March 12, 2015

Diverse Voices – a reflection on Rafranz Davis’ book

I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive my copy of The Missing Voices in EdTech: Bringing Diversity into EdTech by Rafranz Davis. I read it with pencil in hand and lovingly circled and underlined practically the entire thing. I connected with a lot of this book and I want to highlight areas that particularly resonated with me and the work I strive towards.

Need for diverse voices
On page 1, I knew that this was a story for me. As Rafranz began her conversation (because the book really reads like a conversation for me) on the need for diversity in EdTech I scrawled in the margin:

Yes! I am always wary of lists like ‘Twitter users you must follow’ because they often contain a lot of similar voices. It’s only through a diversity of stories that we can create anything new or even come close to any kind of common understanding.

And then, 3 pages later, I realized my margin scrawl foreshadowed my love affair with the book – in Rafranz’ words:

Multiple perspectives lend themselves to varied ideas, and it is in those ideas where we have a better chance of engaging in discussions leading to more equitable decisions. (p. 4)

Making connections
If we truly believe that content comes first, we have to lean more toward the skills and resources that define great teaching. (p.9)

This is how I try to stay connected with the teachers, directors, and consultants I work. I do not care about technology integration – in the true sense of the word – but I care about relationships, teaching & learning, planning, and development. And the only way I know how to embody that care is by working with educators and finding out what they care about in those areas so that my own work is directed by that. The use of technology will absolutely grow from those beginnings.

I also try to be aware of underlying forces when I work with different people – there is always a background story! Even those teachers who we feel only want to ‘disrupt progress’, it is never only that. There is a driving force and it often has to do with self-preservation in the face of change. I strive to remember that.

A lot of the work I am doing right now with my colleagues has to do with getting feedback on a new tool we are developing for individualized professional development (PD Mosaic). We are asking teachers, school-based consultants, and centre directors to play with it and give us feedback so that we can make sure it serves their needs and provides high quality development opportunities. We have already put some of the feedback we received directly into the tool and it will be updated over the next little while.

Student voices
Rafranz talks about missing student voices. That, specifically with students of colour (also students of poverty), their voices are missing from the conversations about their learning. I think that one of my responsibilities as a woman in EdTech (not to mention my responsibility as a human being) is to help create conditions where student voices are not only encouraged, not only heard, but implicated in the decisions that are made about their learning. I encourage you to read about Hector’s story on pp. 23 and 24 of Rafranz Davis’ book. I have to tell you, reading his story was emotional for me. I have seen similar decisions made for students in both youth and adult sectors that had such incredibly high-stakes impact on their lives. Especially in Adult Education where often students do not feel they have a voice for a variety of reasons, yet people assume that because they are adults they would speak up if they wanted to. The danger we do, when we assume voice for others.

Closing remarks
Get your hands on a copy of this book. I carry it in my bag everywhere I go – really. It is that good.

I have been teaching and consulting - from primary school through adult education - since 1996. Currently an education consultant with la Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles in Montreal, Quebec, I believe that sharing our stories is the key to getting better together.

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