MK 354 Spring 2010

April 22, 2010

¿ Tú hablas español?

Filed under: blog #10 — jlptzld @ 2:46 pm

I recently read an article written by Washington Post author Michael Alison Chandler that discusses a local school district’s goals for early-foreign-language instruction and for students’ proficiency in two languages by the time they graduate. The article, “Budget woes frustrate foreign language goals; in Fairfax schools, the debate becomes fundamentals vs. frills,” discusses the county’s ambitious education goals, the advantages of a bilingual-education and the budget cuts that threaten its curriculum.

The disadvantage of being familiar with only one’s native language in an increasingly interconnected world has been a subject of growing consideration as technology and businesses bridge gaps between different parts of the world. According to Chandler, “English is insufficient to succeed at international business or diplomacy,” however, only “16 states and the District require students to complete some foreign language coursework to receive a diploma.” This, Chandler implies, is evidence of “America’s aversion to learning foreign languages” because many programs only require a few years of instruction in high school or middle school.

In fact, “school leaders say the early programs are crucial to producing a generation of bilingual students. Two or three years of French in high school are not enough to get students beyond the beginner level…. It takes more time to move past memorizing vocabulary lists and start communicating” (Chandler). I think many students my age can relate to this experience—a good portion of students took a few years of a foreign language in high school, but how much of it do they really remember? Personally, a few key phrases and random words are all that remain from my four years of Spanish from eighth to eleventh grade.

Fairfax County not appear to only value the advantages of a bilingual-education, but the district also recognizes the importance of learning languages at an early age. The county has developed foreign language programs that begin in elementary school; the article describes an 8-year-old boy named Jordan that learns Japanese for half the day in his third-grade class. However, according to Chandler, the elementary school language program faces a significant threat as the county projects a “$176 million shortfall in next year’s budget”—budget cuts have been known to affect nearly every academic subject and “anything apart from reading, writing and math is vulnerable.”

This “aversion to learning foreign languages,” that Chandler describes, could prove to place American students at a disadvantage to international students in areas such as Europe and East Asia “where foreign language instruction is given.” In fact, many individuals remain skeptical of the benefits of learning a foreign language due to the fact that English is spoken worldwide. However, the fact remains that children of other countries are capable of learning multiple, and arguably more difficult languages—not only can they communicate in their native language, but they are capable of communicating with others on a global scale. This ability provides bilingual or multilingual students with the ability to rely less on others and more on their own knowledge—a sense of individuality and independence that is normally characterized as a particularly American trait. Yet, the majority of the American school system does not provide its students with adequate exposure to skills that can further their self-reliance.


April 12, 2010

Social and Academic Success and the Arts

Filed under: blog #9 — jlptzld @ 9:25 am

Through the organization’s art programs for children and teens, programs that make up the majority of the available classes offered for children by United South End Settlements, the organization appears to recognize the importance of media and arts in childhood development. USES offers multiple classes each season that promote creative development in children of every age group from infancy through high school.

According to the Liane Brouillette article “How the Arts Help Children to Create Healthy Social Scripts: Exploring the Perceptions of Elementary Teachers,” in order for “all children to have an equal chance of success in elementary school, educators must have the tools to help all students develop social-emotional competencies…. The arts provide an arena for fostering these competencies” (18). It is generally assumed that the arts positively affect children and their interactions with their peers and communities; Brouillette attempts to study this assumption through the observations of inner-city art teachers.

Through her research Brouillette comes to understand that exposure to arts such as drama, dance, visual arts and music provide children with space to explore the interactions in their life and move towards “greater character understanding, comprehension of character motivation, increased peer-to-peer interactions, increased conflict-resolution skills, and improved problem-solving dispositions” (16). According to Brouillette, the arts aid children in their comprehension of social expectations and the development of their own social self. However, Brouillette takes her observations one step further when she hints that a child’s academic success can be significantly affected by their social capabilities. “Children who experience greater peer acceptance and more positive peer relationships tend to feel more positively about coming to school, participate more in classroom activities, and achieve more in the classroom” (Brouillette 18). The article appears to imply that exposure to art, analyzed interactions and creative expression affect a child’s social and, consequently, academic development.

Brouillette’s article is one argument among many assumptions, studies and popular discourses that promote the belief that artistic expressions in drama, dance, visual art and music enhance a child’s ability to achieve social acceptance and academic success in their earliest and most rapid stages of development.

April 5, 2010

Older Adults Struggle through Economic Downturn

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlptzld @ 12:58 pm

In one form or another, the recent economic downturn of the United States’ economy has affected nearly every single individual in the country. Thousands of the country’s population have experienced tightened finances, depreciated value of assets and a weakened job market.

According to the article, “Meeting the Needs of Economically Disadvantaged Older Adults: A Holistic Approach to Economic Casework” by James Firman, Sandra Nathan and Ramsey Alwin, low- and moderate-income older adults, those 50 or older, make up some of those hit hardest by the weakened economy. According to the article by Firman, Nathan and Alwin, “the unemployment rate for older adults has more than doubled since the start of the recession in December 2007” and many low- to moderate-income older adults have begun to rethink retirement plans and extent their participation in the workforce (74). Moreover, “20 percent of families age 50 and older living in poverty in 2007 had debt payments in excess of 40 percent of their total income” (Firman, Nathan and Alwin 75).

With so many older adults struggling through the economic downturn organizations, such as the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), have witnessed a large increase in the demand of the programs’ services. These and similar organizations assist older adults with services such as “job training and assistance, help with applying for benefits, and subsidized meals” (Firman, Nathan and Alwin 75). However, due to limited funding, the SCSEP serves “1 in 114 of those eligible” for the organization’s assistance” (Firman, Nathan and Alwin 77). Consequently, many low- to moderate-income older adults struggling to make ends meet do not receive or take advantage of many of the opportunities for assistance available to them. While nonprofit organizations certainly cannot fully meet this increasing demand, organizations like United South End Settlements, in the South End of Boston, can extend its services to many of the older adults significantly affected by the current economic state.

United South End Settlements is a nonprofit organization that serves the South End and Lower Roxbury communities of Boston. These communities have a high population of low- to moderate-income families, including adults 50 years or older. In fact, the organization currently offers a wide range of services for seniors including home repair for minor, major and emergency repairs, free tax preparation, heath education, a hot lunch program and benefits advocacy. Through its benefits advocacy program USES assists its older adults in Social Security assistance, identification and access to benefits, housing and legal referral services, home management counseling and court assistance ( Many of these services offered by USES supplement several of the service needs outlined by the Firman, Nathan and Alwin article including eligibility and enrollment assistance in public benefits, financial services, legal counseling, housing support, and nutrition services (75). Currently USES has successfully positioned itself to help supplement the growing demand for services aimed to aid low-to moderate-income older adults or individuals 50 years or older. However, while organizations similar to USES strive to assist the older adults struggling through the current economic climate, nonprofits, as a whole, lack the necessary means to adequately meet the demand.

March 29, 2010

US Impact Study-Who Uses Public Library Computers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlptzld @ 12:59 pm

I recently read an article based on the results of a US Impact study—the first-ever national study on the use of computers in public libraries. Conducted by the University of Washington Information School, researchers developed the study to understand who uses computers and free Internet access in public libraries, why these people use these sources, and how these services affect their lives. In short, the study found “nearly one-third of Americans age 14 or older—roughly 77 million people—used a public library computer or wireless network to access the Internet in the past year.” Furthermore, these 77 million people used the internet services provided by public libraries to connect with their community, research medical conditions and corresponding treatments, apply to college and secure government benefits.

Public libraries share two immediate similarities with United South End Settlements. First, both entities are nonprofit organizations that serve the public interest. Second, they both recognize the growing influence of computer-based and internet-based technologies and support the community in learning the necessary skills for and accessing these technologies.

Currently, USES offers a range of computer courses for community members in varying degrees of difficulty, tailored to specific age ranges. Furthermore, the computer labs at USES are available to the organization’s publics when courses are not in session. In this manner, USES possesses a significant and necessary resource for millions of Americans. Furthermore, according to the study, “low-income adults are more likely to rely on the public library as their sole access to computers and the Internet than any other income group.” In fact, a major public of USES includes low-income adults of the South End and Lower Roxbury communities—according to the study, publics such as these are ones that, statistically, depend on these services the most. Therefore, it might be beneficial for USES to leverage its computer services to motivate community members to interact with the organization. Once these community members are familiar with the organization they might be more willing to actively participate in the organization by enrolling in courses or donating their time.

March 22, 2010

Proactiv’s Story

Filed under: blog #6 — jlptzld @ 12:45 pm

According to Heath and Heath in their book Made to Stick, telling a story fulfills the sixth aspect of what makes ideas “sticky.” In their chapter on stories the authors claim a story’s ability to put “knowledge into a framework that is more lifelike, more true to our day-to-day existence” is one of its most effective qualities (214).

Many advertising campaigns make use of this technique to try to sell a lifestyle to potential consumers—notable examples include self-improvement products. Often the advertisement’s audience hears how the promoted product changed someone’s life; these consumer testimonials are a common strategy employed by advertising campaigns. However, a story takes the testimonial one step further. Not only does the happy consumer claim the product improved their quality of life, but they highlight the significance of this change by describing their unfortunate circumstances before the advertised product positively affected them. They often provide anecdotes that emphasize how their previous condition affected their day-to-day life.

Jessica Simpson’s endorsement of Proactiv Acne Solution is a notable example of how stories can be leveraged to enhance an advertisement. These advertisements aired a few years ago when Simpson was still a “newlywed”—when she was still perceived by many to possess the successful, Hollywood lifestyle, untainted by negativity. (Since then she has been through a divorce, a flat-lining career, lost pets, many public breakups and rapid weight fluctuation.) At the time it seemed impossible for someone as successful as Jessica Simpson to struggle with their image, especially something as commonly mundane as acne. However, Proactiv made effective use of Simpson’s skin condition and invited her to explain how acne affected her life and her self-image. In fact, these advertisements made use of two of Heath and Heaths strategies, storytelling as well as the credibility derived from Simpson’s celebrity status. Simpson was able to identify with potential consumers because she had suffered from acne as they, presumably, do. Furthermore, consumers were able to trust her endorsement because consumer culture tends to place celebrities on a pedestal—if Proactiv can work for Jessica Simpson, then it might just work for others.

March 1, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — jlptzld @ 1:58 pm

When I consider emotional advertisements the first type of commercials that come to mind are the ASPCA, or similar, spots that ask you to sponsor an abandoned, sick, or abused animal. Cue generic slow music, sad in tone with a soft melody, followed by a series of images depicting disheveled, dirty, hurt, and depressed looking cats and dogs, and finally a spokesperson’s plea for donations—funds which go to medical bills to save these animals lives as well as the upkeep and staff required to make these animals adoption-worthy if they survive.

These advertisements are emotionally persuasive for several reasons, the first being that the spots depict beings that are less fortunate than us. Typically, when one sees a being of less fortunate circumstance, be it fellow humans or animals, the individual tends to feel some pity and sympathy for those beings. However, this sympathy, I believe, is amplified in commercials like those of the ASPCA because they depict animals that humans generally associate very closely with. After all, “dog is man’s best friend” and cats are an extremely common companion for many humans.

However, these commercials like the example of starving children in Africa in Heath and Heath’s book Made to Stick, pleas for donations which are intended for an intangible number of beings can become overwhelming for viewers. How will thirty dollars a month make a true impact on the cause being donated to? Based on the logic in Made to Stick, “When it comes to our hearts, one individual trumps the masses,” commercials which ask you to sponsor a specific animal are probably more effective than a simple plea to support an organization on behalf of animals (166). As Heath and Heath point out, thinking of statistics “shifts people into a more analytical frame of mind” (167). Realistically, how much can thirty dollars help hundreds or thousands of animals? Logically, very few, and therefore, sympathy may remain, but helplessness can overwhelm the potential donator. However, thirty dollars can do a great deal more for a single animal, one that the individual can develop a deeper emotional attachment to through photos and letters of progress.

February 22, 2010

McDonald’s and the 2010 Winter Olympics

Filed under: blog #4 — jlptzld @ 11:16 am

As official sponsors of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, McDonald’s is taking full advantage of the credibility and authority that comes with being an Olympian for their current advertising campaign.

The appeal of the Olympian is multifaceted. First, these are the top competitors in the world; they are individuals admired by the masses and children around the world aspire to be great like their Olympic heroes. The authority Olympians possess by being the best, combined with their highly coveted status, lend these athletes to an incredibly persuasive advertising strategy. Another advantage to McDonald’s sponsorship of the 2010 Winter Olympics is the segmentation and localization of Olympic athletes. McDonald’s does not have to rely on a generic Olympic athlete to appeal to the corporation’s global customer base. Instead, McDonald’s can utilize the nationality and patriotism of specific Olympic teams to appeal to the corresponding country. An USA Olympic athlete is not needed to appeal to German consumers because Germany has its own athletes to admire and trust. Canada has a whole series of advertisements featuring its athletes (see below).

However, one apparent contradiction to the Olympian authority is the potential disconnect between the fit Olympic athlete and the arguably unhealthy fast food products offered by McDonald’s. This might not be obvious to the children targeted by McDonald’s current campaign—as the commercials often highlight grade school children interacting with their Olympic heroes—but for older, more advertisement wary individuals the authority of an Olympian might not carry much weight in a fast food context. After all, how much McDonald’s does an athlete training to compete against the best competitors in the world actually eat?

February 16, 2010

“Fifteen Minutes”

Filed under: blog #3 — jlptzld @ 1:58 pm

Geico Auto Insurance has been successful in the development of brand awareness through various mascots including the “Geico Gecko,” its “Cavemen,” and, most recently, “The Money You Can Save.” However, the clear and consistent tagline, “In fifteen minutes, save fifteen percent or more on car insurance,” which appears in nearly all of Geico’s television advertisements, is just as significant in developing brand recognition as Geico’s mascots are.

One reason “fifteen minutes” is effective is due to its “concrete” nature. Heath and Heath explain their “concrete” principle in terms of its “tangible” nature and its avoidance of “ambiguity” (100, 104). According to Heath and Heath “it’s easier to understand those tangible actions than to understand an abstract… statement” (100). Geico’s tagline is extremely successful in its concrete nature because its message is clear, you can save money by switching your insurance policy to Geico. Furthermore, the tagline avoids ambiguity by specifying the level of time and financial commitment required by the audience.

“Fifteen minutes” also increases its tangibility when it claims a consumer could save fifteen percent with Geico. According to Heath and Heath, “concreteness… helps us construct higher, more abstract insights on the building blocks of our existing knowledge and perceptions (106). In Geico’s case, “fifteen minutes” allows an individual consumer to calculate and comprehend their specific and personalized benefit attained by switching car insurance brands. While this understanding is more difficult to achieve initially, Geico provides the stepping stone for consumers to develop more personalized and, consequently, more relevant and meaningful perceptions. “Fifteen minutes” and its concrete quality, as defined by Heath and Heath, have helped Geico stick in the minds of its audience.

February 8, 2010

Unexpected Gaga

Filed under: blog #2 — jlptzld @ 2:27 am

When someone mentions Lady Gaga images of hair bows, Kermit the Frog outfits and vibrant, non-traditional makeup are among the first to spring to mind. Bursting into the music scene in late 2008 and early 2009, Lady Gaga could have easily been a one-hit-wonder, or less. However, she rapidly developed a name for her music and herself—transforming from an unknown to a pop icon worthy of the mass’ attention.

A contributing factor to Lady Gaga’s recent success includes the pop star’s commitment to the unexpected. Part of being unexpected, according to Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick, includes the quality of unpredictability, a surprise that “jolts us to attention” when our preexisting knowledge fails to provide an adequate explanation for an experience (67). Lady Gaga’s adopted persona is complete with wacky wardrobe decisions, complex and spectacular live performances, and bizarre music videos that are more puzzling than cliché.

Lady Gaga has gained the attention of thousands through her surprising and unexpected aesthetic. However, as Heath and Heath point out, gaining attention is only part of the battle; maintaining the attention of an audience is just as, if not more, difficult. Lady Gaga has managed to maintain the interest of her audience through 2010, as attested to by her two Grammy Awards ( But one wonders how long Gaga’s aesthetic will remain unexpected and at what point will her insanely high shoulder-pads fail to raise a bemused eyebrow.

February 1, 2010

Duracell – Trusted Everywhere

Filed under: blog #1 — Tags: — jlptzld @ 1:55 pm

People do not typically devote a great deal of their time to thinking about batteries. The low battery signal on a cell phone or digital camera is often met with minor irritation and semiconscious plans for renewing the power source, but unless a battery loses its ability to power a device it is scarcely thought of. Even when consumers find themselves in need of a new power source, batteries are a commodity—after all a battery is just a battery, right?

Given the characteristically low-involvement in this product category, as well as the ever present challenge of breaking through the media clutter, Duracell faces the common, yet challenging, task of gaining consumer loyalty. In order to promote the brand, the makers of Duracell have developed the “Trusted Everywhere” campaign. These commercials highlight real world situations where a battery is more than a few digital files, but is often a defining difference between life and death.

The Trusted Everywhere campaign is an example of the “simple” concept discussed by Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick. Duracell developed a campaign that was simple without overly simplifying the brand’s message. Duracell’s top priority, being a reliable and trustworthy power source, is clearly and effectively communicated through the Trusted Everywhere campaign. Additionally, this “simple” message is given a layer of complexity with the larger than life scenarios Duracell illustrates in its commercials. The implications are clear enough, if Duracell can be trusted to help firefighters safely navigate through a burning building then Duracell can be trusted as your power source in everyday life.

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