2.20.2015

An Analysis of 1989

First of all, let me say, I am SO EXCITED YOU ARE FINALLY READING THIS. I had maybe too much fun writing it. 

Because we both took Joe's class, but I don't feel like being subtle, I'll start out just by throwing my thesis in your face. Taylor Swift's 1989 is one of the best pop albums published in recent memory because not only do all the songs, in groups, use one another to amplify their respective messages about love, relationships and loss, tried and true themes in Taylor Swift's word, in ways each individual song could  achieve standing on its own and together, create a coherent, well-organized album but manages to do so in such a way that personal and highly intimate. 

One of the points that struck me after listening to her album was that there wasn't a song called "1989." Taylor Swift was born in 1989, and has said this album, was really influenced by '80s music: "I really loved the chances they were taking, how bold it was," she said. "It was apparently a time of limitless potential, the idea you could do what you want be what you want ... the idea of endless possibility was kind of a theme in the last two years of my life."  

She said this before the album was released. Already she's setting the stage, setting it for something big, revolutionary even. Or at least that's the aim. This album is going to be bold, limitless: anything is possible. I've read multiple places on the internet something along the lines of "before it even came out most of us had a feeling it was going to be a game changer."  But more subtly, this album is her. The making of this album started when she was born. She is this album and the album is her. The ultimate success will determine her place in history: a flop would have her remembered only among the defining artists of our generation; she has already earned that. But success, bold, limitless success, would launch her beyond her compatriots in the music industry to levels achieved only by superstars: likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna. 1989 is Taylor Swift and her legacy.

Throughout this process of producing a icon, she did not lose sight of what defines her as an artist: her dedication to her fans. She took what could have felt like an impersonal pop album, produced through the pop music powerhouse that is Sweden and made it feel personal. She held intimate listening parties.  She created the illusion that this album was released for you, personally, as her fan. 

Even her album itself invites you in. The first song, I would argue based on zero imperial evidence, is the one that is skipped the most often. I don't love it, personally, as a song, but it is an excellent opening to an album. I have heard it critiqued, saying that "Empire State of Mind" is this generation's defining New York anthem, and I think that's definitely true. I equally don't think Taylor Swift was trying to write a song about New York. She took what New York is and represents and used that symbol to tell us what her album is. 1989 is the New York City of the music world, and, most importantly, she's inviting you to it. It's called "Welcome to New York" but what it means is "welcome to our new world of music." In the opening verse of the song she says "Everybody here wanted something more/Searching for a sound we haven't heard before" and just a line later, she welcomes you to this new sound, this pop music revolution. 

The first song welcomes you to the new world she's created; Blank Space's opening line is "Nice to meet you/ Where you been/I could show you incredible things." In the context of this song, she's talking to her next love, but in the context of the album she is talking to you, her cherish fan. Welcome. Nice to meet you. It's all for you the listener. Blank Space shows how aware she is of what people think of her, taking that and amping it up and doing so in what is a really catchy song

Blank Space pairs really well with Style. Style seems almost to be the more realistic version of Blank Space. They are thematically similar enough that this cover was able to happen and be something I'm obsessed with. 

"Out of the Woods" seems to be a believable follow up to "Style" and Swift said on Good Morning America "Out of the Woods was one of her "favorite songs on the this album because it best represents 1989." She mentions it's because it best deals with the fragile nature of love and relationships. And thematically, most of her songs do revolve around this topic, like much of her past work. But the opening verse again brings in the listener on a more personal level. Included in the deluxe edition of 1989 were fake Polaroid photos of Taylor growing up, complete with captions that correspond to lyrics from her music. And in "Out of the Woods" she talks about how "You took a polaroid of us" not "He" not "We" but you. You did this. It's an instant buy in to the song. You can feel like you are in the song because you have the Polaroids she mentions. 

Following, and possibly answering the questions asked in "Out of the Woods" is "All You Had to Do Was Stay." "Out of the Woods" repeatedly asks "Are we out of the woods yet/Are we in the clear yet" and only offers the ambiguous response of "good." Does good mean they are out of the woods or does good mean she's glad they're still in the woods? The number of times she asks the question seems to suggested she doesn't feel secure in whatever answer she's getting either way. The resolution to the questions asked really comes through the messages of "Stay." She reminds her former lover "all you had to do was stay/had me in the palm of your hand."

The word "stay" is repeated 29 times in this song. It's powerful and sticks with you through the opening line of the next song "Shake it Off," which begins "I stay out to late...at least that's what people say/I go on too many dates/But I can't make 'em stay." The next song immediately uses stay twice in it's opening verse, linking these two songs on a more subliminal level. The response is clear, you're not going to stay, so I'm just gonna to shake it off.

The songs on 1989 show a clear cause and effect relationship as well. "I Wish You Would" repeats the theme "I wish you would come back...I wish you were right here." The song tails off to a chorus "I wish you would"s, which forms almost a complete sentence with the next song "Bad Blood." Listening to the songs in order you hear "I wish you would, I wish you would... 'Cuz baby now we got bad blood/ you know it use to be mad love" The feelings and actions (or lack thereof) in one song cause the next one. And all revolving around the gold standard that is Taylor Swift: love, loss and heart break. 

The rest of the songs can fit into this pattern "This Love" would seem to be the girls perspective when in "How You Get the Girl" the guy "must've lost [his] mind/And you left her all alone and never told her why." The relationship between "Clean" (my favorite song) and "Wonderland" can almost been seen as a slip back into old habits after getting clean "10 months sober, I must admit/Just because you're clean don't miss you don't miss it." "Wonderland" could be seen in a (perhaps callous) "relapse" into the drug that is love. 

She finishes off her Deluxe album by including a few recordings of her working on her music. It's very intimate. She's affording her fans this sneak peak into her world–how she makes the world she lives in. It allows you, as the listener, to have a private moment with Taylor. She's talking to you, explaining how what she's created came to be. She's made you part of the construction of this world as well as invited you to live in it. Welcome, Nice to Meet You. It's a holistic experience and by the time you are done you feel as though you have experienced everything right along with Taylor, every moment since 1989.   

5.04.2011

Scenario

I have known I wanted to be a teacher from the first time I fully understood that one day I would be a grown up and have to actually have a job in early middle school. I am so passionate and excited to become a teacher. I continually think about what I want to be like as a teacher. Each education class I take sharpens and changes what I think a good teacher should be/do. The only other thing that matches my passion for education is my passion for books. The fact that I will have a job where I get to combine two of my greatest passions makes me incredibly happy.
I think one thing that gives me an edge is my commitment to being exceptional at whatever I do. I am not a person who likes to reach a certain level of proficiency and think that's good enough. I continually push myself to improve an grow. Being a teacher wouldn't be any different. I am committed to being a great teacher for my student and putting in the incredible amount of work that it takes to be the best I can be.
That being said, I am a very independent person, so if I have a problem, I will usually struggle with it for a while in an attempts to figure it out on my own. I have been working on asking for help and using my resources more than I would normally do. It is a growing process for me.
After graduating college, I plan to get a job probably somewhere close to my home in Overland Park, but I am open to teaching almost anywhere. During this time I want to become a more proficient teacher, applying what I have learned in my education classes to the "real world."
I love all of the different options technology provides for education. There are so many more ways to differentiate learning for all learning styles and special needs. I plan to use many of the resources I found in this class to enhance and adapt current novels or units. There are so many great ways students can demonstrate their knowledge of English outside writing papers (thought I do support paper-writing). Using different media forms, students who struggle to write can find a way to express their ideas on themes or characters without the struggle of writing a paper.
When I find a new resource or technology, I usually just play around with the program until I get a grasp of how it works. I am pretty fast at figuring out how different internet sites work. Once I get the basic grasp, I will read explanations or "how-tos" of more complex or in depth ways to use said resources.
I think all teachers should try to keep up with some current technology, even if they aren't fully immersed in the genre. To help my mom, I showed her different online lesson-planning sites. I also got her an Animoto account and explained how teachers were using twitter. I have started her slowly, which just a few things to incorporate. Next, I am going to teach her a few more resources that would work for her 1st graders. When I show her a site, I tell her about it generally, then I find examples of different ways elementary school teachers have used the site, so she concretely understands how others have used it.
For a detailed look at all of the technology I can use and the different ways I might use them in my classroom, read through the rest of my blogs!

Wow Moment


My wow moment came early in the semester. It was definitely from reading the first chapter in the Google Textbook (Retool Your School). Reading about how this one school fully jumped onto the technology train to redesign every aspect of their school was very interesting. But what was even better was the result! I was pleasantly surprised by how much they were able to turn around their school in just one year. This convinced me that I would integrate not only Google Docs into my classroom, but other forms of technology. I don’t believe I can use every tool covered in this class, but I have been paying attention to the ones that will be most helpful teaching English. This moment of realization and affected how I think about the technology I used in this class. I didn’t just do the project to get it done; I try to think about ways to apply it to my future classroom concretely. I know all the “notes” I took during the podcasts will be an invaluable resource when I begin to plan Units to teach both in school and when I am real teacher. 

Podcast Favorite

My favorite podcast was the Tech Chick Tips. Although there were many useful podcasts I really enjoyed, this was my favorite. I really like how they would preview many different educational resources. I found many, many useful sites by listening to these women. I also appreciated that their podcasts were usually under an hour. We are all busy people, and I don’t usually have more than an hour to sit and listen to podcasts, even if I am trying to do other work. They gave the information without being repetitive or lengthy. These two girls also had excellent rapport. It made it fun to listen to them presenting tools because they would go back and forth so much. The fact two people were talking together made it seem a lot more interactive, engaging, and fun. Scroll through my past podcasts to see all the wonderful resources I discovered with the Tech Chick Tips.

Semester Favorites


My favorite discovery of the semester (well, I used it once before the semester, but I mastered it during the semester) was Google Docs. This has been a great discovery personally (I use it for group project and even got my boss to switch to it for my job), and I know I will use it in my professional life. I am sure I will encourage or require my students to use these resources for group projects. This way, I can monitor their progress and see how the group is working together. In addition, if the district is set up to support this method, I would have my student submit all their papers and assignments online. This way I would reduce the amount of paper I use and decrease the risk of students forgetting assignments.
My other favorite site is Glogster. I have done A LOT of poster and project during my 6-12 days. It will be nice to give students a new way to present information with multimedia. This way, they aren’t crammed for space and it is much easier to make it visually appealing. I like how easily you can add borders, words, videos, and shapes without any of the messy cut and paste aspects of traditional posters. 

4.25.2011

Challenge Based Learning

It's been a little while since I have done a reflection, but I am excited to talk about Challenge Based Learning. I know this concept has gone by a few different names over the years, but this is what it's called now. Basically, in class, students are presented with a problem and asked to come up with ways to solve it. So rather than just studying the effects of global warming, students would be challenged to figure out ways to fix it in their day lives. This means students would have to first research and understand at least one aspect of global warming so they can find ways to fix it. They are learning and doing at the same time.
Apple jumped on board and has the challenge based learning ideas on their website, though it is not an Apply concept. This kind of lesson planning fits closely with traditional lesson planning, just with a new twist. To use this kind of learning the experts say you must start with a big idea such as conservation, power, peace etc.. The next step is making this big deal local and personal; something the students can understand. These questions aren't meant to have correct answers; they are meant to make the students think.Then, based on the essential questions, teachers must challenge the students to generate concrete answers or solutions. Students then have to decide what information they need to know to answer the challenge. The questions they ask are called guiding questions.Since the challenge and questions should have been broad enough to allow for multiple answers, students or teams will present their solution to the challenge.

This way of thinking and teaching can be used in almost every subject.While pondering how this could be used in English, I wondered what it would look like for students to go through this process pretending they were a character in the book or play they read and use the reality of the story to guide their answers. Then to relate it specifically to them, they could compare it to the real world. This is a slightly different twist to the typical challenge based learning, but it is a way to teachers to use it without cutting too much from their curriculum. Apple's website has great resources and further explanations about Challenge Based Learning and wonder examples for teachers to us in their classrooms.

4.13.2011

Podcast Reflection #12


I really enjoyed listening to this moving at the speed of creativity podcast 373. Wesley reflected on Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From. He talked in depth about creativity and collaboration. It is definitely worth a listen. I want to reflect more in depth on one specific issue he raised. Wesley said websites should to stop charging for information and articles online. He says information gate keeping just limits how what people can learn. It keeps the public uninformed, and this practice should be reformed.
I should warn you that I don’t have a definitive stance on this issue because I agree that it is a good idea, but I don’t think it is practical. As a student, I have almost unlimited access to information because K-State pays for subscriptions to all these online resources. I can find nearly anything I want with a few simple searches. I think this is essential for students and would be very beneficial to all people. Limiting the information someone has access to limits that person’s potential to make a difference in the world. This is why I do agree that people shouldn’t have to pay for information on the internet.
The problem with this is we live in a capitalist country and a largely capitalist world. We agree that whomever generates information owns that information. Before the internet, any research or articles had to be published in a book, journal or magazine, which people had to buy.  So why should the internet be any different? Researchers, authors, editors and the like need a way to earn a living. A good alternative to this would simply be to add advertising. However, many readers and publishers alike feel that real, legitimate sites shouldn’t have this advertising because it feels cheap. So, while I would like public access to all information, I think the way the world views information and ownership will have to change before any major changes can be made.
Here is a video Steven Johnson made that summarizes some of his ideas.