Tag Archives: occupy wall street

Power Ball Ads: Hope Vs. Reality?

snapshot taken on a downtown Q train on 3/27/12

If you watch TV (online or otherwise), or ride the subway in New York, you’ve likely seen the recent Power Ball ads like this one, that implies if you win, you’ll have enough funds to do anything, anytime, anywhere.

I should first say that my relationship to the Lotto is not a familiar one — it’s one of those things that my grandmother participated in once a week for at least the latter part of her adult life, but I never really understood (because she never won). And looking at ads like this, or the Power Ball commercial where a woman reclines on a couch in her spacious living room and uses a remote to control what a live Cindy Lauper plays, makes a person wonder.

So why post about this on a blog that focuses on education and technology? At a time when tension in the country is only mounting around the economy (among other things), it’s not hard to explain to students at any instructional level that there are few circumstances that would ever allow for one car to travel, alone, through one of the busiest arteries in New York City while traffic builds up in the other tunnel — or, that hiring an ultra-famous band for personal use in one’s apartment is highly unlikely under most circumstances, but such logic goes agains the grain of images like these. I’ve obviously not researched this from an empirical standpoint, but as a New Yorker for more than 10 years, I can attest to being delayed on the subway, in traffic, or on foot, by closed streets for a variety of important-people-related reasons, but very few people actually have the funds to stop traffic as suggested by this ad — fewer, even, than the 1%.

So I guess that’s what is most significant to me about this image — that it harnesses, in some clever-yet-completely-false manner, the rhetoric of the Occupy movement (i.e., the 99% vs. the 1%). I’m sure it’s not the first time an ad for the Lotto has lied, but it’s the first time one has made me pause and wonder about how it’s playing off the current, public narrative around money (and by extension, class). Indeed, the very idea of ads is to sell, but where do we draw the line on hope vs. reality in a city where there are schools that don’t have the materials they need for basic instruction?

Inboxes and Hashtags

Up early(ish) on the first day since August that I’ve had to really breathe for a minute, and I can’t stop thinking about finding a better way to categorize my email. Gmail makes it relatively easy to organize messages like you might papers in a file cabinet, but I’m suddenly 200 unread messages in, and find myself unable to keep up. I realize everyone will meet (or already has met) their email saturation point differently, but I will always remember the Fall 2011 semester as the time when two things happened when it comes to digital communication: 1) I couldn’t keep up with my email for the first time, and 2) hashtags became commonspeak.

INBOXES: When it comes to email, I’ve always been an immediate responder. This habit has its plusses and minuses, but it’s just the way I operate: someone asks something of me, and I respond. In contrast, I never could understand, until very recently, how people could leave correspondences unanswered. I finally get it, and find myself missing emails from friends and colleagues. I fear the problem is only going to get worse if I don’t find a better way of getting to every correspondence that needs getting to.

I don’t think I’m an expert organizer in any way shape or form, but I am pretty anal retentive and love organizing and reorganizing things — if I’m at a loss for what to do to combat this problem, what are other people doing? Is it one of those things that’s happening to everyone but no one really talks about? Am I just relegated to a future of not being able to fully read every email that comes through my inbox? I don’t like that.

I’ll report back if I figure something out, but for now I want to talk about hashtags for a second.

HASHTAGS: There was a point roughly a year ago when the word hashtag wasn’t yet part of my vocabulary. I haven’t done any extensive reading or empirical data gathering about how my experience measures up to that of the general population, but until I joined Twitter (a little less than a year ago), the # symbol was something I used when proofreading to note that a space needed to be inserted, or while navigating an automated phone messaging system. It was not on my radar as a categorizer, and I hadn’t yet seen it used in titles, subject lines, or emails. In an attempt to further understand what was then an elusive phenomenon, I asked the Twitter community for help in my third-ever tweet on February 20, 2011:

Needless to say, I got no response about my confusion, and quickly realized that the hashtag is one of those neat reference tools that has a limited shelf life. It’s not something that you send out to the universe and get an answer from immediately; rather, it can be used in a fleeting moment to connect people around a specific subject/idea/question/concept, but it might not always work as you intend it.

As I see it, the # sign has become something that’s going to continue to evolve as more people become fluent in how to use it. We’re getting closer to that tipping point, but it seems that many individuals still see Twitter as a revolving door of narcissistic Facebook updates, and thus the new(ish) usage of the # as an extension of that. I couldn’t disagree more. While I don’t tweet on a daily basis, Twitter has been a useful tool for me when trying to stay up-to-date on events, protests, gatherings, teaching techniques, etc., in real time. And speaking of protests, the Occupy movement is part of what normalized hashtags for me.

While I was pulling my hair out over my overflowing inbox this semester, my colleagues and I started using #OWS and other hashtags as normally as we might other words in emails. Slowly but surely, the # symbol is making its way into our daily language.

So while I’m considering how to categorize and code my growing pile of data for my dissertation, and simultaneously trying to get a handle on my inbox, I can’t help but wonder about where digital communication will take us. What symbol will enter our language next? Will we eventually have an alphabet comprised of letters, numbers, and symbols? I’m curious….

Don Giovanni and an App for Binoculars

Last night, I had the privilege of going to the opera for the first time.  As the opening bars of Mozart’s famous opera, Don Giovanni, began, I resisted the urge to hum along, and found myself tearing up before the curtain was drawn.  I have long wanted to go to the opera, but for a variety of logistical reasons had, up until last night, not been; gratefully, I had the opportunity to attend with students and Zoe Sheehan-Saldana, one of the professors I’m working with at Baruch College this semester.  After the performance, I told Zoe that despite having gone into my freshman fall wanting to emerge four years later ready for astronaut training, I ended up taking a bunch of art, theater, and philosophy classes that first semester, including “The History of Opera,” and never looked back.  I’ve always been a classical music buff — I remember being just as happy rocking out to Mozart’s famous clarinet concerto as I was to the latest New Kids on the Block album, and at some point in high school acquired my first opera music on CD from Santa.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I attended Interlochen Arts Camp, an eight-week intensive camp that I’d heard about from neighbors who went every summer.  I drooled over the idea of spending eight weeks in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, playing my clarinet three times a day and taking fiber art classes.  Speaking of fiber art, it would be the first and last time I took an art class that put a name on what I did with yarn and string in my free time — fiber art.  But I digress.  I mention Interlochen because it laid the groundwork for my artistic and creative interests that would follow, albeit unconventionally.

I admit I wasn’t the best college student.  There were a variety of reasons for this at the time, and if I could do it over again I probably would, but looking back, I recall attending every class meeting for “The History of Opera” and spending hours in the listening lab, taking in (through my ears anyway) opera after opera.  My relationship to music is much like my relationship to books — with books, I remember the appearance, not the title or author; with music, I remember the sound, not the title or composer.  Last night was no exception: unable to name the arias or ensembles, the memory of those unmistakable runs, chords, and melodies jumped to the surface of my mind, and I was right back in that old, gothic lecture hall, learning about Don Giovanni and his wily ways.  My learning chord had been struck, for lack of a better analogy…

Sitting through the three-and-a-half-hour performance felt like a dream.  While the music was familiar in my ears, the experience was not.  Seated way up in the nosebleeds, I regretted not thinking to bring my grandfather’s binoculars.  Granted, they’re enormous and not appropriate for opera viewing, but still, the thought made me think about how out-0f-the-loop I am with fully understanding this genre of music I’ve been carrying around in my ears and head for years.

I wondered through the second half (as the action heightened and I found myself wishing I could be closer) if there was an iPhone app for binoculars.  Indeed, there is.  There are a few, but the one I tried out is called “Awesome Binoculars,” costs $0.99, and sadly, is less than impressive (the image to the right isn’t the best illustration of just how not-that-useful this app is, but you get the idea — it’s a lot like the mirror app, which is not at all like a mirror).  As in love with my iPhone as I am, sometimes, little discoveries like this make me smile: it comforts me to think we haven’t gotten it all figured out yet!  And what if this app did work??  Would it then be kosher to pull out your iPhone throughout an opera performance?  I can’t quite imagine.  And then again, I couldn’t imagine in 2001, when cell phones were forbidden to be used in classrooms (by teachers or students) that they would someday be used pedagogically as extensively as they are today.

Unrelated (but as you are starting to see, with me everything’s related!): I spent most of last Sunday knitting warm things for Occupy Wall Street protesters, and will be returning for a few hours this Sunday.  If you’re interested, please visit the Blankets for Zuccotti Park protesters group on Facebook for more information.

From Journal to Blog

So much has been going on, it’s hard to figure out what to write about!  I was back down at Occupy Wall Street this morning, and I am impressed that it’s still going strong.  It makes me hopeful about what is possible.  In the meantime, I got some helpful feedback about digital organization systems for data from my last post, and will report back about my experience soon. Speaking of experience, my dissertation research stems from my experience in the classroom.  While I have been preparing to start my research in earnest, I have been looking back at my journals, from which I initially constructed blog posts when I was a rookie teacher.  My blog authorship as a teacher was not long-lived, because back then, I still didn’t fully understand the internet and was worried about being found out.  But I still have those journals.  This post might feel incomplete, but I’m going to circle back to it eventually.  In the meantime, here’s a look back:

July 24, 2001.  I don’t know my classroom assignment yet, but it’ll either be 3rd or 4th grade.  I might be in an inconclusion class, which means I’d be one of two co-teachers.  The other teacher would be a special education teacher, and I would fulfill the general education portion of the partnership.  I’m equal parts nervous and excited.  My mentor teacher was late this morning, and the class I’ve been student teaching in all summer went wild.  A game of Simon Says erupted into a fight, and once again, I looked like I had no control over a group of students.  And there are only half as many students as I’ll have in September.  No, I’m probably more nervous than excited.

 July 30, 2001.  We had a guest speaker today in class, who said some of the following things:

  • Never show your emotions.
  • You are not a counselor.  We are here to triage.
  • Do not raise your voice—it’s entertainment to your students.
  • Feel your adultness.
  • If you structure your days with love, your students pick up on that.
  • The contract says you don’t have to break up a fight.
  • After you admonish a child for behavior, call on them next to build them back up.

September 16, 2001.  We still haven’t had a full week of school, and the country is still reeling from September 11th.  I’m not sure I’ve processed what happened.  I’m exhausted, and everything hurts.  I have to write more later.

October 5, 2001.  One 3rd-grade class was split, because the class sizes on the grade were too small.  My 3rd-grade class has only 16 students, and I wonder what will happen.  And why are the classes so small?  I thought overcrowding was a problem in New York City.   When I was in the main office today, I overheard that they are splitting another class.  I just keep thinking that it’s going to be mid-October, and a whole class of students has no idea who their teacher will be for the year.  How are they supposed to feel comfortable in their classrooms? It doesn’t seem fair.

This was all happening almost exactly ten years ago. I can’t believe that someone said, in a class, that “we are here to triage.” What does that even mean?  There was so much talk of not smiling or showing emotions, and it was literally impossible for me to abide by those guidelines.  And what about “feel your adultness”? Thinking back, we were a group of people who spanned twenty-something to fifty-something, but I guess there was a majority of young people—I had just turned 24 at the start of the school year. And why were we talking about breaking up fights when we hadn’t yet learned the fundamentals of teaching children to read?

I have lots more to say on this, and want to tie it back to something I read recently regarding technology in classrooms today, but I think I’ll wait to continue until my next post.

To be continued…

Using Blogs as Data Collectors

When I started graduate school, web-based reference tools were only just being developed. At the time, I was using Endnote to keep track of my citations.  That is, until I clumsily tripped over the cord attached to my iBook. This was before the cord was magnetic, and I watched in stop-action as all of my work came crashing down. Little screws and bits of plastic spewed out from the sides. I hadn’t backed up in a while, and have not made that mistake since.

Today, it seems like everyone I talk to is using Zotero.  I was, too, until I realized about halfway through last year that someone else was using my Zotero library (and adding to and reorganizing it), too, in the adjunct office where I spent the bulk of my time last year. I hadn’t completely understood how Zotero works, and although I managed to get through defending my dissertation proposal by using it, I gave up and have been wavering ever since on where to take my library of citations next. And it dawned on me: why not just use a blog?

Has anyone had experience doing this? If I set up categories for authors and subjects, would it be easy enough for me to aggregate the appropriate data when necessary? I wonder if it would be possible to develop a WordPress plug-in (or if there already is one) to export bibliographic information as Zotero does. In the meantime, I am considering using a blog to organize my data by using categories and tags as codes. Obviously, the blog would need to be private; however, I wonder what other institutional requirements might be necessary for such a project. If my data is housed in a private site on the internet, is that as good as a locked file cabinet in an office?

Meanwhile, I have a Google Scholar alert set up for “teachers and blogging,” and have for almost a year now, and I’m fascinated by what comes up every time I receive a new digest. This morning, there was a paper about students “phlogging,” the practice of blogging from your phone, to complete assignments. And something else dawned on me: I have witnessed a 180-degree turn when it comes to technology and gadgets in the classroom.

I have probably already mentioned how when I started teaching at an elementary school, if we had to look something up on Google, we felt guilty; like somehow we weren’t good teachers if we didn’t have all the knowledge we were trying to impart to our students stored away in neat little virtual folders in our brains.  The fact of the matter is, I don’t remember all the capitals to all fifty states anymore (and probably haven’t since I memorized them for an in-class quiz about twenty-five years ago now), not to mention all of the conversion rules for ounces/cups/quarts, etc.  It’s not that I had to sit there with my laptop open, Googling things every moment of every day in order to teach; however, I admit that there were times when students asked questions that stumped me, and my colleagues and I made good use of the technological tools within reach. (A note on laptop use as a teacher: when our school was initially wired, teachers were not permitted to use the wireless network.  This is another example of the policy-practice gap I’m examining in my research.)

I’m getting a little off-topic here, but it’s hard not to think about how things have changed, while trying to figure out how to make technology work for a project right here, right now.  I have a feeling that in ten years, blogs will be even more sophisticated, and there will in fact be a more universally available option for keeping reference information and research data in blogs.  In the meantime, I’ll be developing my own system and will keep you updated on that project in future blog posts.

In other news, I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests again yesterday with a group of colleagues, and was overwhelmed (in an inspiring way!) by how huge the crowd had gotten by the time we got there.  Thousands of people came from all over, and union representation was enormous.  At one point, we stretched all the way from Foley Square to Wall Street.  You can see photos here if you’re interested:

Occupy Wall Street 10/5/11

Lastly, RIP Steve Jobs.  Apple technology = awesome.

Occupy Wall Street / Power of Protest

I knew when I started this blog that it was going to be a challenge to keep up once the school year started–yikes, where does time go!?  It’s been a whirlwind of a week, and culminated in going to the Occupy Wall Street protest yesterday afternoon.  I have been to many protests, but few that were quite like this.  People were everywhere.  Some say it was because of the Radiohead rumor, but I can’t agree.  Things are bad.  People are angry.  Economic and political discontent is mounting, and along with thousands of other people, I’m ready to see something different happen.  I don’t want to argue anymore with people who think things could be worse.  Shouldn’t we try and aim a little higher?  Shouldn’t we be upset that poverty, homelessness, and joblessness are worse than they’ve ever been in our lifetime, rather than worry that things will get worse if we speak out?  Isn’t that just admitting that the wrong people control the policies that affect us?

People who know me well know I used to organize with the ISO (International Socialist Organization), and for a long while, would get up every Saturday morning and make signs for our hour-long paper sales during which we stood on street corners, talked to people about what was going on, and sold papers for a dollar.  I learned so much during this time about the history of the left, protest, labor rights, unions, the working class, etc., but I also struggled inwardly with putting the ideas into practice when we met opposition from other groups on the left.  I couldn’t understand why there was so much in-fighting between these relatively tiny groups, and why people in other groups would argue so vehemently about the intricacies of how a revolution would happen in the United States rather than focus on what is happening.  Wouldn’t the point be to decide what we want to have happen, together?  While my comrades in the ISO would listen to my questions and try and really understand where I was coming from, people in other groups would completely shut me down and shove their ideology down my throat with words I didn’t understand before I could even get my ideas together.  But yesterday, I didn’t experience this familiar divisiveness; we were all there for the same reason–change.

My point being: I’m grateful for the time I spent organizing, and everything that I learned, and my lip even quivered a little with nostalgia as I gathered up my foam core and markers to make myself a sign for the afternoon action.  I was flooded with memories of exhausting-but-invigorating days spent preparing for and traveling to protests that left me feeling like part of a community that stands on the right (er, left!) side of history.

I don’t know about you, but I was never taught about the history or power of protest as something I could participate in.  The history I learned felt episodic–like all of these events in the 60s and 70s were disconnected moments on a timeline that had nothing to do with each other.  I was shocked to learn as an adult that in fact, the history of labor organizing is long, involved, and anything but disconnected.  So many people I talk to think that real change is going to happen by electing someone through our current, fairly undemocratic, two-party system; however, when you look back, actual change that benefits ordinary, working-class people–even when legislated–happened as a result of a movement with people taking to the streets.  (For the record: I’m not saying don’t vote–you have every right to exercise that right if you choose!  And I was proud to vote for the first African-American president in 2008.  I’m just saying that thinking outside of the box might be increasingly necessary and voting for someone you’re not 100% behind because they’re the best option seems pretty counterintuitive to me.)

Lower Manhattan felt electric last night, and I’m suddenly as excited about getting back out there as I was during the 2004 RNC.  As we marched through the arch of City Hall, the goosebumps rose on my arms. Seeing a growing number of Facebook updates, tweets and blog posts of friends and colleagues who have joined the movement in the last few days makes me think those goosebumps aren’t going away anytime soon.  I can’t go back today, but will tomorrow.  Solidarity!

You can see the full album of photos I took here:

Occupy Wall Street March 9/30/11