Tag Archives: eci831

Something is in Sight…Is it the end?

Although it may be the end of this class, it is not the end of the learning.  Here is my summary of what has struck me so far…  Watch, listen, enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Learning Summary for ECI831

Here is the youtube link as well.

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Putting It All Together

As I have been exploring a variety of different themes in eci831, I have been questioning how I can weave this altogether.  For my final digital project, I decided that the best way to do this would be to create a digital storytelling project with my students.  Enter Alan Levine and his fantastic session on digital storytelling last week.  See 50 ways to tell a digital story for your own great ideas.

For anyone  who hasn’t read my previous blogs, I have been looking at ideas around social justice, technology, and narrative education.  I have taken these courses separately for my Master’s degree and was wondering how I could use this course to create connections to what I have learned previously.  I want to embed all these ideas into the curriculum, not just touch on them as random lessons where I can fit them in.

With my students, I have spent the first part of the year discussing social injustice.  The students are very aware of how unfair the world can be.  I want them to expand on this idea and start questioning where they fit into this.  So far, the students seem a bit removed, thinking “this is too bad, but it doesn’t affect me; it’s not my fault; and there’s nothing I can do to make a difference.”

I am hoping that the digital storytelling project will help my students to expand on these ideas and start them thinking about their own personal responsibility for creating change.  In writing, we have been learning about narrative as a writing form.  So I created a google document outlining the elements of a narrative and added a few ideas around orientation and problem to start them thinking.  We also watched some digital stories such as Mike Wesch’s A Vision of Students Today and elder Mike Pinay speaking about the importance of hair in First Nation culture  (thanks to Racquel Biem for sharing this in her blog). The students started identifying labels that they have been given by teachers, parents, and other students.  We used this as a jumping off point to create our video.

I am looking forward to working out the digital aspect of this to create the final piece to share with both my students and this class.  Or I’m very afraid.  Not sure which.

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The Dance

Last week, our ECI831 class listened to a presentation by Stephen Downes that explored the changing role of the teacher.  He argued that these many roles would eventually be divvied up among educators who are experts at only one role.  To me this seemed too much like an assembly line business model of education that denies the fact that teaching is an art, rather than an acquired skill.  Certainly, teachers are continually honing their skills and working to improve education; yet it is not necessarily something that can be explicitly taught. There are many people who have acquired specific skill sets and know a lot about a particular concept or idea.  This does not always mean that they are good teachers.  Anyone who has sat through a 100 level university lecture can attest to this.  Although many profs are passionate about their subject area, they are not necessarily passionate about how students learn their subject matter.  An expert teacher focuses on teaching the whole child; this takes the whole teacher.  As educators, we are able to balance these many different roles and sort out which role needs to be given attention at any given time.  Teaching takes heart, body, and soul: these cannot be divided.  For more around this idea, I would direct you to the article, “Teacher as Rain Dancer” by Simon Hole (1998). In this article, the author explores the idea of how tension is created in the classroom when trying account for the needs of the student, the needs of the class, and the needs of the teacher.  He uses the metaphor of “teacher as rain dancer”.  Just as a rain dancer does not know when the steps are perfect and it will rain, a teacher does not know what steps will create perfection in teaching.

References

Hole, Simon. (1998).  Teacher as Rain Dancer.  Harvard Educational Review 68: 413 –421.

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Where I Went: the narrative piece

Through taking a class on narrative (EC&I 804), I discovered some great resources for the classroom: The Meaning of Respect and The Elders are Watching by David Bouchard and Shin Chi’s Canoe by Nicolla Campbell are some excellent resources that address stories from a First Nations perspective.  Of course, there are many books out there that can serve as wonderful educational resources.

The true power of narrative comes from personal stories, starting with your own and branching out into the stories of others.  I read an excellent article, “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom”, by Epstein and Oyler (2008).  Although on the surface it seemed like a pretty basic premise: a former child-labourer who is now a maid is invited into a classroom to speak about her experience.  Through her retelling, the children are inspired to write and perform a play to help raise money for child-labourers around the world.  For me, the most powerful part of this article was how someone who traditionally has not had much power (a minority member working as a maid in New York), was now given power through the telling of her story.

This became very prevalent to me this fall when I started teaching at a new school.  This school is in an area of high SES.   Having never taught at a school like this, I have spent a lot of time questioning what I bring to the table.  What do I have to offer these students?  It seemed like they had already read all the novels I had planned as doing as a novel study, already done similar art projects to the ones I had planned, and already knew the math that I was teaching them.

I was encouraged to access all of the wonderful community resources available.  Many of the  parents are university professors, teachers, and business owners.  However, I just felt that by only accessing these resources, the students would be hearing stories that they had heard many times before.  These are the stories of those in power who fit in with the mainstream.  I am working to access other resources through immigrant and First Nation interviews.  It is my hope that my students will begin to see a different perspective through this process.

Any thoughts?  How do you teach students to understand that: a) there are different realities out there, and b) those realities might have something to offer them?

Resources

Epstein, S. E. & Oyler, C. (2008).  “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom.”  Equity and Excellence in Education, 41 (4), 405 – 416.

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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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