Building a Community of Learners

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I started my blog a year ago, but I never posted anything about educational issues, thoughts or ideas.  The purpose of my blog was originally just to have a place to express what I was thinking.  It was a great way to organize my thoughts and I found it be very therapeutic.  If I wanted to rant about something or get something off of my chest, I knew that I could express myself through my blog.  For an example, here is my first post.  Being a shy and awkward person, blogging was a great way for me to voice my opinion.  It’s amazing to see how my writing has changed and I truly believe that blogging has contributed to my increased confidence and my ability to voice my opinion in public over the past year.

Being connected to people all over the world through blogging is very interesting.  It shows that people do read and care about what you have to say.  The blogging activities we went through in this class were very beneficial to introduce many people to the idea of building a Personal Learning Network.  We were able to post blog posts, comment on other posts and critically respond to other comments.  Doing this on a smaller scale is a wonderful starting point in order to learn how to reach a larger audience.  I really enjoyed how we were asked to comment on the blogs of our peers during seminars, especially since we were encouraged to pose thoughtful questions and positive responses.  An example of a thoughtful response by one of my peers is Kari Davis’ comment.  She said something positive about my post and she also posed a question that really made me think about my response back.  Having a well thought out comment on your blog post really shows that the person is engaged and it’s also wonderful to get feedback on your writing.

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Whenever I got around to commenting on someone’s blog, I had to take a while to really think about what I wanted to say, which I think is a good thing because that means that their blog post made me think.  I enjoyed reading everyone else’s posts because you get to see and understand issues from multiple perspectives.  Some of the things I read were so interesting because I never thought of some of the ideas my peers were discussing.  The way people in our class chose to represent and frame their discussion on their posts really amazed me.  For example, for the post on standardized testing, Eriko Parker chose to search the definition of “standard” and frame her discussion on the startling result.  In this way, I think it is very important and beneficial to read the opinions of other educators because the posts of others will always make you think about your own ideas and maybe those new ideas will help you in the future.  Reading from various blogs will also make you see an issue from a whole new perspective and light.

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Through my inquiry project this semester, I learned a very interesting feature with WordPress.  I thought I knew everything about the world of WordPress through my explorations before, but was I ever wrong!  I found out that you could have multiple administrators for a WordPress blog.  This feature is amazing because this could be a great way for educators to collaborate to create a blog.  An image that comes to mind is kind of like an educational magazine, but in blog form.  Multiple perspectives could be portrayed on one blog instead of searching through different blogs.  This could also promote up and coming bloggers so that they can build a larger readership.  The members of an existing blogger’s PLN could possibly read the posts of a new blogger on this collaborative piece and become a part of the new person’s PLN!

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I believe that our experiences through blogging will encourage us to keep on reading and commenting on blog posts we find interesting in the future.

TWITTER

I joined Twitter in 2011, but I hardly ever used it.  When I did, it was mainly for keeping up with what my favourite celebrities were doing.  As you can see from my very first tweet, I was quite clueless about how to use twitter and hashtags.Screenshot at Apr 02 11-25-37

It wasn’t until last semester in ECMP 355 that I actually started using Twitter for educational purposes.  Since last semester was kind of like my introduction to using Twitter as an educational tool, I was not as comfortable with using it yet.  In ECS 210, I feel a lot more comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because I have used it quite a bit now.  I also feel comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because the people in our ECS 210 class are great with creating conversations on Twitter and supporting the opinions of their peers.  Having your tweets retweeted or favourited is an awesome feeling and it lets you know that your peers and fellow educators are supporting what you are expressing.

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Posting relevant and interesting things onto Twitter and knowing the right hashtags to use are very important to branching out to other educators, which is something I’m still learning to do.  I have started actually looking at educational blogs and tweeting out the blog posts I found interesting, which is a new thing for me.

techhacksI’ve also realized the importance of commenting, retweeting and favouriting tweets of others.  This creates a great support system for educators and it also gives others a chance to give feedback on someone’s work.  An example I think of from class was when Raquel Bellefleur posted her slam poetry assignment.  She received encouraging comments from many people, including me, on Twitter and I can tell that she really appreciated the responses of others.

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Check out Raquel’s blog!

I also found it very interesting to look through the tweets that my classmates would share during classes.  It was wonderful to see the multiple perspectives and the key messages they got out of our presentations.  I’ve always had difficulties with creating conversations on Twitter and I really didn’t understand it, but through this class and other past classes, I’ve realized that it’s really easy to create a thread of conversations.  I would include an image, but Twitter wouldn’t allow me to view some of the past tweets that were sent out during the year, which brings me to the thing that I didn’t enjoy about Twitter.  I tried to look back on some interesting conversations that my classmates were having when Claire Kreuger came into our classroom and also when Grant Urban presented.  When I searched the #ecs210 hashtag, hardly any of my classmates tweets showed up on the day Claire Kreuger came and no tweets were visible from Grant Urban’s presentation.  It frustrated me to say the least.  Does anyone know why this happened?

 

GOOGLE DOCS 

I’ve realized that a great tool for educators is GoogleDocs.  For my inquiry project, my group members and I used a Googledoc to organize our thoughts and to share ideas with each other.  It served as a great way for us to have all of our information in one place and it was easy to take information off of it to work on the different parts of our lesson plan and our online space.  I think GoogleDocs would be a great tool for teachers to collaborate and provide feedback.  If a few teachers want to work on an idea together or create a document of some sort, they all have the option to edit and make changes whenever they want.  With that being said, you have to make sure you trust the collaborators because you don’t want to lose important information.  Google Docs is also a great way to share a document online.  Most often, when sharing a document from Microsoft Word, you have to provide a folder for someone to download.  This can become quite inconvenient because downloading can sometimes be slow and tedious.  With a GoogleDoc, you can see an online version, which makes it that much more accessible for people in your PLN to view.  With the different editing tools, you can share the document with all different kinds of privacy settings. google docs

 

FINAL REFLECTIONS

Overall, I think this was a great class and a great introduction into what a PLN is and how to build our PLN.  I feel like the group of educators in our class were very supportive and involved in the learning process of each other.  I think that is the whole point to building a PLN: creating a support network.  If we need advice or feedback, we can rely on the members of our PLN to offer suggestions.  If we want to seek out new ideas or gain a new understanding of an issue, we can read the blog posts or the tweets of the people we are connected to.  It’s wonderful that we can connect to people all over the world, instead of only connecting to the people we are around.  It’s important to connect to those people as well, but creating relationships on a global level will offer you even more support and insight on particular issues.  People from different parts of the world may carry different and unique experiences and sharing these experiences can be very beneficial.  I think that the knowledge we now carry from this class will become very consequential in the future and it will allow us to build a larger support system.  It’s great that we will be able to carry these skills with us as we finish our degrees and also later on after we get our teaching degrees.

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Addressing Gender, Sexuality and Race in Our Identities

We created an autobiography for ECS 210 and we are now looking back on them and reflecting on what we included and what we did not.  We were asked: “What does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constituitive of your identity?”  I did talk about the privilege I receive from being white and also from being Aboriginal, but I did not mention my gender or my sexuality.  Now that I think about it, I’m quite shocked that I didn’t mention the fact that I was female in my paper.  I have been a feminist for a few years now and I feel empowered being a woman. I think this comes directly from my assumption that these facts are “common sense” based on how I write and the dominant narrative.  This sounds absolutely horrible, but the message of this “common sense” model is definitely not what I intended to put across in my paper.  This is very interesting to think about because Kumashiro writes, “the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden messages since such a goal is unattainable” (pg. 41).  I feel the pressure already of saying the wrong things or portraying an oppressive idea through the hidden curriculum, but Kumashiro is suggesting that our students need to develop a critical lens to make sense of these hidden messages.  This allows students to think deeper about what they are being taught and it also encourages them to bring up questions that you may not have thought of before.

Name: Ashley

Gender: Female

Race: White, First Nations

Sexuality: Heterosexual

These are not typically the things we find out about people when we first met them.  This partially stems from the fact that a lot of us do not share our life stories right from the beginning.  I have to feel comfortable around someone before I share personal things about myself.  This might be a result of the fact that I feel better in my comfort zone and that I’m reluctant to go outside of that zone.  Kumashiro writes,  “After all, our hidden lessons demonstrate how it is that oppression can play out in our lives unnoticed and unchallenged, and our lenses of analysis demonstrate why it is that we often desire making sense of the world in only certain, comforting ways” (pg. 41).  This quote stuck out at me while reading this because I need to really think about how I make sense of the world and why I choose to live in more comforting ways.  The only way I will truly become comfortable is by doing the things that make me uncomfortable.

How do you identify yourself to others? How do you encourage students to use this critical lens that Kumashiro mentions?

How Stories Shape Our Lives

Part one of my ECS 210 assignment was to summarize 10 articles in “The New Teacher Book” and part two was to critically respond to the resonances and the dissonances in one or more articles.

Part One 

Part Two:

I chose to reflect on the article called, “Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club” by Rita Tenorio.  As a child, I was raised around people of all colours, including my own family.  One side of my family is mainly Aboriginal, another side is mainly white, my neighbours were Chinese, and a few of our family friends were Jamaican.  I realized, through this article, that a lot of children were not exposed to as many diverse people as I was.  The article says that, “we have to acknowledge that we live in a racist society and that children typically mirror the attitudes of that society”.   Although a lot has changed from when our parents were kids, people that are my age still tend to be racist, so I hope that through anti oppressive teaching, the next generation will be even more accepting of differences.

Reflecting back on my schooling in elementary school, I realized that we never really did talk about race and differences.  We learned about First Nations history, but we did not recognize physical differences between the classroom and the larger community.  I feel like education was more about creating a classroom where everyone was seen the same and treated the same.  Now, we are focusing more on how we are different and why we think that way.  I think a classroom that encourages diversity is way more effective than thinking that everyone is the same because none of us are the same.  We have different family lives, different skin colours, different hobbies, different learning abilities, etc.  The list goes on!  Whenever I had to draw a character in elementary school, I would always colour them peach.  I even referred to this pencil crayon as the “skin-coloured” one.  I find this quite interesting since I am far away from being “peach” coloured.  Even when I was in the older grades of elementary school, I still drew white characters and wrote about white characters.  If we learned about our differences in the classroom, I might have drawn a Native American person or an African American person.  My dad refers to me as “Heinz 57” because I have so many different layers of culture and race; I am Aboriginal, Ukrainian, French, Scottish (I think) and so many more that I can’t keep track of.  Most of us today do not identify as one thing because we have so many different components of ourselves.

We watched this video in ECE 325 the other day and I think it is very relevant to what I’m talking about in this blog post.  It brings these anti oppressive ideas into action.  They compare skin colour and hair textures, they have conversations about different races and they build a tolerance to all people.  The part that I really liked was when the teacher showed her students pictures of animals dressed up as Native Americans and actual pictures of Native Americans.  The students were able to pick out the stereotypical attributes in the animals, like the fact that not all Native Americans wear feathers on their heads.

One of the activities the children did in this article was first to put their hands onto the table to recognize the different colours of the students.  Later on, they would mix paints together to try and match their own skin colours.  A student in this article said, “We put black, white, red and yellow [together].  I like the colour of my skin”.  After reading this activity, I decided to try and do the same with my skin colour.  I used five coloured pencil crayons: Arizona Topaz, Roan Red, Soft Peach, Cotton White and Chestnut.  I was amazed at how many colours I had to use in order to somewhat match my own skin colour.  As mentioned before, if I ever had to draw myself, I would automatically take out the peach-coloured pencil crayon.  I find the fact that some people refer to themselves as pink, brown or black is quite interesting now that I have read this article because based on the experiences written in the article and on my own experience, we are not all one colour.  Even people from the same racial groups have different colours because we are not all the same.

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A “bump” that I thought of while reading this is the content in an anti bias classroom may challenge the beliefs of families.  I know of a lot of parents that are still not accepting of different races and sexualities, especially the parents of the children of my generation.  I feel like they have these old fashioned ideals from when they were younger and it is definitely hard to try and make them see and appreciate how far we have come with the acceptance and encouragement of all people.  Some of us may have been influenced by our parents to think in these oppressive ways.  I think the problem I would have is how to approach a family that has such different views from you.  Both parties would have completely opposing views and you cannot just compromise on issues of racism and sexism.  I do not want to force my ways onto these families, but at the same time, I want to build this anti oppressive classroom where everyone is on the same page.  This may be an unrealistic dream because there will be some opposed to the ways I want to structure my classroom.

Another thing that conflicts me is the fact that not all schools receive as much support as this one does.  In the article, “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year”, the teacher felt like an outsider because he tried to change the ways in how the school decorates for Christmas because not all students celebrate Christmas.  A lot of staff members were angered by this and thus did not support or encourage this individual.  This is all because people today are very sensitive about their traditional and usual ways of doing things.  In order to feel comfortable with teaching controversial issues and collaborating with others, you need to build a support system of educators.  Without this, you may feel alone and terrified to create an anti oppressive classroom and curriculum.  I’m scared that I would get hired in a school with educators that did not support my ideas or without anyone to talk to for advice, especially as a first year teacher.

In conclusion, I think that including issues of race and recognizing differences is very important to have in a classroom.  These children will grow up with different ways of thinking and will be able to recognize why everyone is different.  I think it is also beneficial for adults to educate themselves on anti oppressive teaching because it has been very valuable learning to me and several of my classmates.  In the video I posted above, there was a scene where a child asked what was wrong with a woman that was in a wheelchair.  The mother quickly apologized and ran off.  I think this is a perfect example of how not educating children on differences can result in these awkward moments.  The mother could have, instead, explained to her daughter why wheelchairs are needed or maybe the woman in the wheelchair would have been okay with explaining what happened.  Having conversations with children about differences will encourage acceptance and will open their eyes to the fact that our differences are what make us unique.

What is Common Sense and Why is it Important?

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This week in ECS 210, we were asked to respond to the following questions: How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’. Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?  Kumashiro talks about and defines common sense in multiple ways.  In the end, it is all about what everyone considers “normal” and the expected practices, fuelled by social pressures.  He also explains that common sense gives us some sense of comfort because it helps make sense of our everyday lives.  This might be comforting, but norms privilege certain groups and identities.  Going further with social pressures, he discusses that common sense tells us what schools should be doing, and not what they could be doing.  He also talks about how protests against common sense are dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or inappropriate.  In this way, I feel like common sense is ruling our lives–it is almost like we don’t even have a say in what we feel is normal.  These ‘norms’ are definitely dominant and are social constructs.

So why is it important to pay attention to this idea of ‘common sense’?  I think there are endless reasons on why we should be more conscious of this term and on how we should think of the meaning of this term.  Kumashiro’s experience in Nepal is an example of differing common senses, culturally.  He liked to clean and realized that water was only located in the centre of the bazaar.  He also realized that different needs (showering, dishes, water jugs, etc.) were tended to at certain times of the day.  I think this tells us that we need to be aware of the difference of cultures, customs and daily lives in order to teach students in ways that tend their own particular needs, instead of being stuck on our own ideas of common sense.  This is also relevant when the students in his classroom told him that he wasn’t teaching right because his ideas were not strictly lecture-practice-exam.  It is very important to recognize these differences, also, because the Peace Corps had a failure to critique their own assumptions about how the U.S. were superior compared to Nepal.  Although it was not a goal to be oppressive, it definitely came across that way.

Since we are on the topic of oppression, I want to address how ideas of common sense and normalcy contribute to this.  When teachers in the Peace Corps went to places like Nepal, they would put off the message that the American way is the best way.  They were pretty much trying to assimilate these students into American culture, without even knowing it.  With this idea of common sense, students could think that they are unworthy or abnormal because they don’t relate to these ideals.  That is the scary thing.  You think that you are doing great things like bringing different approaches of teaching to other parts of the world (the main goal of Peace Corps), but you could also be oppressing others.  What bugs me about all of this is the fact that we have made it okay to oppress and discriminate because it is ‘common sense’.  Oppression is not recognized because common sense has convinced us that schools are neutral and non-oppressive.  This is absolutely ridiculous because this article has proved this idea to be the opposite.  I think that we need to carefully think about our goals and intentions because they may end up in a negative situation.  With this knowledge now, I think that we could become more conscious, open minded and genuine teachers.

Kumashiro says that values and priorities are embedded in approaches to teaching and learning.  Does this mean that our values are to oppress and to push our own ideas of what’s normal onto others?

 

 

Blockbuster Past

In my ECMP 355 class, we took a look at this video:

It was only a couple years ago that we got rid of Blockbuster and I remember renting from there as if it was just yesterday!  It was quite hilarious to watch this video because it wasn’t too long ago!  It’s strange to realize that a part of our past is in history now.  Just like VHS players, walkmans, etc. from my childhood days, it’s all in the past!

The change from renting in video stores to renting and watching video content online could actually be beneficial to teaching.  Content becomes more accessible for us to use and you don’t have to worry about a limited amount of movies.  I believe that, we as teachers, should keep tabs on what is changing with technology.  Technology is changing the way we buy music, buy movies, and shop in general.  We are living in a technological age and we should embrace that by integrating it into our classrooms.  Children and youth students will be up to date with the latest advancements and if we involve these new ideas in lessons, I believe students will become more engaged and interested.