Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What kind of message our kids are getting in television series about school?

Did you watch some television series about school? Do you remember the one you were watching as a kid?
Let's speak about some that are considered as the best one or/and the most successful one.

The Wonder years (1988-1993)
This serie set in the 1960s narrated the adventures through middle-school and high-school of Kevin Arnold.
Let's give a close look at the first episode.

Kevin arrives in Middle-school and you already have there all the stereotypes. What are the center of interest of middle-schooler?

Kevin first thinking on the first day of school is "what am I going to wear?"
The second subject of interest is girls! Already on both side, boys and girls are really concerned by the way they look and the way others look at them.

The third point of concern are the teachers, the supervisors and with them, rules and authority.

The key scene in this first episode is when Kevin and his friend arrive in the cafeteria, here is what the voice of grown-up Kevin is saying "a suburban junior high school cafeteria is like a microcosms of the world, the goal is to protect yourself, and safety comes in group.You have the cool kids, you have the smart kids, you have the greasers, and on those days of course you had the hippies. In effect is that in junior high-school who you are is define less by who you are than by who is the person sitting next to you."

As you can see, at no moment we hear about the interest in learning, the quality of the teacher and how much this would concern the student. So in this first episode the "rule" set that individual  would be defined not through what he thinks, what his opinion and interest may be but by with who he is hanging out.
So if we believe what we are seeing there, middle-schooler have little interest in learning, they are rather so concern by their image that they do not hesitate to get in trouble just to preserve it. Kevin act in a very disrespectful way just by getting angry at his older brother and his parents are called in the principal office.

Another older show is "Degrassi Junior high"
In the first episode,Stephanie asks her young brother, Arthur, to pretend that he does not know her! why? because it does not look cool to have a young brother and as a 8 grader she needs to look cool. She also changes clothes as soon as she gets in the school, from a long skirt and blouse outfit to a very provocative and rather sexy look without forgetting to put make-up.
Arthur get already teased by a 8 grader boy, a player who want to lead.
Stephanie do not hesitate to betray her best friend  and manipulate all the boys in order to be elected as school president.

Ones again, the social interaction and the appearance are the main subject of the show. The interest of studying have no place at all in those series. We are far from inspirational movies like "Dead poet society".

In the series "Popular" it was mean girls acts who were somewhat glorified. Basically you had on one side the popular kids and on the other side the unpopular one and stories which make you think that student were more interested by battling each other than studying.

Did you ever check out the "Monster High" series?
This is an animated serie extremely popular with a huge merchandising success. But what are the value carried there?
Well, ones again, appearance is at the center of interest of the students who are totally superficial. The rivalry between those girl is atrocious and can be totally depressing to any girls watching it. The standard seems to concentrate on having a group of so-called friends who will fight with you for the same goal which always cause suffering in others. Friendship is totally twisted there.

I believe that it is time for parents to look closely to those teen series and not only speak about them with their kids but also let producers know what type of message they would appreciate to see in them.
Teenage and college are already a difficult time as puberty strike and society became more and more materialistic, selfcenter and egoistic. Role model on television does encourage teenager in a totally superficial direction which is source of anxiety and agressivity.





Wednesday, March 04, 2015

great program, step 3: second grade.

It is interesting to speak about the Brighton film school with Georges Albert Smith and James Williamson and to show some of their shorts: 
As seen through a telescope, with probably the first close-up of the cinema.
Grandma's reading glasses for more close-up and make the student talk about the use of this type of plan with question like why do he use this close-up for? What does he want to say?

Then we will show the student the film by James Williamson "the big swallow" and make them remark the size of each shot as the gentleman is walking toward the camera. Williamson's use of action continuity across multiple shots established the basic grammar of film.
From there, it will be nice to have them do a collage where they will actually identified the size of the plans.

Then we will continue in the Silent film era with Max Linder.

Max Linder, Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle, is the first comedian and first international Movie star. He was Charles Chaplin Mentor. In fact Chaplin got not only inspired by Max Linder but he even copy him in many ways which become obvious when watching Max Linder movies.

This is the silent film Era and there is not so many movies of Max Linder who survived all those years. It will be nice to show as many of those Max Linder to the children as it may be the only occasion for many of them to see them.
They will be able later to recognize what Chaplin copy from Max Linder.

We will show the student some Chaplin Movies as well as some Buster Keaton Movies from the silent Era.

it would be interesting to set up a few little silent comedies for them to play and to videotape. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Great program. Step 2: First Grade

Let's continue our program with first grader, some review would be fun, with some still images observations game, cartoon screening and commercial making again.
Then we can now start with some history class, cinema history for sure.
I like to start by the beginning at it makes more sense to explain to the children how we got there, in the images based world.

So I will start with Emile Reynaud, showing them the "praxinoscope"  and early animation made with it.
Then I will show them his optical theater and one of his projection:

This class that introduce history of cinema is constructed around visual experiences. there is no lesson to learn there, only being exposed to what was done and share feeling and thinking with their pair. The brain will do the rest. Debate is higly encouraged.

After the Praxinoscope should come Edison and his Kinetoscope and some of his film should be screened. 

The Lumiere brother should follow with the screening of  "the arrival of a train at La Ciotat" without forgetting to explain to the kids that people were scared when watching that movie for the first time, scared that the train would run on them. 
Children are usually very receptive to the history of cinema, it is also fun for them to hear that adult were scared by a train on a screen.

Children particularly appreciate Georges Melies 's movies. I like to show them a few of those. "A trip to the Moon" is fascinating, even for those who are watching too much TV. It is important to set up the ambiance when showing those old movies, to make them feel how it was at that time.

Melies is a lot of fun, and children will laugh at his movies, it is interesting to learn about some of the special effect he used as he is the precursor. Eventually the children could reproduce and experiment some of his trick, like the disparition of a person or an object. It will be wise to get a video camera and to realize some short videos with the children at that point,

Friday, January 09, 2015

What should the media show after a terrorist attack and the killing of people

This week France lost some amazing cartoonist in a terrorist attack. Those cartoonist were satirical and as so, they were drawing some provocative and non respectful draw about every figure of authority, political or religious.
They were drawing about any and every political figure as any and every religious figure. Nobody was forced to buy their publication "Charlie Hebdo" and those who did not like their sense of humor and provocation were not buying it.
The cartoonist themselves were very kind people, very generous and open minded, they were fighting obscurantism, racism, injustice... Their satirical representation were there not to hurt the feeling of anyone but instead to make people think further.

This freedom of speech in France does not suffer of any political correctness limitation. In France, everyone as an opinion and everyone voice it. French people fought for it and many dies for it.
For centuries, people were oppressed by the nobility and the clergy. They had to work hard to give them most of everything they were producing. Then the French Revolution happen and from there, French people decided to never ever been under the domination of the nobility or the clergy and this is why France is a secular country.

Among all those drawing Charlie Hebdo published were caricatures of religious figure like the pope and Muhammad, the prophet. Some Muslim got offended and did manifest in many European town. Unhappily The Grand Mosque and another French Muslim organisation sued Charlie Hebdo in 2007. They lost to the benefit of freedom of speech and the French tradition of satire.

From there, hate rised and djihadist started to threat all those cartoonist of death until Wednesday January 7 were barbarian executed most of Charlie Hebdo talents. We all fell angry and attacked and the movement "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) support not only Charlie Hebdo but the freedom of speech and resistance to armed threat.

For those 3 last days, medias showed the track of attackers of Charlie Hebdo. They were finally found and killed in the action. so what the media are going to speak about now? Because their responsibility is huge.
On which points are they going to focus now?

Shouldn't they show the pain that killing leave behind?
Shouldn't they have more people coming up in front of the camera like friends of the deceased who dared to share their sadness and cry in front of the camera?
Shouldn't they speak about the family they are leaving behind?
Shouldn't they show to those young eyes that killing in reality is not like killing in a video game, that people do not get up in the next game? That when people are dead, the game is over forever!

Shouldn't they show the pain and the shame of the killer's family as well?
Shouldn't they show that death has immediate consequences in the life of many?

Does media have an immense responsibility when choosing which facts to show and how?
do they show more acts of violence than the consequence of that violence?
And if so, do they desensitizing the viewers and not supporting compassion?

The Media always argue that they are just showing what is going on, the facts, but which facts?
In choosing what to show. don't they setting up the example.

We will see what they are going to show from now on as the consequence of this terrorist attack...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

New year: great program! Step 1: Kindergarten

One of the thing which appears essential to me is to educate our children to this visual world because it is obvious that image dominate our today word.
The best way to empower them in this context is to give them as much toold as possible to not be dominate and even influence by all those images.
This is why I believe that children should make commercials even before seeing any. And this is something they can do early on, let say around 5 years old.
I think that it will be wise to implement some audiovisual class as early as kindergarten. I will start with some very basic games:
- first bring some still picture taken from magazine and simply ask the student to look at them closely and tell what they see. they can do that as small group of 2 or 3 or individually. The idea is to make them focus and notice details that they would probably not have even pay attention to in the first place.

- then it would be nice to project some other pictures with a retro-projector after darkening the classroom to improve the focus on the image but also give a sense of "special moment" to the kids. The exercise will be the same as the first one, just telling what they see on the picture except that this time the whole class will see the same image. it should be interesting to notice what they actually observe on each picture as a collective. the goal is to eventually have them surprise each other by not noticing the same thing.

- if the class is well spoken, it could be nice to ask them to tell a little short story about the image, what the story of it.

- Make a flip book will be a great new step as well as a nice craft for the children to realize. Sure they will not do the drawing themselves, each teacher can easily choose what kind of flip book she would like her class to make and make the template for each kid to assemble and play with and keep forever. (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Flipbook) The goal is there is for the kids to feel some more sensation about an image go from still to movement. Experimentation stays much better than explanation.

- it is now time to pass to videos and I will start with something they probably know better than anyone: cartoon! Except that I will not simply show them a cartoon and any cartoon, I will follow some very precise steps. First I will take a Looney Tune cartoon as they are usually short, extremely well done and intelligent and rich of elements to observe. I like to take Bugs Bunny. So the idea is to first show them the cartoon without the sound. The children will pay more attention to the images in order to understand what is going on. And they will understand. So as soon as the cartoon is done, they will be able to tell the story to their teacher. From there I will have some other step which will be new games, knowing that the children will certainly pay more attetion to the words as they surely want to check if they got the story right, the next game will be to "pay attention to the tone of the voice". is the voice happy, sad, grave, high, fast, slow, clear or not, angry, scare...
So the children will not only listen to what is being said but also to how it is being said.
then the teacher can have them share what they observe and there the all will learn from each other.
The next step will allow the children to see the same cartoon again. And this time they will have to focus on the music! Is there music, what kind of music is that and when? is that an happy music, a fast one, a slow one, a scary one? they should be able to notice the change of music at it occurs. Children are sometime so excited by the exercise that they shout out as the cartoon run what they are noticing. When the cartoon ends, it is time to share what has been noticed and then to make it in relation with the other elements we already observe:
Example: at that moment when the music is rapid we see the rabbit running, or when the rabbit is hiding the music is really slow and low...
The idea is to make the children notice the relation between the images and the music, and eventually understand why a sad music will be strange at this happy moment...
There is one more element that we need our children to notice in the cartoon: the sound effects. So I will show them a last time the cartoon and ask them to focus on all those sounds: do we hear a door opening? step in the stairs? a knock on the door? a car braking?....
The children will this time focus on the sound effects and at the end of the cartoon put all their observation in common one last time.
This should be fun but it is demanding a great amount of energy and focus, particularly the first time. It will be wise to repeat this "observation of a cartoon" a few times with different cartoon of course. Cartoons have to be short, as they will be watch a few time. As they practice those exercises the children should become better and better at it and soon be extremely fast in noticing detail that may be the adult will not even noticed.

Those exercises are determinant in training awareness to the brain. most of the time children and adult as well do not noticed all those elements and the relations in between them and that is making them so easily influenced by what they are seeing, including commercials.

- The next step I will introduce involve some material, not much but a video camcorder and eventually some light, however light are totally optional and not necessary at that point. this should be fun and the teacher should be prepare for some excitation among those young student. They will now make some commercials! Oh well, I am not going to ask them to develop script and concept. But here is how I will proceed:
first I will ask them if they know what a commercial is? I am pretty sure that some of them will have some ideas and some can be surprising. at that point it is usually easy to focus on one example, lets say that one of them speak about a commercial about cereal, probably because he saw it and it was a fun one. I am going to ask him now to tell us what the story this commercial is telling? and how? what he remember most about it? ask him if he actually knows those cereal? if not, if he would like to know them and why?
The idea if by questioning the children, make them kind of understand or guess that commercial are made to create the desire to buy the product. In my experience, children do figure it out pretty quickly.
Then it is also important to make them realize the part of lies in commercial, it is easy for example if there is a cartoon character in the commercial, does cartoon character exist in real life?
no, certainly not. So why is it in the commercial? Well, because it is funny that way and it make the cereal more fun and we like to have fun so we want those cereal...

It is interesting if one kid or more mention commercial for junk food like chips for example, It is an occasion to make the children think a little about nutrition: Is eating chips good for your health? What main happen if you eat a lot of chips?...

At that step I will simply explain the purpose of commercial: make you buy their product. And also tell them that commercial lies all the time to make us buy their product. I like to make them realize that commercial crate needs and that they can make us feel hungry and how, or guilty and how.
Example: if on you are watching a show and each commercial show you pizzas, do you thing you may start to feel hungry and want some pizza?
Another example: thinking about a cleaning product, this one wash a lot better than this other one which leave some dirt on the laundry, so how the adult who is not using the "good" product will feel?

After all this chatting part, children will choose a product that the teacher or themselves will bring to class and they will do their commercial: something very simple,they will have their product in their hand and speak to the camera to convince people to buy it. Believe me, the result can be hilarious,

Depending of the class, this step can be done a few time with a little more complex commercial that would involve more than one kid on the screen.

Then the teacher will show the class their commercial and they will talk about it as freely as possible.

I think that this whole process will be a great program for kindergarten.  Children are learning extremely fast and this will give them some essential tools to "read" and apprehend images around them.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?



Clifford the Big Red Dog looks fabulous on an iPad. He sounds good, too — tap the screen and hear him pant as a blue truck roars into the frame. “Go, truck, go!” cheers the narrator.

But does this count as story time? Or is it just screen time for babies?

It is a question that parents, pediatricians and researchers are struggling to answer as children’s books, just like all the other ones, migrate to digital media.

For years, child development experts have advised parents to read to their children early and often, citing studies showing its linguistic, verbal and social benefits. In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors to remind parents at every visit that they should read to their children from birth, prescribing books as enthusiastically as vaccines and vegetables.

On the other hand, the academy strongly recommends no screen time for children under 2, and less than two hours a day for older children.

At a time when reading increasingly means swiping pages on a device, and app stores are bursting with reading programs and learning games aimed at infants and preschoolers, which bit of guidance should parents heed?

The answer, researchers say, is not yet entirely clear. “We know how children learn to read,” said Kyle Snow, the applied research director at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “But we don’t know how that process will be affected by digital technology.”

Part of the problem is the newness of the devices. Tablets and e-readers have not been in widespread use long enough for the sorts of extended studies that will reveal their effects on learning.

Dr. Pamela High, the pediatrician who wrote the June policy for the pediatrics group, said electronic books were intentionally not addressed. “We tried to do a strongly evidence-based policy statement on the issue of reading starting at a very young age,” she said. “And there isn’t any data, really, on e-books.”

But a handful of new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” Dr. High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

“What we’re really after in reading to our children is behavior that sparks a conversation,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple and co-author of the 2013 study. “But if that book has things that disrupt the conversation, like a game plopped right in the middle of the story, then it’s not offering you the same advantages as an old-fashioned book.”

Of course, e-book publishers and app developers point to interactivity as an educational advantage, not a distraction. Many of those bells and whistles — Clifford’s bark, the sleepy narration of “Goodnight Moon,” the appearance of the word “ham” when a child taps the ham in the Green Eggs and Ham app — help the child pick up language, they say.

There is some evidence to bear out those claims, at least in relation to other technologies. A study by the University of Wisconsin in 2013 found that 2-year-olds learned words faster with an interactive app as opposed to one that required no action.

But when it comes to learning language, researchers say, no piece of technology can substitute for a live instructor — even if the child appears to be paying close attention.

Patricia K. Kuhl, a director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, led a study in 2003 that compared a group of 9-month-old babies who were addressed in Mandarin by a live instructor with a group addressed in Mandarin by an instructor on a DVD. Children in a third group were exposed only to English.

“The way the kids were staring at the screen, it seemed obvious they would learn better from the DVDs,” she said. But brain scans and language testing revealed that the DVD group “learned absolutely nothing,” Dr. Kuhl said.

“Their brain measures looked just like the control group that had just been exposed to English. The only group that learned was the live social interaction group.”

In other words, “it’s being talked with, not being talked at,” that teaches children language, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek said.

Today, what Dr. Kuhl found is commonly referred to as the “Baby Einstein” effect, named for thepopular video series that entranced children from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, but was ultimately found to have a negative association with language development in infants. In 2009, the Walt Disney Company, facing the threat of a class-action lawsuit, offered refunds to people who had bought the videos.

Similarly, perhaps the biggest threat posed by e-books that read themselves to children, or engage them with games, is that they could lull parents into abdicating their educational responsibilities, said Mr. Snow of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“There’s the possibility for e-books to become the TV babysitters of this generation,” he said. “We don’t want parents to say, ‘There’s no reason for me to sit here and turn pages and tell my child how to read the word, because my iPad can do it.’ ”

But parents may find it difficult to avoid resorting to tablets.

Claudia Raleigh, a mother of three children under 6 years old in Berkley, Mich., said she adhered strictly to the A.A.P. guidelines but found that she needed to distract her toddler, Teddy, during his sister’s swim class. “You know how hard it is to wait somewhere with a 2-year-old,” she said. “So that was his introduction to the iPad. It kept him from jumping in the pool.”

“I considered it a lifesaving device,” she said with a laugh.

The guilt, she added, did not linger for long. “I literally read to my kids every day since birth,” she said. “I’m over feeling guilty about a little screen time.”

Even literacy advocates say the guidelines can be hard to follow, and that allowing limited screen time is not high on the list of parental missteps. “You might have an infant and think you’re down with the A.A.P. guidelines, and you don’t want your baby in front of a screen, but then you have a grandparent on Skype,” Mr. Snow said. “Should you really be tearing yourself apart? Maybe it’s not the world’s worst thing.”

“The issue is when you’re in the other room and Skyping with the baby cause he likes it,” he said. Even if screen time is here to stay as a part of American childhood, good old-fashioned books seem unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Parents note that there is an emotional component to paper-and-ink storybooks that, so far, does not seem to extend to their electronic counterparts, however engaging.

“Lilly definitely has an iPad, and there are education apps she uses,” Amy Reid, a publicist at CNBC, said of her 4-year-old. “But for her, there is nothing like the excitement of choosing her own book and bringing it home from the library.”
Correction: October 12, 2014

An earlier version of this article misquoted Claudia Raleigh, whose toddler son, Teddy, was first allowed to use an iPad during his older sister’s swim class. Ms. Raleigh said, “You know how hard it is to wait somewhere with a 2-year-old,” not “You know how hard it is to sit somewhere with a 2-year-old.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 12, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?. 
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/us/is-e-reading-to-your-toddler-story-time-or-simply-screen-time.html?_r=1

Friday, October 10, 2014

what role models for teenager?

We recently saw some scandal concerning Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber for example. Those public figure were role models early on.

Miley Cyrus was loved by many kids and teen as Hannah Montana, the Disney character who hide her fame to be sure that people love her for who she really is. But older Miley Cyrus went wild and cultivates a sexually explicit image.
Justin Bieber started as the boy-next-door many girl when in love with but turn out as a bad boy with anger management issue. Parents who use to appreciate those two do not want their teen watch those singers any longer or even worse, go to their concerts.

But what are the role models teenager are looking up to? Who are the personality they are looking up to, identifying to?
I am afraid that most of them are simply celebrity like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Rihanna...all performers, actors, all in the appearance, fashion, superficiality supported by the media pressure.

Happily today Malala won the Nobel peace Prize and may with her, teen will look up to some other really important personalities who may not be as famous as singers or actors. Malala advocates child education and was ready to die for it.

But you may see her a little more for a few days because of her prize and then she will vanish from the media while singers and actors will carry on. I see many girls trying to look like those singers and even regroup at school because they are wearing the same look, the same brand. They are kind of the fashion clique.

The dictatorship of appearance is very strong in Los Angeles and parents need to be stronger to make sure their teens do not drop into it. Teachers should be strong allies by debating meaningful subject in class, like Malala and her fight for education for girls.

And you? What kind of role models you would suggest to your teens? Any name? Please share them with us in your comments.