Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Learning in a non-GST classroom

Ladies and gentlemen, the door and the clock.  This is a sight very familiar to all who are anxious to leave class where learning is unfulfilling.  The hands on the clock are more familiar than whatever is on the board as the students’ gazes constantly flicker over to it to see how much time has passed and how much is left.  The garbage cans beneath the clock, casually placed, may or may not signify what the students think about what the professor and the college has decided they need to know.  Also telling is the small sign on the door, “Did you log off?”, as if to remind students to shut off their brains and critical thinking at the door, to log off and simply allow themselves to be led.


Global Studies Learning

I just read Leah’s email and two ideas came immediately to my mind. Usually I second guess my initial thoughts but I’m sticking with this one.

The first picture is Batman. No, not because learning in Global Studies is attractive (obviously) but because the person you are when you’re in a Global Studies class, your identity, is always changing. Which I think is the best part and the most conducive environment to learning. GST classrooms provide the opportunity to analyze topics from multiple lens. Within GST classrooms, learners have the chance to be listeners, provokers, activists, debaters, questioners, explorers, etc. I used Batman in my identity journals and I’m choosing to re-visit the superhero because the underlying message and theme is applicable to this question. Batman, like GSTers, has a changing identity: billionaire philanthropist, Bruce Wayne, and of course, the Batman. Unlike other classrooms (at least the one’s I’ve been in) demand one identity from you: a recipient. You are a recipient of the information that is delivered to you, you are not the one pursuing the knowledge.


The second picture I chose to post is a line. Point X to point Y. Linear. It is pretty self explanatory, specifically in regards to why this does not reflect a GST environment, but just in case, I’ll elaborate. Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of communal learning, a horizontal style of teaching/learning, a re-conceptualization of education and the banking style of education (coined by Paulo Freire). A straight line, a beginning and an end that is measurable, quantifiable, definite, is the opposite of the process of learning in a GST class.


Meeting (Tuesday 10/30)

Despite the dreary weather outside, the atmosphere at our group meeting tonight was cheerful and optimistic. In replace of our usual Slavin meeting, we decided to meet off campus at my house and bond over something other than education: pasta.

I can’t speak for the group, but I felt that tonight’s meeting was the most productive meeting yet and the most honest. We addressed any misconstrued texts/facebook posts that could have come off snippy and worked together to move past them. Most importantly, we agreed on the importance of meeting face to face in order to progress as a group. Having those honest conversations are essential to not only bonding but to the overall success of the group. In this case, I define ‘success’ as being able to collaborate and build off of other member’s stories, experiences, knowledge and research.

So, after we gluttonously indulged ourselves with pasta (!!!!!) we got down to business. Despite midterms, work, personal stress, everyone made an effort to be at the meeting tonight. That is more than I can say for myself these past two weeks, so I applaud you guys and want to thank you for prioritizing the group.

In terms of the meeting, we covered a lot of material. We discussed updates with community partners (DAE, Generation X, and still waiting to hear back from Youth in Action). We all agreed that despite the dreaded lit review, we are so psyched to collaborate with a community partner.

We also thought it could be cool to try and implement something sustainable from the community partnership we established. For example, if we work with generation x, having the students come to PC as an afterschool club and write or talk about this pictures. Who says their work has to stop when we turn in our thesis?

We also talked about rediscovering our purpose and what motivated us to research education. Everyone contributed personal stories for this, whether it was related to abroad experiences or working in bi-lingual classrooms in Rhode Island. This conversation alone added a great deal of depth to our entire project because we were able to really hear why each of us chose this group.

Also, might I add that this could have been the most essential part of the meeting, we decided that we (hopefully) are going to relocate our weekly meetings to cafes around Providence. If we move our meetings up to 5 or 530pm we could meet at Duck and Bunny or Olgas Cup and Saucer and that way we’d be back for nightly meetings.

I was also able to post my autobiography! Granted it took about 2 hours…(thanks guys for waiting) but it should be all set. Finally!

To conclude this post, we all provided quick objectives regarding where we hope to be at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Anne: Has overall framework but needs to find sources that further back up what she’s saying. (I.e. will continue to look at the books she has, etc).

Taylor: Focus more on ‘what i’m doing about language’ — narrow down the topic and scope (foreign language, bilingual education, global language–have to choose one!)

Lynnzie: Hope to have read more things and to start trying to answer the basic but hard questions that Anne posted from talking with Kara/ figure out direction of paper

Grace: I need to pick a topic. I’m stuck between Southeast Asian education and identity and language- if I could somehow combine the two that would be ideal. I also wrote a shorter research paper abroad on language and identity which could be a great foundation for this paper if I chose to go that way. In the meantime I need to keep READING. And posting on other people’s blogs.

Brenna: Plans to keep researching and figure out the direction of her paper

We are also hoping to meet with Leah, either after class or at the Duck and Bunny, because she wrote her thesis on education. We’re going to plan that out this week, hopefully she won’t be too busy with her work schedule!

As a group, we want to continue progressing together. This means more posts on other people’s blogs, more comments on each others posts, more communication (and maybe using the chalkboards in Feinstein or lower level of the library?).

Stay dry!

overdue update

Totally meant to write this post this weekend… I finally began reading for my lit review. I had put it off for so long, feeling like there wasn’t enough information on my topic. But then, last week, so as not to have to go to our weekly meeting with zero updates, I picked one of my articles and read it. Just by reading this one article, I realized that there is more than enough information on my topic and I now have several different directions that I can go for further research. The article, talking about involving men in what is called violence prevention education, divided this type of education into three broad categories- educating the individual, educating the community as a whole, and educating providers. It referenced a few specific programs that have made progress with this topic- in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States. So I think I want to look into a couple of these programs and, depending what I find, perhaps concentrate my lit review on a few specific programs and studies in a few specific places.

Don’t forget to contact the community partners we talked about in the meeting!  (it had fallen to the back of my mind, but I’m on it now)

B4 the power goes..

Hey everyone. Hope you are all staying warm/safe around Provi but just wanted to share some research I have been doing while staying in. In regards to my alternative approach to education something that has always interested me in the idea behind a Montessori education. It’s mission and or philosophy is as follows,


Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to eighteen years old.[1]

Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s naturalpsychological development, as well as technological advancements in society. Although a range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:[2][3]

  • Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 9 years old by far the most common
  • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  • Constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
  • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators

In addition, many Montessori schools design their programs with reference to Montessori’s model of human development from her published works, and use pedagogy, lessons, and materials introduced in teacher training derived from courses presented by Montessori during her lifetime”

A montessori education embodies the thing that really interests me the most about education and that is, the emphasis on independence in the curriculum seeing as that allows a child to prosper in their own way and not feel boxed in and constricted by the generalized curriculum that has been put in place. An idea like Montessori school is not a utopia rather an alternative. But something I continually struggle with is that will it forever be an alternative or an actual possibility to be put into place. Just thought I would share a little something about the research I’ve been doing on our “day off”.

Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself. – John Dewey

Thesis Update – Bilingual edu and policy

So my most recent readings have had to deal with bilingual education.  I took a particular interest in bilingual education after volunteering in a bilingual school when I was in Madrid.  I guess what has peaked my interest as of late has been the relation between language learning and education policy, especially within the US.  Is the system serving the needs of the people, most specifically English language learners?  Well the answer is kind of no.  The problem with this too is that it’s been very hard to gather good evidence on whether bilingual education is actually working, and hence if we don’t have the evidence to back it up, then support becomes minimal.

Some of the obstacles that threaten bilingual education are as follows: double standards about bilingualism, evaluation methods becoming political, varying meanings associated with terms such as proficient, fluent, etc. (terms which we use to gauge language progression), a heavy oral emphasis within bilingual education (which is only looking at progression through one particular aspect of language use), etc.  One of the more glaring hindrances to bilingual education is the idea that the two languages are in competition with one another.  As researchers have pointed out, the two languages are interdependent and don’t compete for space or resources.  In connection with this language competition, people are also wary of language immersion programs because they don’t want to put any risk to the native language and consider bilingualism as an additive.  This depends largely on whether it is the dominant community being immersed into the minority or vice versa.  This argument has a lot to do with language and identity.  There is a lot of controversy regarding English only education.  In the case of the US, it is seen that if there is no English language instruction for minority learners, then this will result in a degradation of English attainment as well as a dilution of Anglo-American culture.

Before doing this, I had thought of bilingual education as somewhat of an alternative form of education in that it was trying to give importance to both languages.  In the school where I volunteered in Madrid, the kids took English language classes, but then were also required to take science and art classes instructed in English.  When seeing the second language removed from just a traditional language class setting, I thought it helped give it a greater importance.  When reading about some of the models in the US though, it seems to me that, especially when put in practice, bilingual education is more of a stepping stone for the minority group to enter into the dominant culture than for both the dominant and the minority group to use both languages fully together.  (The dual-language model is the closest model of bilingual instruction that will try and give importance to both languages.)  In one study that I looked at, the all English programs and the dual language programs acted in an inverse relationship based on geographic location.  For example, the closer the program was to the border, the higher amount of of dual language programs there were, but then the further you got away from the border the higher amount of English only programs were.  This shows the impact of community on language learning as well as calls attention to how immigration patterns can/will greatly affect school and learning dynamics in this way.

As far as how I feel about where I’m at, I think I need to make a web similar to Anne’s.  I’ve looked at very different aspects of language learning and so my research seems kind of disjointed.  Maybe if I make the web answering some of the more basic questions about my topic then I can better guide my research.


What I love most about a liberal arts education is the way I can find connections between all of my classes and see how they relate to the bigger picture.  Democracy and governance have been a central theme this past week in my Philosophy and Spanish classes, which was in perfect timing with the foreign affairs presidential debates.  In my Philosophy class, we’ve been reading Jacques Derrida’s Rogues in which he deconstructs the idea of democracy in order to show it as something other than what we believe it to be.  One of the necessities for democracy is to have the space necessary to be free to think.  My professor suggested that the purpose of education is to teach about governance and self-governance.  When standardization gets involved, it takes away people’s ability to think freely and critically.  My ears perked up when I heard this because it’s a great discussion to have for this education thesis.  This is a problem with our traditional education system.  It imposes limits on us that only allow us to think in molds that it enforces.  Exploring alternative methods to education is important in trying to restore that space alloted for us to think freely and critically.
Related to these ideas, in my Spanish class there has been a lot of discussion about relations between the United States and Latin America, most specifically with Cuba and Puerto Rico.  We read an article called “Nuestra América” or “Our America” by José Martí, an important political and intellectual figure in Cuba.  In this article, he talks about governance in Latin America saying that trying to copy models from the United States and Europe is not going to work for Latin Americans.  He urges for an education that teaches the students the art of governance, but one that is rooted in the elements of that specific country, its history and its reality.  He notes that one of the biggest problems for Latin America has been that leaders arise that do not know their country and try to use the same molds used by other countries without trying to adapt it to their reality.  Standardization, or conformity as he calls it in his essay, is the greatest enemy for us.  This realization is something that educators everywhere need to work to defeat.  As a student, how many times have I been frustrated that my teachers could only explain things to me in one way, or that we only had to do things this way?  Educators must rise to the challenge and learn how to adapt to a changing student’s and a changing world’s needs.  Dialogue and collaboration with students is one possible way to help this.  We need to break the molds and create the space in which we can think freely and critically.


In my meeting with Kara, she asked me a lot of hard questions, like why education? Why girls? Why do we even care? It helped get me back to why I’m doing this, and that thought process will help in writing the lit review. This is my outline for my lit review. I need to expand upon everything of course, but it helps me see how one thought moves to the next.

I encourage you ladies to think about your topics in the same way. Why education? Why did I choose to think about it the way I do? What is my vision for a result of all of this? Maybe this would help for our blog posts this week.

Meeting Minutes 10/25

Thesis updates:
Lynnzie found some articles that are of interest to her and are good for her topic.
Anne had a good meeting with Kara and helped her think about her story and how her topic is fitting in with education. She is continuing to delve more into her research and has started into another book.
Taylor is continuing with her reading about language attitudes.  She’s hoping to spread into more books, especially about bilingual education.
Brenna has been doing more with alternative economies.  She contacted one of her abroad professors to ask him about her study abroad program’s methods of learning. She also talked a little bit about her work with Generation Citizen.

Revisiting Community Partners

We started up this conversation again.  We really like the idea of Generation Citizen.  Brenna is going to email Tom, a coordinator from the organization, to chat about us collaborating next semester with him.  Anne is also going to contact Nick for more info since he was the one that helped refer some organizations to us.

We went off on a small tangent talking about foreign language education and learning methods.  It was a pertinent topic, but just more of an off side.

Next meeting we hope to discuss objectives.  We also want to revisit our topic of education.  Lynnzie had mentioned looking at education with a different lense.  Maybe the fact that there are multiple lenses with which to view it.

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