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CLICK HERE TO LOAD THE PDF VERSION OF THIS PROMPT.

FINAL EXAM DUE DATE: MONDAY, JUNE 13 @ 7:50 AM
TOTAL DAYS: 28 (19 IN CLASS)

Each week will be broken into solo work, conferencing, and optional collaborative workshops.  Students are responsible for the careful structuring of their time; outside of the individual conferences, there are no checks on the use of resources.  Computers will be available during every period.  See the calendar at the bottom of this post for more information.


THE PROMPT: Acting as an instructor, design a ten-day unit of study for use in a high school Media Studies course.  Assume that you have two weeks, with one weekend after Day #5, and that the final assessment is due on Day #10.

You must include the following in your unit of study:

  1. Essential Questions: The backbone of the unit.  Use the guide available here: EQ Guide 2.0.
  2. Background and Introduction: Your approach on Day #1.  How will you introduce the unit to students?
  3. Central Texts: Essays, videos, interactive media, etc.—the pieces you will read and study in and out of class.  You must annotate and otherwise prepare these texts for the students.
  4. Individual and Group Activities: Work completed in class.  Usually built around the central texts.  If these activities will result in student products—writing especially—create an answer key.
  5. Homework: Assigned as preparation for the next day or extension of the current lesson: You must create answer keys or rubrics for all homework assignments.
  6. Adversarial Questions: Can be given in class or online.  Can be open-ended or highly specific.  You must create an answer key for your adversarial.
  7. Final Writing Assessment: Culmination of the unit.  Can combine analysis and creativity.  You must create your own response to this final prompt that can be used as a model.

The final exam is due in class and to Turnitin before the last day of school, or June 13  All materials must be submitted online before 7:50am; all hard copies must be handed in before the end of that day.  In addition, you must submit:

  • A Reflection: Analyze your process.  Reflect on the final product itself.  Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses.  This is also due online on June 13 by 7:50 am, and must be typed according to MLA guidelines.

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Omega Supreme

The first film we will consider through a critical lens is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  The goal, whether we look at Transformers or Citizen Kane, is simple enough: to derive the general form and particular functions of a film review by studying examples.  You’ll read a wide range of them, from The New Yorker to io9.com, and break each one down adversarially.

Let’s start with Armond White, since he sparked—well, he certainly sparked something.  Metacritic rates Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as 35/100, with 32 critics considered.  The movie’s Tomatometer rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a brisk 20%, with almost 200 negative reviews counted.  White disagrees with almost all of them:

Bay’s post-nuclear version of Hoffman’s The Nutcracker stirs emotion from our pop culture, industrial experience then connects to ancient spiritual myths (like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). It’s too much the production of industrialization to be considered magic, yet Bay’s sheer fascination with seeing is impressively communicated.

We laughed as we read this in class, asking repeatedly, “Is he kidding?”  But that is not a particularly useful reaction.  White is obviously intelligent and impassioned, and we need to consider the form and function of his reviews with the same deliberation we’ll reserve for Roger Ebert and Charlie Jane Anders.  In fact, we ought to pay more attention to White, even at the risk of feeding a troll; he believes in the social and moral responsibility of a film critic, so his reviews ought to answer the questions he himself asks of other critics: “Are they REALLY talking about what’s on the screen? Do they know the history of this form? Do they have any political awareness? Do they have any spiritual, or moral, or religious awareness even?”

This post is reserved for White’s review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  We’ll delve into other perspectives in a separate post tomorrow (you can load the packet by clicking here, if you like).

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Note: This post will become an adversarial prompt after a few days of discussion in class.  Watch the assignment tabs at the right of the page for more.

We’ll begin our look at movies with lists, primarily those provided by the American Film Institute.  For each list, you will work in small groups to answer a series of questions designed to connect your knowledge and experience with the experience and knowledge of experts.

First, the top ten from the AFI’s list of the 100 greatest movies of all time:

# MOVIE YEAR
1 CITIZEN KANE 1941
2 THE GODFATHER 1972
3 CASABLANCA 1942
4 RAGING BULL 1980
5 SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 1952
6 GONE WITH THE WIND 1939
7 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 1962
8 SCHINDLER’S LIST 1993
9 VERTIGO 1958
10 THE WIZARD OF OZ 1939

The movies were chosen according to these criteria:

  • Feature length: Narrative format typically over 60 minutes long
  • American film: English language, with significant creative and/or financial production from the United States
  • Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media
  • Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals
  • Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals
  • Historical Significance: A film’s mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements
  • Cultural Impact: A film’s mark on American society in matters of style and substance

For this first list, you have four tasks, which are outlined below.

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The page detailing enrichment opportunities has been updated. You are strongly encouraged to make use of it; after all, you have already learned how to construct straight news articles, and you are familiar with the Bear Facts website.  In class, we will continue our process-based construction of your Internet papers and these current television projects.  The enrichment you choose to pursue will augment those grades throughout the third and fourth quarter.

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Copyright Bill Waterson.

It would be easy to lose ourselves in a study of television, a medium that lends itself to a complex discussion of the creator/audience dynamic as easily as to jeremiads about our national health.  What I’d like to suggest is a more focused kind of lost, if we can use a paradox: delving into a favorite program to find new meaning.  You will choose a program (perhaps a set of programs) and set off to explore, offering in the end a serious analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of what you have found.  And I am encouraging collaboration on this one; you are welcome to work alone, but it may require earnest collaboration to deal with the sheer volume of data you are mining.

First, let me confuse things a bit.  I am going to give you two documents that have been given to every iteration of this class, but you are not required to use either.  You will be given no due dates to fill in the blanks below, nor will you be graded on the formative process.  There will be a formative process, but the final product is what matters—just like the final product produced through this last post mattered.  You (and hopefully a partner or two) will conceive, create, and refine a paper that answers each requirement outlined here, but how you arrive at those answers is up to you:

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James Jean, "Maze" (2008)

Freud defines the id as the primal and animalistic engine of desire at our cores, and quite a few jokes could be made here about what that means on the Internet.  For now, consider that the id is there first, according to this theory; the ego and super-ego develop later, and only through the interaction of the three do we obtain an identity.

You could, of course, list many different kinds of identities:  drivers’ licenses, passports, fake ones, secret ones, even proposed Internet ones (appropriately enough).  But in the end, there must be a core identity—an answer to the question, “Who are you?” that is indelible and true.  You might identify with a particular group, for instance, but that doesn’t mean you fit its stereotype.  You might be obsessed with a book or movie or TV show, but that doesn’t necessarily define you.  If you were given only five minutes, how would you answer that question?  Who are you?

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First, an obvious warning: The Internet isn’t always a nice place, and there is no way to shield you completely from that.  You are quasi-adults, however; you can monitor yourselves adequately enough, and when/if you stumble across some awful memetic monster, you can close your browser window.  Be careful.  There are things out there that you cannot unsee, and to all but the sturdiest minds, the sight will do some serious damage—and I say that with absolute sincerity.

To study the Internet (a possible metonymy we have to accept, lest we become embroiled in a never-ending semantic debate), you have to start with its history.  That’s simple enough:

  1. Read and study the textbook chapter you were given in class.
  2. Skim a few Internet history timelines, such as this one or this one.

Now determine what you need to know about the history of the Internet in order to have an informed and intelligent discussion about these upcoming units of study:

  1. Memetics and viral culture
  2. Social networking
  3. Internet piracy and digital freedom

We’ll collaborative on that list of essential/underlying facts and concepts, but it will be up to you to familiarize yourself with (read: memorize) them.  For now, let’s use memetics as our first springboard and leap into the deep end of contemporary American/global culture.  And for now, you should just take from the experience what you can; you won’t have to ante up until later.  (Of course, if we’re going to sneak rap-based memes into this post, I’m going with this one.)

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