bronwyn hegarty wrote,
I think it is important to look at some of the factors relating to cultural diversity: ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, location, professional role, belief systems and gender. All these factors influence the way in which people behave and live. This is because they develop particular perspectives and values depending on the group or community in which they reside.
I think there's something in this that can point to one of possibly many other solutions. For me the trick would be to show the diversity within the learning group and make it shareable and public to the group. Specifically I would suggest a group-situated approach to avoid stereotyping and to help generate a view of the social diversity on a given issue.
If you gather all the views on an issue in a student-generated dialogue and bring them together then the students express themselves as they wish to be seen regardless of gender, race, etc etc. Through that you can develop a collective identity for the task group.
In this way you would look at all the factors raised above and create a hybrid and inter-cultural course community.
I think the main problem many students have is very little sense of their community perspective (their sub-community and the wider community perspective) on a given course topic consequently they remain diverse individuals each different and apart.
Accessibility and inclusiveness as an approach is never-ending and could be a bank-breaker because it caters only to difference not togetherness. I think they are still very worthwhile and universal designs etc are still worth doing but I don't feel myself that they'll ever achieve their goal of total/universal inclusivity - how could they accommodate a universe of difference? A policy of togetherness might.
I'm rambling a bit so I'd better stop.
You have hit on a very important issue. For me, likewise, it is important to help students develop a sense of belonging to a community while they are learning. As you say if everyone feels comfortable and has trust in their fellow class mates they will be more able to express their views. This is very difficult to do. Supporting togetherness is definitely a more positive approach to addressing diversity than ranting on about diversity. In a way using strategies for togetherness does address the diversity issue by making it a non-issue - in some ways it ignores it by making it part of everything. (Like elearning.)
Boy this is becoming an exercise in philosophical argument.
But presently it does seem to be more PC to acknowledge diversity.
I agree accessibility and inclusiveness as an approach does highlight difference and so does Universal Design which I have mentioned previously. It is just one perception of how to acknowledge cultural diversity. But how can you do this if you do not make it transparent? Universal Design caters to diversity by creating learning spaces which enable access to anyone with a physical, psychological or learning disability. In that way we are seen to be inclusive as opposed to excluding a segment of the population.
I guess the argument is how to foster strategies for togetherness by making people more aware that difference is in fact normal. And by being sensitive and empathetic human beings we can provide effective and enjoyable learning experiences. I reckon we all need help with some tools to support this. Bron
For me the key point is to collaboratively create a representation of the diversity. That becomes a resource and a vehicle for individual thinking and discussion in the group.
One of the hardest things to do practically is to obtain a view of collective thinking in a community. Without such a view we develop our selves against what we imagine is the right way or we depend on others to tell us the *general* way of doing things or the *general* community view.
For me Universal Design seems like a set of principles to adopt rather than a guarantee of support for difference. It seems to me that it lumps all those with a physical disability together and says this is how we will support your difference. It ignores the differences amongst those within physical disability.
With Shared Thinking (and work elsewhere on Mathematics and networked classrooms with Walter Stroup and others) the goal is to generate a view of diversity by supporting the individual voice and synthesising it to display the community experience/view/context at a given moment in time. Diversity does not become a non-issue. Instead, it becomes the rationale, the engine, the driver or the motivation for further dialogue and development. It is actually THE issue.
I take your broad point Bron. I'm just diversifying it slightly. ;)
A question (which I'm sure you've heard before but which I think is playing itself out in complex ways socially): If all individual voices are heard, and if there are contradictions among those voices, what's to stop it becoming a cacophony in which nothing is agreed on?
I really like the notion of Universal Design that all of you are fleshing out here -- I feel it intuitively but the concept - as a concept - as you are presenting it here is new to me (as is a lot of the theory in the videos themselves)...and I love it!
I'd like to second the motion that you run an experiential webinar on this -- please sign me up as a participant.
Good question. In fact there is no goal to achieve agreement unless we might think about agreement on the overall landscape of the community and agreement of the extent to which the representation of diversity is indeed representative.
The greater the diversity the richer the end-product which aims to show multiple perspectives on the issue as seen by the community/class (group-situated).
As the process goes along individuals talk, listen and see different ideas that support their own thinking. At the end each individual can vote on the ideas they have generated (student-generated questions) to produce this portrait of diversity in context. Then we have a measure of collective thinking and a firm basis for further development.
I should just add that this is a face to face activity using networked classroom technology. The electronic product can be shared and discussed online but generating it online is more problematic.
How are you today? I hope you're well and thank you for a very kind offer and kind words about my research. It's always nice to hear what people think and how it comes across to other people.
I'd love to do a webinar or even 2. My only problem is next week when I'm doing a tour of Scotland for a couple of presentations. I'm away from Monday until Thursday night. So if it wasn't too late I could manage Friday afternoon/evening GMT next week?
It'd be a wonderful opportunity to do a webinar on Shared Thinking sometime too. Thanks for that. Scheduling is tricky again. I'm away in Denmark 1st week in May then in Malaysia in 3rd week of May. So it would have to be last week of May or June is clear just now. Are they any good for you?
Whatever the outcome, thank you for the invitation and interest. I am grateful to you.
One other point that comes out of this. It occurs to me that time zones are an inter-cultural issue in online learning aren't they? :)