For this assignment, I spent most of my time looking at the resources that were shared with cohort. I was primarily interested in resources connecting to online forums and discussions in the classroom, and other resources that showed a clear connection to my curriculum (in Global Studies 8 and AVID 8). Both Global Studies and AVID focus significantly on citizenship, so digital citizenship seems like a natural connection. I was most intrigued by a lesson on Common Sense Media about gender stereotypes online. This year, our AVID classes are partnering with the Teen Outreach Program through Hennepin county. One of our upcoming discussion topics is gender stereotypes. My plan is to integrate this lesson into our mini unit, which will culminate in a service project (most likely the Mirror Messages Campaign at Hopkins North Junior High School). I think this lesson will encourage students to be more thoughtful consumers of media, and have a deeper understanding of how pervasive gender stereotypes are in our world.
I found the resources at Common Sense Media to be the most helpful while working on this project because they organized units and lesson plans. It made the website easy to navigate. I struggled a little bit with the open ended nature of the assignment because I was having trouble focusing my ideas. It helped me once we had to write reflections regarding our specific plans for the project. I definitely appreciated the resources, and the space to think about how I can address digital citizenship in my classroom.
Lesson plan: Common Sense Media
Warm-up (10 minutes)
TELL students that you have been invited to a birthday party for three-year-old twins, Jasmine and Jayden. You need the students’ help in brainstorming a list of possible gifts for each child.
INSTRUCT students to spend three minutes writing down some gift ideas. Meanwhile, draw a Venn diagram on the board with "Jasmine" on one side, "Jayden" on the other, and "Both" where the circles intersect.
INVITE students to share their gift ideas aloud. Write students’ suggestions in their chosen section of the Venn diagram, placing check marks next to any gift ideas that are mentioned multiple times. Alternatively, invite students to create and edit their own Venn diagrams with LucidChart.
SELECT a stereotypical “boy gift” idea for Jayden, like a toy truck. Invite students to discuss whether or not they could give the same gift to Jasmine. Repeat the exercise with a typical “girl gift,” like a doll, and encourage students to talk about why they might or might not give this gift to Jayden.
What Are Gender Stereotypes? (10 minutes)
DEFINE the Key Vocabulary terms gender and stereotype.
EXPLAIN that gender stereotypes, for example, encourage people to think that little girls are sweet and like to dress up as princesses, while boys are rowdy and like to play with trucks. These are common assumptions, but they aren’t always true.
DRAW a "gender scale" on the board for the class to see (a horizontal line with the word "Feminine" at one end and "Masculine" at the other end.)
INVITE volunteers to name different interests, subjects, and activities that teens might pursue – for example, art, math, cooking, sports, and video games. Ask them to say where on the gender scale they would place each activity. Have them explain their choices, and encourage discussion among students who might agree or disagree with the placements.
ENCOURAGE students to discuss whether any of their choices reflect stereotypes about femininity and masculinity. For example, is a boy less masculine if he likes to cook? What about a male chef at a restaurant? Is a girl less feminine if she likes to play video games? What about a female software engineer?
ASK: Why might some people find gender stereotypes limiting?
Gender stereotypes can encourage very specific ideas about how boys and girls should act. Some people’s personalities and interests might match up with gender stereotypes; others’ might not. In some cases, gender stereotypes may keep some people from feeling comfortable with who they are, or who they want to be.
Gender Messages in Virtual Worlds (20 minutes)
DISCUSS different sources of gender stereotypes. How do we learn about them? Where do we see them? (Encourage students to talk about the media’s role in shaping and communicating gender stereotypes. For example, TV shows, songs, movies, and magazines often encourage a limited range of ideas about how guys and girls should look and act.)
POINT OUT the Internet is a source of media. We may see, and even take part in, communicating gender stereotypes online.
DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term avatar.
TELL students that they are going to create avatars for a virtual world. They should keep track of the gender stereotypes they notice along the way. (The activity will prompt them to create two avatars: a “girly girl” and a “manly man.” You may wish to define, or brainstorm the kinds of stereotypes associated with, a “girly girl” and a “manly many” before the activity begins, if you think students will need extra guidance.)
DISTRIBUTE the Dress Up Your Avatar Student Handout, one for each pair of students.
ALLOW students 10 minutes to complete the activity. Alternatively, you can use the Dress Up Your Avatar Student Handout –Teacher Version to guide students through this activity as a whole class.
Note: The “Dress Up Your Avatar” feature of SecretBuilders acts like a gateway into its virtual world. Be sure to remind students not to enter the virtual world without your permission.
HAVE students describe the avatars they created for Assignment #1 on their handouts.
ASK: What kind of stereotypes about girls did you notice in SecretBuilders?
Encourage students to analyze the words they wrote down on their handouts. Many of the “girly” hairstyles, mouths, and clothes in SecretBuilders are associated with being cute, pretty, fashionable, and flirty. Have students discuss where their ideas about “girly girls” come from, and the role that the media play in shaping these ideas.
HAVE students describe the avatars they created for Assignment #2 on their handouts.
ASK: What kind of stereotypes about boys did you notice in SecretBuilders?
Students may find that “manly” features on SecretBuilders are harder to categorize, but they suggest that boys are more tough, athletic, and laid back than girls. Some of the masculine hairstyles are labeled “Pro Surfer” or “The Need- A-Haircut.” Encourage students to have a discussion about the media’s role in shaping our ideas about a “manly man.”
POINT OUT that people don’t have to create stereotypical boy or girl avatars in virtual worlds. People can create all sorts of avatars.
ASK: How might virtual worlds such as SecretBuilders allow you to challenge, or break free from, gender stereotypes?
Encourage students to recognize that virtual worlds can allow people to push the boundaries of gender stereotypes. People can experiment with ideas about gender and appearance. For example, a female user could play SecretBuilders as a male avatar and see what it’s like interacting with other people that way. Also encourage students to think about what their avatar looked like when they were transitioning between Assignment #1 (making their avatar look like a “girly girl”) and Assignment #2 (making their avatar look like a “manly man”). In this middle stage, the avatar probably did not reflect gender stereotypes.
Wrap-up (5 minutes)
You can use these questions to assess your students’ understanding of the lesson objectives. You may want to ask students to reflect in writing on one of the questions, using a journal or an online blog/wiki.
ASK: What are gender stereotypes, and what do you think about them?
Gender stereotypes are messages that encourage us to think of certain looks, actions, or things as especially “manly” or “girly.” Gender stereotypes are often based on more extreme ideas about how boys and girls are supposed to act. Some people might not identify with these ideas, and can feel limited if others assume them to be true.
ASK: What role do media, such as virtual worlds, play in shaping gender stereotypes?
Students should recognize that virtual worlds are a form of media – just like television, movies, advertisements, and music. The media aren’t solely responsible for creating gender stereotypes, but they certainly can encourage them with images and messages.
ASK: In what ways can people break free from gender stereotypes in virtual worlds?
The Internet allows people to experiment with online identities that might be different from their offline identity. Because of this, people might feel that they can break free from traditional gender roles online, especially in virtual worlds.