Tag Archives: popular culture

The University of Toronto turns 190!

I (Said) have been part of the University of Toronto system since I began my undergraduate degree in 2009. It has been quite the ride considering I was born in Lebanon & immigrated to Canada in 2003! This year, the University of Toronto is celebrating turning 190 & one of its satellite campuses in Mississauga, Ontario, is turning 50. The history teacher/student in me became curious and wanted to learn a little more about the school I attend and the community I belong to.

It all began on March 15, 1827, when a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College [before it was renamed University of Toronto on Jan. 1, 1850].”

Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science (now the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering) offered students instruction in mining, engineering, mechanics and manufacturing. New faculties were soon added, among them home economics (1906), education (1907), forestry (1907), social work (1914), nursing (1920), graduate studies (1922), hygiene (1926) and the School of Architecture (1948). There is definitely a rich history to explore if you are interested in the social, political, and religious influences on the development of post-secondary institutions in Ontario/Toronto. Isn’t it amazing how a once denominational college is now a collegiate university with over 85,000 students from at least 160 countries, over 500,000 alumni, and 2 satellite campuses?

More interestingly, new courses and disciplines will certainly continue to emerge in response to developments in our globalized society and contemporary culture. I wondered if there were courses that weren’t as predictable as “Introduction to Eco/Chem/Math/Psych” and here are two that stood out to me:

Feminism, Zombies and Survivalism (WGS334H1S)

  • In this course, we interrogate the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies while, at the same time, re-reading them for the alternative ethical frameworks and possible futures that they suppress.

The Beatles (MUS321H1)

  • The class tackles two main questions: Why were The Beatles so popular, and how did they become the soundtrack to the 1960s (with a little help from their friends, of course). This class has no prerequisites.

I definitely wish I could have written an academic paper discussing the context and influence of the song lyric, “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” 

In any case, happy birthday UofT. Here are a few pictures, taken from Student Life @ UofT.

HartHouseSoccer
An intramural soccer game in 1951.
UC-Steps-1024x680
Nursing students in 1920/1921 on the steps of University College.
University College Tank
A tank on campus in 1950.

UofTBday

Advertisements

Lens Blog and Visual Thinking Strategies

When developing the photo essay assignment for my course, I came across an excellent resource for teachers and students. The New York Times has started a blog entitled Lens: Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism. The topics covered in  the blog posts touch on several critical issues such as immigration, race, and class. The photos  captured in each of the photo essays serve as a great entry point into rich discussion. When using the Lens Blog in my classroom I find myself drawing on skills I developed during workshops many years ago.

When I was a public school teacher, I participated in a fascinating series of professional development workshops called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). By analyzing carefully selected images, students were able to develop critical literacy skills as well as visual literacy skills. Teachers were facilitators in this process and asked three open-ended questions:

1. What’s going on in this picture?

2. What do you see that makes you say that?

3. What more can we find?

I found myself using the VTS approach when presenting students the photo essays from the Lens blog. Students in my class really engaged with the photos and rich discussion took place as a result. I will definitely be using this blog for years to come in the classroom.

Below are some powerful images from photo essays on  the Lens Blog.

Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner

Link to VTS site: http://www.vtshome.org/

Link to NYT Lens: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

Using Instagram in the Classroom

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. That is probably one of the reasons why Instagram has become my social media app of choice. I love the simplicity of it. There are no words, simply photos. You get to see what your friends, acquaintances, and public figures (you choose to follow) are up to. My use of facebook has slowly dwindled while my use of Instagram has quickly ramped up. This seems to be the general trend across the world. As educators in this digital age, we think about how to integrate social media effectively into the classroom. Facebook, wikis, blogs and twitter have made their way into many classrooms; however, Instagram is rarely used. I found this very cool infographic for educators and the use of Instagram in the classroom.

All of the below suggestions can be used in K-12 classrooms. Some can be used in higher ed. Contexts.

***Note: Before using Instagram in the classroom:

  • I think educators should have separate Instagram accounts if they are also using it for personal purposes.
  • Also, as a class you should establish a hashtag. So, if your students want to hashtag a relevant picture it gets included in the class hashtag.

10-ways-to-use-instagram

http://www.weareteachers.com/blogs/post/2014/08/07/10-ways-to-use-instagram-in-the-classroom

Teaching in a Digital Age

Facebook Logo As an instructor of literacy methods courses in preservice teacher education, one of the challenges is remaining current. I feel that I must have current knowledge of research on literacy and literacy development, current knowledge of curriculum resources and government initiatives, and be current with ever-changing social media trends. The last point is one that is often overlooked but equally important. To prepare my student teachers to be effective literacy teachers, I need to know them and this entails knowing the social media they are using. If I do not have some working knowledge of their communication patterns they might view me as a dinosaur which in turn can create a barrier to me understanding where they are coming from. Also, both student teachers and I need to know what pupils are using if we want to connect home and school literacy practices. Not having a teenager makes it difficult to stay current – many adolescents are far more in tune than me. So what to do? I found this website http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog which is helpful. I am not sure who sponsors it but there is a treasure trove of info for those of us trying to figure out what adolescents and young adults are using. One page that was very useful lists11 sites that kids go to after Facebook http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog/11-sites-and-apps-kids-are-heading-to-after-facebook . I liked the thumbnail sketches of each site and the pros and cons of each site.
Another page identified top digital citizenship bloggers.
http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog/our-favorite-digital-citizenship-bloggers-to-follow-in-2014
These bloggers identify issues that are often invisible to me.
Knowing popular culture I feel is essential to being a literacy professor. Clare

Philomena

philomena-movie-banner-new

I saw the movie Philomena and was blown away by it. The story is powerful, the acting strong, and the direction very subtle. In the movie the main character, Philomena, is sent to a home for unwed mothers run by Catholic nuns who arrange for her son to be adopted by an American family.  50 years later she decides to search for her son. Having gone to Catholic elementary and secondary school, I was quite interested in the “Catholic aspect” of the movie That aside, I felt that the movie addressed so many issues which I think that we should be addressing in schools. As Clive noted in an earlier blog post about relevance, including popular culture in our curriculum can allow for discussion of issues which students face. This movie raises questions about power (institutional power), societal norms, religion, and relationships. When do we forgive and forget? When do condemn and expose? When should we question the power of religion? When should we keep a secret? Who has the right to decide what is “right”? After the movie my book club  and I had a spirited discussion of some of the dilemmas that Philomena faced, the decisions that the nuns made (in whose interests were they made), and the relationship between Philomena and the journalist who helped her.  I highly recommend the movie (it requires two hankies) and would love to hear your views of the movie. Should a movie like this be included in our secondary school curriculum? Clare