Archive for September, 2015

Does Digital Dualism Exist?

Posted on September 26, 2015. Filed under: digital citizenship, Ed800, educational |

After reading and watching this week’s #Eci832 videos and articles, I want to have a little discussion on digital dualism. Is there such a thing as an offline and online self?

First, I want to address Marc Prensky’s idea of a digital native.  I, for one have used this term. I think I may have even used that term in my class blog or on notes to parents. This is the first time I have heard of someone not agreeing with it!  To be honest, I really liked their arguments. I liked that people such as beard man and David White, argued that it has more to do with the person, familiarity with tech, and individual context then a child’s age in what makes a digital native. I actually agree. That said, I don’t think I am going to retract my words to parents.  The students that I am dealing with now have plenty of access to technology, and from my experience, I have not come across any 5-8 year old student who didn’t know how to fluently use the hardware in my class. By addressing my students as “digital natives,” I want the parents to see that there is a place to teach these digital natives how to use technology as a tool for learning since they are already so comfortable with using the device.

Maurizio Pesce Digital Native

Maurizio Pesce Digital Native

What I find I have been fighting more, as of late, is the idea of digital dualism. I have some colleagues and parents who don’t agree with using technology at my grade level (grade one). Some are under the belief that it is pedagogically inappropriate, and others feel like their kids are too tech obsessed, so more access to technology in schools is a bad thing. I feel like we have reached the pendulum swing. When vaccines were new, people were very excited about them and happy about this new breakthrough. Enter the anti-vaccine movement.  When technology in schools was first an option, it was written into the curriculum and the computer lab was born. Some have now swung to the other side and are against it. Meet the Neo-Luddites.

After reading this article, I now agree with the author, and believe that digital dualism is a fallacy.  I do not believe that there is an online and an offline self. I don’t believe that just because the students are in a classroom that is not using technology, that the students are not thinking of it, being shaped by it, or posting things applicable to their lives later. (Ok maybe not a ton in grade one, but you never know!) I have parents who tell me that they want to protect their children, and so they don’t let their kids use technology at home.  I often want to ask them if they really think their kids aren’t watching YouTube videos or playing Minecraft at their friend’s houses. Is there really a way to “protect” your kids from technology, and is it something to be protected from?

Let me be straight. Balance is key.  I don’t think I would be a very good grade one teacher if the only learning tool we used was technology. I love the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood, and I think Sweden’s outdoor school is fascinating… I definitely wish we did more teaching/learning outside! I want to be a balanced teacher that shows students how to be balanced as well.  But while I am teaching my grade one students how to be digital citizens, I am also spending the first two weeks of our social unit teaching them how to be good “in person” citizens. Guess what? That’s not in the curriculum! But I’m not blind.  I also see how all of us can be guilty for not holding eye contact during conversations, or showing impolite habits of checking phones at inopportune times. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? Why not take this opportunity to teach children how to engage in “old fashioned” conversation.  I explain how to introduce themselves.  They learn how to answer a question and then throw the ball back and ask another one.  We even spend time looking at how to exit and enter conversations. We are learning how to be a good citizen and person all the time.

Do I think that technology has a part to play in these student’s lack of traditional conversation skills? Yes probably! But I don’t think that trying to “live offline” is the answer either. Furthermore, I disagree with Sherry Turkle when she says that “We need to focus on the many ways technology can lead us back to our real lives, our own bodies, our own communities, our own politics, our own planet.” I actually think technology connects and captures our real lives, our own bodies, our own communities, our own politics, and our own planet.” That is why I am going to continue using it as a learning tool in my classroom.

Troy Fleece

Troy Fleece

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Do You Have “Culturally Responsive” Classroom Management?

Posted on September 18, 2015. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, Ed800 |

I have been at the University of Regina’s internship seminar for the past couple days with my intern.  It has been ok.  I don’t want to be too critical, because I know  a lot of work goes into these seminars and I so appreciate the time that people have given to try and make these things happen. I do however consider myself a critical person/teacher, and so without sounding too jaded, I am going to tell you just a few things I have struggled with these last couple days.

Today within the IPP (Internship Placement Profile) I found some questions that pushed a few of my buttons.  The internship placement profile is a document where interns are supposed to be evaluated by their co-ops. They are supposed to be given a mark of outstanding, very good, good, fair, unsatisfactory, and not rated in the different teaching categories.  After taking an anti-oppressive education class this summer, my eyes have been open to ways in which I perpetuate systematic racism, and how I need to interrupt these ways of thinking and speaking.

Photo 2015-09-17, 5 36 38 PM

The first professional target under the heading, “Interaction with Learners” is Respect for ALL Students. (Note the manual’s emphasis and caps on ALL). An outstanding intern is gauged as, “Demonstrates a caring professional manner with all children regardless of developmental level, intellectual capacity, appearance, health, exceptionality, socio-economic status, gender, religion, race or cultural background.” Unsatisfactory is gauged as, “Discriminates or stereotypes or acts on personal preference.” The marks in between would be a balance in between those two extremes. At first look, this target seems like a great way to challenge interns on how they interact with and perceive race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. But thankfully, my anti-oppressive ed class has opened my eyes to ways this target is re-enforcing “colourblind racism.”

What intern or co-op in their right mind would rate themselves or their intern as discriminatory? How harsh is that! No one would seemingly admit to being racist! In fact, I bet if I went back and looked at all the other co-op’s books today, I wouldn’t see anyone who marked their intern as unsatisfactory in this area…  And there lies the problem. If the highest level of assessment is to not discriminate, we teachers are definitely not going to admit to acting on personal preference! We are all rule followers after all, aren’t we? That alone stops us from looking critically at ways we are all a part of systematic racism.

From what I could see/tell from the last couple days, the majority of our seminar group seemed to be white, upper-middle class, heterosexual, settler women. (Including me.)  Statistically speaking, most American/Canadian teachers are as well. Unfortunately, this produces a system that struggles to tackle racism.  This produces a system that allows well meaning teachers to participate in “White talk.” This also produces a group of teacher educators that create resources that might systematically reinforce racism.

Another category that I thought might reinforce racism is one that says “Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Approaches.”  The idea is that as a white teacher, you need to be culturally responsive to other, different cultures in your class. See what I did there? (I italicized “other” for emphasis if you are wondering.) The internship manual almost seems to be written from the white teacher’s point of view.  Everyone else gets “othered.”  It seems that white culture isn’t a culture, it’s the norm, and so we need to be culturally responsive to the OTHER cultures in our class. We need to be looking for classroom management approaches from THEM.  I want to challenge this understanding.  I want to challenge how we are writing about “culture/multiculturalism” in our teacher manuals and assessment books.  I want to be critical about racism being hidden in the well meaning multicultural days at our school, or the way we talk about EAL students in the staff room, or the way we casually suggest that First Nations children will not perform as well as our normal white students.

In what ways are we trying to impede racism within our own classroom walls?  I was challenged this week to read between the lines in the internship manual.  In what ways have you seen systematic racism permeate our education system? And how are you planning to confront it?

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