Are You Visible as a Learner? Are Your Students?

Definition of Culture:

  • the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

  • a way of thinking, behaving or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

“Culture.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web.1 Feb. 2016. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture>.

When as a baby boomer, I try to learn some new software, my instructor is often young and male. (My husband calls them the 8 year-olds on Youtube.) Some are great teachers, and I’m a motivated learner, but I’m always happy when another senior comes alongside. I’ve already talked about Seniors and Technology- today I’d like to talk about how learners can feel marginalized.

As a young girl, growing up on a Manitoba prairie farm, I read everything I could get my hands on. Our school textbooks and ‘readers’ in those days often featured pictures of farms, farm animals and barns. Now, a prairie barn in my experience looked something like this:

Manitoba Barn

But the barns that I saw in schoolbooks looked more like this:

Ontario maybe barn

It wasn’t until I was about 10 that my parents took us on a trip to Ontario, near Toronto. That’s when I was excited to see barns from our car window that looked exactly like the ones in my schoolbooks. It’s a little thing, but I believe that experience nevertheless planted the notion that what was in the schoolbooks must be ‘better’ than what was in my world.

Imagine how children feel, who never see ‘themselves’ or their culture in books or on the screen.

Today’s schools, at least in some school districts, have access to many  more diverse texts and learning materials. Children and adolescents who in the past might have felt invisible or lesser because of their race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation should now have access at least  in school to materials that reflect and honor their realities. The mainstream media is much more diverse than it was when I was a child.

But have we come far enough? Are we as educators vigilant in ensuring that our students do not feel invisible?

What do you think?

 

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