Issue #86 - The Spaces in Between
It has been a good week, I finally feel as if I’m making a dent in my long to-do list and finding some time to write and even plan ahead for the second part of the semester.
We’re starting to find a routine, although today is Yom Kippur and the boys are home from school, they’re heading off to do some trampolining, and as I write they’re sleeping in and I have a few moments to sit with a coffee and reflect on the week. It rained yesterday and it is cool outside, there’s a thick fog which will surely burn away once the sun gets up, but for the moment it’s eery and atmospheric looking out across the street.
Thank you for the fun emails I got following the publication of a special issue of The Cycling in Between. It seems there are a few of you who quite enjoy heading out for long rides and it was nice to share some tips and recommendations about where we might go next.
I managed a quick ride through the city on Sunday, but I’m looking forward to getting out on the trails. We’re approaching my favorite time of the year for cycling, a little cooler so you have to wrap up, but sunny and clear. I can’t wait to see the leaves change color, it looks like the fall will peak around mid-October, at least in our part of the country. I’m hoping for another year of deep fiery reds and terracotta browns.
Oh, btw I really wasn’t sure what images to add to this issue, so there’s a selection from the week so far.
Teaching & Learning
I’m having a rethink ahead of the start of the Everyday Learning: Designing learning experiences in times of unrest and uncertainty course which is slated to begin during the second half of the semester. Last time, we were able to explore ideas around education, think about different learning contexts, and design some bite-sized learning objects. I was especially impressed by those students who were inspired to create zines, and there was also the use of Instagram stories and other platforms to share learning.
I really had hoped that some students would create activity packs, the sort that we regularly spotted around the first lockdown period, taped to store windows and ready to pick up from libraries. So I’m thinking this time we’re going to be more direct and make some of these packs and I’ll happily purchase all the bits that people need and we can try and make as many as we can to send out to various places. I’m least sure about the last part, so I’m talking to a few potential community groups to see what they might like us to make or what they think might be needed. I’m always wary about promising too much to these groups or taking up valuable time, but it would be great to get a steer from them.
This is probably my most unconventional course, bringing together interests at the fringes of my work. I like that we’ll do some thinking, sketching, have some discussion about learning, and design something that aims to engage with social and cultural issues in the community. I’ll keep you posted and am happy to publish the revised syllabus, but you can read the old one, along with those from other courses.
I attended several talks this week and read a few of the interesting articles and links that were shared in the chat. I can sometimes become a little distracted by the backchannel, so it’s better when there’s a transcription following the talk, that I can go through, or a link to a google doc where someone has helpfully noted various things that have been mentioned.
In another meeting, I encountered live captions in Zoom but found it really hard to get used to. I appreciate this is important in terms of accessibility, and it is a really excellent feature. However, after a few moments, I was starting to feel quite queasy and when I realized that I couldn’t turn them off from the viewer side, I opened another browser window and used it to cover up the bottom of the screen.
I need to do more to create transcriptions of talks and workshop tutorials, I have regularly used Otter, mentioned last week, and love the way it inserts a timestamp into gaps between the speech that it is transcribing. It makes it much easier to search through and I have to say that it is impressively accurate, even with my dodgy British accent.
Lost and Found
We all know that Bilingualism is the norm, there are more polyglots than monolingual speakers, but we still talk in terms of someone learning to “speak like a native” which is bizarre or old-fashioned, to say the least. It’s fascinating to hear my new colleague Uju Anja talk about the effect this has on immigrants learning a new language, or on those we term heritage speakers. There are deep racial and ethnic issues in language learning which need to be addressed. It is true to say that monolinguals will use language to other identities of groups, families or communities where there are two or more languages spoken. Monolingualism is oppressive in this instance, or at least the ideal that there is a primary language, usually the language spoken by the dominant culture. It’s important then that we celebrate bilingualism and trans-language use at every opportunity, and not think of it in mere practical communicative terms, but as a wonderful expression of the self, our society, and our ever-shifting and evolving humanity.
Here are some of those links I mentioned, together with others gleaned from this week’s online reading.
This neatly packaged lesson from The British Council on CLIL - Content and Language Integrated Learning, this article on how babies learn language, and how early multilingual exposure supports effective communication.
Thought this visualization of some of the 7,102 languages spoken throughout the world (that we know about) was pretty impressive and worth spending a moment searching through.
I have written about the need to ensure the wellbeing of our students especially during the great pivot to remote learning. I thought this was a good post-pandemic reminder about how we can continue to alleviate the conditions for stress, and from a TEL standpoint, think about how we might harness technology to make things better for students.
Oh, finally - why can’t we get passwords right? Because our brains aren’t wired to think of good ones or remember them.
I highlight last year was watching Michaela Coel’s brilliant television series, I May Destroy You which drew wide critical acclaim for the way it dealt with its difficult subject matter. I enjoyed this article in the Guardian with questions for Michaela asked by various people, including actors, musicians, and other well-known types.
Last semester I enjoyed the privilege of teaching with Dr. Craig Moreau, who joined our class to talk about how to work in teams and collaborate with others. Really, I wish I had met Craig a long time ago and I felt that I probably asked him as many questions as the students, such was my fascination with his scholarship and research. Luckily for us all, CP (as we know him) is sharing his expertise right here on substack with his weekly newsletter Productive Conflict. I love the title, so often we are afraid of working with others and think of the tension and potential challenges ahead when really this is humanity’s super-strength, that often what we can produce when we work together can be much more than the product of individual efforts.
As teenage-dom means seeing less of our 14-year old, with his busy social life, multitude of sporting activities, piles of homework, and a general shift in wanting to spend time around the family (he will return to us in good time, we hope); one thing that is keeping us together is an evening tv watching spectacle. It’s getting harder and harder to find something that sets the right tone, some of my picks have been hopelessly off target.
This, however, hit the spot.
This Taiki Waititi produced series on Hulu, written and directed by Sterlin Harjo focuses on a group of Indigenous teens in small-town Oklahoma, and is made by an almost entirely Indigenous cast and crew. I watched it with our kid, he enjoyed the characters and it challenged some of the more purely historical (less cultural) perspectives that he’s learning at school about Indigenous people of America. There are some great scenes and enjoyed those with Dallas Goldtooth as the Spirit who dispenses advice and appears when one of the teens, Bear bumps his head or loses consciousness. Check it out.
Next week I have more of the same, a few deadlines looming, and hopefully the opportunity to meet people and set a few ideas loose. I’m trying to manage my time so that I can open up that sketchbook a little more. Last night’s soccer practice was canceled due to a waterlogged pitch, so I had a chance to try out a gel printing plate, (image at the top of the newsletter), experimenting with shapes and figuring it all out.
That’s all from me this week, take care of yourself and see you next time.