Context Matters – views from around the world

By Maha Bali and Tanya Lau (EdContexts Facilitators)

As facilitators of EdConteXts, we tend to notice when others speak about context in sensitive and thoughtful ways, and we thought we would share some of our “picks” this month for posts we’ve come across on the web that showed sensitivity to context in education. This is like what CLMOOC call “Find 5 Friday” (#f5f) – so here are our five for this month.

Hybrid Pedagogy (open access journal)

We like the journal Hybrid Pedagogy for many reasons, including the fact that they published a couple of articles by two of our facilitators (Shyam and Maha) just before EdConteXts was launched. A recent article we liked on Hybrid Pedagogy by Janine deBaise debunks the myth of “best practice” in education. She poses the problems of using any best practice guidelines universally and regardless of context, without considering individual student needs, abilities and interests, and gives examples from her own teaching.

Teaching Social Justice (blog, now with guest contributors)

This interesting post on the Teaching Social Justice blog, on Living in a Patriarchal Society, and watching the embedded video (also embedded below) highlights the nuances of sexist behavior in Nigerian culture through a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The beauty of the talk is in how it shows both that sexism exists all over the world, but also manifests itself differently in different cultures. Maha listened to this, and as an Egyptian found a lot resonated with her, but much also did not. For example, in Egypt, women are recognized normally at restaurants and if giving money to someone. However, most of the other double standards mentioned in the talk apply to Egypt, and it is definitely the case that feminism is often attributed to angry, unhappy, unmarried women, and treated in a derogatory manner. Maha has heard men from East and West who believe there is no need for feminist struggles since women have now gained equal rights to work, vote, etc. Adicihie’s talk clarifies why the feminist struggles continue. Although she is not talking about education particularly, she touches upon how patriarchy affect girls’ ambitions and their capabilities to fulfill those ambitions.

This interesting post by Marianne Snow, reminds us of the lack of coverage in the US of the struggles of non-African-American minorities such as Latinos (and there are many more), and the importance of opening up these conversations in US classrooms. We’d add that in many other countries around the world, the struggles of all minorities are not taken into account, and children may go through their entire education without being exposed to role models of their own ethnicity, religion or background. For example, in Egypt, little is ever explicitly said (if at all) about the struggles of the Christian minority or the Nubian minority.

Rafranz Davis (educator)

Rafranz Davis wrote “Learning through rose-colored tights” where she highlights how uniform dress-codes for dance classes (rose-colored tights) ignored how children with different skin tones might feel (she reports feeling embarrassed). As an adult, she reflects on the importance of culturally responsive teaching, the importance of “making sure that the experiences and perspectives of students are a purposeful and integral part of learning”.

Kate Bowles (educator)

An interesting angle on context comes from Kate Bowles’ reaction to Steve Wheeler’s April fool’s joke earlier this year. It highlights how some attempts at making a point through humor might end up seriously harming other people – that sometimes someone in a position of privilege can make such jokes, and others in positions of privilege might laugh along, but others in different context can be truly hurt by such behavior, in this case, people who have suffered from addiction and depression. Kate also wrote a very interesting and reflective critique of Cathy Davidson’s use of an aboriginal man in one her videos for #FutureEd MOOC, and the implications of that. Her post makes one reflect about how superficial attempts at inclusion can backfire.

Anna Smith (educator)

This post by Anna Smith Your Voice in Mine, reflecting on how easily our words, media and work can be remixed and appropriated when it occurs in networked digital spaces, is really interesting to consider from the perspective of context. Particularly interesting is Anna’s writing of her work with Glynda Hull on the writing processes of Tyson, a high school student in South Bronx. She describes how he layered a variety of media from different sources, including a film clip from Bakhti, a young woman in India, to compose and significantly reframe his original message and create a new digital composition. This highlights the possibilities of digital networks for building new bridges across unexpected contexts. But it also introduces questions about how the original message is changed and how much of its intent may be lost, (mis?) interpreted, or (mis?) understood when it is repurposed and reinvented to fit a new context. Moreover, perhaps is the question: Is this issue even still relevant in the new digital age, if the original source is attributed and can still be accessed within its original context?

Do you have one or more articles or blogpost you’ve written or seen that you think fits with the EdConteXts theme? Tweet them using #edcontexts or better yet, submit your article to EdConteXts (click here to find out how).

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