Monday, August 30, 2010

Teaching digital learners

I really want to explore this more. I know I do a bit of this now, but I know that there is so much more out there. I love the work of Gadj & Jodi from Sharing Culture Online.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning from Yellow Rage

In two of three of my 1213QCA Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices lecture last week I showed this video, and I wanted to provide all the students with an opportunity to engage with this powerful and confronting (and very effective) work again.

Warning: Course Language

bell hooks in her essay Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance argues
The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of do-ing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture. Cultural taboos around sexuality and desire are transgressed and made explicit as the media bombards folks with a message of difference no longer based on the white suprema-cist assumption that "blondes have more fun." The "real fun" is to be had bybringing to the surface all those "nasty" unconscious fantasies and longings about contact with the Other embedded in the secret (not so secret) deep structure of white supremacy. 
In the video, Yellow Rage seek to challenge stereotypes and assumptions of "Asian" and "Asian-ness". To interrogate mainstream positions and assumptions the artists explore:

  • mainstream assumptions (and entitlements) about language
  • appropriation of Asian imagery ("fake Asian tattoo)
  • assumptions about the cultural and sexual behaviour of Asian women
  • the power of the knower to know about the Other, including the impact of on-going colonisation by the West
  • the centring of the mainstream
 Some questions for discussion:
  • What are the key themes the artists are exploring?
  • What do you think of the way that they express their point? Does "confronting" work? How does it make you feel?

Research: Seeing, Knowing & Doing

Last week I explored the idea of research for students in 1213QCA Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In the context of the student's work, I focused on the idea of research as not being about the stereotypical idea of research (thinking here - lab coats, clip boards, pen in pockets etc), but about how we, each of us, engaged in:
  • seeing
  • knowing 
  • doing
Seeing: we explored how each of us "see" the world depending on our we see reality. The way we see reality is often programmed by our upbringing, and our culture. This video helps to illustrate this simple point:

Obviously "seeing" is much more complicated than in the video above, but it gives a bit of a starting point. In relation to looking at the visual arts, Vincent Lanier, an arts educator identified 9 filters through which we "see" art:

1) What other people say bout art and the particular work2) The setting of the art work
3) How we have learned to see
4) How muchw e know about the elements and principles of design
5) What we know about the particular symbols that are used
6) What the art work reminds us of
7) How much we know about the history of the work
8) How we judge the work
9) What relationship the work has to our life.

Knowing:When we explore the idea of knowing in relation to research, I asked the students to answer two questions:

1) What do you know about Aboriginal art? (just list them)
2) What are the sources of that knowledge (how do you know what you know, where did you get that information from).

Looking at knowledge and knowledge production, we identified that the majority of our knowledge about Aboriginal Art (for most of the students), was knowledge that was written down and passed on by non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - teachers, curators, arts writers, art academics etc. This leads us to explore power - and the power of knowledge production.

When we explore doing, we explore our role within the research process. I really love to think about critical theory as an approach to exploring this. I find it really empowering. What Critical theory does is:
  • Challenges accepted norms and truths
  • Challenges privilege and power
  • Is explicitly about liberation & democratisation
  • Acknowledges that there are no absolutes/truths

Has exploring seeing, knowing & doing helped to unpack the process of research? Can you think of additional filter's to the nine identified by Lanier?

Friday, August 20, 2010

How my able-ism stuffed me up: A reflection on my practice

For years now, when I lecture, I rarely stand still. I wander up and down the corridors of the lecture theatre. Sometimes I get students up to interact, I ask them questions. I have been known even to move them around physically to illustrate a point. I don’t use paper notes. I’ll have a few PowerPoint slides that prompt the thread of my session. I have a big voice and I don’t use a mic because everyone can hear me. Or so I thought. 

My "performance" was rudely interrupted on Wednesday when a minute into my lecture two students told me that they couldn’t hear me. They were hearing impaired. Completely thrown, I ended up having to stand behind the lectern, something I almost never ever do. The position of the lectern in the Central Theatre at South Bank campus of Griffith Uni, is in the corner of the theatre, and IN THE DARK!!! As it turned out, my brain froze, and if how I felt about my deliver is anything to go by, for the students surely the lecture was sub-standard.

So what happened? 

I realised afterward that it was my own able-ist assumptions that stuffed me up. Roving mics are available in that lecture theatre, but it never occurred to me to get one because this “problem” had never presented itself before. Actually, writing this, it occurs to me that it probably has, and I was just too self-absorbed and inside my own head to see it.

I’ve always been committed to providing lecture notes and follow-up on the web for my students. I’m aware that economic access issues can prevent students from getting campus. Family commitments can impact student’s study opportunities - a sick child at home can mean that you miss the lecture where “they talk about the assignment”. In the past I’ve tried to provide additional support to international students whose lack of prior knowledge and understanding of the Australian context alienates their learning opportunities. I’ve encouraged them to relate the Indigenous issues work we do in the course to their own country. I’ve provided additional learning opportunities to student’s whose cultural capital meant that their ability to engage with the academy is hindered. And it’s funny, sad and pathetic (on my part), that in a lecture about re-thinking how we see the world and challenging assumptions, I was unable to do that for student’s whose physical needs impacted on their access.

What a wake up call! Thanks to the students who stopped me on Wednesday. It peeved me at the time. And I was cranky that I’d got thrown. But you have now allowed me to see what I didn’t see before. I've never used the term ableism before, though I've heard it used by others. My personal interests have always been in issues of race and culture and occasionally gender and sexuality. But the lesson i've learned this week is that privelige and needs transcend categories. My promise is that  I’ll do everything I can to ensure that I work with the needs of ALL my students.

Note: I've created a new category here on The Critical Classroom called Curating Your Thinking. This idea came to me in a lecture this week. For me, its about not letting other discourses determine how I will think about something. Or, probably more importantly, its about having an awareness of how prevailing discourses are influential and are present when we think. Still playing with this idea.
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