Plugged-in Pedagogy

IT in the College Classroom
Journal #2
As a long-time user of IT, I consider myself an early adapter and a skilled user, at least compared to non-professional IT experts! My mother was a computer programmer in the 1960s, and we had a computer at home while I was still in high school, so I have been surrounded by, and comfortable with, IT for a long time. As such, I tend to be a member of the “if it’s IT-based, it must be better” school – if we can toss something on-line, and make it more widely accessible, then why not? I haven’t changed my mind about the immense benefits and awesome potential of IT; however, I have learned to be more aware of the pedagogy that informs my IT designs, and to consider whether or not the IT tools that I am comfortable with are the best ones for the job.

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But that’s cheating!

Last spring, I encountered a case of plagiarism in one of my Cont. Ed. courses; for an essay assignment, a student submitted a slightly reworded version of an on-line essay available through one of the many Internet study guide sites. At the time, I posted my response, which provoked a few cheers from some of you.
The following addresses the issue of academic ethics in the context of the Internet, and is my first journal entry for the latest M.Ed. course I’m taking, ‘IT and the College Classroom.’ There’s also an interesting thread dealing with academic ethics over on Siobhan’s blog, so if you can still stand looking at your screen once you’re done here, go check it out.
The advent of the Internet has had a profound effect on education, and this effect is both positive and negative. In positive terms, the Internet has exponentially expanded our academic horizons. We have access to research and commentary from fellow academics from around the world. We can read out-of-print books, see rare film adaptations, and hear long-forgotten radio plays, thanks to the ongoing global academic effort to share more and more knowledge among more and more people. The academy in particular, perhaps, benefits from the same non-profit-oriented open source spirit that has given us free software such as Open Office, Linux and Moodle.

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You can call me “guv”

Tonight was “meet the teacher” night at the boys’ school; naturally, as a teacher (not to mention an overeager student) I went prepared with a series of questions designed to (a) help me understand what my children would be learning, and how, and why, and (b) establish me in their teachers’ minds as ‘that annoying mum who keeps interrupting my presentation with endless questions about skills and assessments.’ Mission accomplished.
Before we even got to the teachers themselves, though, there was a general assembly of parents to elect the parent representatives to the Board of Governors. This is a group of parents, teachers and administrators that meets once a month to discuss pertinent issues and make decisions for the school on behalf of all the interested parties. I offered myself as a nominee because one administrator cornered me as we were assembling and said “we really want you.”
Okay, so I’m a sucker.
So, I raised my hand, and my name went up on the board, along with seven other parents, some of whom had previous Board experience, and another couple of newbies. Since there are only six parent reps, one of whom is already in place, we had to vote for the five available positions ~ which meant that all of us nominees had to campaign, in the sense that we had to say a few words to justify our nomination. So I mentioned that not only did I have two kids in the school, and that I had volunteered for a few other things in the past, but that I was a college teacher and was studying for an M.Ed., and could thus bring a unique perspective to the Board.
Apparently, that was enough to get me elected to the Board, and subsequently, the Board itself has appointed me as the alternate sector rep, which means that once a month I might be asked to go to yet another meeting, this time with parent reps from other schools in our area, if the actual rep can’t make it.
All of this means that I have a chance to get to know the inner workings of the school a little better, and can add my voice to issues that directly affect my children’s education.
More importantly, obviously, is the fact that people voted for me in a school election.
In your face, 1986 prom committee!!


Last night, I put on my nice new summer dress and the shoes I keep promising I’ll never wear again and headed off to Place des Arts to witness the Vanier graduation ceremony.
As I’ve said before, as a teacher, my success is measured in my students’ achievements. So naturally, I was thrilled and more than a little proud to see so many of my former students cross the stage last night. Maria, Raihab, Sabina, Leonce, Laura, Zara, Susie, Amado, Tanika, Brandon, Monika, Anita, Howard, Inder and T.J., congratulations on a job well done! Congrats also to those of you who weren’t there last night. Sniffle.
This year, I volunteered to be the English Department rep on the Valedictorian selection committee ~ and I’m now planning to be on this committee until forcibly removed. It was a genuine pleasure to meet so many students who not only made the grade (literally) but who were so enthusiastic about learning and about Vanier. I’m the kind of person who develops strong emotional bonds with buildings, it seems, and it really touched me to meet students who felt the same attachment as I do to our college.
Being on the committee also gave me the opportunity to work with our selected Valedictorian; Philip, you did a great job, and more than vindicated our decision to ask you to represent your graduating class. Sniffle.
My only complaint about last night was the lamentable lack of representation from my departmental colleagues. We’re the largest department on campus, yet I was literally half our contingent last night. Perhaps this reflects the fact that the department is not included on the platform, which, given our numbers, and the ministerial and institutional emphasis on communication as a cornerstone of learning, is equally lamentable. Granted, many platform party members told me that it’s no picnic being up on stage, under the hot lights, for two hours, with specific instructions not to fan themselves or otherwise inadvertently indicate boredom; but frankly, that’s easy to say when you’re already part of the party, if you see what I mean. Suffice it to say that I think the English department should (a) lobby to be included in the platform party and (b) encourage its members to attend the graduation ceremony, so we can demonstrate to our students just how much it means to us that they’ve made it.
After all, if they’ve made it, we’ve done our job.

Who Cares?

Dynamics & Diversity in the College Classroom
Journal #3
The readings we’ve been looking at, whether their particular emphasis is on culture, gender, motivation, or discipline, all stress the aspect of caring. In fact, upon reflection, caring is central to most of the texts we’ve read in most of the courses we‘ve taken in the Master Teacher program; after all, why are we committing ourselves to the time and effort required of this program if we don’t care about our students and our work? Personally, I chose to take this program rather than pursue a PhD in English Literature, and I have no regrets whatsoever. I love my job not because I get to talk about great works of literature (believe me, that’s the last priority!), but because I get to work with some pretty fantastic students. Each semester is a new challenge and a new joy; the material may not change much from term to term, but you never teach the same student twice. Even the ones who come back for a second or third course are different each time, because they’ve undergone new experiences and learned new skills.

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The eyes have it

Dynamics & Diversity, Journal #2
Jane Elliot’s exercises in prejudice and discrimination were excellent illustrations of some of the concepts we’ve been exploring recently, and how these concepts may be relevant to our classrooms. Elliot’s workshops demonstrate how social groups are affected by apparently arbitrary criteria, and how values assigned to these criteria result in a system of privilege and disadvantage that can have significant effects on the members of the society.
Fleras and Elliot (not the same Elliot) talk about the “culturally invisible environment” in North American society and make the point that racism not just about disadvantages for those members of society who are labelled as ‘different’ or ‘Other.’ Racism, more insidiously, is about the tacitly-accepted idea that those who are not different are privileged. In Jane Elliot’s classroom exercise, this concept of assumed privilege is manifested in explicit terms by Elliot’s awarding of certain unmerited privileges to the dominant group, such as extended recess time and free access to the drinking fountain. The result of this privilege is that the excluded students felt, in the words of one boy, like “a dog on a leash.”

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On Authority and Classroom Management

Dynamics & Diversity in the College Classroom
Journal #1
When I read Savage’s “Establishing teacher leadership and authority,” I was reminded of some of the first instances in which I realized that teacher authority is not automatic.
Before I began my career at the Cegep level, I worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary level. I was never under any delusions about making elementary school a permanent home; I took the job in order to build up my resumé with some teaching experience. Prior to the Performa program, I had no training as a teacher, but I was able to consult with my aunt, who is an elementary school teacher. Armed with her suggestions, and the lesson plans of the teachers I was replacing, I thought I was ready. After two months of fairly regular work, I told the school to take my name of the list, and I’m ashamed to admit they were only too happy to do so. I had no control over those classes, and found myself frequently resorting to coercive authority, with very little effect. In retrospect, it’s clear that the students were quick to peg me as some one who did not merit expert authority – not only did I have no teacher training, I was asked to substitute for teachers at all levels, from Kindergarten to Grade 6, and more than once, for the gym teacher. Because I so often resorted to coercive authority, I didn’t merit any referent authority, either – in short, I was doomed!

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Fish in a Barrel

This past semester, the M.Ed. course I took was on the philosophy of education, which turns out to be fascinating. I remember really liking philosophy in university – I did two courses in my undergrad with a remarkable teacher; I enjoyed these courses so much that I considered doing a minor in Philosphy, only to find that I couldn’t stomach the professor of my third course.
The following is a paper I’ve submitted for the current course. The assignment was to critique an article, in this case, Stanley Fish’s ‘Always Academicize,’ originally published last fall in the New York Times.
In ‘Always Academicize: My Response to the Responses,’ Stanley Fish’s November 2006 response to critics of his earlier post regarding the role of teachers, Fish argues that “the redress of injustice and the inculcation of … values are worthy activities, but they are not academic activities, and they are not activities academics have the credentials to perform” (par. 1). As such, Fish believes that teachers should do “the job they are trained and paid to do,” exclusively (par. 1). The questions that arise, before one can accept Fish’s dictum, are threefold: what are academic activities, what credentials are in fact required to “redress” social issues, and what is the job that teachers are paid and trained to do? To agree with Fish, one must agree with his stated or implied answers to these questions; however, this agreement is not as straightforward as Fish would have us believe.

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Is Martin’s View History? Philosophy of Education, Journal III

Writing in 1981, Jane Roland Martin takes R.S. Peters and Paul Hirst to task for perpetuating a male perspective in the philosophy of education. Martin says that feminist scholarship must be integrated into the mainstream if we are to change this perspective to be more inclusive and accurate. Furthermore, Martin argues that beyond the male-dominated content issues, education is guilty of gender bias in terms of what we would now call the exit profile. Martin sees Peters’ “educated person” as not only one who has “grasped the basic structure” (Martin, ‘The Ideal of the Educated Person’, 101) of his respective domain, but also one who is “objective, analytic [and] rational” (102), all traits that Martin identifies as stereotypically male. The complementary stereotype, of course, is the feminine ideal of compassion, intuition and emotion.
In an essay entitled ‘If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All,’ author Margaret Atwood discusses many of the concepts raised by Martin, specifically in the context of women writers.

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Staring down the barrel of a red pen

It’s at times like these – when I am faced with three separate stacks of essays that seem to grow every time I leave the room to refresh my tea – that I wonder if I should teach pottery instead.
Cup leaks. You fail.