Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Collaborative Project

I am going to use Google Sketch Up with the students to design physical spaces. I have two different groups, a group of level 1 & 2 students who are learning basic English and a group of level 3 & 4 students who are reading a variety of texts. Upcoming are units on home & family in one group and one on a piece called "Talking Walls" about monuments. I will design a collaborative project where the students can use Google Sketch Up to design a home or a monument. For the home project the students each need to produce a room in the home of their group while collaboratively designing the home as a whole, inside and out. For the monument project, the group will design a monument to a person or event and create a rationale for their monument to present to the class community. The students in the class can then vote on the monument that they would like to erect in their community.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

McKenzie: Becoming a Technoconstructivist

In terms of where I find myself on the development scale, I know that I am far from preliterate. I use technology in various ways in the classroom. I have e-mail and check it at least once a day - though I still prefer to find people for face to face conversations if I can. I have created power points and blogs but have never presented any for my students or had them use and create any of these things. I use the internet for searching for websites and have kept grades on-line, created spread sheets for a myriad of reasons, and use templates for lesson plans, and a few times a year I can take the students to the lab to use computers for word processing, research, and interactive learning sites. So I think that I am a technotraditionalist. I do not worry too much about the reliability of the technology, but I do feel as though I do not have the skills and knowledge to truly integrate what is available, for the greatest benefit of my students, into my instruction and everyday classroom activities.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Marc Prensky: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

I do agree with Prensky’s premise. His analogy is very fitting. After all, native culture and language feel second nature to a person and knowledge of other cultures and languages create barriers in understanding. As an ESL teacher I see this native vs. immigrant situation frequently. An African student who has offensive body odor, a Puerto Rican who has multiple absences and tardies, or a Columbian who looks down at his under-educated classmates. Then there are the teachers who yell at my ELLs as if they were deaf or make assumptions that they have unfit parents.
The division in culture and language of digital native and the digital immigrant is not very different from the cultural and language divides I see everyday. This divide exists in my home where my husband works creating web-based training tools for Staples. He talks about things that I have never heard of and when he tries to explain I feel like one of my students. Confused and frustrated, yet longing to “get it” so we can move on. I want to know and understand all of these “cool” things my husband, younger friends, and students talk about. I want to take advantage of all this technology that has simplified their lives and created opportunities to have and experience things that we did not have before. I can go immediately online to my computer and see pictures of where my student is from on Praia, Cape Verde or send a message to friend half a world away and get a response back before the end of the day. Beats the week and a half I had to wait for my best friend in seventh grade to get a letter and send one back. If we had had e-mail, would we have stayed in touch longer than a couple years?
Yet, as one who has lived in two worlds, I lement the passing of an age of tangibility. Holding an object in your hand before purchasing it, the feeling of excitement of opening a new CD, to explore the jacket as you listen to the songs, or the smell of a new book and the creak of the binding giving way in your hand are the pleasures lost on this generation of digital natives. There are experiences that cannot be duplicated – standing in the Sistine Chapel surrounded by tourists from all over the world or sitting in a darkened theatre awaiting the trills of live performance.
And what about Sarah’s letters from seventh grade? They are still in a shoe box along with many others, to be discovered and rediscovered again, but the e-mails are gone, deleted. The modern environmentalist teacher in me is eager to make use of the fast, inexpensive, and vast accessibility of technology, but the old world artist wonders, what will we lose. It is wonderful to think of the trees and space we can save in this age where a small portable device has the power to do so much more than we ever thought possible, but frightening to think that these digital natives may never be able to appreciate the peace and beauty of reading literature or walking through a museum because it is boring, slow, old fashioned.

Integrating Technology

I would like to improve and integrate my technology skills into teaching to create more interest, participation, and learning in my class. I only know about the things I can already do... so I think I want to learn about web quests (sounds exciting), digital storytelling, websites, tutorials, and web research techniques for students.
I want to create engaging, rich experiences for my students to learn language and content.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Boler: All Speech is Not Free

Boler argues that due to the inequities within our society that all speech is not free. This means that it is valued differently contingent on the speaker. An utterance by one person can cause them danger while another is acknowledged, even applauded to speak the very same idea, while a third is not heard at all. These inequities apply to hostile speech as well.

Boler is concerned with the educators role in using "affirmative action pedagogy" and historicized ethics in the classroom to access and critically analyze hostile speech in a "safe space" where the marginalized voices can respond and be heard. She recognizes that this space maybe "unreal" in that it does not represent the real world experience but that this is the point. The real world is not a always a safe place for the silenced to be heard because "all speech is not free" but in the classroom those voices can be heard.

Boler gives two examples of how the marginalized can be heard in the classroom. One way is to set boundaries and rules that exclude hostile speech so that all time and preference is given to those voices that are not heard in society. The other way, seemingly contradictory, is to allow all speech, all opinions, to the end that "teaching moments" can occur where hostile speech can be confronted, examined, and criticized openly.

Boler gives two reasons for affirmative action pedagogy: that the right to free speech does not protect everyone and often protects the dominant culture's "right" to use hate speech against the minority culture and that there is a psychological affect that hate speech incurs on the target. Affirmative action pedagogy, when used appropriately has two important aspects - accountability for the speaker of hostile utterances and the opportunity for critical agency for the marginalized. In this way the target(s) can speak for themselves and openly confront the speaker instead of having the governing agent "protect the victims." In this case the speaker (who does not speak because they were disallowed from the get go) would never be held accountable or be given the opportunity to examine his/her own beliefs in view of rational discussion within the safety of the classroom with peers and scholars.

Interestingly, Boler discusses self-disclosure as a measure of leveraging power on the part of the dominant culture and to draw attention back to itself. Whereas Delpit wanted the personal experience of the disenfranchised educators of color to be able to use their personal experience to advocate for pedagogy that would work best with their students. They are not in contradiction to each other - in fact Delpit's complaint that educator's of color feel silenced and dismissed when they offer personal experience as proof is a prime example of Boler's statement that all speech is not free, in that the person from the dominant culture is more easily heard and uses their personal experience to position themselves in the driver's seat of the conversation once again. This type of self-disclosure is meant to undermine the marginalized persons and demonstrates the speaker's lack of willingness to recognize power and privilege and their place in the system.

Boler concludes with the difficulties of practicing affirmative action pedagogy in the classroom and how allies and role models are a pivotal part. Her emphasis is on how educational spaces are the place where we can put historicized ethics into use to make changes in how people view, discuss, and treat the minority cultures.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rodriquez: Aria

In Aria, we have the theme of silence again. Nearly every text we read mentions "silence" in the discussions of how social issues are played out in educational settings. Delpit's silence was between colleagues, Carlson's was the don't ask, don't tell and marginalization of gays, Finn's is the silence of the poor.

Rodriquez talks about a silence that begins at school and invades his family life. He writes about the necessity of being immersed in English in order to learn the language that would grant him access to the public world. However there is also the sadness and loss of his family's intimacy of using the language with which they were most comfortable in favor of assimilation. It seems that there is a choice - be successful in one world or stay tied to the other. Something is lost when another is gained.

Rodriquez seems to think that this is a necessary part of an English language learner's experience if they are to become competent in the English world. I hope not. I think that in some ways his experience does not truly reflect all... but at the same time I know that many teachers attempt to help their students by suggesting that the parents speak English with them. I do not do this. Personally (and because I am a secondary ESL teacher) I believe it is best if the parents not only speak to the children in the first language, but to speak to them on topics of depth, abstract ideas, and the things that the students may not be ready to understand in English, but are ready to talk about in order to broaden their thoughts and give them transferable ideas. I try to let the parents know that this is good for them to share with their children the richness of their first language and that with patience, time, and study English will be learned at school. They can also practice English if they too want to improve it. It is nice for parents and children to learn together. This idea Rodriquez describes when his family is attempting to communicate with English, laughing and in a new way bonding. They enjoyed going through it together.

What I find interesting is that Rodriquez feels that as a young child he could not feel a sense of ownership of English - that it was not his to use until Spanish was taken from him. Is there a better way for ESL teachers to communicate that English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc. are all public languages and that anyone can "have" them and use them and enjoy them? I have no first hand knowledge of bilingual programs except that the few students who have come to me from such schools, have great difficulty using English. So, I do feel that Rodriquez's opening paragraphs resonate with my limited experience. I wonder if bilingual education postpones the student's learning of English. Does bilingual education create a "crutch" that the student is always seeking or are researchers correct that the students need to develop both languages in order to develop fully and make true progress?

Delpit would say that Rodriquez's experience is valid and he knows what he is talking about because he lived it. I agree, but also recognize that it is limited by his personality (shy) and schooling situation (Catholic school in 19??) and family situation. There are ways to help our students build their English language and bring with them a richness of identity. I tell my students that they have twice as much (some three times or four) culture because they have the cultures of their first country and language, and the cultures of their new country and language. They need not choose to be successful, but to use all that they have to feel that strength and pride in who they are and where their families come from while being proud of all that they are learning and accomplishing.

Carlson: Gayness, Multicultural Education, and Community

Carlson discusses the marginalization of homosexuality in society and therefore within the school system. As the “normalizing community” promotes a dominant and limited idea of “normal” there is a silencing of the “other” or any person or idea that does not fit into the concept of what is normal. One way is through abuse. Since Matthew Shepherd,, people are becoming increasingly aware of gay bashing as a hate crime. However, do we as a society step in to stop this form of hate?
What about at school? Do teachers speak up and defend students’ rights? Is it addressed? Many teachers are uncomfortable with talking about sexuality with students. Students use “gay”, “homo”, “fag”, etc. as everyday slurs without a thought.
Additionally, silencing is employed – we are familiar with “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a military practice.,8599,1707545,00.html This is not the only environment where people are asked not to reveal their true selves as a means of silencing gays. Silencing may be the most powerful tool of marginalization because it denies not only voice but humanity. In the film Milk, there is a powerful scene where Harvey Milk asks the gay men and women to come out to their families so that all people could feel that connection to the movement for gay rights. Once it they became vocal, they became empowered.
We also need to remember that separate is not equal in multicultural education -
I could not believe this article when I discovered it… Creating schools for gay students, for me, addresses Carlson’s argument that there is some idea that “the normals” have to be separated from “the gays” for fear of contamination. Homosexuality as a contagion or disease furthers the hostility. After all we refer to people who are against homosexuals as “homophobic”, phobic meaning fear.
Therefore, as teachers, we must address the issue by opening discussions around sexual orientation and that hate, violence, and discrimination are not tolerable. As I have found in my classroom, many students have gay relatives in their lives and once the silence is broken, the slurs and hate subside. We have a powerful obligation to see multicultural education not only in terms of color and religion, but in terms of gender, sexual orientation, and other communities.
For more reading on this subject and to find out what you can do as a teacher in your school: