Unit one: Critical Theory

I have been a teacher with Regina Public Schools for over 14 years and I can honestly say that every year, it becomes more and more obvious that schools are being used as agents for the maintenance of existing unjust power structures in society. I began to see this after my first Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and also having been a Core leader in our school building.

Image taken from Creative Commons

The current state of our education system, the leadership in our school buildings  and Edtech education are easily woven together to sustain and to produce unjust inequalities in our schools today.  We are teaching students that in order to become successful they must be compliant in the classroom and in the school building. Our school buildings create factory model systems that are standing in the way of progressing EdTech leadership.

As Stephen and Kirsten discussed in this week’s unit, there is the asymmetry of power, a power that will always sustain itself, protect itself and of course reproduce itself.  As mentioned earlier, our education system is used as an agent of the powerful to continue to reproduce and maintain its power. Our own Saskatchewan government who continues to slash funding for our schools, is a power system that sustains, protects and reproduces. It uses its own teachers and students as agents of evil where change does not happen for the better for our students and their education.

As an educational leader, I have to admit that I am sometimes guilty as I have become a willing captive to this power system where I am not arguing against issues that are not always what is best for our learners. I am involved in the rat race where I am to agree with my division / our government and to follow and continue to feed the power that may be unjust for all learners. I am dancing with fellow leaders and my school division who are sometimes very comfortable with the asymmetries of power that is found within our neo-liberal government.

power

Image taken from Creative Commons

Mass media and Edtech has the negative potential to domesticate and robotize our teachers our students and their learning. It is becoming more and more obvious that teachers are encouraged to use varied software in the classroom that may be heavily marketed as educational software. I think about Google Classroom and how so many students and educators are using this program. How is it fair that many are forcing students to use these programs and are steering away from the pen and paper projects and how many projects are now becoming more digitized? Technically we are teaching students that if they punch in the correct numbers and letters,  that they are truly providing the right answers. Is this change truly fair for all learners? How do we truly know students have access to Google Classroom via phone and computer? With the new Edtech that is becoming more available for classroom, may it be also overwhelming for teachers to catch up to the digital age?

Every year I am noticing that the practical and applied arts are seen as the unimportant subjects in the high school setting and the classes are being cut…which is crazy. There is this hidden cognitive curriculum where we are constantly pushing for over 90% success rate in our school goals in writing, reading and math. We are teaching our kids to regurgitate the information.  We have to remember that school isn’t just about memorizing the ABC’S and counting from 1 to 3! 

 As John Taylor Gatto discussed in his You Tube video, our school systems are teaching the kiddos to be conformists where we are teaching them to be uncritical of what they are truly learning.

As and educational leader I am reminded that it is important to take critical leadership training. Being non critical in my own leadership is also being an agent of the existing powers. I know that myself and other teaching colleagues are hard working and doing what is best for our students and at times are being honest with our students and teaching then what they truly need to know not just by what we are told to teach. I can see more and more educators in my school building allowing our students to use their voices and to de-tangle from the relationships of power. Teaching our students to become more independent and to question things being taught. It’s not about having to write an exam at the end of the semester. More and more teachers in my school building are pushing away from the “normal final exam” and letting students choose a project for their final assessment. It’s not about having our students regurgitate what they learned for the past four months, it’s about celebrating what they learned by a final project of their choice.

As an education leader it’s not about being a conformist, it’s about being informed, not having tunnel vision, making sure that all learners are heard / supported and creating true positive relationships. This work will not happen over night. It is something that needs to be worked on daily and consistently. 

I am curious to know, how have other classmates in this course seen teachers in schools challenge these unjust powers in our society?

Thanks.

Krista

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9 thoughts on “Unit one: Critical Theory

  1. Hey Krista,

    Great post! I find it really interesting that all of these digital tools that the board wants to be implemented into classrooms has started to create a digital divide among staff and students. Without the proper training with these digital programs, they expect teachers to pick it up easily when there is a learning curve involved. I have found, on my staff, that there has become a resistance to utilize these tools. Teachers have tried to implement tech programs in their classrooms with little success and then begin to resist using future technology because they wouldn’t get it and it’s too far out of their comfort zone.
    Another aspect of these movements are students from lower socio-economic backgrounds suffer because they do not have the technological tools needed to access their online work. I find for students there is little equity outside of the classroom and the lower class suffers because they are lacking the proper tools to properly complete technology-based assignments.
    What could the board do differently to help teachers become more literate, digitally? And how do we create equitable opportunities for all of our students?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Adam!
      I agree with you completely. I worked in a community school for 8 years before my current school and I saw many students from low socio-economic backgrounds suffer because they didn’t have access to the online tools that some had access to.

      To answer your question, I feel that our board office has improved a bit over the years with offering some more technology for students to have access to. Though I am hoping that they enforce the digital citizenship policy. Perhaps it’s because I am in the high school setting and why I am not seeing much change, but I think it’s important that students understand what it is to be a digital citizen….I am working on this for my major project and what I’m finding so far is interesting.

      Looking forward to working alongside you this semester.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Mike Wolf says:

    Great post. With the availability of devices at some schools, I wonder if ed tech could be leveraged to give a voice to those who typically feel shy or marginalized in class. I know that doing class discussions via discussion board occasionally instead if discussing aloud in class has given EAL students an opportunity to share their opinions that they otherwise wouldn’t be comfortable sharing. I’ve also found that Flipgrid can be a lot of fun as a means of formative assessment for students to bounce ideas around.

    As Adam said, that digital divide between students and staff can definitely be a struggle without proper training. In technology-based courses that I teach, I try to provide software flexibility when I can. If a student wants to use iMovie to make a video, great. If they’re using Windows Movie Maker, awesome. Outcomes don’t cite specific software that must be used, and I certainly can’t be expected to be an expert with all software. If the outcome can be met using technology, but there is still an “old-school” way to meet the outcome, I try to afford flexibility whenever possible. If students are creating a movie poster, it would be silly of me to force all students to create the poster, in Photoshop, for example, when I have students that excel at drawing. Will I have to asses students’ image manipulation using computer software at some point? Yes, I will, but allowing students to showcase their strengths is important, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Krista, I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful piece about power and how it has impacted you as a professional. The piece about the government of Saskatchewan slashing the funding of education is a scary example of how power can be abused in this province. I think of all of the cuts my school division had to make because of this decision and how this has impacted our students in a negative way. More recently, I think of our latest round of contract negotiations as another example of how the powerful people in this province view our profession.
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/contract-collective-agreement-saskatchewan-teachers-raise-1.4815730

    I also connected with your comments about mass media and ed tech having the potential to domesticate and robotize our teachers and students. As a connected educator in my school system, I can definitely see the potential of this problem if we aren’t implementing technology in the proper manner. I think it’s up to us as professionals to ensure we aren’t implementing technology simply for ease of access or because it looks fancy. As educational technology leaders, we must be the ones responsible for critical analysis of this technology.

    You raised a good point about students having access to these technology resources outside of the school setting. From my personal experience, I have always worked in schools where the majority of students have been privileged to have access to technology outside of the school setting. I am wondering if you, or any other members of our classroom have experienced this in their classroom and how they dealt with it? It makes you wonder if we are actually harming our students who are coming from areas of lower socioeconomic status. Would they be better off working on those paper and pencil projects when they are away from the school? As we move forward and integrate more technology into education, I think this is something we must consider when working with technology. We must find ways to continue to bridge the digital divide that exists in our schools systems.

    Thanks for the great post! I look forward to working with you this semester.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. carlacoop1 says:

    Hello Krista, Great post! I concur with your statements of the provincial government regarding our contracts and how it will continue to robotize the educational system. You have really made me think about technology in the classroom. I use tech in my classroom every chance I can, but I don’t come from a community that really worries about a child not having access to the tech at home (I know, first world problems), however, with that being said, do we really know what our students have access to AND how confident they are using them on their own?
    My view of Google Classroom is that it opens up the world of education to my students while they are outside of my classroom – but maybe it is constricting them if they are unsure how to access/use it appropriately? In my experience, I have had nothing but good results from tech in and out of the classroom as it has helped me build real-world scientists who can relate and solve problems, not just gather data, but research and tell me what the data is telling them. But again, I am in a community that promotes tech.
    You hit the nail on the head, so to speak, in regards to the PAA classes. We need these classes in our schools – our students need to learn skills apart from the 4 Rs. If we aren’t able to teach the arts, PAA, languages (Spanish), etc… we are offering a huge disservice to our students and therefore offering an asymmetry of power from the top down.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. scottgardiner12 says:

    Hey Krista, congrats on signing up for what must be your 64th graduate class (I might be exaggerating a little)!

    Also, great post! Two points, in particular, stood out to me.

    “We are teaching students that in order to become successful they must be compliant in the classroom and in the school building.” “As an educational leader, I have to admit that I am sometimes guilty as I have become a willing captive to this power system where I am not arguing against issues that are not always what is best for our learners.”

    I find myself constantly at war with…myself regarding these points and that’s what I alluded to in my first blog post. For example, classroom management is something that I have always prided myself on. I know that, regardless of whether I’m teaching a class of 32 grade 9s or 20 grade 12s, I am always going to be in control of the situation. How is that control partly achieved? Your standard factory model classroom. Rows, seating plans when necessary, compliance. I speak, you listen. Failure to do so will result in consequences.

    That’s not to say I’m totally inflexible. I have experimented with different seating arrangements/classroom setups in the past but I almost always find myself falling back on old faithful. Not only because of my own familiarity but for the students’ as well. More often than not, students have indicated to me that they’re fine with the “traditional setup” because it’s what they know. Familiarity, in this case, breeds both complacency and compliance.

    Another section of your post that I found interesting is where you discussed Google Classroom. As a frequent user of Google Classroom, I will admit, there are flaws. Like you mentioned, limited access for some students is a challenge as is proper training for educators. That said, there are benefits as well. Students that are frequently absent benefit because they can access the work that they missed from any device in any location. Parents also benefit because they’re able to view all of the assignments from throughout the semester. In addition, one can’t ignore the benefits of assistive technologies such as Google Read/Write when completing work on a device. The importance that is placed on ELA (5 courses required to graduate) means that we are going to have to use every potential tool at our disposal to help our struggling readers/writers.

    Again, I’m not saying that any of these technologies are cure-all solutions. They’re absolutely not. What they are, however, are potential tools that can be used to benefit student achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Scott thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on my post. (This is my last class! lol!)

      I too am loving Google Classroom and like you I personally believe this will help prepare them for the future with postsecondary and future job requirements. It’s also nice that parents can view how and what they are learning in the classroom. I agree like you that assistive technology is useful to support all our students varied learning needs especially as you mentioned the Google read and write….that has support so many of my learning while learning a second language in the classroom.

      Like

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