All posts by poojadharamshi

Problematizing the “Word Gap”

mind the gap

We, as educators, know there isn’t a single magic bullet solution to any of the issues related to education. Equitably educating all of our young people is a big, complex, and often messy process.

I (Pooja) recently read an interesting article in The Atlantic which aims to complicate the notion of the “word gap.” The word gap refers to the disparity of words heard by children at the age of four years old in affluent households (approximately 45 millions words) versus low-income households (13 million words). The author of this article, Amy Rothschild, uncovers how the “word gap” may oversimplify issues around opportunity gaps (disparity in access to quality education and resources needed for all learners to be successful) apparent between children from affluent household versus those from low-income households. Oscar Barbarin, a child psychologist from the African American Studies department at the University of Maryland  asserts the word gap serves as a miracle solution, which doesn’t take into account several of the sociopolitical issues which play a role in word acquisition. Barbarin suggests focusing on the word gap doesn’t address the root of the opportunity gap issue: “If the problem facing low-income children of color is simply a question of parents saying more words and longer words, it would be much easier to fix than poverty and access to education for adults.”

A professor from Harvard, Richard Weissbourd, argues real obstacles must be addressed to begin to close the opportunity gap.  He says “…there are these very serious obstacles low-income families face.” For example, the article’s author, Rothschild, points out “lower-earning workers are more likely than others to work overnight and on weekends, and have irregular schedules without paid time off. Their hours require them to find childcare for hours that many centers are closed and commute when public transportation may not be available.”

Addressing the “word gap” may be a start in closing the opportunity gap for young learners, but we certainly cannot stop there.

Read the entire article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/beyond-the-word-gap/479448/

Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE)

My (Pooja) good friend and fellow educator has been traveling the world for a unique project. She is looking to get a global understanding of educational reform in the 21st century. On her blog this week she highlights the work of educator Felipe Spath from Bogota, Colombia. Spath is leading the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) initiative in Colombia. SOLE is a methodology developed by Sugata Mitra in collaboration with educators from various countries around the world, proposing self-organizing collaborative learning using the Internet spaces. Listen to what Spath has to say about collaborative learning in the 21st century.

To learn more about educational reform and this series, follow edumodels:

http://www.edumodels.ca/blog/introducing-the-spotlight-series

 

Edujargon

 

jargon.jpeg

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04/12/473016059/a-simple-cure-for-educations-jargonitis

Anya Kamentz from NPR sat down and tried something we all should try. She attempted to make the latest  buzzwords in educational research simple and easy to understand. If you were at AERA last weekend, you probably attended sessions (like I did) which were so jargon heavy it was often difficult to follow along. As researchers and writers, our job is to communicate big, complex, and messy ideas to those who didn’t conduct the research or know as much about your particular topic as you do. Jargon often gets in the way of that. creating a divide between researchers/writers and the audience.

Kamentz set out to define some of the most popular educational jargon using only the most 1000 common words in the English Language. Here are a few of my favourite:

Authentic (learning or assessment)
What does this schoolwork have to do with my life or the real world?

Culturally responsive teaching
Do you know where your students come from and what their lives are like?

Hybrid education
Let’s use computers and people to teach students.

Implement
You have a good idea. Making it happen is the hard part.

Mastery-based
Don’t stop until you really know a thing.

Professional development
Teach the teachers too.

Project-based learning
Don’t just write words and numbers. Do something.

Reform
Schools need to change.

Scaffolding
Teaching things step by step so the student can do more and more by herself.

Stakeholders
Lots of people care what happens in schools, like students, teachers, parents and leaders. You should listen to everybody.

Teacherpreneur
A teacher should act like a businessperson.

 

 

Understanding the communities our students are from

I (Pooja) have just returned from AERA 2016. I always leave AERA feeling inspired to continue my research and motivated to get back into the classroom. This year was no different. This year I learned about the work of Dr. Christopher Emdin, a recipient of the Early Career Award at AERA 2016. Dr. Emdin’s work considers  the relationships between Hip-Hop, urban education, and science education. Curious to learn more I about his work, I ordered his latest book entitled For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… And the Rest of Y’All Too (2016).

An article in NPR reviewing Emdin’s book highlights some of Emdin’s main arguments he makes. His arguments are completely in line with what my own research (literacy teacher educators with a critical stance) has found: in order to effectively teach, we must understand the communities from which our students come. Below is an excerpt from the article outlining Emdin’s arguments along with some examples of practice:

  1. Teachers can’t be colorblind. It does their students a disservice.

“People who perceive themselves to be colorblind often times have biases that are hidden by their colorblindness,” Emdin says. Young people in urban spaces have different linguistic and cultural realities, like the gun shots that Emdin experienced.

If teachers recognize that difference, they can help their students deal with issues such as PTSD. If the trauma of their day-to-day life goes untreated, students won’t be able to learn effectively.

But, if they heal, “then they can learn. And if they can learn, then they can be successful.”

2. Urban schools tend to be authoritarian places, which doesn’t help kids heal or learn.

If it wouldn’t be acceptable in a white, suburban school, Emdin says, it shouldn’t be acceptable in an urban classroom.

That goes for metal detectors, searches, zero tolerance policies and bars on their classroom windows. “Those things don’t happen in places where students are from a higher socioeconomic status and are not overwhelmingly black and brown.”

Emdin acknowledges that it can be hard to avoid falling into this kind of teaching. He even found himself slipping into authoritarian teaching methods, a fact which, he says, only proves that these techniques have become deeply ingrained in certain school systems.

But he says we only need to look at the statistics — college completion rates or the increased need for remedial learning — to understand that this military approach to teaching isn’t working.

3. Schools need to celebrate students and their talents, even if those talents aren’t familiar.

In his book, Emdin lays out some of the ways that teachers can rethink their classrooms without spending money.

They can create a sense of community by eating with their students, making up a school handshake and bringing in community members — including people who have not graduated from high school — as liaisons.

Emdin also suggests that teachers go to churches and barbershops, both to better understand the community and to learn teaching strategies from the people their students admire.

And teaching should not be seen as a tug-of-war between enjoyment and hard work.

Emdin, for example, folds hip-hop into the curriculum. He has worked with GZA, a rapper from the Wu-Tang Clan, to host a science hip-hop battle for New York City high school students.

“If you give young people the opportunity to be able to express their academic brilliance on their own terms, they take the initiative to study,” he says. “They take the initiative to research, and they perform and they showcase that they’re brilliant.”

Read NPR article here: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04/10/473500018/want-to-teach-in-urban-schools-get-to-know-the-neighborhood

Using Snapchat in Higher Ed

snapchat

I (Pooja) have always been somewhat of a late adopter to the latest technologies, but I know when things are shifting because of what learners in my class and my more technologically-inclined friends are using on  their phones. What I’ve noticed is that Facebook and Instagram are quickly becoming the social media tools of yesterday. Growing in popularity is Snapchat, a social media application known for its short-lived videos. On Snapchat, your followers can view the photos or videos you “snapped” for 10 seconds before they disappears for good. Started in 2011, Snapchat now has 100 million users and is gaining users at a rapid speed, especially post-secondary students.

It is for this reason I am curious to know how (and if) teachers are using Snapchat in their classrooms. I came across an article on NPR written by Jacquie Lee that highlights the work of one professor, Michael Britt using the app in his introductory psychology course. He uses the tool to post 10-second videos which relate to the theory and concepts discussed in class. For example, to help students connect to a lesson on the biology of the brain, Brit snapped his niece in during her ballet class standing on one leg. He “used the snap as an example of how the cerebellum in the brain controls balance” (Lee, 2016). Britt notes that approximately 90% of his students check his “snaps.” That is a significant number considering how many students don’t do/complete course readings. Snapchats seem to “reach” the students in a way perhaps course readings can’t.

I still do not have a Snapchat account. I can’t imagine people being interested in the details of my day. Perhaps I should reconsider. Perhaps Snapchat is an entry point into bridging the divide between theory and practice in our courses.

To read the entire article click here:

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/29/467091289/how-teachers-are-using-snapchat

Dora in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago, I (Pooja) was watching an episode of Dora the Explorer with my niece and nephew. Dora and her friends were on an adventure and as per usual got lost. I expected Dora to whip out her handy animated friend, Map (see below).

map

For as long as I could remember, Map had been an integral character of the Dora the Explorer Show. Map helped the viewers understand the cardinal directions, locate familiar landmarks, and use a compass. So, I was surprised when I saw Dora reach into her pocket and pull out her phone and open Map App!!! After my initial surprise, I started to understand why the Map character had been replaced with an app. Viewers, like my 5-year-old niece and nephew had never held a map or seen a map, so of course they couldn’t relate to it. Now, an app? They know all about those!

mapapp

The initial character Map was introduced to teach life skills. Do you  think the Map App will be able to teach the same skills or more?

Happy International Women’s Day!!!

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD)/ IWD  is a global event that celebrates women’s achievements, from the political to the social to the cultural, while reminding us all of the work to be done to arrive at gender equality. The theme for this year’s celebration is a  “Pledge for Parity.” The International Women’s Day official website encourages us to celebrate today by Pledging for Parity:

Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

Google has also dedicated today’s Google Doodle to IWD. Check out the the video below:

 

 

Re-blog: Educators Who Inspire Spotlight Series

greenschoool

Today, I (Pooja) wanted to share a new online series created by my friend. Curious by international educational reform, her series aims to shed light on the insights and work of “educators who inspire” form around the globe. Her first spotlight introduces us to an educator, Aaron Eden, from the Green School in Bali. Eden is the Director of Entrepreneurial  Enterprise Learning at the Green School. Watch the interview and hear Eden’s thoughts on educational reform.

 

http://www.edumodels.ca/blog/educators-who-inspire-spotlight-series-aaron-eden-the-green-school-bali

 

 

Finnish Schools Breaking All the Rules

I wanted to share this op-ed piece written by William Doyle, a Fulbright Scholar and author who enrolled his 8-year old son in a rural school in Finland. Throughout his essay, he describes the practices and pedagogies of his son’s fourth grade teacher, Jussi Hietava.

Doyle addresses several trends in educational reform in today’s world, including control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications and describes how Finnish schools do the exact opposite.

Below is an excerpt from Doyle’s essay. I highly encourage anyone interested in educational reform matters to take a few moments to read the essay in its entirety.

 

Here, as in any other Finnish school, teachers are not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate and experiment as teams of trusted professionals. Here, in contrast to the atmosphere in American public schools, Hietava and his colleagues are encouraged to constantly experiment with new approaches to improve learning.

Hietava’s latest innovations are with pilot-testing “self-assessments,” where his students write daily narratives on their learning and progress; and with “peer assessments,” a striking concept where children are carefully guided to offer positive feedback and constructive suggestions to each other.

Link to the op-ed piece: http://hechingerreport.org/how-finland-broke-every-rule-and-created-a-top-school-system/

The Digital Divide Persists

dd

As educators we often believe we are living in an era post the digital divide. Everyone has access to the internet, right? If we see our students with Smartphones that must mean they are connected, right? Wrong. A distressing article from the New York Times reminds us the digital divide still persists. Although this article is written about the U.S. context,  I have to believe many claims are true for Canada as well. Cecelia Kang from the New York Times writes,

“With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.” 

While trying to prepare students for the 21st century world, we as educators post homework and assignments online, ask students to post blog entries or participate in educational chat groups, and become active on social media in generative and meaningful ways. However, while we upgrade and innovate our pedagogies, we may inadvertently be leaving several pupils behind. How do we prepare our students for working and living in the 21st century, which is so digitally driven, while ensuring our most vulnerable students are not being left behind?

Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region%C2%AEion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1&referer=http:/m.facebook.com