This blog was featured on 12/18/2018
Technology Is A Vital Writing Component That Aids Writers And Begins With Adolescence

Writing must be literate. It is essential to competent communication. This becomes a challenge if the world we live in is unable to comprehend the intent of the writer. Comprehension is vital for the reader to understand the writer’s point of view or the message conveyed within the writer’s story. As a writer communicating with the mass market, the goal is to write at an eighth grade level. This is a moderate level of communication for most to understand. However when the majority of an audience reads at a level below eighth grade, communication of story is a challenge.

I am shining a light on the issue of low literacy in the United States, especially for writers and particularly in urban education communities such as the ones that I work in every day in Southern California. Urban communities are facing a crisis. According to The Literacy Project, "there are currently 45 million Americans who are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th grade level, and half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th grade level. In California, 25 percent of the state’s 6 million students are unable to perform basic reading skills." As a writer of fiction and suspense stories, this is a large marketplace that is missing out on fantastical stories created by writers just like me. How do we solve this problem? Can it be resolved?

Why This Story Matters

The California marketplace is almost 40 million people. This is a large reading audience for any writer to want to engage. Yet, California is facing an education crisis. Forty-four percent of students that enter California State schools need remediation. Instead of investigating how to better educate these students, Los Angeles Unified School District lowered the standards for students to graduate. Now Fifty-three percent of high school graduates receive at least one D in their A-G required classes. With the lower threshold to graduate and the magic of bogus “credit recovery” classes, the Los Angeles Unified School District grad rate zoomed from 54 to 77 percent practically overnight. However, that created a problem: the University of California doesn’t allow students with any D’s in the required classes to enter the system.

California’s high school graduation rates have increased significantly in recent years, but the percentage of those students who complete their college education continues to lag, with long-term implications for the state’s future. This is the stark conclusion of a new report by California Competes, a policy and advocacy organization focusing on the state’s system of higher education. “High school graduation rates are improving steadily, but college completion rates are not following suit,” the report states. Citing projections that the state will lack more than 2 million college-educated workers by 2025, California Competes Executive Director Lande Ajose explained. How do we address this lost reading marketplace? As a writer, I want to know how do we reach this potential audience?

How the Story Begins and Ends

The story begins by describing the literacy crisis in America and offers the incorporation of technology into the classroom and curriculum that is derived by educators, (myself and another educator with 30 years experience including an Ed. D. in Education). The curriculum is unique because it incorporates content from Hollywood veterans such as Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of NCIS, Red Tails producer and a 40 year history of television success, award winning films by Moctesuma Esparza and the body of work (primarily documentaries) by the Henry Louis Gates (an American literary critic, teacher, historian, filmmaker and public intellectual who currently serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University). Johnson and Gates are African American and Esparza is Mexican American. The story focuses on the use of their content because the creators have produced content focused on the black and brown communities, much of who comprises the urban education communities in Southern California. If content is created to reach this community, perhaps the literary crisis can be addressed for today’s writers who want to reach new readers.

The Literacy Crisis and Reengaging a New Reading Audience

Literacy is a major concern in America. In fact low literacy rates cost $73 million per year in health care costs (Health Policy Institute, 2018). What’s more 85% of juveniles who interact with the juvenile courts system are considered functionally illiterate (Begin to Read, 2018). Two educators have united together in and created a curriculum aimed at urban students to motivate and excite them about learning. The curriculum is designed for communities in need in order to fight the literacy challenge, particularly affecting America’s youth. Finding books by authors and creators that reach inner city communities who want to read about characters in books that look like them is what I do as a teacher, author, writer/producer and collaborator in combination with Steve P. Jefferson, Ed. D., an educator who has 30+ years experience in both writing education leadership. 

We have utilized diverse authors and content created by Hollywood creators who can appeal to this community by engaging their interests. Who are the Hollywood creators, whose content is utilized for this curriculum? It includes longtime veterans of television, film and media: Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of the top-rated NCIS TV Series and producer of the Red Tails film with George Lucas, Moctesuma Esparza, Producer of the films, Selena and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, as well as Henry Louis Gates, creator of Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise. These projects are not only noteworthy and recognizable, they are award winning.

Many factors contribute to the depressed learning of students in the urban communities of education in the United States. Students in urban communities need to see diverse representations of themselves and people that reflect what they see in the mirror every day. Research shows there is a huge lack of diversity in children’s books (Loving Lions Books, 2018) and that 1 out of 4 children grow up not knowing how to read (Do Something.org, 2018). Improving these statistics is the reason behind the work that we, as educators do.

Why and How to Engage Urban Communities?

Jefferson and I are longtime community workers and educators who work in inner city schools and communities of Southern California. Everyday we encounter the recessive learning of students badly in need of improved education. To that end, our project, Integrating Technology Into The Classroom has created a large platform of content to improve the disparity of literacy.

We have written and created content that represent a rainbow of woman and men, people from diverse ethnicities to peak the interest of urban learners who live in these challenged neighborhoods.

Here is What Technology Integration is Targeted to Do

Jefferson and I have written books targeted at children of color who are living in communities designated as at-risk. Both of us are authors with platforms on Amazon: amazon.com/author/rileyrose and https://www.amazon.com/Steve-P.-Jefferson/e/B00JCR83H4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1. Our goal is to gift one targeted school a year with our targeted diverse curriculum exposing at-risk students to the many diverse creators that offer content that interests them.

Integrating Diversity Into Reading And Education

Jefferson and I are a part of a team of professional educators and teachers who work in inner city schools and classrooms that teach these students. We want to engage at-risk students more effectively. Our diverse curriculum that we created focuses on Leadership, Literacy and Integrating Technology Into The Classroom with its own media, books and films, that will be used throughout the school year of a chosen school. After all these students are going to be adults and some will graduate college. They are readers that can be captivated now and encouraged to continue reading into their adult lives.

Background on Integrating Technology Into The Classroom

Storytelling is used as a tool to engage students in the present day of global media for grades 7-12. Integrating Technology Into The Classroom is an education curriculum designed to implement Core Standards to utilize digital media for middle school and high school students. This age group is regularly distracted by all of the fun elements of social media and entertainment: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and Snapchat, just to name a few.

Most students are not even aware that the many artists (like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Rihana, etc.) that they follow and listen to for music, film and television are quite engaged with the historical world of entertainment. Performers are required to understand the origination of broadcast media in all of its forms so that they can intelligently present music and a world of characters that they are hired to represent.

This is what Hollywood showrunners do when they create television shows. As Ryan Murphy, creator of “Nip/Tuck“, “Glee”, “American Horror Story” and the recent “Feud” that focuses on the friction between film legends of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, explains, “What I do is I come up with an idea like Feud, and then I … cast it – I go out to Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon. … And then I gather a writing staff and we wrote eight episodes, and then I directed three of them. …But also, like, I’m interested in everything else … the art department, the costumer, the director of photography.”

Integrating Technology Into The Classroom Takes This Premise of Utilizing Story to Master All of the Common Core Learning Elements

Presently as curriculum authors, both Jefferson and I, are utilizing the list of content from the below categories: Textbook Companions, Television Series List, and Selected Films, Chosen Documentary Series and the Traditional Fiction Novels to fulfill the requirements of creating short films, informational videos and/or PSA’s (Public Service Announcements).

Selections from these lists come from Chas. Floyd Johnson, showrunner and creator of N.C.I.S, Magnum P.I., JAG and Red Tails feature film (collaborating partner George Lucas – LucasFilm), Moctesuma Esparaza (collaborating network, Telemundo), former President of Maya Entertainment and producer of the Oscar winning Selena and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge films and Henry Louis Gates, creator of Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise.

About the Authors of Integrating Technology Into The Classroom

I am Riley Rose McKesson (penned as Riley Rose). I am a teacher, an author, a professional writer and producer currently working on a publishing project with Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of NCIS TV series, (as well as Producer of Red Tails (2012), which he produced with George Lucas – LucasFilms). My recent documentary project, as co-producer, on the life of Susan Oliver in the award winning, ‘The Green Girl’ Movie (www.thegreengirlmovie.com) was funded on both crowdfunding websites: Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. The film has won three awards (http://thegreengirlmovie.com/category/news/). I have written treatments, story synopses and analyses, and co-produced the award winning documentary, The Green Girl Movie. I have also worked with the Webby Award Winning web series creator of BZ Shorts. I am available on social media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rileyrosemckesson; Twitter: https://twitter.com/riley_rose;  and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rileyrosemckesson/; Instagram: @rileyrosemckesson; website: http://rileyrosemckesson.com/; and email: [email protected].

Steve P. Jefferson, Ed. D., Educator, Principal and Author has experience in high school education ranges close to 30 years. He is a graduate of University of Southern California's (USC) International Public Policy & Management Program and has a doctorate of education (Ed. D.) in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne. Jefferson is available on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/steve.p.jefferson; Twitter: http://wwwtwitter.com/exoticfashion7; and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/exoticfashion/; Instagram: @stevepjefferson; website: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-P.-Jefferson/e/B00JCR83H4; and email: [email protected].

About Integrating Technology Into The Classroom Curriculum

Aiding particularly young men of color is a necessary tool that uses the Common Standards of education to aid in this journey of discovery for young minds in need of character and consciousness. As educators, Jefferson and I recognize the silent genocide in America as it strikes at high-level stressors for young African American youth.

Black Americans experience higher cardiovascular and metabolic disease, comparatively, than any other population on Earth according to the World Health Organization.  This is not a coincidence, but a consequence of being Black in America.

The human journey is not easy, and destiny can be difficult to embrace. For Black America, a silent genocide mounts within . . . This is not an issue back ordered from Amazon.  This is about circumnavigating a difficult juncture in our nation’s social history. Americans are in this place because they are not Europe, Asian, African and Oceania, South American, Australian, and Canadian, Central American or Mexican; Americans represent all of them.

More About Riley Rose McKesson and Steve P. Jefferson, Ed. D.

Together, McKesson and Jefferson have more than 30 years of experience in education, school leadership and community organizing on behalf of children at risk living in high-risk neighborhoods and unconventional homes due to circumstance and inherent neighborhood living, not necessarily due to their own choices. These children of education need a safe haven and the tools of preparation to achieve. Jefferson has led public education mega charter schools and Jefferson and McKesson have created community organizations designed to supplement leadership where these students may be lacking such guidance at home or in their neighborhoods.

Integrating Technology Into The Classroom Education Participation

Jefferson and I are gearing up to donate this program to one targeted school in need of curriculum diversity. American children need help if they are to survive and flourish inside their communities. We are looking to partner with a corporate donor to rollout our curriculum campaign. They are in a tight struggle against genocide, homelessness and incarceration with literacy and education. They both believe that, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” –National Negro College Fund (NNCF). Jefferson and I would like to see the youth of U.S. urban communities’ minds flourish because someone partnered with them and took the time to engage and speak to them, by encouraging them to want to learn.

We can only hope to find a corporate partner who cares about urban communities in the U.S., as much as we do. After all, that’s why we put Integrating Technology Into The Classroom. We are hopeful that inner city/urban school systems will want to adopt this mindset and a matching pedagogy, at least more so than they have been in the past.

  1. Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University. Low Health Literacy Skills Increase Annual Health Care Expenditures by $73 Billion. Retrieved from URL: https://hpi.georgetown.edu/agingsociety/pubhtml/healthlit.html.
  2. Begin to Read, Literacy Statistics.  2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Retrieved from URL: https://www.begintoread.com/research/literacystatistics.html.
  3. Loving Lions Books, The Lack of Diversity in Children’s Books. There’s a serious and real dearth of children’s books that feature children of color. Retrieved from URL: https://lovinglionbooks.com/stories/all-stories/the-lack-of-diversity-in-children-s-books.
  4. Do Something.org, 11 Facts About Literacy In America. Retrieved from URL: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america.

 

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