Where I Went: the social justice piece

On my last blog post, I set the stage for where I was coming from.  Along the way, I was always gathering resources: educational for my classroom and academic for my papers.  Although the academic did prove for some interesting (and not so interesting) reading, it was the educational resources that were more relevant to my every-day classroom instruction.  With my new-found zest for everything relating to social justice, technology, and narrative; my resources were undeniably being grouped into three specific, yet separate, themes.  The first theme I explored was social justice.  Perhaps you can use the resources in your own instruction; but more to the point, I am hoping that you can help me with mine.

I have found three excellent resources for viewing assignments related to social justice.  The first is a documentary called Mickey Mouse Monopoly and Generation M that questions the messages that Disney sends and whether or not Disney has an obligation to change its message.  I have included a brief video that describes the documentary, but I would also recommend the full version.

The second video, Tough Guise, questions male stereotypes and how our society creates a culture of ‘tough’ men.  I like this video because it is rare to see a documentary that questions male stereotypes instead of female stereotypes.  The following video is an excerpt (part one of seven).

The third video that I show is a VHS tape that I borrow from a teacher.  She was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be involved in Jane Elliot’s blue-eyed brown eyed experiment when it was brought to Regina, SK.  In the video, she is part of the brown-eyed group who is given special treatment and privileges.  All of the brown-eyed people in the group are of Aboriginal descent.  During the video the ‘brown-eyes’ are given the opportunity to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ the way they have been treated in the past.  During discussion, the ‘brown-eyes’ explain why they were unable to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ so poorly.  Having been on the receiving end of racist treatment so many times, they were unable to treat others in the same way.

I really like this video because it makes students recognize that racism is just not an ‘American’ problem or something that happened in the past.  Students are exposed to ways that racism is perpetuated today and in their own community.  They also know one of the participants in the experiment so are able to make very real connections to the video.

Every time we view a video, students must complete an accompanying response assignment.  It is through their responses that I can gain an understanding of their awareness of and connections to the issues being discussed.  But, this is only one piece of the puzzle.  With these activities, I understand that social justice is not necessarily embedded in the curriculum.  Instead, I have a collection of random videos that show three different perspectives.  I still need to make connections to technology and narrative.  Plus, what about curriculum?

Now, you’re probably wondering why I chose to put a picture of a nail at the start of this post.  Besides the obvious reason of me demonstrating that I can post a photo through creative commons (thanks eci831), this picture tells a story.

“A Child’s View of Exploitation” – by Augusto Boal
People in Lima, Peru were asked to take photographs of exploitation.  Some adults thought of pictures of slaves or of poor people being badly treated by rich tourists…One child took a photograph of a nail on a wall.  Few adults understood it, but all the other people were in complete agreement that the picture expressed their feelings in relation to exploitation.  The discussion explained why.  The simplest work boys engage in at the age of five or six is shining shoes.  Obviously, in the barrios where they live there are no shoes to shine and, for this reason, they must go to downtown Lima in order to find work.  Their shine-boxes and other tools of the trade are of course an absolute necessity, and yet these boys cannot be carrying their equipment back and forth every day between work and home.  So they must rent a nail on the wall of some place of business, whose owner charges them two or three soles per night and per nail.  Looking at the nail, those children are reminded of oppression and their hatred of it.
Excerpted from The Theater of the Oppressed, Pluto Press, 1985.
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Where I’m From

Now that I am getting more comfortable with the use of blogs (still haven’t tackled twitter yet), I feel it’s important to note where I’m coming from in terms of educational pedagogy.  For the most part, I have just been lurking around while trying to make sense of it all.  Throughout this process, there have been some overriding questions that I have been trying to answer: namely, what is the point of this course (ECI831)?  Now I don’t mean to sound rude when I say this.  I have just had a hard time making connections so far.  In terms of technology, there seems to be an underlying assumption that we all agree that technology use is the best way to go.  In terms of blog posts, there are some very different themes that have been emerging.  Sometimes I have difficulty finding common threads among the myriad of blogss that I read.  So instead of waiting for Alec to tell me, I made some decisions on my own.  First of all, I have decided that I am going to decide on the direction of this course all by myself.  Secondly, I’m going to share it with you (via blog posts). But before I can do this, I need to let you know where I’m coming from.

From an educational standpoint, ever since I completed my internship in a Metis town in northern Saskatchewan, I have had many questions about social justice and education equity.  I have also wondered if traditional teaching methods just create an ‘institution’ of learning, rather than a positive learning environment.  Just because students are quiet and sitting in rows, does it really mean that they are learning something?  I actually did this in my class once.  I sat at my desk and looked around at my quiet, studious kids ‘engaged’ in drill and practice.  I noticed that they looked bored to tears and were very quietly passing notes to each other.  Not exactly the engagement I was looking for.

Then I started my Master’s.  I have taken four classes outside of this course so far.  Each has used varied approaches and showed a variety of perspectives.  I’m going to include a brief synopsis of some of the classes I have taken, as well as include some relevant resources that will help guide you in my personal journey.  (Don’t worry, there is a point to all this – I’m just setting the stage).  As well, I can use some gratuitous links, videos, and tags in their descriptions.

My first class was EC&I 808 with Dr. Ken Montgomery.  In this class, we explored pedagogies of difference and the impact of colonialism on our education system.  This class gave me a better understanding of how racism and colonial power are perpetuated today.  Our first readings were about humility and the importance of bringing humility into the education profession.  See: Hole, S. (1998).  Teacher as Rain Dancer.  Harvard Educational Review, 68, 413 – 421.  The synopsis can be found here.  It also gave me a great starting point to begin to address this in my classroom.  I’m sure that anybody who has taught social studies in Saskatchewan has bravely tried to tackle treaties.  Perhaps you were better at it than me, but in my experience this unit has just provided students with an outlet for their racism.  After this class, I decided that I really needed to focus on social justice in my classroom.  It needed to be ingrained in every aspect of the curriculum.

Then I took EC&I 830 with Dr. Jo Szostak.  This course was a seminar critiquing technology use in schools.  In this course, I was introduced to Mike Wesch and his Vision of Students Today.

I really like this video because it starts with the reality of youth today and ends with issues of globalization and justice.  This video made me rethink my content delivery.

This class also made me question my use of technology and student achievement.  I discovered that there is very little research surrounding technology use and improved student outcomes (if you’re looking for a thesis idea…).  It also gave me a better understanding of the value of wikis and Web 2.0, particularly how their ideals and ideas can be transferred into a classroom.  As well, we explored George Siemens and his theory of connectivism.  I’m still not entirely sure if connectivism can be an entire educational theory (like constructivism, for example); but it was interesting to see comparisons of different learning theories.  No one ever talks about the disadvantages of constructivism.  If you’re interested in his blog, it can be found here.  After this class, I decided that I really needed to focus on technology in my classroom.  It needed to be ingrained into every aspect of the curriculum.

My most recent class was EC&I 804 with Dr. Janice Huber.  This class showed how narrative can be used to develop and understand curriculum.  In this class, I learned the power of discovering people’s stories.  Through the sharing of others, I was able to share my own story.  I think that this class tied very closely with Dr. Schwier’s concept of community.  We can’t really create community unless we understand the stories of others.  Otherwise it’s just a surface community of repeated rhetoric.  It’s like the 6:00 newscast that shows how everyone pitches in when someone is in need.  It doesn’t tell the story of others who have not been helped because their need does not fit in with the status quo.  After this class, I decided that I really needed to focus on narrative in my classroom.  It needed to be ingrained into every aspect of the curriculum.

So what does this all mean?  Outside of the fact that I obviously like to jump on the bandwagon.  It’s time to start putting this together in my practice.  That’s the point, isn’t it?  I need to take all of this knowledge and ideas and somehow implement it, effectively not ‘bandwagony’, in my classroom.  Which leads me to ‘Where I’m Going…’  Stay tuned as I try to sort this all out.  Feel free to contribute to the sorting.  It would be greatly appreciated.

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Exploring

So now I have spent some time exploring a few things: how to use this site, other blogs (based on my one comment – thanks for reading), twitter, and delicious.  I am somewhat intrigued, but mostly overwhelmed.  As an educator, I have always known that learning is not linear.  I have struggled with the age-old question of how to create linear, organized learning despite all the unknown variables.  Exploring social networking has allowed me to see not only how learning is not linear, but also how it could possibly work in an educational setting.  This has mostly created a lot of confusion for me.  So my question is, are students able to navigate through this confusion to learn something meaningful or do they just get overwhelmed as well and just scratch the surface of  the learning possibilities?

I have implemented some specific resources in my classroom.  We are presently doing an inquiry-based project in my grade 8 science class.  We are studying different aspects of the phenomenon of the feet that have been showing up off the coast of BC.  My students have created delicious accounts and are using them both for research and to share their findings with other members of the class.

However, I am still unsure of how to implement blogs and twitter into this type of inquiry.  Any suggestions?

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Hello EC&I 831 (and whoever else is interested)

So, I guess this would be my home page with a welcome and introduction.  Welcome.  As was stated in my info, I’m still not too sure about this whole blogging thing (although I do like the idea of getting all my educational bitches off my chest).  Frankly, I think my husband is tired of hearing it and I never was a ‘diary’ type.  So I may as well bite the bullet and tell the whole world.

So here’s my general issue with blogging, and twitter for that matter.  I never really felt that anyone would be that interested in hearing the idiosyncrasies of my life.  In our first eci831 session, the whole idea of ‘paying it forward’ and digital sharing was mentioned.  Although this does seem altruistic (and a possibility), I have never approached it from that point of view.  It seems rather self-centered to let people know what you’re thinking and where you are at all times.  Do others really care that much?  I generally don’t.

Okay fellow eci831ers, respond away.

NB – I made a link!

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