Standardized Testing Does Not Encourage Diversity

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Standardized testing… What a topic!  I can only remember taking a few in my schooling years, but I do remember how frustrating it was to take one.  I briefly remember one in Elementary school and I found it to be really difficult because the language was different than what I was used to in my classroom.

Standardized testing goes completely against our “mosaic” multicultural view that Canada is supposed to have.  Bill Bigelow explains, “Multiculturalism attempts to uncover ‘the histories and experiences of people who have been left out of the curriculum'” (pg. 170).  With testing, aren’t we leaving out a large number of people? The system assumes that all students should learn and approach learning in the exact same way, which is far from reality.  Students have different learning styles, experiences, learning needs, etc.  If a student was not originally from Canada, they are going to hold different experiences, which will reflect in the way that they learn.  Bill Bigelow also writes, “Curriculum standardization is, as Berlak indicates, a way to silence dissident voices” (pg. 170).  This is so true because the tests are going to obviously reflect the dominant “common sense” ideals that are evident in our area.  This is not beneficial to students that don’t identify with the dominant way of thinking.  It’s almost like we are raising our students to become robots.

As a teacher, we are supposed to take into account the interests of our students.  How are we supposed to do that when we need to worry about preparing our students for standardized testing?  It’s not going to have questions for students to relate to and it’s not going to create a positive experience for all students.  The benefit of the teacher making a form of assessment–perhaps a test–is that the teacher knows his/her students and they can implement the language used in lessons, make relatable connections, etc.  In a standardized test, the language could be far off from what the students can understand.  Treating students as all the same is never beneficial.  We need to celebrate the diversity in our students and making them take these tests will not encourage this.

It’s almost like teachers are encouraged to treat their students as a prize or a measure of their ability.  Standardized tests do negatively affect students, but teachers are also very pressured to “produce” students to be what they are “supposed to be”.  In this way, we are implementing a factory model because students are trained and conditioned to prepare for these scheduled tests.  Students are all so diverse, whether that is from their race, gender, experiences, opinions, learning styles, learning needs, etc.  Instead, students will become subject to a ranking system from a life of standardized testing.  These tests do not adequately measure our students abilities or teacher abilities.  Humans are capable of anything as long as they are in the learning environment that encourages to their ways of learning.  We’re throwing out our goals of social justice out of the window with standardized testing!

How do you feel about standardized testing?  Do you have any negative or positive experiences with them?

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?

A History of Education

This blog post is based on the reading, A History of Education by Painter.  This writing prompt will attempt to answer: What does race mean in this textbook? What does it mean that teachers are being taught to think in racial terms? What are the effects of teaching teachers to think in this way? The first thing I noticed about this article was the language and tone it was written in.  Since this article was written in 1886, there are obvious differences from articles today. I found it more difficult to read and understand because it was written in a different time.  I hope I don’t misinterpret some of the content, but if I do, you will know why!  Even though we are talking about race in this article, I thought it would be important to identify gender inequality with the use of the word “manhood”.  Whenever the author would talk about humans, the word “man” or “manhood” was used, which is a good identifier of the fact that it was written in the late 1800s.

In the introduction, Painter uses the word “race” to explain the human race, which is strange because the author uses the word in completely different contexts throughout the article.  At the end of the introduction, it is mentioned that “uncivilized peoples” are not included because their lives are “too primitive”.  Who was the author talking about in this instance?  We definitely would not be talking about how a group of people are “uncivilized” in our textbooks now.

The second time the word “race” was used was to recognize the Mongolian race.  A lot of stereotypes and  assumptions are talked about in the article: “They are hypocritical and dishonest ; and, once in authority, they are apt to become tyrannical, and even cruel”.  The author even talks about how they have had little progress with civilization and that they have “evident imperfections”.  Along with this, the article explains Chinese culture as the classics.

Painter explains that education in India would be of greater interest to us because they have “the same blood as ourselves” (Indo-European).  The article also says that people from India are easy prey because of their inoffensive character.  This goes on to explain that the English are influencing social, political and religious changes.  The article mentions that their divinities are strange and peculiar.  The author refers to their ideals as selfish because, “The highest religious aspiration is to be absorbed into the great, unconscious world-spirit”.

I feel like this article just encouraged the idea of othering people from different racial backgrounds.  Some positive things were said about China and India, but a lot of it explained how they were strange or uncivilized.  Following this curriculum textbook could result in teachers being very close minded and not open to new cultures because they seem selfish or weird.  It could also result in oppression because the article refers to some people as “uncivilized” and teachers could believe that to be true from reading this in the 1900s.  I think this textbook is more focused on recognizing differences than celebrating differences.  In our classrooms today, we strive to encourage our differences and embracing the different traditions we practice.

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?

 

 

Learning ASL: Final reflections and Progress

Throughout this semester, I have taken on the challenge to learn American Sign Language for my learning project in ECMP 355.  I have learned terms mostly from a series of Youtube videos from the channel “Sign Language 101“, and “Smarthands“.  Both of these Youtube channels provide great education and resources to help you learn ASL.  Sign Language 101 is a very informal and personable instruction based learning tool, while Smarthands is geared more towards a younger audience with songs, dances and children instruction.  These are both very good for learning terminology.  I have also recently used Lifeprint, which was very beneficial to my learning.  As I mentioned in a previous post, they provide lessons for language learning, which includes videos, descriptions and pictures of hand movements.  They also recognize different ways of using signs and alternate ways of signing.

It was interesting to rewatch all of my videos to reflect upon my personal growth throughout the semester.  I liked the fact that I tried to include different ways of presenting my content.  I did tutorial videos, voice over videos, songs, a collaboration video and even a silent movie type of video.  My confidence level in front of the camera has definitely gone up, which was one of my own personal goals.

I started out my videos by doing voiceovers or signing songs because I wasn’t comfortable with speaking in front of the camera while filming myself.

In my video about pronouns, I was very nervous because this was my first video actually speaking to the camera.  Note the weird eye contact and fidgeting in the beginning!

My videos on colours and family were somewhat more confident because I had a friend with me, but I still feel like it was a step for becoming more comfortable.

This is the last video I taped myself and spoke at the same time, and I really do believe that my confidence level has gone up in it.  I think my instructional methods can improve, but I think I have more volume and confidence in my voice!

Fingerspelling has been a part of my journey in every topic that I have learned over the semester, which has improved the speed and accuracy of my fingerspelling.  You can definitely see progress from my first time signing my name in my videos.

I think another big improvement with my ASL learning was that I was able to formulate a couple of sentences in a conversation, with the help from Lifeprint!

I was going to sign a song in the end, but I found it to be very difficult because I’m not as advanced with formulating proper sentences yet and I don’t want to get confused with Signed English.  When I was looking at different tutorials for songs in ASL, the people were using signed English, which is not proper American Sign Language.  I felt like it would defeat the purpose of my learning if I learned how to sign according to English.  This journey has been exciting and educational and I plan on continuing my learning of ASL and maybe become fluent in it!

Learning ASL: Conversation!

I took my learning from my lesson from Lifeprint and created a conversation video with myself!  I feel like it is kind of like a silent movie!  Meet Ashley and Amy!  My costume changes are brilliant, I know!

Learning ASL: Lifeprint

While I was looking for new resources for learning ASL, I came across Lifeprint.  I’m sad that I didn’t find it before!  The site provides various free lessons, with short videos demonstrating each sign.  The great thing about it is the fact that they teach you how to put words into sentences right away.  I’ve been learning mostly vocabulary through my journey this semester, so learning a couple sentences was great!  For each lesson, they provide the short video, pictures that show each movement, and an explanation of each sign.  For example, I learned how to ask if someone is deaf.

deaf1deaf2deaf3

Handshape: index finger
Location: Starting location:  In general it starts on the cheek near the ear but occasionally you will see it start near the mouth (on the cheek). Ending location:  On the cheek near the mouth.
Orientation:  If done with the right hand, the right palm can face either left or somewhat forward.
Movement:  Small arc.
Variation: If you do this sign while puffing out the cheek, with a larger arc it means, “Deaf, and proud of it!”
Description: Touch your finger on your cheek near your ear, then move your finger in a small arch and touch it near the mouth. Remember, start and end the sign on the cheek. Do not do it on the ear or mouth, but rather near them.

To ask the question, “Are you deaf?”, you do the sign for deaf and point to the person you are asking.  You literally sign, “Deaf you?”.  When you ask questions in ASL, you have to furrow your brows for questions using who, what, why and where and you have to have your brows up for other questions.

I’ve been learning from this site for a while and I will continue to blog the things that I have been learning for the next couple of days!