Right off the bat I want to thank Jenny and Jamey for handling the presentation so well in spite of my abscence due to illness. (Still sorry about that guys)
My part of the project focused on primary education in Ghana because primary education has always been my passion. What was most important for me to convey was the awe I felt when looking at how much work had gone into the education system. I know it seems strange because so much of the formal education history is filled with failure and inequality, but I found myself inspired by how many times the education system was built back up in the face of failure. Obviously there is still a long ways to go and a lot of improvements need to be made, but I was struck by how resilient people were in terms of pushing the education agenda. I wanted to convey some of that because I think it can often be too easy to get lost in the government policies and issues surrounding funding and jurisdiction and we often miss the drive of the people.
I had an amazing experience in my field placement on Friday. I'm in a charter school where the special ed program is primarily inclusive. I frequently work with a student named "Jeremy" who often struggles to stay with the lesson, especially in large group instruction. One specific behavior that can be disruptive is when he calls out in the middle of the lecture--it is frequent enough that his classmates are distracted and that it interrupts the flow of the lesson. Throughout my time at this school, the teacher and administrators have been working on various interventions for him, including a paycheck for good behavior, check-ins with the teacher after every subject, and "choice time" when he makes it through a lesson. On Friday during the Writing mini-lesson, when he started to interrupt, the teacher told him to get a piece of paper and write it down. He did! He makes so many connections to the material, and he wants to share it with everyone, but in the middle of the lecture is not the most appropriate time. By writing it down, he got to express himself without requiring anyone's immediate attention. He made it through the rest of the mini-lesson and worked productively and independently throughout Writer's Workshop, specifically answering the prompt from the mini-lesson using appropriate vocabulary and responding to the feedback I gave him.
After skyping with the founder of an NGO which provides libraries and Ghanaian children novels in Ghana (I forgot the name of the NGO but I believe Kathy Knowles is the name of the founder) and learning more about the history of formal education in Ghana, I became to reflect a lot about what could be done to improve the education system in Ghana. According to Ms. Knowles, literacy is a problem in Ghana because reading is not seen as a leisurable activity, and is only associated with academic work. Moreover, education there is based upon repetition and memorizatioon, thus school can be very boring and dry to students. Also, students are constantly anxious about being graded since the whole curriculum and attitude of the teachers is based upon doing well on the exams. Additionally, I personally feel that such a system does not cultivate appreciation for the art of learning. We've virtually discussed (via twitter) the importance of making mistakes for one's learning and education. However, such a system in Ghana appears to leave no room for mistakes, or creativity for that matter. These aspects along with many others compose Ghana's education system and consequently do not appear to be conducive towards a positive, fun, and interesting learning atmosphere for students (or the teachers).
Given the nature of our course and our affinity towards the inclusion of technology, as well as comments made via Twitter recently, I’ve been considering the impact technology can have in other educational settings than our own.
I’ve been thinking back on my own education and the slowly growing incorporation of technology into it. I remember when it used to be if you had a projector in your classroom you had advanced technology. How is technology currently used in a public high school? When I was a senior in high school, we had ONE SmartBoard in the school, in my A.P. Physics class, and we must have used it about two or three times throughout the duration of the school year. For the most part it was off to the side of the room and no one was inclined to use it. When our teacher brought it out, it was mostly for play - what he was showing us was physics-related but it was just for fun as it was after we had already taken the A.P. exams, so it was never really used in the daily lessons.
On a visit to a public high school last year, I talked with some teachers who expressed frustrations with the increase in technology brought into their rooms as they did not know how to use the products brought in, i.e. SmartBoard or otherwise, and were given no instruction as to how best to incorporate them into the lessons nor any orientation towards their functions.
I have a confession to make. In eighth grade, I was first exposed to a documentary called Invisible Children that exposed the longest running war in Africa with all its atrocities. From that point on, being apart of this organization was my life and passion. I felt so enraged that human beings could be treated as animals and slaves in this day and age. I was a founding member of the club in high school as well as at Bryn Mawr where I hosted many fundraisers and participated in peaceful demonstrations on the behalf of the children of Northern Uganda. However, this past summer after six years of involvement, I came to the realization through divine intervention per se that Invisible Children as an organization had consumed me and made me into a monster. Instead of continually being empowered to help children abducted and forced to fight in a terrible war, I was more concerned with receiving the recognition and glory for my good works. The irony in all this is that the initial spark that created this passion for activism came from this deep belief in human rights. I really started thinking about how this passion is connected to the 360 program when Teresa came to our class and asked us why we were in the class or program. Originally, I applied because I had a passion to help from a position of privilege as well as compassion. However, through the 360 program, I no longer see a single story. I had compassion for children that were used for rape as a weapon of war, but I did not allow myself to see the an amazing culture.
I’ve been thinking about how useful it is to have so many different majors present in this literacy class and 360 - In a discussion on Tuesday in Psych, many of us were really confused about how to proceed with the unfamiliar psychology terms. But Manya was able to give us a really good explanation - we kind of drilled her for information! Also, Lucy and I were talking about her background in Anthropology this morning - this will be useful in our explorations of culture.
We are a community of many different skill sets - and we can benefit from all of those disciplines when we are open to learning about and from each other. It’s really difficult to ask for help - especially when (often) our previous education calls for independence and individuality. However, knowing your resources and using them effectively - that does not imply dependence, but a kind of fusion or interdependence.
I was recently asked to post about assessing the impact of NGOs in Ghana. Here are some resources that I found:
Be sure to check out the Institutes, Think Tanks and Reports section of your course guide. It lists several websites that will have reports from major non-profits in West Africa.
In addition to the general social science article resources (e.g. JSTOR, ProQuest, Google Scholar, etc.) two databases that will have international NGO reports would be:
Search these databases for keywords like (NGO or non-governmental organization or intergovernmental organization) and (accountab* or monitor* or evaluat*). Here are links to two productive searches I ran in Google Scholar's Advanced Search screen:
In case anyone missed what my face looks like when we discuss Twitter in class just picture a child in a sauna who keeps going outside to get ice cream, bringing it in, and watching sadly as it melts for the seventh time in a row. I go through these phases with Twitter, I think I vaguely get it, I get a little excited because I (kind of) know what's happening, and then I log on and see a massive jumble of tiny snippets of conversations I can never catch up on with a thousand links that send me all over the place and I'm back at square one. I think part of the reason I am so bad with Twitter is that I don't like it. That is my main point and already I would have used about three or more Twitter posts to say it, unless I simply wrote "I dislike Twitter and suspect it is mutual". I grew up in a house with more books than furniture, I've always read the book before the movie, and I still prefer to thumb through giant reference books for information. I am not built to sum things up succintly (as you have probably guessed by now).
This image is from an episode of West Wing, where people bring in a map of the world that is upside-down and explain why it changes everything. The initial reaction, of course, is to laugh because it's such an odd idea and seems so trivial. However, once I began actually looking into this after our class discussion of "world travel" and perceptions, I realized there is actually something to it. For one thing, the continents are re-sized more acurately, but also it does make you think about the relationship between North and South and Top and Bottom. Even if you don't realize it, I certaintly didn't, constantly seeing the US as near the top of the world, or at least above other countries on the map has an implication of power and importance. Imagine if we were no longer North America, but South? Besides the fact that it sounds weird, are there any other reasons we would object?
While listening to the TED talk I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this idea of a "single story". Initially I agreed because frequently there are single stories or party lines that get fed to us and when you actually research the topic you find out that there were a million other voices that got ignored in favor of one idea. However, it was that thought that made me question the conclusion even as I came to it. Is an idea a "single story" of sorts? When you hear an idea or story don't you automatically internalize it in one way or another and make it different? Even if it's just the difference between laughing at something or not, or agreeing with a statement or remaining silent--doesn't that change the way other people see it (or hear it, read it, etc.)?