October 2010


Jessica is the first of many blog entries to come from Professor Paradise’s Mediated Communication Theory class. Each week, the students teach youth at an after school venue called Davis Commons, about media education. Here is Jessica Silva’s reflection on the first week of serving at Davis Commons.

Mediated Communication Theory (CO419): An Introduction to our Media Literacy CBL Project with Davis Commons

Community service is engrained in Stonehill College culture. Entering campus as first-year students, one of the first activities we take part in is a community service project. Students and faculty alike take great pride in this work. As senior Mediated Communication majors, working with the community takes on a whole new meaning during one of our final courses at Stonehill.

Mediated Communication Theory (CO-419), the senior capstone taught by Professor Angela Paradise, pairs a classroom setting with community-based learning. Our course work focuses predominantly on the theoretical frameworks of media effects and media literacy. The latter term has been defined as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms “ (Aspen Institute of Media Literacy) as well as  “the ability to sift through and analyze the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us every day” (Media Awareness Network). Students in our capstone course work closely with the Office of Community-Based Learning to create a partnership with Davis Commons in Brockton, MA.  Inside our own classroom we learn about the foundations and theories that embody media literacy, but through our partnership with Davis Commons we use the foundations of media literacy to teach and promote media education.

Davis Commons, an afterschool center for neighborhood children and teens, is a welcoming environment where youth (mostly between the ages of 8-16) complete their homework and socialize with their friends. Professor Paradise has worked closely with the Davis Commons site director for the last few years to create a 10-week schedule of media literacy-themed lesson plans which the Mediated Communication students prepare and facilitate. This semester, we have three separate groups of students visiting Davis Commons on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons for a total of approximately 30 sessions.  Each week our groups must devise lesson plans that focus on various media-related topics including media violence, cyberbullying,  deceptive advertising, and gender roles in the media.   We hope to achieve several goals by facilitating these lesson plans, yet our primary objective is to encourage the Davis Commons youth to think critically about their media use, the media content they encounter on a daily basis, and the possible ways in which their media consumption affects their daily lives.   At the end of the year, all three groups will compile a video made from clips that will be taped throughout our time at Davis Commons. The video will be debuted at a final celebration for the Stonehill and Davis Commons groups.

This week is our first week of devising and implementing a lesson plan and the topic we explored with the youth focuses on the prevalence of violence and aggression in media content.  One of the great aspects of these lesson plans is that every lesson plan in a given week builds off of the previous day.  For example, Tuesday’s group introduced the kids at Davis Commons to the concept of media violence, while Wednesday’s group focused on the potential effects of exposure to media violence (e.g., the learning of aggression, desensitization, and fear).  On Thursday our final group wrapped up the subject of media violence by leading an open discussion with the children about positive ways to handle conflicts in the real world through conflict resolution and anti-violence strategies.  Although it is only our first week, the youth at Davis Commons seem to be taking to our media literacy partnership with great interest.

We have only spent a short time at Davis Commons thus far, but it is already clear to all of us that these kids are full of creativity. Many of them have their own YouTube videos and proudly share their amazing footage with us in the computer lab. Since many of us are preparing for a job in media production, we are using this opportunity to also educate the students on video production. Some of the youth love to give us advice about our class video and all of them love to be on camera.

During our time at Davis Commons we hope to learn as much as the kids in our program.  A main goal of our program is to leave these children and teens with a better knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a media literate individual.  Being both media facilitators and role models, we hope to enhance the students’ critical thinking skills and provide them with valuable information concerning media content, media effects, and media production. As the weeks continue and we begin to learn more and more about each other, I am confident that our media literacy partnership will have a lasting impact on both our capstone course and the Davis Commons youth.

 

Response to the CBL Diversity Training

Extra credit is always a nice thing to have the opportunity to receive, so when attending a 2 hr diversity-training could help my grade, I figured there was nothing really to lose. I didn’t realize, however, how much I could actually gain from this experience.

The simulation itself was very simple. The participants were broken up into three groups, Earth, Wind, and Fire. These would become the communities they would have to create. Not all groups were given the same resources to build their communities, however. Although it was not obvious at first, my group (Earth) had considerably more money to buy permits to build, and we also had unlimited access to the craft supplies. The “housing authority” and police both respected our group and allowed us to pretty much do whatever we wanted.  The actual building of our communities was followed by a discussion that was unexpectedly very enlightening.

It only took a few minutes to realize that the other two groups did not have these privileges that my group, Earth, possessed. Our upper class status allowed us to build whatever we wanted, when we wanted. Wind group, like a middle class, worked hard with what they had, both literally and figuratively in between Earth (upper class) and Fire (low class). It was obvious that things could have been a lot worse for these people in Wind, but they could try their hardest to build a community and make it comparable with the upper class.  Fire was constantly being turned down at the housing authority. Thinking back to this, as the upper class we could have tried to help them more than we did. When applying this simulation to real life, it is actually crazy how similar the two are. The low class was looked down on for not having as many buildings, but they did not have access to the resources. When they had enough money to obtain a permit, the housing authority was leery or even denied them, unsure if they’d be able to maintain upkeep.

As a biology major, I certainly am no sociologist. With our discussion, however, I was more enlightened about the problems in the American system as far as money and perceptions.  People automatically assume so many things based on where people live or the wealth that they possess. In most cases, it doesn’t matter how hard someone works because social stigmas, prejudices, and discrimination will always exist. Sometimes, people do not act a certain way because they are poor, but because everyone assumes that they act this way.

This exercise certainly opened up my way of thinking about diversity among our nation, and I hope the insight I have gained will help me change the broken systems, whether on small or large scale, that dictate the lives of people in our country.

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Jamie Lenz is from Torrington, CT. She is a sophomore biology major currently enrolled in Dr. Corey Dolgon’s Intro to Sociology class.

 

This semester I’ve become continually more involved in the Office of Community-Based Learning. Not only am I taking a CBL course (Seminar on American Inequalities) but I am also a work study student in the office and will be a “student leader” (similar to a teacher’s assistant) for a CBL course next semester! I’ll break it down:

American Inequalities:

This is a sociology course that is brand new this year with Professor Margaret Boyd focusing on the stratification system in relationship to race, social class, gender, culture and more. For the CBL component we were assigned to choose any neighborhood, as long as we’re able to access it at some point throughout the semester. In groups, we’re going to perform an in depth study of all aspects of our respective neighborhoods (my group chose Jamaica Plain, MA) looking at basic demographics, crime statistics, school statistics, access to social services and resources, etc. The end result should be a 30 page report on our findings. It sounds overwhelming on paper but I think it’s going to be a great way not only to learn about research methods, but also learn more about a community that I know very little about!

Work study:

So far I’ve gotten to help out with researching possible grant opportunities for faculty, as well as upcoming conferences centered on service learning ( I think I’ve compiled a good list!). In addition to that I’ll soon be working with an AmeriCorps VISTA who is working with the National Coalition for the Homeless (something I’m very interested in) to set up a panel of speakers for the spring semester called “Faces of Homelessness.” I attended the panel last year and I’m very excited to be working on setting it up!

CBL Student leader:

This past summer I was asked to be a “student leader” for a new CBL course about science and math for educators. I’m a Sociology major so I have little to no experience in this field. However, the position was coupled with a conference that seemed extremely interesting so I didn’t want to pass that up! The conference, or The Summer Institute, was definitely worth it! The idea of the Institute was to bring together faculty, a student leader, and a community partner, and essentially design or revamp an already existing CBL course. I loved the idea of getting to help design a course, and the faculty members were very receptive to the idea as well—most of them had never had such an in-depth and honest perspective from students. And of course, if you are working with a community, it’s necessary to have a community partner’s perspective to make sure their needs are being fulfilled, not just the students’.

For the education course I was working with Professor Yang, (newly named “EDU 333: Energy Playground: Teaching Children Science”) we paired up with Rob Connolly, the Community Director at an affordable housing community in Brockton. After a long discussion, we came up with the idea to have Professor Yang’s students visit the community center every other class session and employ the STEM content of the education course, and innovatively and interactively teach it to the students living in the complex. In addition, the Stonehill students are going to help build a “Science Park” for the community, working with the children to fundraise and help decide which pieces of equipment they want for their park. Overall, the Summer Institute was a success! This semester, the student leaders are getting additional training to teach us how to help out in our classrooms and continue to be the liaison between the community partner and Stonehill. As for now I’m working on recruiting students to take the course and writing grants to get funding for the project. Though it’s been a lot of work, I’m very excited to continue the work over the next year!

Molly is a senior Sociology major with a minor in English. In addition to working in the CBL office, she also works in the Stonehill darkroom helping students with photography. After graduation she is hoping to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer.