Monday, October 31, 2016

Aha Journal 11/1: Killing Us Softly

Killing Us Softly

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." -Kate Moss

After watching "Killing Us Softly 4," I feel more disappointed in today's culture than surprised by it. As Jean Kilbourne explains, this has been a problem in American culture for decades, which has led to several new additions to her original "Killing Us Softly" video. Kilbourne says it hasn't gotten better, though-- If anything, it has gotten worse.

The issues presented in the video center around the idea of what it means to be a woman in today's culture, which is primarily conveyed through advertising. According to Kilbourne, the average American is exposed to 3000 ads each day. How is this possible?! Ads are literally everywhere, though... They're on Facebook, on clothes, on food, before YouTube videos... the list goes on.

Yet people still believe they aren't influenced by advertising, which is a problem. Many of the images we see in ads slip into subconscious, so we are influenced by them whether we realize it or not. And many of the images we are exposed to are unhealthy. As Kilbourne says, ads sell more than products. They sell the idea that women need to live up to a standard of beauty that doesn't exist because the women do not exist.

Ads break women into parts. They focus on women's breasts, their butts, and their legs. They target areas of the body where women feel insecure and tell women they need cosmetic surgery to fix themselves if they don't look like the picture. This also leads to women's obsession with being thin. They are literally taught to aspire to becoming nothing: the size 0.

It is also leading to the sexualization of young girls. Girls are taught to see themselves as objects and to take pride in this. As one ad said, "My boyfriend told me he loved me for my mind. I was never so insulted in my life." Girls are told not to care about being smart. They are tricked into believing they are successful if they attract men, and nothing else in life matters.

The part of the film that had the biggest impact on me was the part which discussed the danger of linking sex with violence. We live in a culture where ads show women being sexually abused to sell a product. This is just screwed up. I don't know how anyone in the world with find this okay, yet whether I understand it or not, it is happening. And I believe we need to take a stand to stop it. Like Kilbourne said, though, the ads aren't the real problem here. It's the attitudes behind the ads. And changing attitudes is going to be a long, hard process that can only happen if we think of ourselves as "citizens instead of consumers."

I agree with the majority of the claims Kilbourne makes, but there is one point that I feel she should have addressed. In today's culture, there is a concept known as "thin shaming." Many of the women who discuss thin shaming, such as this article written by a UNI student entitled "Thin Shaming: My Size Zero Life," discuss how they are made to feel bad about their bodies when people ask if they are anorexic and tell them they need to eat McDonald's. I am curious to know what Kilbourne makes of this. Personally, I believe thin shaming is a real issue that people who are naturally thin face. But I do not believe it is the same or even comparable to fat shaming. This is because women who are labeled overweight are not the "ideal" size. They are not the women that other women want to look like. This is a fact. I am not saying that people don't make rude comments to thin women all of the time; it happens, and it is rude. I am saying, though, that a woman who is skinny cannot say she experiences the same prejudice and hate as a woman who is overweight.

I believe the film is called Killing Us Softly because advertisements are, in fact, slowly killing us. The term "killing" comes from the fact that women diet to the point in which they die or become suicidal because they do not look like the women in ads. "Slowly," on the other hand, comes from the fact that ads are destroying us gradually over time and subconsciously. Most people deny that ads affect them, yet we look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and wonder what we could do to manipulate ourselves to look better.

The issues discussed in this film apply to men to an extent, but in a different way. As Kilbourne says, men and women inhabit very different worlds. Men do not face routine scrutiny, criticism or judgment for their bodies. They are also not as commonly raped, harassed or beaten as women. Even in terms of clothes and weight, there is not necessarily an "ideal size" for men or a certain number he should weigh. While women are told to be smaller and less powerful in ads, men are told to be stronger and more powerful. This is still an issue, though, especially as masculinity is linked with violence in ads. It is not the same objectification and sexualization as women experience, though.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Aha Journal: October 24th: Emails

The Craft of Emails

A teacher in one of my classes remarked how it seems students rarely read her emails. She said they usually end up asking her questions which would have been answered if they simply took time to read her emails. The teacher wondered if there was a way other than bullet points to convey information to students.

This got me thinking. Writing emails is something we all do daily, whether we are a student or a teacher. As an RA, I send out weekly emails to all of my residents to update them on events happening in our house for the week. I have always wondered, though, if my residents actually read their emails since many of them seem to never know about programs.

How can we better craft our emails so people will actually read them? Here are a few of my ideas:

Visual Layout of Email

I am the kind of person who is easily overwhelmed by a lot of text on a single page. When I see a four-paragraph email, I panic, regardless of the content or tone of the email.

  • Break information into bullet points. Use short sentences to convey info.
  • Use bold, italics, and underlining to emphasize important info.
  • Incorporate a visual to explain what you are saying!
For example, consider the following 2 ways of sharing information about an event:

Sample 1:
Grimes Goes to Horror on Hudson: Are you ready to be spooked?! If so, on Thursday, October 27th, meet by the lounge at 8pm, and we'll walk over to Noehren Hall to go to their haunted house. Here is a Facebook description for the event. Note that you will need to bring either 2 items of non-perishable food or $2 in cash to get into the haunted house. If you want to come but don't have either of these, let me know and I'll find a way so you can still come! Feel free to invite friends outside of Grimes House to come with us!

Sample 2:

"The Haunted House" by Nicholas Cardot from Flickr used with permission
  • What: Grimes Goes to Horror on Hudson
  • When: Thursday, October 27th at 8pm
  • Where: Meet by lounge 
  • Details: Here is the Facebook event. Bring 2 items of canned food or $2 in cash. If this is an issue for you, let me know. Invite your friends in and out of Grimes!


Sample 1 is usually how I write my emails, but when I look at sample 2, it seems much more manageable to read visually because the information is broken into chunks.

Why does it matter?

So, what's the point of all of this? At the end of the day, who cares?

Well... if you want people to read your emails and get the most valuable content from them, you need to write them with the reader in mind. People are lazy! No one wants to take 5 minutes out of their day to read your email word for word.

Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to how emails are written? What are some ways that you try to write your emails with the reader in mind?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Feeling the Rush: Kingdom Rush

Here is a video of my experience with Kingdom Rush:

If you'd rather read about my experience, I have also included my responses to the questions in text:
  • For the past three days, I've been playing Kingdom Rush whenever I have a spare moment between classes or assignments. I would consider myself slightly addicted... :)
  • The game was hard for me at first, but I learned a strategy that works for me. I buy tower upgrades instead of buying more towers. In other words, it is more helpful to have fewer towers that can do more damage than a lot of towers that don't do much.
  •  I'm currently on level 21. I love leveling up because you get more tokens to buy upgrades for the towers every time you level up. It feels like I've achieve something every time I advance. Even if I only get 2 stars, I don't replay levels because I am proud of just passing.
    • I would compare leveling up to getting a good grade on a test or project. It feels like your hard work has paid off. However, I wonder if a student would care more about the grade they receive than how many stars they get in the game.
  •  As I progress through the game, I learn which towers I like and which ones I don't. My favorite towers are the bomb towers and the magic towers that zap the enemies. I am not very frustrated with the game, but when I have failed levels, I have been disappointed in myself. When this happens, I usually want to try to pass the level right away. I did not get tips from other players or collaborate... If I would have failed more than once on a certain level, I might have done this, but I honestly didn't struggle with the game.
  • I would say I did get into the Flow. I got into the Flow because I enjoyed playing and stopped paying attention to the clock. Instead, I usually found that I played for too long and was running late for class!
  • When comparing this to my students' learning experiences, it makes me realize just how important it is to students to do well in their classes. They want to feel a sense of achievement for the hard work they have put into something. As a student myself, I am often the type who wants to get an A and will devote hours of studying in order to obtain a good grade. While I am not proud of myself for measuring my learning by grades, I know that grades are important, and I feel better about myself when I get higher grades. It makes me wonder as a teacher how I can reward my students for their achievement in ways besides grades or candy.
Here is a link to play Kingdom Rush on your own. What are your thoughts on the game?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Aha Journal: October 17th

My ticket stub for The Girl on the Train. Image taken by me!
The Girl on the Train

Last Thursday, October 13th, I had the opportunity to see the newly released film "The Girl on the Train" at the College Square Theater.

What a great movie about perception! I truly believe this film would be an excellent addition to the movies we watch for this class, and here is why:

1. Dangers of Perception: This movie deals with relationships in the way people see each other and think they know about another person when they don't. In other words, a person's life can look a lot better from the outside looking in. For example, when we see people post pictures of themselves on social media looking happy, it is easy to believe that everything is fine with them when there is usually more to the story. This is the case in "The Girl on the Train:" Rachel thinks everything is perfect in the relationship of Megan and her husband from Rachel's view out of the train window. She sees them cuddled up next to a fire on her way home from work or kissing on top of the roof and longs to be in a relationship such as this once again. So when Rachel sees Megan standing on the roof with a different man, she is enraged because she believes Megan is cheating on her husband.

2. Dangers of Visualizing Yourself Committing a Crime: Rachel is an alcoholic who becomes very drunk one day on her way home on the train. When she sees Megan with another man on the roof, Rachel imagines herself yanking Megan's hair and hitting her head against the ground. Rachel becomes so drunk that she blacks out. When Megan is reported missing the next day, Rachel wonders if she played a role in Megan's disappearance because she had visualized herself hurting Megan the day before and can't remember where she was that night.

3. Manipulation Through Visuals: Tom is Rachel's ex-husband and Anna's current wife. He cheated on Rachel with Anna, and he cheated on Anna with Megan. He got away with cheating on both of them by having a second cell phone in which he would use to text the other woman. He also convinced both women that they were the ones who were crazy and making mistakes in the relationship. For example, he made Rachel think she had a tantrum as his boss' work party when she got drunk, but in reality, she had just laid down on the couch. He made Rachel think she shattered a mirror out of anger when she was drunk, but Tom had shattered the mirror because he was so mad at Rachel.

This movie reminded me of "Gone Girl" in the sense that it has a major plot twist at the end of the film. It would be interesting to ask students to look back at the film after watching it and find evidence that points toward the final outcome of the movie. I would recommend this film to anyone looking for an interesting film to watch!

Movie Review: Thank You for Smoking

Summary of Film

This film takes us into the life of Nick Naylor, a man who must balance the difficulties and contradictions of being a tobacco lobbyist and father. His job as the vice-president of the "Academy of Tobacco Studies" is to convince audiences that their research has found no connection between tobacco usage and lung cancer. There is a part of the film where Nick meets Lorne Lutch, the man who was the Marlboro man in cigarette ads but got cancer and now speaks against tobacco usage. Nick gives Lorne a suitcase full of cash to keep him silent. In another part of the film, Nick opposes adding a skull and crossbones poison warning to cigarette cartons and receives a death threat. He is then kidnapped and covered in nicotine patches. Nick awakes in the hospital to learn that smoking has saved his life, but now he can never smoke again. A reporter, Heather Holloway, who Nick had sexual relations with, writes an article to expose Nick's deal with Lorne and call him out on being a poor father to his son, Joey. When Nick is depressed, Joey helps him find his voice once again, and Nick speaks to the senate claiming that there should also be a skull and crossbones on Vermont's cheese to warn people of death from high cholesterol. This speech gets Nick his job back, but he quits and instead works for a group dealing with the claim that cell phone usage is linked to brain cancer.

Personal Review and Interpretation

When I finished watching this film, I was initially confused why we watched it for a visual literacy course. The plot and acting wasn't particularly great, and there didn't seem to be many visually interesting scenes. However, I understand that the movie is an excellent example of satire; in other words, the film is actually about the dangers of smoking although the main character is the film is trying to promote smoking.

I have read online that the director of the film, Jason Reitman, made the conscious choice to not show any scenes of characters actually smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products. This goes back to the satirical message of the film. While these characters are promoting smoking, we never see them smoke themselves.

My biggest question at this point is who this film was intended for. As a 21-year-old, I did not particularly enjoy the film or find it very humorous. It made me feel uncomfortable at several points. I know the film is rated R, meaning it is intended for 17+, but I am not sure anyone under the age of 25 would choose to watch this movie for pleasure.

Questions and Answers

  1. What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.
    According to Reitman, his main goal in this movie was to match the tone and satire that is seen in the book which the movie is based off of. Reitman states, "What I wanted people to think about was political correctness. I wanted them to think about ideas of personal responsibility and personal choice. I think cigarettes are a wonderful location for that discussion because cigarettes are something we know all the answers to. I wanted to look into this idea of why we feel the need to tell each other how to live and why we can't take personal responsibility for our own actions when we fall ill from things that we know are dangerous." We see this portrayed in the film when Nick visits Joey's classroom on career day. When he tells the students that they have the choice to smoke, the teacher is quick to silence Nick and ask him to leave. What is wrong with telling students that it is ultimately their choice if they know the health risks?

  2. If applicable, discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?
    There are not many minorities shown in the film, but I think that might be because the film is not intended to deal with the issue of minorities. All of the characters shown in the film are white Americans, and this is probably because the majority of people who smoke cigarettes and work in politics in this country are white Americans.

  3. Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?
    The director of this film is Jason Reitman, a white man who wanted to turn the book into a film after reading it himself. When considering the effect of his background on the film, I decided to research whether or not he is a smoker himself. Reitman said in an interview that he does not smoke or drink, and I believe this is why he may have taken an interest in the book and decided to create a film. Since he is an opponent of smoking, he wanted to show the stupidity behind the argument that smoking isn't harmful through the satirical film he created.

  4. What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class,gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?
    I suppose anyone who smokes and believes it is a rational choice would be offended by this movie. However, at the same time, anyone who denies the years of research that show a connection between smoking and cancer is pretty ignorant. This film could easily be misinterpreted by people who are unfamiliar with satire, such as younger audiences or people who aren't native speakers of English. For example, a child could think the film is actually about why people should smoke since the title is deceiving and the main character works as a tobacco lobbyist.

  5. What the movie added to your visual literacy?
    I think the most powerful element of this film in terms of visual literacy is the fact that we never actually see anyone smoke a cigarette in the entire film. As the popular phrase "actions speak louder than words" goes, it is impossible to believe that the characters in the film think smoking is good when they are hesitant to do it themselves.
    I also appreciate how the film has an '80s vibe to it in terms of the way the characters dress. These visual components give the film a unique flare and take us back in time to understand what the culture of the '80s might have been like, especially for someone like myself who was born in the '90s.

  6. What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?
    In order to focus our attention, the director used numerous humorous props within the film. For example, the governor of Vermont has a giant piece of cheese behind his desk, which comes into play later in the film when Nick makes the argument that Vermont is promoting high cholesterol with its pride in cheese. In addition, it is also humorous to see visuals like the silver suitcase full of hundred dollar bills during the exchange between Nick and the Marlboro Man because it is a symbol everyone knows in the U.S. to show that someone is being bribed.

  7. Additional comments/and or analysis/and or other movies recommendations (optional).
    Overall, I understand that the point of this film is to be satirical, but I am wondering if there is a better satirical film that could be shown for this class. I do not have a specific recommendation other than it would have been more interesting to me to have watched a more recent movie since this one is from 2005.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gaming to Foster Learning

After completing Dr. Zeitz's RWLD on gaming in education, I see many benefits to gaming in the classroom that I had not previously considered.

Gaming and Learning

    1. Instant feedback: As stated in "Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner", kids like to see how they are improving. If they are not learning, it is not fun for them. As Gee explains, "A video game is a constant assessment. Gaming does not separate learning and assessment." Paul Andersen explains how he transformed his classroom into an active-student-centered class in the video Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TedX.
      According to Andersen, "Video games are fun, and school should be fun as well."
    2. Creativity: The "Rethinking Learning" video also emphasizes that as teachers, our role is not just to teach our students' 21st century skills for the workplace but also for creativity. We need to coordinate formal learning with informal learning. In James Paul Gee on Grading with Games, he explains how creativity relates to problem solving. Gee argues that schools should stress students' abilities to solve problems collaboratively and innovate with tools to learn. This can be achieved through gaming, which puts students in worlds where they have to solve problems. If students fail, it is a way of learning and trying a new solution to solve the problem.
    3. Flow: According to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Video, flow is a state of mind or experience that we feel when we are totally involved in what we are doing. Students often experience flow when they become absorbed in gaming and lose track of all sense of time. They become invested and engrossed in the activity.
    4. Intrinsic motivation: According to the article "Motivating People to Learn", students experience intrinsic motivation when they are doing something simply because they like to do it. Flow and intrinsic motivation feed off of one another: students choose an activity that they like to do and become absorbed in it because they like what they are doing.
    5. Clear goals: As the Creative Flow blog post shows, there are clear goals to accomplish in a flow experience. This also is true in a gaming and learning experience. Students have a specific goal to try to reach, sometimes both short-term and long-term.

Personal Experiences

Personally, I have struggled to find ways to incorporate gaming into my English classroom. I think it is easier to find online games to help English Language Learners (see "25 Terrific Online Games for English Language Learners"), but I am struggling to find games for my middle and high school students to play that would promote reading and writing standards.

Here is a link to some Interactive Creative Writing Games. Many of the "games" on this list, however, are simply online tools to promote writing. For example, the Visual Poetry game involves copying and pasting your poem into a system that transforms your text into a shape.

One interactive game that I have had more success with is Mad-Libs, which helps students practice their parts of speech (what is a noun, what is a verb, etc.). Surprisingly, teachers may assume their students know the different parts of speech, but I have played this game with a 7th-grader who did not know.

I have also tried Kahoot! and like it, but I also struggle to think of when I might actually use an interactive quiz in an English classroom.


In conclusion, I believe online gaming is an excellent way to engage students of all ages and backgrounds. Some potential drawbacks I could see in executing gaming in a classroom is assigning a game as homework in a school district that is not 1:1 or a game that is not compatible with the devices that students have. As an English teacher, I am also interested in finding more games that I could realistically implement in my classroom for non-English language learners at the middle or high school level.

Do you have any game recommendations for English teachers? If so, please let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Aha Journal: October 8th: ICTE Conference 2016

Iowa Council of Teachers of English Conference 2016

On Thursday, October 6th and Friday, October 7th, I had the honor to attend #ICTE2016 for the first time. This two-day conference can best be described in my Instagram/Facebook/Twitter post:

In this blog post, I would like to share what I learned at the conference in terms of both social media tools and visual literacy ideas I can implement in my future middle or high school English classroom.

Social Media

A glimpse into conference networking!

Apps and tools to use in the classroom (courtesy of Sara Kajder, keynote speaker of day 1):

  • timeStats
    • An app that identifies sites where you spend your time while online
    • Students can use to gather data to create a page to show what sites they're using
  • Flipgrid
    • Collect and create 1.5 minute videos, students respond to points in their reading
  • Audacity
    • Free audio recording app
    • Students can use to record radio shows of Shakespeare scenes
    • Collaboratively read book together, annotate book through video, audio and images
    • Can do this with another class in another state or country
  • Smart pen: use during parent conferences, record writing workshops, have autistic students speak their speech into the pen and then type it
  • Class Instagram account
    • Students create spine book poems by aligning book spines to create an intended meaning
      • Example: "I forget to remember" "Haters" "Speak" "With a different voice"
  • Students create Goodreads accounts
    • Goal: read 150 pages/week or 30 min/night
    • 1 book on currently reading list
    • 3 books on to-read list
    • Publish reviews on read books
    • Discussion on what makes a book 5-stars
    • Tweet at authors and ask them to read their review and respond
  • Class hashtag for each period
    • Virtual read-ins for banned books week
    • "Twitter scribe:" students take turns posting synthesis at end of class, post a question and link to  site, must push and grow the class
    • 365 project: photographer for each day takes a picture to show work and learning in class, must be creative and not show faces of students
  • Process Vlogs
    • Video to self about what's working and what's not in a specific paper, data points, what are you learning about yourself as a writer
  • Student-created book trailers
    • Use video device to make trailer, create a QR code, put codes on spines of book in classroom for students to view trailers
  • Class Vine account
    • When students get to the end of a particular page, they post their response in the moment

Other quotes and ideas I liked:

Visual Literacy

A presentation about a clothespin check-in system. The papers shown in the image contain visual depictions of emotions or feelings to describe how students are doing at a particular moment (stressed, happy, emergency, technical issues, etc.). Every student in every class period has a clothespin that they are supposed to clip to the image that best describes them. The teacher said she used this system after being gone for multiple weeks, but the students liked it enough that they continued to do it throughout the year. The visual element is especially good for low-level reading or ELL students who do not understand the text but can make sense of the visual symbols.

Another presenter provided us with information about a color-coding system he uses to grade papers. Students are supposed to use crayons of different colors to underline parts of their papers. This is a visual check for both students and teachers to ensure all elements of their paper are included.

This is a PowerPoint slide from Austin Hall's presentation. He recently received a book grant to win 500 books for his classroom. This slide includes covers of some "essential reading" we should all read as English teachers. I purchased both "The Book Whisperer" and "Reading in the Wild" at this conference.

This presenter had note cards with tips for new teachers and student teachers. She went through each note card at a time to cover her points. This was a rather unique method of presenting, but I liked it because we could see the titles of the cards and have a general idea of what she would be talking about before she got to each note card.

What ideas has this post sparked for you about how you can better implement apps and tools in your classroom? Have you heard of any other interesting digital tools lately that fit well with the ones mentioned above?

My PLN: Map and Reflection

If you have trouble viewing the image above, here is a link to my PLN map online.

Here are the 3 areas I intend to expand my PLN and how I intend to do it:

1. Become more connected professionally through social media. While I am starting the process of becoming more connected on Twitter and through blogging, I would like to make my digital presence known on more platforms to be able to connect with more professionals. To expand my PLN, I intend to create accounts on sites such as LinkedIn and Pinterest. Both of these platforms will allow me to follow and connect with professionals in my field as well as show off my skills to potential employers. I would like to create accounts (or reactivate my account on Pinterest) by the end of the month.

2. Make more international colleagues. Most of my colleagues are in the U.S., specifically Iowa. I would like to expand my PLN through making connections outside of the country. Since I am considering student teaching abroad, I think it would be beneficial to be in contact with more educators who are already teaching abroad so that I can learn more about their experiences and advice. To do this, I intend to explore international teaching blogs and see who my current international colleagues follow. I can also investigate if there is a TweetChat for international teachers. I would like to do this by the end of the month.

3. Connect with more teachers via my current social media sites. As I said, I am getting a start on Twitter and blogging, but I would like to expand my PLN on these sites even more. As of today, I have 52 followers on Twitter, and I'm following 90 people. On occasion, there are 3 blogs I read, and my blog has 450 pageviews. By the end of the semester, I would like to have at least 100 followers on my Twitter and follow 200 people. I would also like to have up to 1,000 pageviews on my blog and know of 5 good blogs to follow.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Aha Journal: October 2nd

The complete Camp A uniform! Image taken by me.

Camp Adventure: Visual Aspects

Camp Adventure Child and Youth Services is a program offered at UNI in which students can work on a U.S. military base to provide care for children of military families. As someone who participated in the Camp Adventure program during the summer of 2015 in Germany at the Child Development Center (read more about my experience here), I am familiar with the appearance guidelines.

According to their information page, the appearance guidelines are in place to "bind us together by establishing a consistent image." For females, they include:

Hair: Shoulder length or longer hair should be pulled back into a neat pony tail or French braids. Extreme frosting, dyeing, and bleaching are unacceptable. Use of hair products should achieve a "natural" look. Dyed or color-treated hair should appear natural.

Makeup: Make up is acceptable so long as it appears natural. We appreciate your avoiding extreme shades of color.

Jewelry: Women may wear one stud earring in each ear. Bracelets, necklaces, hoop or dangling earrings and any other piercings of any kind are unsafe in a child care environment and they are unacceptable as part of the work attire. Punctuality is essential, so watches are encouraged. Wearing of wedding bands and graduation rings is acceptable, but please limit rings to one per hand. Expensive items are usually best left safely at home.

Uniform: The Camp Adventure Youth Services uniform is the only acceptable attire while working. It consists of a clean, pressed Camp Adventure Youth Services T-shirt or sweatshirt, khaki shorts with a brown belt and traditional buckle. Footwear consists of clean white tennis shoes with white laces and white socks. Socks should extend approximately five inches from the top of the shoe. We appreciate your not wearing "shorty" socks.


To most, these guidelines seem rather strict. Since I just got my nose pierced last month, the guidelines have prevented me from participating in any events since I cannot take my nose ring out yet. However, I understand the purpose behind the guidelines. Many of them are in place to protect both the worker and the child in a childcare environment. For example, an infant could pull on my nose ring and injure both of us.

In regards to visual literacy, the idea of creating a "consistent image" and "brand" through the way people dress is very interesting to me. Is it right to make everyone look the "same" in order to appear organized? It seems almost like a psychological trick: If everyone appears organized and consistent, people will assume they are organized and consistent, whether they are or not. 

Digital Presence Report

Original Findings

Before updating my digital presence, here are some screenshots of my original findings: 

Page 1 of my Google search of myself

Bottom of page 1

Page 2 of Google search

Bottom of page 2

Another "Katie Upah" who is not me on Pinterest...

The "Katie Upah" who is not me has a Facebook post that shows up on the bottom of page 1 of my name search

Even though my Instagram account is set to private, apparently some of the photos have been posted through this 3rd party site...

The top result in my Google search is a bio of me from the UNI Honors Program

The second result is a Senior Column I wrote for my high school newspaper

A few of the images that appear when I Google myself

My Thoughts

Wow! I am certainly surprised by the content that appears when I Google "Katie Upah." I did not know there was someone else who had my name. Thankfully, only her Pinterest account and a Facebook post of her working out appear when my name is Googled. It would be much more embarrassing if there were police records under my name from someone else.

I am also surprised that the first result is a link to my bio through the UNI Honors Program. This bio was created 2 years ago. It is not necessarily a bad thing... It is kind of embarrassing, though, since there is info on that bio such as the fact I've dislocated both of my shoulders. Not exactly the first thing I'd want employers to know about me. Same with my senior column from high school. The only problem is that I'm not sure how to delete this content from the web since I'm not the one who posted it.

The images are also odd. Some of them are of me, but other images are of people I know. There are also shots from a couple of YouTube videos I had posted of myself for CTELE. Unfortunately, I'm also unsure how Google images decides which images appear in the search and which ones don't. 

Clean-up Process

1. After reading "How to Clean Up Your Digital Footprint and Your Online Identity" and seeing images of myself from my YouTube videos and links to the videos on the prominent pages of my Google search, I decided to delete these videos. I had to create these for CTELE, and since the class is over, I figured there wasn't a point in keeping them on the web. My hope is that eventually the images from the video clips won't appear on my Google image search.

2. I deleted the current cover photo and image on my Twitter account since they were out of date and rather tacky.

3. I updated the image associated with my Google email account. It is now a picture of myself instead of the UNI logo.

Proactive Moves

1. I created an page. I am hoping this page starts appearing when people Google my name since it contains a brief bio about myself, a picture, my hobbies, and links to my social media accounts.

2. After reading "How to Clean Up Your Digital Footprint and Your Online Identity," I revised my blog. I noticed that my "about me" section of my blog didn't contain any information about myself except for a link to my Google+ account. Therefore, I added a picture of myself as well as a brief bio. This way, people will know who I am right away when they click on my blog.

3. I updated my Twitter bio, changed my profile picture on Twitter, and changed my background image for my profile on Twitter.

4. After reading "10 Ways to Build Your Online Identity," I added a professional signature to my email account including my major and school.

5. Future timeline: My goals for the future are to continue to Google myself at least once every couple of weeks to make sure accurate, appropriate information about myself can be found. I would also like to work on creating a LinkedIn account since I don't currently have one. This would be a good way to possibly connect with my current associates at UNI and network with potential employers.


I now understand just why digital presence is important not only for me but for my future students. Students need to know that the content they make public on their social media pages really is public. I realized when I first created an Instagram account that my account was not private; now, the photos I posted through Instagram are public on the web even though my account is currently private. As a teacher, I'd like to share some of these resources with my students and even ask them to Google themselves during class. Perhaps then they will be able to see for themselves just how much people can find out about them through a search. I also think students need to hear real-life examples about people who have lost jobs or other opportunities through irresponsible use of their online presence. Like we have learned, employers will always Google you first, and what they find is a part of your "brand."

Movie Review: A Single Man (2009)

  1. What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.
     The message of this film seems to be that someone's purpose in life depends on the connections someone makes with people. George's life loses value as soon as he loses his beloved Jim. However, just when George is about to commit suicide, his student, Kenny, notices that something is wrong with him and goes out of his way to make sure George knows that he is valued. Charley's life also seems valueless without George or her ex-husband. She bases her self-esteem on what men think of her, spending hours in the mirror getting ready for George when he is clearly gay. In the end, George chooses not to commit suicide (he locks his gun in a drawer and burns the letters he wrote in the fire). He is content with his friendship with Charley and seems to be happy that Kenny is staying the night in his house. Yet, he dies of a heart attack that night.

  2. If applicable , discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?
    The only minority represented in this film is the maid, Alva. This seems like a totally inaccurate portrayal of minorities. It seems wrong that the only person who isn't white is in a "serving" role to a white character. 
  3. Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film? 
    The director of this film Tom Ford, a white man. I do believe that his background plays a role in directing the film. For one, he is white, so he cast mostly white characters. He is also gay, which is probably why the film centers around a gay man.

  4. What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class,gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?
    I think probably anyone who is an ethnic minority would be offended by the movie. As I said, the only ethnic minority in the film is the maid. This reinforces the stereotype that people who aren't white aren't equal and somehow are "less." It is upsetting to me. Also, the only woman portrayed in the film as a lead is Charley, an insecure woman who bases who worth off the men in her life. I don't understand why they could not have also put a strong, independent woman in the film to show that all women are not just like Charley.
  5. What the movie added to your visual literacy?
    In terms of visual literacy, this film opened my eyes to looking beyond the surface level of the film and considering why the director made certain casting choices. The director probably assumed no one would notice if there weren't any ethnic minorities in lead roles. I think it is important to ask why choices were made. Would the film have been different if Jim were a black man? Was the director afraid the movie would be more about race instead of sexuality? I suppose no one can answer these questions, but it seems it was an intentional choice to exclude ethnic minorities.
  6. What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?
    I found the underwater scenes throughout the film to be quite interesting. In these scenes, there are naked bodies swimming through water. I also appreciated the scenes in which the film "slowed down," as when George was driving in the car on his way to work. He noticed the family next door and probably imagined what his life would have been like if he had married Charley, bought a house, and had kids. 
  7. Additional comments/and or analysis/and or other movies recommendations (optional). 
    This film was made in 2009. I wonder if this movie would be made differently today. I feel people are more apt to point out when minorities are misrepresented in media today than they might have been in 2009.