Category Archives: Learning

Empowering LGBTQIA+ Youth and Promoting Parent/Professional Allyship: Models of Pride

Last week I was at a great talk in which Scott McCloud talked about stories being driven by desire. As long as the desire lives and unfolds, the story is unfolding and being driven. Yesterday I was reminded of McCloud’s framing of stories at the 2018 Models of Pride conference. As a parent I attended for my nonbinary child, and as an LGBTQIA ally I attended for the learning community I serve as the teacher librarian at El Cajon Valley High School. We can think of our personal development, our life, as the unfolding of a personal story. What we desire out of life moves us forward. Our desires keep us going. So, how does this connect to empowering LGBTQIA+ youth?

We should value everyone in our community. We should strive to create learning communities in which we welcome each other. We should seek inclusion. This is how things should be, but this is not the way things are. Groups of young people on our campuses get marginalized. Often, they face that same marginalization outside of school.

At the Models of Pride conference, Michael Anthony-Nalepa shared that thanks to neuroplasticity, long term suffering and damage can be caused when young people are forced to endure prolonged, sustained negativity around their LGBTQIA+ identity. How can allies seek to empower LGBTQIA+ youth in this context? We’re not able to change institutions overnight; we can’t change the hearts of those clinging to bigotry and hatred with a snap of our fingers; and we can’t be everywhere to call others out when they seek to dehumanize our LGBTQIA+ youth. What can we do?

Michael Anthony-Nalepa discussing LGBTQIA+ empowerment

Michael Anthony-Nalepa advocates using double listening as a way to listen for the desires of LGBTQIA+ youth. What he means is that as LGBTQIA+ youth express their frustrations and their traumas to us, we should listen in two ways. Yes, listen to bear witness to what our young people have to deal with, but also listen to their underlying desires. Their story, their path of empowerment, is wrapped up in those underlying desires. What do they desire? That desire is linked to what they hope for. What hope is wrapped up in that desire? Hope is what we do, what we have, when we have faith that our future can be better. Desire is what we do, what we have, when we believe we can achieve something better than what we have. When our LGBTQIA+ youth share with us, what do their stories reveal about their self value?

Helping LGBTQIA+ youth reach a statement like, “I want to be loved and accepted” reflects an underlying that desire is a belief that “I deserve to be loved and accepted.” That statement, that recognition of a desire to be loved and accepted, reflects a moment of empowerment.

To me, this is a beautiful, empowering way to view being an ally for LGBTQIA youth.

So, each and every time that we see marginalized individuals standing up and speaking out about the shit they have to put up with, we should recognize that as a moment of empowerment–of a switch being flipped–wherein a statement is being made about their value.

If we agree that we all have value, that we all have rights, that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, then we should respect those individuals that we see in our communities who are being themselves in spite of how the world treats them for who they are. They are some of the host human people in our communities. Celebrate them. Be there for them. Love them. Support them.

My child had an amazing time at the youth events. This conference did a great job of providing amazing youth activities/sessions as well as positive, useful, authentic learning experiences for parents and professionals seeking to empower our LGBTQIA+ youth. I’m looking forward to the 2019 Models of Pride conference in Los Angeles.

Certificates to all attendees!

The conference started with several brief talks from members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community

Digital Portfolio Collection, Display, and Feedback System

When students take the time to create and curate digital portfolios, they are connecting more meaningfully to what they are learning and how they are learning it. I’ve been advocating for digital portfolio implementation on my campus, but it has been slow going. I’m hoping that a neat little feature I just added to our school’s Digital Portfolio page will encourage more students to use their digital portfolios to take ownership of their learning stories and to share their learning with others.

Students can now quickly and easily give peer feedback on digital portfolios! In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  1. Students share their digital portfolios (created in Google Sites) through a Google Form linked at the top of our school’s Digital Portfolio page. (note: Google Forms on this page are view-able only to people in my district’s domain)
  2. The links that students share on that Google Form are automatically displayed on the Digital Portfolio page.
    • Google Form > Google Sheet > Awesome-Table Display
  3. I added a “Give Feedback” button, which is linked to a different, pre-filled Google Form (using an if/then statement plus some HTML in Google Sheets to add that link/button).
    • Part of the pre-filled section includes a unique identifier (not the student’s email or ID number–for privacy). The responses from this form are collected and then the unique identifier that was pre-filled references responses from the Google Form mentioned in item 1 above.
  4. Using the Add-On formMule the feedback immediately and anonymously gets passed on to the student who owns the digital portfolio.

My hope is that as students see their portfolios have an audience they will take more care to create portfolios that accurately and richly tell their learning stories.

As the video above shows, I’m also hoping that a little recognition through some digital badging helps this process along.

Thinking About What We Value

I am such a slow reader, but I’ve made a little dent in the stack of books that I got for Christmas:

Stack of books, mostly on Artificial Intelligence

At the rate I’m going, I hope to have these books read by Spring Break.

My line of inquiry went something like this: As an educator, I’m interested in how human brains interact with ideas–with information. I loved reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast & Slow, which presents the human brain as something that has a habit of making all kinds of mistakes in judgement as it seeks to follow a model of reality. Thinking of the brain as some kind of  faulty information processor, it made me want to investigate things that seem to process information more efficiently: computers (software, algorithms, etc.). That interest led me to many of the books that you see stacked in the image above.

I still have a lot to read, but I definitely wanted to jot down this note:

It feels like economic development has followed this path where humans are paid to do a thing, and then we get better at doing that thing, and then we get a machine to do that thing for us, and then we work with that machine to make even more improvements, and the desired end result is the machine is doing all the work and the machine owner is getting all the profit. This seems like how capitalism would be “solved.” I know I’m not making myself very clear here, but keep in mind I’m not an economist or a computer scientist–I’m a high school teacher librarian.

But, getting back to this goal of getting machines to do things for us to maximize efficiency and profit, think of the jobs that are lost if the end goal of an industry or a vocation is to make money. If money is the morality of a field of work, is that the kind of morality that’s best for our future?

  • Computers can trade on the stock exchange incredible numbers of shares to maximize profits. The mathematicians who help write the algorithms that trading software use are handsomely rewarded to use their skills to make… money.
  • Ideas can be promoted and shared and liked and retweeted by bots to grab our attention for advertisers and influence how we think about a subject. The folks who create bots are often blue collar type programmers who do the work to pay the bills. The brain power spent on making such bots seems like an example of trading money for improved efficiency at concentrating attention and influence.

If it’s all about money, and money keeps getting concentrated among 20% or 5% or 1% of the population, that’s what I mean when I say it seems like we’re close to “solving” capitalism. Like computers solved checkers and chess and Jeopardy!, capitalism will be solved and that’s kind of fun for the 1% who win, but what about everyone else?

We spend a lot of our resources, our human capital, on solving problems related to making more money. If solving the problem doesn’t lead to making more money, then why even attempt it?

  • Selling news that’s likely to get our attention, enrage us, or confirm our pre-existing beliefs is often more profitable than selling actual journalism.
  • Quality early childhood education leads to incredible benefits, but we (in the US at least) make it incredibly difficult for children from poorer families to receive quality early childhood education. A large part of the problem is that we don’t pay early childhood care providers very well. Perhaps it’s perceived that there isn’t enough return on investment to adopt policies and practices that guarantee all children access to high quality early childhood education.
  • Schools across the country have frequently elected to not employ librarians. Having such an information professional on campus is an extravagance that, apparently, doesn’t do much to boost the bottom line.

I suppose this list could go on for a while, and I understand the logic of a primary counterpoint:

Hey, nothing is stopping you from having all those things. You want early childhood education? You want quality journalism? Librarians? Pay for them. Nothing’s stopping you. The beauty of our system is we have freedom of choice–may the best forces win.

The problem is, as it’s turning out, the “best” ideas seem to be those ideas that maximize profits. Maybe money shouldn’t be the endgame.