koganbot asked: I once read a brief paperback overview of the Cultural Studies field and noticed the lack of any mention of people like Lester Bangs and Tom Wolfe; not only weren't they in the canon, they weren't even in view. Seems wrong to leave people who do a good job of studying culture out of ones idea of Cultural Studies. What about media literacy? Although those two didn't write about how to teach kids about media, they sure were the ones, when I was young'un, teaching *me* about media. Thoughts?

Media literacy is pretty wildly interdisciplinary, and there’s not really a set “canon” of thinkers in it, though lots of names reoccur, from pedagogy theorists (John Dewey, Paolo Friere) to media theorists (Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman) to the large field of currently-publishing folks. A colleague of mine is working on a “Media Literacy Grandparents” project that runs the gamut from community and local access media production to Wittgenstein.

But more generally I would say that ML is a field where a lot of people mingle, but few consider it a “home base” discipline. You’ll find rock critics in it — I already know a bunch of people I would consider in the orbit of ML that assign Carl Wilson’s Celine Dion book, say — but you wouldn’t necessarily say that “Carl Wilson is part of the media literacy field.” In my mind, rock criticism as a “field” has some of the same benefits and challenges of ML — there are a lot of important figures in it that aren’t hemmed in by academic jargon and norms, but also it’s not always taken seriously by self-identifying academic fields and seems to fall between the cracks of different disciplines. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if people who teach cultural studies do read/assign/use rock critics. But there’s never really been a place where rock critics are obviously “part of the team” — they come in as needed, and aren’t wrapped into the foundations. Certainly rock criticism is part of my intellectual foundation, but I’ve never figured out where it “fits” in terms of the intellectual foundations of entire fields of study. Media literacy has its own intellectual foundations and is its own field, but it sits uncomfortably in the foundations of other related disciplines. 

EDIT: The one exception I can think of here, actually is Simon Frith, who coincidentally (or not) is as close to the media literacy community (by way of cultural studies) as any critic I can think of.

elplacebo asked: How someone with a media studies background but not affiliated with an academic institution get involved teaching media / information literacy?

Wow, I missed this question, which was probably asked a long time ago! I haven’t been blogging much recently, so this is a good way to dip my toes back into the online content production waters…

A lot of folks who teach media and information literacy don’t have conventional backgrounds in academia. The media literacy community as “big tent” includes practitioners, scholars, researchers, enrichment educators who tend to identify somewhere between media studies (and media arts practice, which happens to be my background — the intersection between media studies and media arts) — and education, along with an assortment of other professions — medicine, law, psychology. 

I had a lot of help from collaborations with academic institutions — especially Temple University and the University of Rhode Island through the field-building work of my fearless leader and co-author Renee Hobbs — but there are lots of examples of folks who operate outside of academia who do fantastic work in media literacy enrichment, professional development, and field-building. My friends and colleagues Rhys Daunic of the Media Spot and D.C. Vito and Emily Long of the LAMP (both in NYC) are two examples. 

The best way to dive in is to figure out where folks are doing work that is either formally or informally MIL-related locally, and to work, volunteer, or at least get in touch. In Philadelphia, we have some great resources for collaboration in the media literacy field. One of the best is the Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative, which is a consortium of youth media enrichment providers, and runs the gamut from public media institutions to smaller arts organizations. (There are similar consortiums, some formal and some informal, in Chicago, the Bay Area, New York, and the Twin Cities, to name a few big centers for youth media and media literacy work. The re-launched Youth Media Reporter and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture are both good places to learn more about these organizations — NAMAC’s job bank is also useful for browsing paid positions in the youth media and media literacy field.)

If you’re interested in working with K-12 schools, a lot of times making connections with individual teachers who are passionate about media and information literacy, either “officially” or in terms of their practice (without necessarily calling it MIL) can get your foot in the door. I do lots of guest visits to K-12 classrooms, for instance, and these can be just as beneficial as formal partnerships. 

And finally, I can provide a shameless plug for the National Association for Media Literacy Education, of which I’m a board member. We have a student leadership council and committee work that connects media literacy practitioners with larger initiatives, networks, and organizations. The important thing to remember is that the media literacy field doubles as a movement that is fundamentally populist and interdisciplinary in its approach, so there are lots of points of entry.

(Reblogged from barthel)

The Peak-End Rule: Good for Sandwiches, Good for Learning

My friend Tom Ewing wrote a post this year on his market research company’s blog about Daniel Kahneman’s “peak-end rule” and its application to sandwich eating.

The peak-end rule tells us that when we have an experience, we tend to think of its overall quality by averaging the peak amount of quality and the final memory of quality. In the realm of pain, colonoscopy patients will report having a less painful procedure even if it is many, many times longer than usual so long as the peak pain they feel is low and the transition out of the procedure is as painless as possible.

I think of this metaphorically as “reduce turbulence, stick the landing.” The point is that both of these attributes — peak X / final moment of X — comprise a huge component of how we remember an experience.

With sandwiches, this means you eat from both ends (in the case of a baguette) or crust to middle — your peak enjoyment, eating a tasty well-balanced middle bite, averages with your final bite, which switches from the typical “all crust” to the less common “all middle-y goodness.”

This is one reason why the engagement and reflection cycle in media education is so important as bookends to the messy but rewarding work of “in the thick of it” learning. Satisfying reflection is, when done well, a lot of aha’s and affirmations. The difficulty or messiness of a particular task or concept is given some breathing room and re-contextualization. And the process honors phrases like “I liked,” “I learned,” “I wonder,” etc. — activating metacognition in a way that is satisfying to the overall lesson goal.

An interesting way to frame this might be to think about engagement as a “call-back” whose reappearance at the end of a lesson is inherently pleasurable. We return to the “hook,” providing a kind of narrative conclusion to the lesson.

Building in this time for the engagement/reflection book-ends also helps minimize the turbulence of learning. Imagine an art project where everything has gone wrong — the drawings don’t look right, the materials didn’t do what they were supposed to, there’s a bunch of glue everywhere, including on a shirt you liked. Often the accumulation of details like this leads to frustration, followed by (say) cleaning up and leaving the room. But when the goal for the day is not so much the thing you’ve accomplished but they way you’ll be able to reflect on that accomplishment, you re-frame the “peak pain.” The idea here is that the lows aren’t as low when we don’t remember them as the final word on the matter.

(Alternatively, you could prime the pump by giving out pieces of candy and sending kids on their way. But I’ve found this, among other obvious problems, has diminishing returns.)

EDIT: Frank points out that “lessening pain” isn’t really part of the Kahneman experiment — in fact, easing out of painful procedures makes people think they have experienced less pain after the fact. Don’t want to confuse my own thoughts here with the actual experiments/ideas I’m riffing on.

A Pareto approach to pedagogy

Enjoyed Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise, though would have appreciated it more with less of a Big Thesis and more of a collection of stories (which is what it ends up being anyway). Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium reviewed the book and noted that its use of Bayesian reasoning as a cure-all seemed reductive, which is how it felt reading the second half of the book. (Meanwhile, Everything Is Obvious by Duncan Watts is the better book about the limitations of prediction, and there are a number of books that are better on the possibilities of group predictions) .

The best chapter is the one on the online poker boom and bust (Silver calls it a “bubble” but really it was a boom quickly and actively destroyed by regulatory legislation). In it, Silver presents a totally unscientific but provocative variation on the Pareto principle, which says that 20% of customers account for 80% of profits.

In the Pareto Principle of Prediction, the 80-20 rule refers to accuracy and effort (or, alternatively, “skill” and “experience,” a related but different formulation):

As I apply [the principle] here, it posits that getting a few basic things right can go a long way. In poker, for instance, simply learning to fold your worst hands, bet your best ones, and make some effort to consider what your opponent holds will substantially mitigate your losses. If you are willing to do this, then perhaps 80 percent of the time you will be making the same decision as one of the best poker players like Dwan [a prominent online poker hustler] — even if you have spent only 20 percent as much of the time studying the game

I tend to think that there’s something like this in teaching — a set of baseline teaching competencies that, when “mastered,” stop you from crashing and burning. Some combination of lesson structure, management of bodies in space, tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, and big-picture predictability (understanding the full “course” of a lesson even throughout bumpy parts, related to but not exactly the same as structure) makes up for a ton of the anxiety that accompanies teaching.

Recently I’ve been doing some consulting work and workshops that basically lay out a few of these things explicitly for non-traditional teachers in enrichment environments — artists, students, professionals. Pareto Pedagogy comes in handy to help teachers avoid meltdowns — recognizing when they’re cramming multiple lessons into one unit of learning time; when arrangement of space is thwarting their best intentions; when letting silences happen in the classroom would yield more trust and better responses.

Most teachers in K-12 figure this out naturally over the course of their training and certainly within their first few years of teaching. Some teachers over-correct, in a way, employing far too many techniques to predict and control classrooms than are probably necessary — Mary Kennedy refers to this as teachers making the routines the point of the lesson instead of a means to a more important end (as when teachers and students alike get bogged down in color-coding sentence parts and wind up learning more about the color codes than the sentence constructions).

But failing that 20% — bodies, space, structure, handling ambiguity/silence — can make teaching a complete nightmare. That doesn’t mean that mastering some of these makes you a good teacher, or that the “skills” are going to be the same in every environment (this is one of many ways teaching differs from poker!), but that part of the important work of empowering new teachers in ways that also empower their students is simply mitigating disaster. One of the things I love about adapting button-down classroom management techniques like Doug Lemov’s — as much as I think the “project” there is far too controlling — is that it supports (and usually makes very evident very quickly) the simple idea that some control allows for much more freedom and creativity in a learning environment is a somewhat unpopular but very important concept in informal learning environments.

It’s fascinating to read some of these from the other side of the childhood that I spent religiously poring over Calvin and Hobbes. Imagine if this was an acceptable response to homework prompts!

I always give students in my classes a no-penalty opportunity to write “Didn’t Read” on assessments of class reading. This lets me document not just whether students are doing the reading, but whether my assignments of readings seem to be capturing interest across the whole class. My general teaching philosophy is, “Didn’t read the assigned reading once, shame on you. Didn’t read the assigned reading ever, shame on me.”

(Reblogged from calvinhobbesdaily)

Reading Roundup, Oct. 2013

I’ve been doing a lot of interlibrary loaning lately, figured I should post my half-formed thoughts somewhere but none of these books merit their own post, really (though I’ve referred to a few of them elsewhere). I also don’t feel comfortable composing a major post about books I haven’t finished — aside from Whistling Vivaldi, I got anywhere between a quarter to halfway through before throwing in the towel or otherwise moving on. (I try to admit where I stopped when I can — reminds me of the Benjamin essay on book collecting that has an aside about observing how many pages are cut on the books on your home library shelves.)

Summaries and reactions under the cut.

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