of casts are automatically formatted into HD.

Length of Recording?
Sorry ScreenR, but 5 minutes just isn't enough for me. Please put out an expanded version!

Methods of Sharing?
  • "Like" through Facebook
  • Tweet through Twitter
  • Embed HTML code
  • URL Address
  • Download as an .mp4 file
  • Publish to YouTube

My Preference for Sharing?
I would probably prefer to post these to a teacher channel on YouTube, but for me, that brings up questions of student privacy--even though it isn't sharing a grade. I'm thinking about directly emailing links to students instead.

So all in all, I am still considering this application, but I want to do more research before I marry it.