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Last week's keyword for me was, "Disconnect." Although I appreciated the guest lecturers, I found myself either not paying attention at all or zoning in and out. When the first woman, I forgot her name, came in to speak, initially I was intrigued by the handouts -- I liked that they had practical teaching methods for reading. I also payed attention when she explained how the iPad was used in the classroom as a tool for gathering data and as a tool for visual communication between parents and teachers. However, I'm not going to lie, I barely listened to her speaking for most of the lecture and the same thing happened when Mary came in to speak about the Zimbabwean (?) women and their role in the trade markets.

The fact that I paid very little attention to the guest lectures bothered me. So, I began to wonder, is it me or is it what was being said? I think it was a combination of both. 

The more we talk about literacy, the more I realize about myself as a learner. I know now that I get completely lost when a connection between what is being taught and the overall "picture" is not made. Take for instance Mary's lecture, it would have never occurred to me that the women of Zimbabwe had become literate in a different setting, the market, if Mia had not made that connection for me. And I find myself experiencing similar disconnects in Pim's and Rob's class during discussions.

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Imagine Africa Field Trip Reflection: Healing & an Unforgettable Experience

I have three words: What. A. Week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are so many things that I want to blog about but I will stick to my incredible experience at the Imagine Africa Exhibit at the UPenn Museum.  I’ll do it in two parts:

Part I: I really enjoyed the field trip with the high school teenagers—I don’t think the trip would have been the same without them. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibit that allowed us to “create” Africa or, better yet, to reveal the many “stories” of Africa. Aside from the fact that the exhibit was limiting because you could only “imagine” Africa with the images/words/media clips available, I felt empowered. I felt empowered in the sense that I had the ability to determine whether or not I wanted Africa to be described as “beautiful” vs. “Unique” or “Modern” vs. “Rural.” Of course, Africa can embody both components but having a say in what Africa meant to me instead of having someone impose their views on Africa, particularly in education settings, on me was a powerful moment. My group happened to have the word, “healing.” And although, initially, we thought that there was no healing in the world, or very little, seeing the high school sophomores excited at the chance to define Africa and to make meaning out of her history was healing happening right before my eyes.

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Reflection on Technology and Social Media

After weeks of class and many interactions with media and technology, I now feel like I am in a position where I can  really assess how technology is affecting (good and bad) my life.

Just from this class alone, my tech and computer  literacy has sped up faster than I expected. Not only can I type super fast, navigate the world of touch screen, and balance multiple social/interactive websites, I can also think in very short, twitter-like sentences (I am not so sure that is a good thing). However, I am struggling in the sense that I do not know how to (or can't at all) balance between my "worlds," as lugones would say, in school, personal, and social/online life. In some ways it is uncomfortable to have the three merged because there is no sense of identity. Part of having an identity is knowing that there are distinct "sections" of myself and I feel like they have all become one, muddled pile. Is it at all possible to make clear distinctions between identities once tech and social media is involved? Do we have control over these distinctions now that sites, like Facebook, can be left to the viewer's interpretation?

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"Writing White"

"...if our option is for (wo)man, education is cultural action for freedom..." ---Paulo Freire Saturday, I began my first day on the job as a MAST writing tutor to high school students excited at the chance to be a resource and mentor to four brilliant, students of color. Not wanting to impose, as Ivan Illich would say, my views around education, teaching, and, of course, literacy, I gave my students the freedom to design the writing curriculum and classroom space.I was very pleased with the outcome! My students wanted to learn how to write resumes, research papers, SAT prompts, and to write poetry! I was extremely impressed, not because their answers were not expected, but because I definitely did not worry so much about these things my freshman year of high school. Before the start of class, I had been instructed by my superiors to collect writing samples from my students. And so, on a topic of their choice, they each wrote a one page argumentative paper. However, when reading their writing samples, I became incredibly sad and discouraged as a tutor. My kids, who knew what was expected of them academically and even professionally, did not know how to write "well." It was more than grammar and spelling (these areas could be worked on easily), it was the style, the flow, the tone, the words used in their writing that I knew would be looked down upon in higher education. They had not mastered what one of my students had labeled as, "white writing."

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"The ideal school is one without walls"

Below is my response to a twitter convo that began with "What is a school?" and evolved into "How does a school bridge the gap between the classroom and external experiences?"

Last semester I finished a course on the culture of poverty. It blew my mind when I realized that every race had a group of people that shared a culture that stemmed from poverty---one of survival, hopelessness, resourcefulness, the value of hardwork,and sufferings from marginalization.
Excited to read about poverty and the people who lived it, I dived right into readings from Oscar Lewis, who was an "expert" on the cultural traits of poverty, and Judith Goode, who defended and understood poor communities in contrast to Lewis. And so, through class discussions and readings, I was under the impression that I was "learning" because I was reading from scholars who dedicated their careers to observing and analyzing poverty.
     It wasn't until I was well into writing papers for the course using these sources did I finally stop and say to myself, "I know firsthand what poverty and its culture is like, why must I have old, white-privilaged scholars who never lived it validate my experiences in my paper?" To my frustration, I was learning things I had known all along. If anything, I was the expert.
    Which brings me to an answer of the question: How can schools bridge the gap between the classroom and external experiences? Well, we must change the structure of our schools by making the external experiences of the students the focus of the classroom.

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