First Commentary for My Graduate Blog

For one of my current graduate classes, “Issues and Trends in Curriculum” we were asked to start a blog and respond to some of the issues and trends we’re discussing in our class. The requirement was to start a blog using Blogger, which was hard for me since I already have this educational blog. My plan is to post on both forums to reach a variety of audiences. This was my first blog post for the class:

We live in a world where every day, new technology and information are coming out. We have access to many resources at our fingertips through the use of phones, tablets, and computers. Even though we have easier access to the database of knowledge on the internet, often we are still not living critically literate lives.

Throughout this literacy education cohort, we have learned the importance of evaluating texts as educators. Vasquez, Tate, and Harste (2013) argue that there is no such thing as a text that is neutral. This means that we have to be aware of the bias’ and acknowledge them for what they are. When students and educators are aware of this then the language study and discussions can occur. However, we must dig deeper into texts and identify the underlying messages that are presented throughout the texts in order to truly be looking at the literacy critically. Once we are aware of the bias’ and many times inaccurate information, we can inform ourselves on the realities and make sure that we are not continuing to present a “single story” about a group of people. This is something that can be hard to do with the focus on mandated tests and curriculum, but with the help of initiatives like the ones from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), hopefully, educators will continue to push for authentic assessments and literacy practices that are effective and meaningful despite the pressures from uninformed leaders.

Leland and Harste (1994) focus on integrating the arts into the curriculum and providing students with other means of expression when it comes to their learning. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we live in an ever-changing society. We cannot expect students to express their learning in only a paper and pencil type of way. We must accommodate our audiences and select modes of learning that will be the most engaging and meaningful with what we have to say. “In order to be literate, learners need to be able to orchestrate a variety of sign systems to create texts appropriate to the contexts in which they find themselves” (Leland & Haste, 1994, p. 339) is a great summary of the importance of multimodal ways to share new learning. We want our students to be able to adapt to the situation and be quick thinkers when it comes to sharing their knowledge with others. This cannot happen if we are controlling the means in which they do that. We must provide opportunities for the sharing of knowledge to occur in different ways. I am reminded of the project my fifth graders this year had the opportunity to take part in. They collaborated with the Youth Art Team in the Cedar Valley to present “unsung heroes.” They started off the project in the usual manner; students nominated people that they knew that made an impact in our community. From there, they voted on a certain number of individuals that they would showcase in this project. They collaborated with UNI students, volunteers from the community, the art teacher, music teacher, professors from UNI, and a recording studio. Their end projects were amazing! They had created wooden representations of the unsung heroes, a video in which the UNI art students had created based on the collaboration with fifth graders (with voice-overs done by the fifth graders), and a rap video that was created by the fifth graders. All of which, stressed the impact that the unsung heroes had made as well as the importance students have on the future. When we give students the freedom to express themselves the results are amazing!

We also read in Negotiating Critical Literacies with Teachers… that it might be easier to look at socio-political issues in texts when we look at the issues that we face in our lives locally. When reading this, I thought to myself- “Duh!” but not once have I done this as an educator. Whenever my students and I have addressed the social injustices that occur in our society it has stemmed from an event in a text or something that has occurred in the news. This gets me thinking about how much more meaningful and authentic our discussions would be if we were to look at issues that students are already facing.

It is not enough to read or talk about important social issues; students and educators alike must live it (Vasquez, V., Tate, S., & Harste, J., 2013). The issue is that we can talk all day about social injustices, but at some point, we need to stop “talking the talk” and begin to actually “walk the walk”. In Negotiating Critical Literacies with Teachers: Theoretical Foundations and Pedagogical Resources for Pre-service and In-service Contexts, Vasquez et al. say this goes beyond being a “participatory citizen,” which is someone that may collect money or canned goods for the needy. We must find opportunities to think about the “why” and come up with solutions to contribute to the change in our community. This also means that we must rethink things that have always seemed normal and challenge them. As I just previously mentioned, it is important to think about the cause of these seemingly normal things in order to challenge them and make a change.

 

References

Leland, C.H., & Harste, J.C. (1994). Multiple ways of knowing: Curriculum in a new key. Language Arts, 337-345.

Resolution on Affirming the Role of Teachers and Students in Developing Curricula. (2010). In National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved from http://www2.ncte.org/statement/developing curricula.

Vasquez, V., Tate, S., & Harste, J. (2013). Negotiating critical literacies with teachers: Theoretical foundations and pedagogical resources for pre-service and in-service contexts. London: Routledge.

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