Category Archives: culturally responsive teaching

Using VR to Embed Indigenous Perspectives into Curriculum

virtual-reality-cree-syllabics
Source: http://www.cbc.ca

I (Pooja) wanted to share a new gaming technology used in classrooms that authentically highlights, honours and engages students in Indigenous world views. It is no surprise that Western world views and Indigenous world views do not always align (see link below); however, it is our moral imperative to educate ourselves and our students on different ways of knowing and understanding. This can be a tricky task if you are not familiar with perspectives outside of your own. How can we as educators authentically understand Indigenous world views so we can help our students develop this awareness as well? That is why I was excited to learn about a new gaming technology which Cree children in three James Bay communities are using to learn their ancestors language entitled Cree Syllabics Virtual Reality project. The 3D gaming technology immerses user in a virtual camp setting. CBC authors Wapachee and Little (2016) further explains:

Students put on headsets to enter a virtual camp setting where they meet a little girl named Niipiish and her dog Achimush. Using hand movements and buttons to move around within the camp, they go on a journey to prepare for Niipiish’s little brother’s walking-out ceremony, all the while identifying Cree words that describe the seasons, the environment and Cree traditions.

This immersive experience allows students to authentically engage with perspectives which they may or may not have grown up with. This is a powerful tool because students are able to arrive at new understandings through first-hand experiences. I hope to see this type of technology shared in classes everywhere soon!

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews:

http://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indigenous-peoples-worldviews-vs-western-worldviews

Link to CBC article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/james-bay-students-learn-cree-in-virtual-reality-1.3835500

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Teachers’ and Teacher Educators’ Roles beyond the curriculum

For decades academia, teacher education, and teachers have been talking about critical pedagogy. Like everything in education debates continue as to how much, when, it what ways it can and should be taught. My current post is not about whether we as teacher educators and teachers should or should not be critically conscious or the extent to which we should. This post is a consideration for how to teach for equity. I found this video about teaching inclusively our university’s website:

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/About_OISE/PrideVideo_Story.html

The video is a safe start. It is basic awareness and consciousness for more equitable practice. We, in North America, have been overwhelmed with what I feel are devastating events surrounding people: People of Colour, LGBTQ People, Police Officers, People of Muslim Faith and many other marginalized groups. Social media is exploding with perspectives and emotion surrounding the varying issues and people everywhere are left to understand what it what based on their own experiences and contexts. What responsibility do schools have in teaching for a more equitable society?

Critical pedagogy in education is not new. It is a pedagogy that has been studied and discussed and to some extent taught in schools and yet it continues to be a pedagogy that sits on the periphery of practice. It is pedagogy that is left to some to tackle in teacher education ~ usually those who themselves have a personal connection to inequity (as our research on literacy teacher educators has shown). Sometimes critical pedagogy is infused in some courses but mostly it is taught in an isolated course. We know that many teacher education programs continue to be dominated by White, middle class, women. Knowing this, I wonder how much impact one or two courses has on the consciousness and practices of a teacher who has not had many opportunity to even think, let alone experience, inequity.

What can be done? What should be done?  I think about my courses and the teacher candidates and feel that deep critical understandings within context, content and pedagogy is essential. In light of the movements and violence and confusion that is happening across the globe I see no option. If teaching is a relational act, then we must deepen our understandings of the varying relations that exist in communities and prepare teachers to not only teach for equity but have confidence in dealing with media literacy.

 

 

The Graduation Speech Harvard Is Calling ‘The Most Powerful’ You’ll Ever Hear

Authors and Amazing Tales: In Awe of Lawrence Hill

During the school year my night table fills with novels; one beautiful literary piece after the other, the books pile up. The vision is to retreat to my room early enough to read these marvellous texts at an enjoyable pace in order to get to the next… yet my  time during the academic term does not allow me the pleasure.  With the coming of summer and the end of an academic term I find some space where I can begin to read the books I attempted to read throughout the year.  This year, I begin with Lawrence Hill.  Most are familiar with Lawrence Hill, a Canadian writer whose most popular texts include: Blood: The Stuff of Life  and The Book of Negroes.

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Blood: The stuff of life was turned into a lecture series. You can listen to excerpts of the Massey Lecture series here:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2013-cbc-massey-lectures-blood-the-stuff-of-life-1.2913671

Two incredible literary works that move me to think about humanity… and inhumanity. The Book of Negroes was turned into a  television mini series. Based on historical fiction The Book of Negroes is the story of young African girl, her voice, her journey in the 1700s from Mali, Africa to South Carolina, New York, Cape Breton, and London. How impactful a process to explore the novel — to try to make sense of history and our present — to think about narratives and then consider the media and digital implications for developing such an intense story into a visual series.  I think of how high school teachers could use this novel to explore so many issues and then to look at the decisions one makes when transforming such a sensitive story into film.

As I read Hill’s novels I cannot help but consider how  the narratives in these literary texts can be used to improve my own practice in teacher education. I ask myself: Can they inspire the reader to more deeply understand the intensity of the relational acts involved in teaching in classrooms?  Why do certain groups of children have a greater likelihood of failing at school? How do our systems shut people out without some of us ever realizing it? What kinds (if any) of understandings should teachers have about the histories of our communities before ever stepping into classrooms? How in teacher education can we support a deep understanding of children’s learning?

There is just so much to know while in pre-service and so much to teach in teacher education. What is most important? Why? When I think about the construction of teacher education programs I am now thinking less in terms of required courses and more in terms of broad understandings and the connections across disciplines and understandings. For example, as we teach about child and adolescent development (psychology) we must thing about language and literacy development (content) inclusive of social context (equity and foundations).  After all, when we enter classrooms we know that our work as teachers is dynamic, complex, forever evolving and completely relational.

A Constructivist Approach Requires Being Courageous

When we hear the term “courage” we often think of someone dashing into a burning building to save a child or an unarmed individual wrestling to the ground someone with a gun. Yes these are courageous acts but I (Clare) want to talk about an unsung group who I feel have the fortitude and tenacity to be courageous.

In our study of literacy teacher educators which we have written about on this blog we Image Courageous LTEshared some of our findings showing many examples of truly exemplary teaching. We are currently working on a paper about 6 literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach to their literacy courses. In this era where education is highly politicized with mandated national curriculum and oversight by external bodies it takes “guts” to adopt an approach that includes: knowledge is constructed by learners; knowledge is experience based; learning is social; all aspects of a person are connected; and learning communities should be inclusive and equitable.

Ahsan and Smith (2016) who advocate a social constructivist approach have identified practices that support learning based on the social constructivist theory

  • Social interaction and dialogue
  • Environment deeply rooted in culture
  • More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) helping students
  • Scaffolding
  • Progressing through the zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Constructive and timely feedback
  • Collaboration among students (p. 134)

Constructivism does not mean that you discard traditional forms of teaching (lectures, assignments, and readings) but it requires the teacher educator to have an inquiry-orientation; not just model good teaching but unpack it with their student teachers often revealing their own vulnerabilities; willingly to admit that they learn from their student teachers; have courses that are organic because they respond to student teachers’ needs; and build a social and intellectual community — often blurring the traditional lines between professor and student teacher. Yes their courses can be somewhat messy because they create space for discussion which often veers off from the plan but they are addressing student teachers’ needs.

To teach in this way takes courage because they are teaching in a way that they most likely did not experience as a student. A constructivist framework which is both a philosophy and a pedagogy may be a more useful approach to reform than the endless lists of expectations. These literacy teacher educators trusted themselves and their student teachers. The next step is for governments to trust teacher educators. And we need to applaud their courage to think outside the box and truly focus on their student teachers.

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?

Rethinking Positive Thinking, in Life and Education

I (Clive) know that self-help books are not everyone’s cup of tea, but given the interest in well-being these days (see Clare’s February 6 posting) they appear to have an important place. Recently I came across a rather impressive one called Rethinking Positive Thinking (Current/Penguin, 2014) by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen.

Oettingen agrees that learning to think positively is essential, but feels that writers on the selfiesubject have gone too far. Just focusing on the positive can result in frustration, failure, and un-happiness. As the saying goes, perfection is the enemy of the good. She recommends instead what she calls “mental contrasting,” which involves thinking about both the positive and the negative aspects of a situation, and of life in general.

As well as being helpful at a personal level, Oettingen’s approach seems to me to have application to teaching and teacher education. It supports being realistic about the challenges of teaching – and so not caught off guard by them, as many beginning teachers are – while also reminding ourselves of its many satisfactions and rewards. It calls into question over-the-top government and school district “targets” that promise to “transform” schooling, if only teachers would adopt the latest set of edicts. Mental contrasting can keep us aware of what we need to work on in teaching while taking comfort in the current successes of the profession.

Teacher Education for High Poverty Schools

Jo Lampert and Bruce  Burnett have recently edited an amazing text,Teacher Education for High Poverty Schools. The text is available from Springer.

http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319220581Image_LampertBookcover

This volume captures the innovative, theory-based, and grounded work being done by established scholars who are interrogating how teacher education can prepare teachers to work in challenging and diverse high-poverty settings. It offers articles from the US, Australia, Canada, the UK and Chile by some of the most significant scholars in the field. Internationally, research suggests that effective teachers for high poverty schools require deep theoretical understanding as well as the capacity to function across three well-substantiated areas: deep content knowledge, well-tuned pedagogical skills, and demonstrated attributes that prove their understanding and commitment to social justice. Schools in low socioeconomic communities need quality teachers most, however, they are often staffed by the least experienced and least prepared teachers. The chapters in this volume examine how pre-service teachers are taught to understand the social contexts of education. Drawing on the individual expertise of the authors, the topics covered include unpacking poverty for pre-service teachers, issues related to urban schooling as well as remote and regional area schooling.

Our (Clare) research team contributed a chapter to the text which focused on six literacy teacher educators who purposefully prepare student teachers to work in high poverty schools. Here is the chapter: TchingforHighPovertySchools

A New Book on Participatory Culture and Digital Technologies

pcul

I (Pooja) have long been interested in the notions of participatory culture. Often considered  the opposite of consumer culture, participatory culture is defined by Henry Jenkins (2009, p. 5-6) as a culture in which there are:

1. relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement

2. strong support for creating and sharing creations with others

3. some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices

4. members who believe that their contributions matter

5. members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, they care what other people think about what they have created).

I was excited when I learned authors Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, and danah boyd authored a new book titled: Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics (2015). I have provided the blurb on  the back of the book for those potentially interested in learning more about participatory culture in the 21st century like I am:

In the last two decades, both the conception and the practice of participatory culture have been transformed by the new affordances enabled by digital, networked, and mobile technologies. This exciting new book explores that transformation by bringing together three leading figures in conversation. Jenkins, Ito and boyd examine the ways in which our personal and professional lives are shaped by experiences interacting with and around emerging media.

Stressing the social and cultural contexts of participation, the authors describe the process of diversification and mainstreaming that has transformed participatory culture. They advocate a move beyond individualized personal expression and argue for an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.”

Participatory Culture in a Networked Era will interest students and scholars of digital media and their impact on society and will engage readers in a broader dialogue and conversation about their own participatory practices in this digital age.

 

Black Professor Speaks Out About Being Racially Profiled Near Campus

I (Clare) was reading this article by Kira Brekke on the Huffington Post which I found informative. If you click on the link you will get the entire article and an interview with Steve Locke and at the end of the article is a list of 16 Books On Race That Every White Person Should Read Right Now. I have read some on the list and already downloaded a few others that I feel I must read.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/steve-locke-racially-profiled_56688025e4b009377b236c54

“A lot of my life has been organized around avoiding interactions with the police.”

Steve Locke, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, was left shaken after he was racially profiled by the police last week during his lunch break.

Locke, who wrote about his experience on his blog, recounted to HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski on Wednesday that on his way to get a burrito near campus, he noticed a police car following him.

“The policeman got out of the car, said, ‘Hey, my man,'” Locke said. “He had his hand on his weapon, so I automatically knew that something had happened and he wasn’t coming to talk to me as a citizen. He was coming to talk to me as a suspect.”

Wearing his faculty ID around his neck, Locke immediately took his hands out of his pockets while the officer questioned him. The professor made it clear he was on his lunch break, but the officer — along with others who had showed up to the scene — detained Locke, telling him he matched the description of a suspected robber in the area.

“It was at this moment that I knew that I was probably going to die,” Locke wrote on his blog. “I am not being dramatic when I say this. I was not going to get into a police car.  I was not going to present myself to some victim.  I was not going let someone tell the cops that I was not guilty when I already told them that I had nothing to do with any robbery.”

Locke calmly stood still on the street corner alongside the police before being let go, sent away with apologies from the police for “screwing up your lunch break,” he wrote. But the experience recalled a lifetime of awareness about police profiling and violence.

“I am 52 years old. I grew up in Detroit, Michigan,” he explained to HuffPost Live. “A lot of my life has been organized around avoiding interactions with the police, but whenever I encounter the police, I understand that I’m encountering them differently than other citizens.”