Tag Archives: equity

Magnitude: SOLC 2019 Day 28

As I walked down the beach this afternoon my eye caught the juxtaposition of the massive cliff walls and a small stack of beach pebbles.  I found myself thinking about magnitude–the contrast of big and small.

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I chatted on the phone earlier today with someone from an organization not directly related to education.  She was describing the struggles they have in their organization with clear, concise communication of complicated ideas.  The same struggles we are always talking to teachers about…from kindergarten to college.  Add the equity piece, the fact that some people have tremendous access and opportunity–often based on financial status and skin color–and the dilemma goes from a stack of small stones to an enormous cliff that crumbles and slips at unexpected moments.

Those cliffs keep me up at night, my efforts dwarfed by their magnitude, overwhelming me with the impossibility of the lift.  I find myself drawn to the pebbles.  They fit perfectly in my hand as I rub my fingers over their surface, smoothing and soothing as I follow the path nature left before me.  I pick one up, adding it my carefully balanced stack, wondering how many I can carry before they topple.

Luckily, I’ve come to the place in my career where I don’t have to decide between the cliffs and the pebbles.  I try my best to exert influence where I have the agency to do things that matter…even if they only matter to a few.  But my eye remains on the issues of magnitude…maybe if I keep stacking those small stones near the small stones of my colleagues and allies our stacks will grow to solutions of magnitude.  Those nightmares that keep me up at night will transform into dreams come true.  Maybe this art I found on the beach today is a talisman for the future.

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Digital Learning Day 2016

While it seems strange to limit digital learning to a day, designating a day to highlight the ways digital learning is being integrated into formal learning experiences is an important way to showcase that digital learning is here…and should be taking place in our schools to the advantage of all our students.

This year, the focus of Digital Learning Day is the issue of digital equity…or in the form of a hashtag, #techquity.  A lot of people believe that digital equity is all about access to devices and internet…and of course, those are important issues, but #techquity is also about what students are asked to do and required to do with digital tools in their learning environments.  All too often, digital tools become virtual replacements of low level exercises formerly confined to worksheets…or they become “wow” presentations of work students already did without the digital tools, with no real digital advantage.  So the question becomes, what exactly constitutes digital equity?  This is a question we have been exploring here in San Diego in an initiative we call Smart Tech Use for Equity where teachers are documenting a tech use in their classroom, focused on whether or not this practice actually makes a difference for students.  Our work was featured in the latest issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine.

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At a recent leadership meeting at the SDAWP (San Diego Area Writing Project) we opened up a discussion about how to best highlight the work SDAWP teachers are doing with digital learning in their classrooms.  Our leadership group is a diverse cross-section of SDAWP teachers, representing levels from kindergarten to college and a variety of student demographics.  The beauty of this group is that we bring diverse experiences and opinions to the group–and are willing to engage in conversations where we do not all agree.  We discussed what we have done in the past…and what we might do in the future to share the work we know that SDAWP teachers are doing in their classrooms.

For some years now at the SDAWP we have had an SDAWP Twitter Fellow of the Week. Modeled after Sweden’s citizen Twitter campaign, SDAWP teachers share a glimpse of their teaching and their lives in San Diego. This work has allowed us to showcase the wonderful teaching and learning that takes place in our classrooms and has put us in touch with other teachers, educators, authors, and researchers from all over the country (and perhaps the world). But…it’s on Twitter and some folks are simply resistant to Twitter, so there are many educators this effort doesn’t reach.

The SDAWP also has a Facebook page.  And because of the SDAWP Facebook page, many SDAWP teachers use their personal Facebook pages to connect to one another and share what is going on in their classrooms.  But, our “official” SDAWP Facebook page doesn’t reflect this. Up to this point it has been used to share mostly external resources and pertinent information for those interested in the teaching of writing. Occasionally, we have opportunities to celebrate the teaching of our SDAWP fellows…but even though we have a team of administrators, teachers can only post prominently on the SDAWP page if they post as an administrator.  So, why not open this opportunity up to more SDAWP teachers?

So, for Digital Learning Day 2016 we launch the SDAWP Facebook Fellow of the Week. Each week a different SDAWP teacher will post something going on in her/his classroom–celebrating the students they work with and their learning efforts.  Some of the work will be specifically digital and some will not, but all will show ways SDAWP teachers strive to support the learners in their classrooms, honoring their lives and experiences in the process.

We hope to democratize our SDAWP Facebook page as a different teacher each week takes on the role of administrator and adds their own content to the page.  Of course, careful attention will be paid to student privacy…a role that teachers have become increasingly aware of in this world of digital media, in our schools, and in our lives.  We also hope that this effort will show the many ways digital equity is practiced in classrooms…and expose the inequities (many beyond the the control of classroom teachers) that still need our attention and effort.

How will you mark Digital Learning Day?

 

 

 

More than a Game

Today we played Monopoly.  We played in our Summer Institute…a leadership development program for teachers of writing.  And as you might imagine, this play had more than one purpose!

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There is something wonderful about giving a group of dedicated educators a Monopoly box and asking them to play a game during an intensive professional development experience.  In our 4th day of a four week institute, we have already begun to bond, building trust and opening up, willing to be vulnerable even when faced with difficult topics and challenging situations.

The group seemed almost giddy about the thought of playing…even though based on the previous three and a half days, they knew this was not simply a board game break.  They started by forming groups of five or six and then selecting a writing utensil from a plate on their table.  A colored pencil, a smelly marker, a highlighter, an SDAWP pencil, and either one or two Crayola markers were mystery icons of the game to come.  After spending time as a group reviewing the written rules of the game and setting up to begin, the significance of the choice of the writing utensil became apparent.

Figuring out how to play

Those holding the Crayola markers were asked to begin playing…the others at the table were only allowed to watch.  In my role as observer I got watch as some started to play with trepidation while others raced forward with delight…”Hurry, let’s get what we can while we can!”  After the first player or players had played for five or ten minutes, the second group of players were invited in.  At indeterminate intervals and not knowing which category would be called next, the players who waited and watched seemed to withdraw and lose interest in the game.

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This version of Monopoly, which immerses players in an experience where everyone plays by the same rules…but the game is still not fair, is adapted from an article by Jost and Jost.  Our goal is to get our participants to think about equity beyond what is experienced by individuals and consider the systemic influences of poverty and racism.

As the game continued we saw our participants behave in some interesting ways.  Those that entered the game early seemed to play either with zeal…or with the weight of guilt on their shoulders.  They frequently assumed the role of helper…often moving the pieces for their late starting peers or even acting with seeming generosity, offering “get out of jail free” cards or waiving some small rents due to them.  The late starters either become apathetic about the game or downright devious…sneaking money from the bank or even wishing to land in jail so they wouldn’t have to pay fees that they saw coming as their money dwindled with each turn.

We saw early players become rule sticklers…at one point carefully explaining the rules to a late starter.

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When time was called on the game, players were asked to take note of the results and then sent off to reflect on their experience.  What did they notice about themselves, their peers, the experience?  What implications does this experience have for them as educators, parents, human beings?

Our discussion was rich and layered…and sometimes downright contentious.  This experience opened up space for talking about systems: economic, social, educational…and the differences in access and equity that are often dismissed or not considered with our more typical focus on individuals.  And we’re not finished with these discussions…because although there are some who might ask, “What does equity have to do with the teaching of writing?”, we know that equity plays a crucial role in who has access to high quality teaching and learning…and who can see themselves as successful learners.  This game “hack” is just a beginning for us…we have much more in store in our next three weeks!

 

Digital Learning Day

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day. It’s meant as a way to draw attention to the need for digital learning in our schools, to showcase the potential of digital learning, and as a way to highlight what is happening in places where digital learning is taking place.

But I like some of the other conversations that take place because of the emphasis on digital learning. In some places we are talking about issues of access and equity. And we must go beyond buying the device when we think about access and equity. What are students doing with their digital devices?  How is access to the digital transforming the learning process for students?  What  expectations come with the devices?  What are student s expected to do outside of school?  Even though many of these conversations take place on a small scale, they are important.  And we need to have more of these conversations and keep equity (not just hardware) at the forefront of our thinking.

There are still many places where students don’t have regular access to digital tools.  Or they are doing things on digital devices that simply replace what they were already doing without those tools, without changing the task in any significant way. Or teachers have a single computer or other device for use with a class full of students.  Or teachers have a class full of devices without the background and professional learning to help them put them to effective use.  Or they have devices and a lack of infrastructure…no way to work out the technical issues that inevitably plague working with the digital.

I’m lucky at my school. We are in our second year of 1:1 digital devices in my classroom and we have technical support available. I’ve been fortunate to work with many inspired and forward-thinking educators, especially my colleagues from Writing Project sites all over the country and throughout the state, who have modeled the potential of digital learning.  My teaching partner is a willing risk-taker who will learn as she goes…and we support each other moving forward into the digital world that isn’t yet mapped out in the educational landscape.

That doesn’t mean that things are flawless in their operation or that moving toward digital doesn’t increase demands on my time as a teacher.  It doesn’t make planning easy or learning effortless…my teaching partner and I spend precious time learning and relearning and helping our students navigate the inevitable technical difficulties that go with this digital territory.

And even though tomorrow is Digital Learning Day my students are doing digital learning every day.  Our forty-plus six, seven, eight, and nine year olds have been working at getting their blogs designed and posts ready over the last few weeks.  We discovered some new wrinkles in the way the Edublogs app works on our iPads this year…different than last year.  You have the love the third grader who discovered the “back door” fix to uploading media to posts when the app says it won’t do it!

I’m more convinced than ever that “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” are simply the wrong terms to describe my students and their teachers (my teaching partner and me).  But we are digital learners…together.  And our students need and appreciate the guidance they get from us just as we appreciate their enthusiasm, effort, and ingenuity.  As soon as I can get back to our class blog (maybe first thing in the morning), students’ first posts for this year will go public…I hope I can get to them all for Digital Learning Day.

And, we will launch into some digital stories tomorrow…in honor of the spirit of trying something new on Digital Learning Day.

What will you and your students be doing on Digital Learning Day?  And how is it different from all the other days in your classroom?