Image courtesy of Brian Smithson
Normally I have a short little story to start off my post, but I am afraid I am at a loss for words on this one. Everything I come up with is either too trite or doesn’t fit the scope of the issue. I guess the only thing I can do is to jump right in.
I have been watching with interest and sadness the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza along with Russia and Ukraine. Go back twenty years ago or more and most of the conversation regarding these events would be limited to what we received from the media and then discussed with our friends and family. With the advent of social media, especially Twitter, the information flows from various sources and our conversation has grown to include total strangers from all over the world. What is amazing to me is how quickly judgements have been made regarding which ‘side’ to choose in either conflict. For some it seems, these decisions are made with limited information which has not been verified. This is then propagated through retweets and reposts while the details are still scarce. It may be that that photo, video, or quote might be true, but in this age desperately in need of patience, there is a sore lack of it. Continue reading Siding
Image courtesy of Steven Mileham
I hate shopping. If I was to describe my experience as a shopper, for clothes especially, it would best be summed up in one word: survival. I am not one to go from shop to shop to find the best deal. As a result, I’m not terribly picky. If the clothes generally fit and they don’t clash too badly, I’ll get them. Therefore, my closet is a terrible mishmash of things that don’t necessarily go together, but I try to make it work. This shirt is blue, these pants have blue in them, and this tie is greyish-blue so they must go together. I have gotten pretty good at finding combinations that ‘work’ and I just grab those ‘sets’ in the morning. No wasting time checking to see if something else might work better. It’s “good enough”.
I sometimes wonder if we are like that with words. We grab stock phrases and throw them together as collocation ‘sets’. They are “good enough” for what we need to accomplish. We rarely stop to think about what we are saying and how it may be interpreted. It often takes someone bold enough to speak up to help us better understand the consequences of our words. Continue reading Choosing
Image courtesy of Nick Page
Have you ever had one of those days where a certain topic keeps coming up over and over again in completely different situations? Yesterday was like that for me. The completely random topic? Critical pedagogy. Not sure why, but I’m not complaining. This is a topic that I have really started to sink my teeth into, even if I am still working out all that it encompasses and how it plays out in my language classroom.
For those not entirely sure about what critical pedagogy is, here is a really, really simplified (perhaps oversimplified?) version. In the beginning, there was Paulo Freire, a philosopher and educator from Brazil who wrote this amazing, albeit somewhat dense, book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. By the sounds of the title, I am sure you can probably start to guess where this is going. Freire believed that education should allow those who find themselves oppressed and cut off politically to gain a voice and be given the tools and space to transform their situation. Freire also fought against the traditional dispensing of knowledge by the teacher, instead giving the students the means to direct and create their own learning especially through social interaction. Basically, critical pedagogy levels the playing field by stripping away the hierarchical structure so prevalent in education. Students take what they learn in the classroom and transform their world outside of the classroom. There is so much more than that, so if you would like to understand it better, go here.
Okay, before anyone starts blasting me for missing important components of critical pedagogy, the purpose of this post isn’t to be a treatise on all things critical, but I simply want to provide a foundation to explain what I have been thinking about. In this case, three different things arose from the conversations and texts I read. Continue reading Changing
Image used by permission from UrbaneWomenMag
I don’t know when it started, but at some point in the last 5 or so years, people have really started to give up on fact checking. I mostly put the blame on the speed in which we receive our information. It used to be that we would read a newspaper or journal article, process it, discuss it, and then evaluate it on the merits of the content. Today, instead of newspapers, we have social media; instead of journal articles, we have infographics.
Ahhh, infographics. Those slick little data displaying, fun to share, fast-info representations of what used to be relevant data compressed into bite-sized chunks. Who cares where the material comes from, it looks AMAZING!
Of course I’m being a bit facetious and I have been known to use the odd infographic in my lesson, but I think I am pretty careful to weed out the visuals that blatantly misrepresent the truth. It isn’t always obvious, but with a little bit of sleuthing, anyone can separate the wheat from chafing (bad data use rubs me the wrong way). It was that very idea that started me on the journey to actually include MORE infographics in my classroom. Why not have the students critically analyze the data to see what has been carefully chosen, not added, or twisted in knots. Here is how I plan on going about this. Continue reading Representing
Image courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M
I admit it. I am one of those who actually likes writing tests. I hate marking them, but as a student, I actually looked forward to exams. Why? For the most part, I was able to coast through most of my high school classes and then cram at the end of the term for the final. I could remember most of the thing I needed to get a high enough mark to complete the class. Not the best way of working and that eventually changed in university, but it illustrates a few problems with testing as it is primarily implemented in schools.
I teach adults which is different than teaching children or young adults. For the most part, there is a motivational shift, so what I am about to propose probably wouldn’t transfer as well into the K-12 system. Also, I teach English language students which is different than teaching science or math. Lastly, most of my students were raised in cultures where education is approached differently than in Canada where I teach. Those are my caveats.
I was thinking today about the upcoming term and how I use assessment in my classroom. For the most part, I don’t have a lot of control of what happens since I work for a university and there are some things that need to be done to meet the institutional guidelines for the course. There is some flexibility in what I do beyond the two biggest tests (ie. midterm and final exams), but I can make changes in how I assess beyond that. To this point, I have tried and number of approaches with varying success. All of these assessment types have been set by me according to what I have felt is best for assessing how my students are progressing. Then today, I came across this tweet from the Cambridge University Press ELT department: Continue reading Assessing