Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Looking At Content Through A Different Lens

Last Saturday, I had a chance to participate in "#SATCHAT," a weekly education chat on Twitter that takes place at 7:30 am EST. This week's conversation, titled, "The Missing Voices in EdTech," on diversity in Educational Technology, was moderated by Rafranz Davis, a Math and Technology educator from Texas and author of the book by the same name

During the course of the questions and answers came an exchange regarding a simulation game called "Mission-US- Mission 2: Flight to Freedom." Produced by New York Public Television with support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this simulation is intended to give students the experience of being a slave in the 1800's.
When Davis posted the link, I followed to see what she was talking about. At first glance, given who the creators were, and the blessing of the National Endowment for the Humanities, I was confused as to why it would be considered an "atrocity."

Our district has had a strong focus the last few years on equity, race and the achievement gap, and I serve on the Equity team at our district office. One thing that I have learned through this process is that the lens that I view the world through as a middle-aged, white male is that of the dominant culture, and I value the opportunities to hear other perspectives. 

A little while later, Davis posted on her blog about the game. Along with sharing excerpts from the story students go through, and asking questions of the producers, she makes the following key points:
Let me be clear in saying that learning about this time in history is necessary but doing so in a role playing game is not appropriate.
If your idea of “celebrating” the contributions of Black people during the month of February is a lesson in slavery…you are the one that needs a lesson in history and the countless contributions that we not only have made but are still making.
Our enslavement is not and should not be your lesson on resilience and grit.
I was somewhat embarrassed after reading her post that all of these concerns weren't self-evident to me at first glance. I tweeted out a link to her post and included the #sschat hashtag, in the hope that social studies teachers might take a look and give her comments some thought. 

Davis thanked me for the tweet, but it was really I who needed to thank her!

Davis has given me something to think about regarding the lens that I view my work through. It is an important reminder that diversity in education, is an important component, not just so that students see adults that look like them, but so that adults can learn from people who don't! 
Thanks, Rafranz for helping me see that!