The Danger of a Single Story: A Reflection
I was quite moved by this TedTalk presentation, particularly the implications it has in the realm of education. Here, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of "how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children." When there's only one single story, one side of a story, or one element of a culture told in a story, the story is incomplete. From this singularity, stereotypes are born and, even worse, those stereotypes are perpetuated in the retelling of these single stories. The experiences of the reader and of the characters in the stories are flattened, the subjects whose stories have been reduced down to one single story are robbed of their dignity. In this way, there is "no possibility of a connection as human equals."
There are so many parallels between the dangers of a single story she warns us of and the effects this has on our students and our education system. For starters, the point she made of connecting as human equals. Our students represent a diverse population of cultures, identities and beliefs. Day after day, elements of this diversity are reduced to a single story due to lack of validation in the education system. For example, the latino student sitting in an English class reading literature that does not include them. What message are we sending to them about their culture, and to the other students in the class that aren't familiar with their culture? With entire stories being ignored or left out of the conversation, how can we expect our students to connect with each other and recognize the value of every relationship? As Chimamanda tells us, the single story emphasizes our differences rather than our similarities; an unfortunate truth that takes away so much opportunity for learning both inside and outside of school.
When I pause to evaluate how I have been influenced by the telling of single stories, I start to get a clear picture of the source of many biases I've inherited through this system. Thankfully, in today's community of connectivity, we all have the opportunity to research not just one but dozens of stories, broadening our cultural voices and deepening our understanding of cultures all over the world. As a teacher, I can help my students discover their ability to access stories that will open new doors.
If I wasn't determined to make my classroom a community where all students can feel safe to be themselves and grow and connect with their peers via open communication before, I most certainly am now. Not only is it our responsibility to reject the single story, it is part of our legacy to teach those around us to do the same.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "The Danger of a Single Story." YouTube. TED Talks, 7 Oct. 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. <https://youtu.be/D9Ihs241zeg?list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp>.
Loved it! This book definitely got my wheels turning. There really is so much good stuff here, I'm not sure where to start. As an artist, I could have taken away a million things from Austin Kleon. As a teacher, I am taking away a bunch of lessons, some that overlap with what I could use as an artist, and some that are different and unique. I'm going to reflect on this book as a teacher, since that is why I'm here after all!
I love the message to "be an amateur." This is a powerful message for all of us, but especially for our students. In talking about the gap between mediocre and good, Austin cites Clay Shirky who says that "the real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.' Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing." This is no doubt an important lesson for my students. You can't get good until you start somewhere, and contributing something to your learning is always better than contributing nothing. Along with being an amateur, I'm a big fan of the idea of taking people behind the scenes. With my background in theater, I think it's very powerful for people to get a look backstage to see just how much goes into every moment onstage. The same goes for the classroom. I think that giving students the opportunity to see the value in their day-to-day work is a great motivator. The process is equally, if not more, valuable than the final product, and it's important that my students understand that.
I'd like to inspire my students to find powerful, positive influences, and identify the ways in which these influences inspire them. So I appreciated Austin's statement that "influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do--sometimes even more than your own work." I'll be looking for ways to integrate opportunities to share our influences in my classroom wherever possible.
I think there are two statements made in this book that are most important for my students to hear and understand every single day:
"When you find things you genuinely enjoy, don't let anyone else make you feel bad about it. Don't feel guilty about the pleasure you take in the things you enjoy. Celebrate them"
"Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you'll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It's that simple."
As a teacher, can I really ask for anything more than for my students to feel confident, inspired, and driven by their uniqueness? These takeaways were so valuable to me, and I look forward to putting them to good use in my classroom this fall!
Here's my blackout poem I created from page 119:
Quote: "Most critically, play reveals a structure of learning that is radically different from the one that most schools or other formal learning environments provide, and which is well suited to the notions of a world in constant flux." This really highlighted the disconnect between the state of learning environments and the state of the world at large.
Question: How do we adapt learning to be "in flux?" The concept seems so simple and yet so complex simultaneously.
Connection: In my classroom, I have been surprised to find that having high school seniors share their writing via blog posts is a way of learning that is viewed as "radically different." Any new technology tools that we want to introduce (like blogging, building infographs, etc.) have to be approved by the district technically before they are allowed to be used.
Epiphany: I keep coming back to the use of the word radically in this quote. I don't view this structure of play as too radical of a shift in education. However, my "aha!" is more of a "doh!" in the sense that, the teachers are ready to embrace a new culture of learning for the most part, but the structure of the district seems to be the major factor in holding it back.
Quote: "Geeking out asks the question: How can I utilize the available resources, both social and technological, for deep exploration?" This is the big gap in my students' understanding of their resources. They have the access, but they don't have the knowledge or need to explore how they can use these resources on a deeper level.
Question: Do I have time to teach content AND teach students how they can learn using their technological resources?
Connection: In this program, we take this course specifically to learn all of the technology tools, how to use them, and how to apply them in our classroom. In my classroom as a teacher, I barely have time to get through the content I'm supposed to, let alone teach my students how to use them. How do we get them started like this course has gotten us started?
Epiphany: Hey, look! This is where our badge names come from!
Quote: "When people stop learning in a game, they lose interest and quit. When understood properly, therefore, games may in fact be one of the best models for learning and knowing in the twenty-first century. Why? Because if a game is good, you never play it the same way twice." The book ends with a huge emphasis on the link between gaming and learning. I was a bit disappointed that it never offered any actual, tangible ways to make this link a reality in the new culture of learning.
Question: This book used the gaming analogy the entire way through. To some extent, I felt a little out of the loop, since I am not a gamer. The examples did a good job of showing how individuals were learning through gaming. But what if students aren't "gamers"? Is this model still the best for learning and knowing?
Connection: Imagination is certainly a strong link to learning, and one that has been sadly left behind in much of the traditional pedagogy. In our tech classes, we've learned strategies that can help bring imagination back to learning. I like the idea of tools like Animodo, WeVideo, LucidCharts, etc. to foster this, but worry again about being blocked the opportunity to use them because of district disapproval.
Epiphany: The new culture of learning is on the brink of catching fire in the educational realm, but there are still some major hurdles keeping it from taking off. I look forward to being a part of the launch of this journey!
Quote: "In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation." I had never made this distinction before, so this quote was very helpful in separating the two.
Question: How can I foster an attitude of learning as a collective in my students?
Connection: Our community of teacher candidates is, in fact, a collective. We are all participating, and we are here to learn with and from each other.
Epiphany: A school and its students are primed to function as a collective. All it will take is a shift in where the emphasis on learning is placed and it could happen.
Quote: "The collective is, in the most basic sense, a group constantly playing with and reimagining its own identity."
Question: How do I measure the work and learning of my students if they are operating in the spirit of a collective, where there is constant change and reimagining?
Connection: I think that the idea of a collective would be very helpful for English learners and students with special needs.
Epiphany: I belong to many collectives that I never stopped and realized I did. As a student, as a teacher, as a mom...
Quote: "Students learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment." I love the sounds of this, but wonder about how to truly implement it.
Question: If we differentiate to this extent, where ever student is learning according their own individual passions, how can I as a teacher match this level of differentiation with the "constraints of a bounded environment?"
Connection: As I mentioned above, to me this is Tomlinson's theory of differentiation in it's most idyllic form.
Epiphany: I'm an indweller!
A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown was an interesting read. The thread that wove this book together was centered around the idea of play in learning. I'll share my reflections about this idea as it breaks down in each chapter in the series of posts that follows:
Quote: "The bridge between them [the two stories] - and what makes the concept of the new culture of learning so potent - is how the imagination was cultivated to harness the power of almost unlimited informational resources and create something personally meaningful." This was an excellent introduction to the ideas brought forth in this chapter, and in the book as a whole. The idea that it's not about what students know, but what they can do with what they know.
Question: My big question after reading this chapter is simple: how do these stories and these concepts find a place in my classroom?
Connection: This idea of learning as a fluid, changing, growing process resonates with me and represents with just about everything we've been taught in this program so far. One of the first things we learned was about the educators favorite "F" word: FLEXIBLE!
Epiphany: I don't think I experienced a full blown epiphany here yet. But I did have some "hmmns" going on as I read about the gaming connection to learning. I am not a gamer, so I've never really understood the allure. But I am curious to learn more as an educator about how the skills used in gaming can be applied in school.
Quote: "A second difference is that the teaching-based approach focuses on teaching us about the world, while the new culture of learning focuses on learning through engagement within the world." For me, this shift in how we educate is the most important, which is why this quote was my big takeaway from Chapter 2.
Question: I'm not sure how to articulate the question bouncing around in my mind for this chapter. The chapter addresses culture, but only the cultures of learning as a whole. So my question revolves around this idea of culture: how do these learning cultures make sure to include all of the different cultural experiences of our students?
Connection: My connection ties to my question and quote. If I want to be the teacher that engages my students to learn within the world, I need to use the teaching strategies and technology tools that we have been introduced to in this program and, specifically, in this class, to reach the different cultural perspectives and experiences of my students.
Epiphany: My epiphany is more like a "whoa." Learning is a series of questions, and an inspired learner never really reaches "the end" of the series of questioning. So, whoa.
Quote: "In a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it." I like this idea. I consider myself a more creative-minded person, and I have an easier time connecting to ideas and information when I can manipulate this in a creative, non-traditional way. I never thought of it as "playing" before, and never identified it as a learning strategy until now.
Question: Is this possible? Sure, the idea of letting kids "play" to learn is very enticing and in theory it makes perfect sense. But when a principle walks into my classroom and asks how my students are learning, is "through play" really a realistic explanation? Especially at the secondary level?
Connection: We've learned a great deal about this idea of student-centered and activity-based learning to maximize engagement. The type of learning described in this book takes these ideas to a whole new level for sure.
Epiphany: I need more imagination and play in my life! I've been doing it all along, but have definitely "grown out of it" quite a lot as I've transitioned into being an adult. If I'm not learning in this way, how can I expect my students to?
Thomas, Douglas, and John Seely Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.
I was pretty hesitant about participating in my first Twitter Chat, but ended up having a great time! I was the only American in on my chat, so it was really cool to connect with educators around the globe. I can definitely see the value in participating in these, I will continue to do so!
Casey helped me out with his Instagram video, so I thought I'd turn back to him with some insight into the world of Snapchat.
Confession time: I'm old. Example #1: I thought Facebook was where it's at. And then I learned the youth of today think it's for old people. Example #2: I thought Instagram was the new Facebook. And then I noticed that all my students are doing when they're not supposed to be on their phones in class isn't Instagram, it's Snapchat. To which, before watching Casey Neistat's video "Snapchat Murders Facebook," I have simply asked, "what is Snapchat?" Seriously, what is Snapchat? Before watching this video, I was still very much under the impression that it was that "text-a-scandalous-pic-and-it-will-disappear-in-seconds" messaging app. I guess I was wrong. The more time I spend with high school students, the more my being wrong seems to be the case...
But, in all honesty, after watching this video I still must confess that I don't get it. So, since it's apparently not about the lure of disappearing pictures anymore, it's all about this live-action "story" of a snapchatter's day. Curiosity and hearing enough about it in the classroom officially got the best of me after watching this video, so I headed to the App Store to download and see for myself. Well, I can tell you that it's in the Top 5 of popular downloaded apps. So, I'm on Snapchat now.
Until I figure out how to use this contraption, I've got no idea how I can use it in my classroom. My best guess right now is that I can have my students follow me, and add elements from my class to my "story" every day for them to follow along with. I'm really not sure if that will even work, but that's all I've got so far.
My big lesson after watching this video is this: my students will likely always be tapped in to technology that's outside of my realm. And, if I want to connect with them effectively, I should probably learn how to get in on the game. In this instance, I've never felt so old and out of touch with technology. So, I'll do what my wise professors have advised me to do in instances past: ask my students how to work it.
Who's got some advice for this old lady on Snapchat?
(In other news, I loved the Heisenberg reference!)
Neistat, Casey. (2014, October 2). Snapchat Murders Facebook. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/kKSr6h5-fCU?list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp.
"If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough," most effectively sums up Derek Sivers' message in his YouTube video "Why You Need to Fail." In his video, Sivers presents three main reasons why it's important for a person to fail: Learning, Growth and Quality through Experimentation.
In order to learn, a person needs to fail. It is through the mistakes we make that we learn, because mistakes teach us much more than preparation. Mistakes help us find the difficult in every lesson, and experience and learn from them. I agree with all of the points Sivers makes in regards to learning being an important reason to fail. I think learning through failure is part of the natural process of learning. In other words, while I agree that it is important to include learning as one of the benefits of failure, I don't know that it's a great revelation. I'm also not sure that it can be taught. No one actively tries to fail as a means to learn, it just works out that way to the benefit of the learner.
The growth mindset element of failing is, in my mind, the area that can be taught most effectively. Instead of conditioning learners to believe that talent is innate, there is much more room to grow and thrive when coming from the belief that talent comes from hard work. When we praise children on their effort, it inspires the desire to grow. Whereas, if we praise children on the person or presence of "innate" talent, we teach those children who did not receive such praise that they shouldn't bother to try. Not only do I think this is the most important reason to fail that Sivers addresses, I think this is the one we as teachers must focus on supporting the most.
Finally, the element of quality through experiments teaches that "everything we do is just one option." This comes down to the classic mantra "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Nothing is final, there is no "end" to learning, so we should count experimenting as a branch of failing that invites us to get back up each time we're knocked down.
Overall, while there were no life-changing-teaching-epiphanies presented in Sivers' "Why You Need to Fail," it did offer up some excellent points that I'm sure will come in handy for the many "teaching moments" ahead of me!
Sivers, Derek. "Why You Need to Fail - by Derek Sivers." YouTube. Derek Sivers, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2015. <https://youtu.be/HhxcFGuKOys?list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp>.
I turned to the video "Instagram i love you" by Casey Neistat in search of answers. What exactly is Instagram's appeal? Why has this generation of High School students turned away from Facebook in favor of the picture sharing App? And just how does it work?
Surprisingly, I found all the answers I was looking for and more in this short and sweet video.
For starters, "it's not about the pictures, it's about the sharing." So, that answers my appeal question. Kids are using Instagram as a way to document their lives and share those little snapshots of their stories with others. That, and they can peer into the lives of their friends and, perhaps more importantly, the lives of people they view as mentors and heroes, like celebrities.
Where Facebook is concerned, the answer seems to be simple: it's just too much. Kids don't want all the other junk that Facebook users have started clogging up the news feed with like useless status updates, political propaganda, the list goes on. Instagram keeps it simple. A picture is worth a thousand words, and when you're sharing a couple a day, you're telling your story in a way you can control and filter to look just how you want it to.
What I found most interesting about this video was his direction for Instagram users to "find your theme and share it." Yet another demonstration that this isn't just an app to arbitrarily dump off a couple random pictures of your breakfast or of your one millionth selfie, it's an ongoing feed into the story of your life.
There were some other rules Niestat wants us to know about using Instagram: take it easy with the hashtags, don't tag people in their own pictures, don't ask people to follow you, use tilt shift sparingly and don't bleed the feed. From what I've witnessed on my High School's campus thus far, there are a lot of students violating one of these rules in excess; they're asking for followers left and right. I've even seen students who have written in white out on their backpacks "Follow me on Instagram" with their handle put on display for all to see. It seems to be an indicator of status to many students; the more followers they have the more important they become.
So, here's what I learned about Instagram: there are a lot of unspoken rules for how to do it right. Rules I'm going to have to start following if I plan to use this as a tool in my classroom. And, given how important this social media site is to many of the students in my classroom, I'd be a fool not to put it to good use.
Neistat, Casey. "Instagram I Love You." YouTube. Casey Neistat, 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2015. <https://youtu.be/GacoqdKjVyE?list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp>.