Global Classroom: Teaching about Refugees in the Age of Trump

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I am teaching GER/GIS/GWS 262: “Refugees in Europe: Germany” for the second time this semester. Obviously the recent change of government in the United States has impacted this course in many ways. As we all know, on January 27th, President Trump signed the Executive Order 13769 “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” limiting – among many other things – the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000 and suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. As a consequence, the course has become much more comparative in nature, with students discussing the impact of the Executive Order and drawing parallels to Germany’s refugee policy. Right after the Executive Order was signed, students – as an online assignment on a snow day – wrote a letter to an (imaginary) friend or (imaginary) family member or local, state, or federal elected official, discussing the legal implications of the recent Executive Order in light of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Another assignment in this class that has been heavily impacted by the above-mentioned Executive Order was the Twitter assignment. Throughout the semester, students are asked to tweet 4 times a week about our course readings and news sources regarding the situation of refugees in Germany and Europe. While students’ privacy is always a major concern, the recent changes in U.S. Customs and Border Protection that make social media accounts part of the screening process clearly affect the privacy and safety of non-US citizens more than ever:

If you travel, know that CBP will open all of your electronic devices (laptop, phone, tablet) and examine the contents. We know of instances where individuals have been turned away for being perceived as “anti-Trump.” If you delete the content on your phone, they will ask for your email username and password. They will do the same for all of your social media accounts. –  a newsletter from Global Immigration Partners, sent to me on January 31st.

Again, this is something most of us are probably aware of, but a threat that, in a global classroom with extensive online and social media components, poses itself with particular urgency.

At the same time, the Twitter assignment this semester has triggered even more engaged discussions about its use as a tool for political social media marketing and branding; the challenges to distinguish between facts and lies; and one’s own responsibility to respond (or not to respond) to unsettling responses to one’s own posts.

Video of student answering why he signed up for this course

Like last year, the second half of the semester has been dedicated to the videoconferences with our German interview partners (see my Engage blog post). This year, I have had a larger group or students, raising some of the technical issues that we had discussed during our Technology Workshops throughout the year, so I felt well prepared to address them (as always, thanks to Laura Little for her support!). This semester, we Skyped in a young female refugee from Syria, two volunteers from a private reception center for refugees in Lübeck, a teacher from Hamburg, the organization “Flow” from Lübeck that offers programs for young refugees; and a lawyer who volunteers his time to help refugees with their asylum applications. Our final interview with “KidzCare Lübeck“ is scheduled for May 3rd, focusing on the special situation of female refugees.

On Wednesday, May 10th, we are going to have the public “launch” of our collaborative WordPress site. You’re welcome to join us from 11:50-1:00 at the Visualization Wall in Shain!

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Using Selfies to Increase Student Engagement

Connecticut College hosts many events (panels, lectures, shows, concert, etc.) that help students engage more deeply in the curriculum and community. In the Music Department, we host dozens of concerts a year and require students to attend a certain number of them as we believe that being in the audience and listening to live music is an essential element of one’s music education.

In the recent past, we collected signed hard copies of the programs as evidence of attending, and those programs would end up in the recycle bin in my office. This process of reporting concert attendance is standard practice across the country. Using this system, I found that sometimes concert venues ran out of programs. At other times, students might forget to get a program or would lose them, or students would take a program without attending the concert. However, it dawned on me that one of the goals was for the students to have a keepsake/souvenir or to have a reference for future repertoire possibilities. So, to facilitate these goals, I started using the selfie system. (Thanks to Jessica McCullough for this idea!)

Last term, I piloted this new method of checking concert attendance. My students were given two options: 1) obtaining and signing a program or 2) taking a selfie of themselves in the hall and send it to me via email by midnight. I lightheartedly mentioned that they would get extra points for posing with an artist. I had an overwhelmingly positive response to the new option.  When I opened my email the next morning, I had the pleasure of seeing almost all of my students’ smiling faces in my email inbox. Only one student chose to turn in a hard copy of the program. (Note, while I asked the students to submit their photos through email, you could also have them submit them through Moodle. However, this means one more extra step for them in sending you the file.)

In the future, I will augment this assignment by having students send their selfies to a closed Facebook group and ask them to post comments about their concert experience as it relates to the material we are covering in class. I will also have them comment on other people’s comments to create discussion. I hope this additional element will help further bridge the experience between the event attended and the concepts being discussed in class.

Filling in the Gaps Together: International Women’s Day Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Rose Olivera introducing the edit-a-thon

By Lyndsay Bratton, Rose Oliveira, Becky Parmer, and Ariella Rotramel

On Wednesday, March 8, we hosted the first annual International Women’s Day Wiki-Edit-A-Thon in Shain Library’s Advanced Technology Lab (ATL). International Women’s Day is observed throughout the world on March 8 and in some countries it is a public holiday. While celebrations in some countries include bringing women flowers or celebrating with a women’s night out, the day has a political history that resulted in this year’s call for a women’s strike in the United States.  International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity to reflect on ongoing gender inequality and the ability of women and allies to act to make change. Editing Wikipedia collectively provides one platform for responding to issues of gender inequality.

According to the 2011 Editor Survey, 91% of Wikipedians are men. Not only does such a homogenous editor force yield a body of work that reflects a limited scope of perspectives, but the survey also found that the relatively few women editors each make far fewer edits than men editors. Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons are staged periodically around the world, and often focus on reversing such trends by bringing women editors on board to fill in gaps in content related to women’s issues and women in history. A great example of one such initiative is the Art + Feminism Edit-a-Thon.

To address these issues of gender bias, we held an International Women’s Day Wikipedia-Edit-A-Thon. Edit-a-thons are events where newcomers and experienced Wikipedians alike come together to learn and participate in editing. Everyone was welcome and no prior editing experience was needed to participate. We had 13 people attend the evening’s event to create or improve articles on women and related topics.

Faculty, staff, students, and community members at the edit-a-thon

Rose Oliveira, Becky Parmer, and Ariella Rotramel started the event by talking about the the gender issues that face Wikipedia and how Ariella has used Wikipedia in her feminist theory class. Becky and Rose then reviewed the Five Pillars of Wikipedia to ensure that editors understood how to carry out their work effectively. Rose demonstrated how to create content on Wikipedia and the basics of editing. Andrew Lopez and Ashley Hanson shared a set of library resources they curated to help participants get started in their work. We also linked many resources on our Wikipedia libguide to assist editors in moving into editing.

Articles edited or created during the edit-a-thon

For the remainder of the time, we dove into the work. People chose to either collaborate in teams or work by themselves to research, create or improve a variety of articles. They contributed citations; rephrased poorly written sections; added new content to existing entries; and began work on developing new entries. All of these actions help improve Wikipedia by creating or strengthening content that relates to women and other underrepresented groups. In the last 10 minutes, everyone added their entries that they worked on a whiteboard: Lois Gibbs; Mary Foulke Morrisson; 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence; Trans Day of Action; Caroline Black; Avtar Brah; Beatrice Cuming; and Marie Hoppe-Teinitzerová. We concluded the evening by taking turns sharing the woman, organization, or event that they worked on. It was rewarding to see what we were collectively able to do in a short amount of time.

As a result, on the third Wednesday of every month, we have decided to hold an informal Wiki Meetup or “Wiki Wednesday” at The Social at 5:15pm. We welcome new and experienced editors! To check in about the meetup, please contact Rose Oliveira (roliveir@conncoll.edu). For more information about working with Wikipedia in the classroom, please contact your instructional technologist or library liaison.

Using a Course Website to Recruit Incoming Students and Promote Community Engagement

CC Choir WebsiteI have the happy challenge of needing to communicate with students over the summer.  Most of them are incoming first-year students or transfer students who are trying to decide how they will spend their time at Connecticut College. This means quite a few questions regarding the types of choral ensembles that we offer, how often the ensembles meet, the types of literature we study, and audition requirements/times. During my first summer teaching at Connecticut College, this meant writing pretty much the same response over and over. I got into the habit of keeping several stock responses in a separate Word document so I could cut and paste the details. I am happy to say that I found a more efficient way to keep in contact with these incoming students!

I created a choir website in WordPress during the Tempel Summer Institute. For incoming students, it describes our choral program, the audition process, and a way to sign up for an audition slot via SignUpGenius. For the current students, it describes volunteer opportunities and how to contact the choir council. For the greater community, it contains information about participating in our high school choral festival, attending upcoming performances, bringing a choir to an event, and joining the Chorale (open to students, faculty, staff and community members.) For the greater community, there is a media page with YouTube videos and Livestream videos of past choral performances. I am currently working to build an audio portfolio that will feature audio clips via SoundCloud.

During the month of July, I have the email vacation autoresponder tell all incoming messages that I will get back to them shortly and to visit the choir website for more information about our program. My incoming students now have a better idea of the philosophy and scope of the choral program (and I get my month of July back). Prospective students can also visit this website to see what musical opportunities we have to offer before they apply. Lastly, this website is a storehouse of information regarding community engagement events that I can easily share via social media (Twitter, Facebook).  While time intensive in the beginning, a course website can help you communicate more effectively and also build a community presence. I highly recommend it!

Using Twitter to Sharpen Literacies and Engage in Global Conversations

Screenshot of Twitter feedIn my previous blog post, I talked about videoconferences as a way to integrate global perspectives into my refugees course. Another tool to encourage students to apply their knowledge by engaging in a global dialogue was the use of Twitter. Students were asked to tweet five times a week, using the hash tag #GER262. During the first half of the semester, I made sure that each student was comfortable using Twitter and that they had acquired the necessary background knowledge to engage with the global community in an informed and meaningful way. Hence the Twitter posts were not only a way to interact with the world outside of the classroom, but also helped the students to deepen their social media literacy and to critically analyze rhetorical strategies being used in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Students posted and discussed links to articles, videos, and cartoons they had found online and – as part of the assignment – responded to other people’s tweets around the world. In order to value the students’ contributions and to contextualize their findings, I reserved 10-15 minutes each week for a group discussion of their tweets.

Even though Twitter is not a medium commonly used among students, they responded enthusiastically to the assignment. As one of the students highlighted in their course evaluations: “I have been able to sharpen my ability to identify specific rhetoric that either supports or criticizes the situation on media outlets such as Twitter. To converse on Twitter gave us a hands-on opportunity to engage in the global conversation of this ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.”

I will definitely continue to use Twitter in my classes and plan to incorporate it also into my beginning language classes, as a meaningful way to apply newly acquired vocabulary and grammatical structures in a real-life setting. I would like to thank Ari Rotramel for sharing her extensive Twitter assignment guide and Laura Little, as always, for her invaluable technical support.

Camp Teach & Learn Workshops and Discussions

As always, the sessions at Camp Teach & Learn look to be exciting and inspiring. We (Instructional Technology) are helping to organize the following workshops and discussions. When not facilitating one of these, we will be attending other sessions. We look forward to seeing you there!

Improving Quality and Saving Time: Scaffolding Techniques for Digital Assignments from the Technology Fellows
Wednesday 25th May: 10:45 AM to 12:30 PM

Scaffolding is a pedagogical strategy in which instructional supports are provided to students as needed early in learning, then gradually removed as students develop proficiency. Over the past three years, Technology Fellows have learned that creating scaffolded assignments is critical for technology-enhanced assignments. In this session we share examples of scaffolded assignments, discuss how we have used this strategy in our own courses, and help you discover practical ways to apply this technique.

Discussants include Virginia Anderson, Anthony Graesch, Suzuko Knott, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Jessica McCullough, & Emily Morash

Social Media for Teaching & Learning: Case Studies
Thursday 26 May, from 8:30 AM to 10:15 AM

What can social media do to improve your students’ learning and help you better meet the goals of your course? Faculty at the College have been experimenting with incorporating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms into their pedagogy. At this session we will hear from several faculty members who used social media for a variety of goals: engaging with content outside of class, connecting with experts, practicing new languages, continuing classroom discussion, and connecting course content with current events, among others. We will hear about the challenges and successes in using social media to accomplish specific pedagogical goals.

Discussants include Luis Gonzalez, Anthony Graesch, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Karolin Machtans, & Marc Zimmer

Accessibility for All: Simple Technology Tools & Strategies to Help Every Student
Thursday 26 May, from 10:30 AM to Noon

Just because students aren’t registered with the Office of Accessibility doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from some of the tools and techniques that are used to make course materials more accessible. In this hands-on session we will look at simple tools and strategies you and your students can use to improve learning. Specific topics include making lengthy digital documents (like a syllabus) navigable, using closed-captioning with audio and video materials, creating machine-readable materials, utilizing screen readers for PDF documents, and activating accessibility features in Moodle, Google Drive, and iOS devices.

Interactive workshop facilitated by Diane Creede, Lillian Liebenthal, Jessica McCullough, & Melissa Shafner.

 

Exploring Global Current Events through Twitter

Twitter conversation from #SPA250I learned about Twitter in a trip that I took a couple of years ago to Granada in Southern Spain to participate in a forum on the political future of Spain. In the long way back to Madrid, my friends helped me to create an account and since that day I have been using Twitter sporadically to get news from around the world and keep in touch with my friends in Spain. What I didn´t know that day was that Twitter would soon become an interesting, crucial and very rewarding component in my SPA 250 Spain: A Journey Through Culture and History, a class that I teach every fall with an enrollment of around twenty students.

With the help of the Technology Fellows Program, at the beginning of the semester we created the hashtag #SPA250 and asked the students to join the group. Since then, we have been regularly tweeting comments on news from Spain and around the world. Most days we spend between 10 and 15 minutes talking about the tweets and using this to foster conversations on currents events. In addition, since this is a class in which our students are still working with their Spanish skills, I use this activity to correct minor grammar or structural problems that I find in the 140 characters a tweet requires.

Even though, as in any new activity that we implement for our classes, there is a learning curve both for the students and the professor, it was evident by the middle of the semester that this activity was working very well and the students really saw the advantages of using social media to learn more about currents affairs. Right before Thanksgiving break, I bumped into a student and s/he told me ” Usually I don´t like social media, but I love the way we have integrated it in the class”. It was, certainly, one of the greatest moments of this semester. I have to tell you that I can´t wait for next fall when approximately 20 new students will join the special community that we have created around #SPA250.

Results from #CCjpn201: A Semester-Long Twitter Project

Tweet from student of Japanese

My project was to have my JPN201 students communicate with college/ university students in Japan through Twitter for 13 weeks during the fall of 2015. This project challenged not only students but also myself. My students were asked to find out Japanese college/ university students’ lives. We ended this project by presenting each student’s discovery in class. Each student uploaded his/her Storify on our hashtag, #CCjpn201 (see image above and slideshow below).

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Why so challenging? Students have difficulty communicating in the first place. On top, they had to communicate with native speakers of Japanese in the Japanese language!! None of them had communicated with native speakers with this intensity. It was difficult for them to read “unedited” Japanese passages written by native speakers. There were so many unknown words or Chinese characters in tweets written by natives. It was easy to misunderstand natives’ tweets. It was frustrating for them not to be able to ask what they wanted to ask because they didn’t know how to ask. Even if they used a dictionary to find a word they wanted to use, they ended up choosing a wrong one, which created further miscommunication! They protested to me that they used a dictionary or asked a Japanese friend on campus. Nevertheless students in Japan didn’t understand what my students asked, and replied apologetically, “I’m very sorry, but I don’t understand X,” “What do you mean by Y?”, “Maybe you wanted to ask me Y didn’t you?”

After this project, I asked both my students and students in Japan to take surveys. The following is what they said:

  • I strongly disagree or disagree to the statement, “I enjoyed the Twitter Project.” (3 out of 6)
  • I didn’t enjoy this project because it was time consuming. (5 out of 6)
  • It was challenging to tweet in the Japanese language. (4 out 6)
  • I felt this project was very challenging. (4 out of 6)

Chart showing 4 students considered the project challengingAlthough these were rather negative opinions on the Twitter Project, all of them agreed to recommend this project to next JPN201 students. Interesting! I am sharing some of their responses.

  • It was difficult for me and often I didn’t like it. But I have improved enormously in my reading and writing ability, also in my ability to think creatively and respond well. It is important to get to know Japanese culture as told by Japanese people, not based on the positions of the people who wrote our textbook. I would recommend this without reservation.
  • It is a great opportunity, despite its many challenges to use Japanese in the context of conversation and communication with native speakers.
  • It let you have chance to use the language even you are not in Japan.

Students in Japan also felt challenged because they had to think through in order to explain things to my students who are not sharing their lives. All of them encountered differences between US and Japan in various aspects. They said that they enjoyed the project unlike my students, and wanted to participate again.

My students realized that they needed to study Japanese harder!!! I am very happy to know that I have convinced my students to study Japanese harder;)

Digital Projects and Online Etiquette

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Tweet showing a Connecticut College student using emoji.
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Tweet that talks about Camelympics and asks Japanese students if they have similar events on their campus.

I have been much busier than expected this semester. One of the reasons is my new project, JPN201 Twitter Project. The goal of this project is to create a physical or on-line guide about Japanese college/university students’ lives to prepare students of Japanese for studying in Japan. Before starting this semester, I worked hard to write a description of the project and develop rubrics to evaluate students’ tweets. Before I had asked my students to start the project, I encountered various unforeseen incidents.

Since my students find out how Japanese college students’ lives look like, it is necessary for them to have Japanese correspondents who are college/university students in Japan. The Japanese program at Connecticut College is a part of the Associate Kyoto Program (AKP) through which our students can study in Kyoto. The AKP’s main office is located in Doshisha University. I contacted the AKP office manager and asked her for help to find volunteer students from Doshisha University. They circulated the ad recruiting volunteer students for this project.

As soon as the ad was circulated, I started receiving inquiries from their students. I was excited initially without foreseeing what would have been involved! At our campus, we often discuss manners regarding how students should communicate with us through emails. To my surprise, one after another, I received ill-mannered emails. They addressed me, “Kobayashi-san,” instead of “Kobayashi-sensei.” Sometime they called me “Hisae-san.” I would like to let you know that they are not my peers, but they are college students. Furthermore, I have never seen them. This was their first time contacting me! Some of them did not even say why they contacted me in the first place. They just put their name without providing any proper information.

Although my students always behave appropriately at least when they communicate with me, I was afraid that my students would offend Japanese natives due to their lack of linguistic as well as cultural knowledge. Therefore, I provided the following:

Manners:

  • Please maintain your cordial, polite, friendly tone.
  • Please be respectful to fellow students.
  • Please be positive when you would like to give feedback.
  • Please avoid making personal attacks in response.
  • Please avoid using Japanese slang you might have found in Anime, Manga, which may easily cause misunderstanding.
  • Slow to anger, abundant in empathy

While I paid my attention to my students’ behavior, I was taken aback by students in Japan! Maybe it is because I live in this country so long and because I do not have enough knowledge of youth culture in Japan.

Suddenly my perspective toward my students has been elevated highly. My students would never behave like them at least toward me. At the same time, I realized that this was one of the negative results of using technologies. Technologies are very convenient as well as beneficial as long as we use them for a right purpose in an appropriate manner. They provide us richer experiences such as my JPN202 Twitter Project. My students can communicate with native speakers of Japanese in the Japanese language while both sides stay where they are. Since I have no control over students in Japan, I decided to use this unpleasant incident to screen the volunteers. I did not respond to ill-mannered emails.  Among those students, one contacted me again to see if I had received her email and to ask me how she would start joining the project. I can give credit to her for willingness to contact me again. I explained to her why my response was delayed. After our appropriate email exchanges, she joined the project.

The project has been going smoothly. I have made many observations about my students’ communication skills. I’ve been enjoying monitoring their tweets and I give them feedback every week. Although it is a lot of work for me, it is valuable experience for my students. I’m looking forward to seeing what they say after the project.

Lastly, I found a way to motivate students in Japan to tweet.  Look at the image below. This photo tells who communicated with whom and who tweets most. After uploading the photo, the number of tweets from Japan increased. They surely continue to surprise me.

connections

What are the Technology Fellows up to?

Tech Fellows WorkingLast Wednesday the second cohort of Technology Fellows met for a full day of discussion, workshops, and troubleshooting in the Advanced Technology Lab in Shain Library. Three of the five fellows, Luis Gonzalez, Hisae Kobayashi and Leo Garofalo presented their work, shared breakthroughs and challenges, and posed questions to the group.

We will be hearing from the Fellows on this blog over the course of the semester, but if you are wondering what the Fellows are doing, here some themes and a few examples from our day together.

  • Connecting All three fellows that presented are connecting or plan to connect their classrooms to students, professionals and scholars around the world. Hisae is using Twitter to foster dialogue about student life between her students and students in Japan (#ccJpn201). Luis and Leo will have virtual visits and discussions with professionals in Spain and Mexico using Skype and Zoom.
  • Relevance To make learning about culture and history of Spain relevant to students in Luis’s class, students monitor a Twitter list that he and Laura Little created with feeds from local news outlets. Students select articles of interest, read and share summaries of them in Spanish to fellow students. The tool used for the sharing is both Moodle forums and (soon!) Twitter. Hisae’s twitter assignment requires students to ask questions about college life in Japan and share information about college life here – using the language daily and making it relevant to their own lives.
  • Critical Thinking Leo has two upcoming assignments that require students to collect original material, organize it, synthesize it, and use it to substantiate an argument. Material includes images, interviews, ephemera, video, and outside research. In the first assignment, students will create storyboard – selecting material and explaining how they would use it as evidence for their argument. The second assignment, building on the first, requires students to both create a storyboard and create a website that they will present to the class. Students will use WordPress to create the sites.

We will be meeting again for a full day in October when Ginny Anderson and Emily Morash will present their work to the group.