I grew up with computers but I also grew up with a slightly paranoid father whose point of view was the smaller one’s digital footprint, the safer.
#ED677 has challenged me already in the simple way of growing this digital footprint by requiring membership in applications like Hypothes.is.
It may sound dramatic, but I honestly had to take a day after signing into Hypothes.is to reflect on what this larger digital footprint meant. I think that my father’s point of view, in a weird way, gave me permission to be a silent observer of the internet and, at times, mock the silly things I have seen on social media. However, now that becoming a part of a digital network is a requirement, I no longer have an excuse to be a “by-stander.” Now, I have not only been given permission to engage and share my experiences in the classroom, but have an obligation to do so.
While I worked on getting over myself…
…I downloaded and printed The School and Social Progress, a lecture by John Dewey, without the annotations. I still like physically interacting with a text when I am dissecting it. I like to be able to put pen to paper, draw pictures, and doodle as I think about what i am reading.
Eventually, I returned to my computer and before adding my own thoughts, I read the annotations of those who came before me. It was incredibly interesting to locate pieces that I had underlined or highlighted and discover that someone else had honed in on the same piece but walked away with entirely different thoughts/feeling/understandings/questions.
I struggled with whether to comment on another’s reaction or to add my own. Ultimately, I decided on baby steps. I began by adding my own comments, but I feel confident that I will soon feel comfortable enough to engage more directly with people my replying to their annotations with thoughts.
The next go-round, annotating Critical Literacy and Our Students’ Lives anarticle by Linda Christensen, I read the article online and with the annotation. This was a very different experience that I chose to have the first time. This time, it felt like I was jumping into an active conversation with people coming from a variety of different perspectives. It was thrilling!
Later in the semester, I will be asking students to develop scripts for the voice over part of their digital stories. They will need to incorporate photos they take of our time in Barcelona and cite both, sources we have discussed in class, as well as, those they find on their own. There is one text in particular that I want everyone to use in these final projects. Perhaps this is a good way to ensure that students read this article closely, but also help one another to understand the reading from points of view that they are not yet aware exist.
I think that the act of annotating a work in this communal way, in and of itself, is a pathway for inviting more of a social justice lens into the classroom. During the webinar for the Critical Literacy and Our Students’ Lives article, Joe Dillon asks Linda about her thoughts on neutrality in the classroom as a teacher.
“Aren’t we really just lying to our students by pretending we don’t have opinions?” – Unnamed Colleague
I personally, was expecting to hear a response, which in my experience has gained increasing support, which argues for teachers to give up neutrality and admit to their opinions in the classroom. This is an opinion that I do not share, so I was pleasantly surprised when Linda responded that “the mistaken approach to social justice education is to assume that our stance is that of the students.” Instead, Linda argues that it is important to provide a variety of opinions and perspectives to the conversation so that students can form, further develop, and challenge their beliefs.
I think that as educators our job, or rather, our obligation, is not only to challenge students to think critically about content in and out of the classroom, but also think critically ourselves about the type of content that we are bringing into our classrooms. How can we better acquaint ourselves with social justice topics? How do we increase our comfort with these topics enough to invite them into our classrooms? Is it necessary to be 100% comfortable with these topics or can we be honest with our students about the fact that we are not the be-all-end-all expert? How do we do this while creating a safe place for all opinions and feelings and meet student where they are at? And finally, how do we do this while meeting standards?