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Saturday, June 10 • 1:30pm - 2:15pm
How can we use the technology to decolonize teaching?

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How can we use technology to decolonize teaching?

As educators, we started to increasingly embrace technological tools in our classrooms. These approaches have not only served to connect us to our students in the remote times but also gave us novel ways to approach the making of a course in a radical way. I will showcase a course I co-designed with my co-author Alla Chavarga to go through the elements of an anti-racist, radical teaching experience that we could create thanks to the use of technology. Meanwhile, I will distribute small index cards for everyone to write their own examples to share. My introduction will serve to inspire participants for various discussion directions, after which point I will take the role of a facilitator. This way, I plan to decentralize my role and make the workshop into a purely organic collaborative effort.
The course I will showcase is described below. I highlighted the elements that the discussion may potentially gravitate towards.

An untraditional course structure
The Brooklyn College in the City University of New York has been running Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program since a decade now. The program supports the development of underrepresented students to enter doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Recently, MARC team and I have collaborated in creating a course on data analysis research supported by NIH. The series of reusable video modules as well as the course materials can be found here http://psychfilesnet.ipage.com/marc/index.html The course does not only have a strong emphasis on representation, but it also has been designed to be taught in an asynchronous way to ensure flexibility, accessibility, and sustainability.

Flexibility to break habits that support privilege
Traditionally, asynchronous courses do not belong to teaching institutions. During the COVID-19 era when students left the equalizing environment of the campus, they faced issues at home that made planning and organization of a weekly routine challenging. We all noticed how this shift was unequally experienced across our students, where students of color and other underserved backgrounds seemed to navigate changes with greater uncertainty and less help on average. This was also true for most MARC students, and this became our foremost concern as we designed this course. Giving students the flexibility on when to learn may be untraditional for educators, yet it makes a huge impact on students’ experience.

Sustainability for low-budget through peer facilitation
The course consists of 12 online modules, each with a video lecture and a step-by-step demonstration for data analysis in a coding notebook interface. It is offered each semester to a cohort of MARC students. The learning experience is overseen by a peer facilitator, a senior or graduate student, who will meet the group time to time, and answer questions. This way, peer facilitators both get to experience teaching and contribute to community creation. This design makes the course a sustainable option, desirable for low-budget programs as once the resources are created and the information flow begins, it should be self-sustainable.

Community building and collaboration
Community is an essential element of inclusive pedagogy. We incorporated as much as collaborations to the design of this course. The cohort is expected to do group work for certain assignments whether this is to come up with an experimental design together or write a code. A collaborative notebook called colab by Google is used for coding components so that students can work simultaneously together. Community feeling is not only established within the same cohort but also across cohorts through a ‘Share your work’ assignment. In this final assignment students share an infographics they made based on their personalized research project in social media with the same hashtag. This way, students from different cohorts will be able to connect to each other creating a MARC community out in social media.

Representation via real-world examples
Research in pedagogy found that people learn best by working actively through activity-based teaching. Furthermore, people are motivated to learn best when learning is contextualized, and focused on meaningful problems derived from authentic “real world” contexts that are of relevance and interest to the learner. We decided to bring together ’the real world’ context with representation. It may not be convenient to invite multiple guest speakers to your classroom in person especially if they are busy and located elsewhere. But it is feasible to get recorded videos from scientists. Hence, we collaborated with six scientists from underrepresented backgrounds in biomedical and behavioral sciences. They sent us recordings where they explained their career, and shared a mini project they are working on for our students. We then prepared coding notebooks in a highly scaffolded structure to introduce students to important aspects of coding, experimental design, statistics and data analyses using these mini projects. This way, we engage students with real world examples of scientists whom they can relate with and look up to.
To conclude, all the pedagogical approaches described above (active contextualized learning, project-based materials, peer support in the guise of collaborative teams, representation, and flexibility) were possible thanks to what technology brought us and we hope that students will leave the course feeling empowered.
This is how we (hope that we did) make a decolonizing course using technology. Now I’d love to hear from you.

Here is a tentative plan for the workshop:
  • Start with a collaborative community agreement that ensures a safe and brave environment
  • Warm-up interactions through an electronic poll on to share what is holding us up as radical educators
  • Reflecting on identities and vulnerabilities: My own very brief story as a disabled woman from a non-western country followed up by a group share with a prompt on our motivations to be here today.
  • Brief electronic word cloud prompt to feel the room: how did it feel to talk about identities?
  • Introduction to our course as described above, 10 minutes with the aim to inspire discussion on the following elements specially:
  • Habits that support privilege: group share on how we see this in our own practice and how to break. Post on an electronic stream board (padlet) anonymously that we can see real life.
  • Representation: share visuals on another stream board of how representation looks like to each of us, take a moment to reflect on the diversity
  • Value of community formation: group share on if/how we work towards building communities in our own practice
  • Technology: Next to the technologies we used in the course, here I made use of a variety of electronic tools to ensure all voices are heard (shy or loud). Extending on these examples, discussion on how emerging technological tools can be made useful to decolonize our practice in the context of values mentioned above. Specific prompts to lead the discussion will be provided.
  • Final reflection


Tugce Bilgin

Faculty, Pratt Institute

Saturday June 10, 2023 1:30pm - 2:15pm EDT
PS 407 (Design Center)