Employing technology in the classroom can shorten distances; this semester student researchers into topics of sustainability and social justice enrolled in SRS/HIS/CRE299 History and Cases of Equality interacted through Skype with counterparts in California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Peru, and Mexico.
Alumni in each location described how they came to engage in social justice research while at the College and in study away. Critical pedagogy, on-going self reflection, and making study away intentional proved critical in each case. Finding ways to combine activism with research remains core to how they are currently undertaking teaching, law school, and graduate school.
Skype allowed the class to learn from and share their own beginning projects the students and activists who have gone before them. Technology in the classroom allowed this to happen during the assigned class period in our assigned room, bridging time zones, overcoming the prohibitive costs of bringing these guests to class in person, and requiring only 30 minutes of their time (half a lunch break for one of the teachers).
The main flaw in my approach to this was not scheduling enough time to reflect on and discuss the Skype interactions in class right after they happened and we had hung up. I also scheduled too many, sometimes two back to back in the same class period. In the final analysis, the students concluded that the class visits by activists and scholars from Chicago and Cuba were more powerful and more beneficial to their own research. Therefore, I will strive to improve the first and continue the second.