Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Domestic(ating) Language

My third academic publication considered the relationship between tino rangatiratanga and tenancy security. In part, it was due to a background as a landlord, a tenant, and a tenants' advocate. However, it was mostly due to a gap in the literature. Despite shelter being necessary for human survival, very little had been written from a Treaty perspective on the policies which affect it. This post explores a new element: the language used to describe the state housing sector.

"State housing" isn't a term you'll read in the media anytime soon, except when it's in a title. Like most purveyors of National fiction, the term you'll read is "social housing". That is because the policy agenda is for "social" versus "state" provision, where "social" indicates a reduced role by the state in housing. 

The process is ideological. The economic liberals in government believe a limited role by the state ensures freedom from interference in private affairs. By promoting "social" over "state", the media makes ideas of state provision disappear.

The media and education system are apparatuses which help people name and locate in society. For example, 50 years ago women were the primary caregivers. If someone spoke of "childcare" in New Zealand circa 1965, listeners would have pictured women caring for children at home. Similarly, "smoko" was the regular break taken by workers sometimes in conjunction with a cigarette. "National standards" is an educational example, well-known (if not well-understood) today, but a nihility 50 years ago. The existence and meanings of these words were changed, suppressed, or reinforced through the media and educational system. It is how a national identity is built.

The problem I have with the change in wording from "state" to "social" is two-fold. First, I disagree with the sale of state housing or devolution of its management to non-state agents. Second, and more importantly, I disagree with the domestication of human populations. By helping people to lose the language to name their circumstances, we make them politically passive and available for consumption.

Wake up, New Zealand. If you can read this, you are not a sheep.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Anti-Heroes vs Villains

In the process of preparing a conference paper on Freire and Levinas, I have come to the conclusion that heroes are supposed to be flawed.

In the first case, we have a Brazilian who worked his whole life for the emancipation of the poor through education. Except that his philosophy was based on the (ironically) oppressive ideas of freedom and the knowing Subject.

In the second case, there's this Lithuanian (later Frenchman) whose explorations of alterity and death have given me words for my responsibility in sorrow. Except that he defended the existence of Israel in the face of Palestinian suffering.

As a bundle of flaws bound by skin myself, I probably wouldn't like them if they were perfect.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Letter To (My Secret) Santa

Dear Secret Santa 2014,

Thank you for visiting my blog.

I hope this post will help you to figure out what you would like to give.  If not, I hope that it will at least provide you some idea about what I am like as a person.  Maybe if we ever meet face-to-face, you could tell me that you were my Santa.  Then again, after reading my blog, you might decide that you do not want to meet me.  Ever!  Either way, I am grateful that I am currently in your thoughts.

To begin, I thought we could start by looking at our commonality: Twitter.  You might have seen that my Tweets follow a specific format: quote, summary, URL, source(s).  Most of my Tweets are replies; I very rarely Retweet.  I don’t Follow (or Tweet about) international celebrities.  (This reduces the proportion of bots in my Followers list.)  Further, my Tweets tend to fall into four categories:
  • Higher education;
  • Politics/government;
  • Identity issues (particularly ethnicity, gender, and sexuality); and
  • Etymology.

While some subjects, like the environment, focus on one category (politics/government), others cross multiple categories.  For instance, when discussing sexual assaults on campus, the categories of higher education, politics/government, and identity issues are recalled.  When discussing racism, politics/government and identity issues are similarly recollected.  

Beyond this, I’m aware that some information is very clearly missing from my Twitter page.  Outside photographs and #nzmusicmonth, my feed is a personal desert.  It would be near impossible to glean from Twitter my marital status (widow) or whether I have children (yes).  You might note that I am aiming for the PhD, but you couldn’t tell that I enjoy cooking, Game of Thrones, and dancing.  Plugging the 2014 feed through a micro-filter might have got you my performing arts, our US-Caribbean trip next week (I'm typing surrounded by clothes, my feet on a suitcase), and the IronMāori registration.  Most likely not.  I really dislike talking about myself on Twitter.

This is because I don’t know how to present the personal there without feeling a little fake.  Offline, I’m someone who either says nothing or overshares.  This means chitchat with people aged over 10 and under 70 is very difficult.  I like that people are different to me, but my boundaries are significantly different to others.  There are things I say that others find confronting, and there are things others say that I just don't understand.  To manage on Twitter, I’ve favoured collation, Tweeting things I’d like to remember viewing.  I can understand why some would find my feed very boring.  But the alternate is to tell people exactly what I think.  And I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

140 characters are fairly limiting, so hopefully you’ve gotten to know me a little more through this post.  Please feel free to read other parts of the blog and Google me.  Although not yet an open book, I'm becoming more so each day.  And for a Santa like you, that can only be a good thing.

I hope your Christmas is full of love and light.  Thank you in advance for my pressie.  And safe travels!

Yours faithfully,


Monday, 30 June 2014

On New Directions

New Directions: The Blog
A while back, I posted about my first academic review (which, it turns out, was not the first - more later).  The post is indicative of the new direction this blog will take over the next few years.  Instead of focusing exclusively on formal education and my current employment, the Teaching Consultant will shift towards personal reflections on the educational journey.  I considered beginning a new blog, but like the idea of being able to review my work in one place.  Criticality will continue to be a mainstay.  Accordingly, I continue:
an effort to work within educational institutions and other media to raise questions about inequalities of power, about the false myths of opportunity and merit for many students, and about the way belief systems become internalized to the point where individuals and groups abandon the very aspiration to question or change their lot in life. (Burbles & Berk, 1999, ¶ 16)
My other social media profiles have been less focused on the formal.  They have also been more successful at supporting my efforts to unravel the hegemonic discourses I note in my head.  I hope to find similar success in this, a new direction for the blog.

Fighting Fear
A few days after the last post, I realised that I had eschewed a slightly earlier review.  I tweeted a link about Cavino (2013) on 31 May, and then totally forgot about it.  I am still a little unsure about why I forgot, although reflection notes an element of embarrassment.  Cavino's commentary about my work is significantly more substantial than Belgrave's.  Further, Cavino's article is published in a top 15 international journal.  The impact of my academic work is improved by Cavino's publication.  Yet, despite the bravado suggested by my last post, I am actually a little scared of being visible.
My fear of visibility has made this post appear, only to have it returned to draft.  Followers of my Twitter posts will know that, subsequent to my husband's death, I have avoided interaction.  Even Tweets from users I know personally rarely receive response.  
I was raised to believe in collectivity and the value of quiet background work.  Interaction in social media is a pathway to individual influence.  I find emphasis on the individual difficult, an inclination reinforced by bereavement and a tendency towards introversion.  However, I am aware that this position offers justice to neither the work I tend nor its audience.  It excludes where my role is to welcome.

This post, therefore, marks not just a new direction for the blog, but for me more generally.  I can guarantee that I will not be responding to every Tweet sent my way.  But it is time for a change.  Let's see where this leads...

Cavino, H. M. (2013). Across the colonial divide. American Journal of Evaluation, 34(3), 339-355.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The First Review of My Work

Someone has finally reviewed something I wrote.  Although there have been general reviews of Always Speaking (e.g. the post by Dr Matthew Palmer in the Maori Law Review), this is the first time someone has actually engaged with my writing specifically.  In academia, reviews of your work are an indicator of its influence.  Like politicians and celebrities, if nobody's talking about you, you're not really working.

The reviewer, Prof Michael Belgrave, is an historian here at Massey.  I learnt he was doing a review of some Huia books, including Always Speaking, last year during a video conference.  His face appeared to squish uncomfortably when he realised I was in the audience.  I was a little worried that the result would be bad (like REALLY bad), but the result wasn't too terrible. 

Here's the one sentence:
"In one of the few debates between authors in these collections, and almost at a footnote level, Gray-Sharp in Always Speaking, explores different interpretations of sovereignty and rangatiratanga and distinguishes herself from Mutu in seeing self-determination and rangatiratanga as claims for shared sovereignty with the Crown or self-determination against the Crown."

I do not actually distinguish myself at all, because I take no specific conception of tino rangatiratanga as primary.  But Prof Belgrave flatters me no end by putting me in the same sentence as Prof Margaret Mutu.  And finally somebody is talking!

Belgrave, M. P.  (2013). Review article. Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies, 1(2), 203-211.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Post-Its & Mobile Devices in the Classroom: An Example of Blended Learning

This post concerns using Post-Its and mobile devices in the classroom.  Where blended learning is pursued, I would highly recommend supplying at least one Internet capable device during in-class research sessions for use by students.  This can encourage the use of online repositories, but, more importantly, ensures equitable access.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katarina Gray-Sharp is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The learning environment (ceiling pictured) was a very large room with strange phonics that absorb vocal projections.  There were neither chairs nor tables.  The carpet was clean, and the existing resources included mattresses, two whiteboards, a number of power outlets, and reasonable wi-fi.

I set-up two laptops in different corners of the room and connected them to the wi-fi.  I navigated to the online learning environment, which contains copies of the readings.  Some mattresses were pulled by the laptops and others set in a semi-circle around the whiteboards.  When the 20-odd students arrived, they automatically sat on the mattresses in the semi-circle.  Some pulled out laptops, some checked their cellphones.  After a few minutes the session began.

Per the "ways of thinking and practising" of the discipline (Entwistle, 2005; Meyer & Land, 2003), a known meditation was recited to open the learning.  Students were re-introduced to me as their teacher.  The intent and general processes of the class were outlined.  

The first teaching/learning activity (TLA) (Biggs, 2003) utilised Post-Its and a large wall.  The wall was sectioned into three areas: A-G, H-P, and Q-Z.  On a Post-It, each student wrote one concept that they did not understand from the two lectures.  They placed their Post-Its on the wall in alphabetical order.  Once placed, the student received another Post-It to write down another concept.  All students placed at least two Post-Its with some placing more than five.  While placing their Post-Its, they read and commented on their peers'.

The Post-Its were then collated by primary concept whilst maintaining alphabetical order.  When picking up a Post-It, I would read it aloud and place it beside a similar one.  I spoke throughout the collation process, reading the Post-Its and justifying allocation.  After the first few, students began to call out possible categories for allocation.  Post-Its which did not fit the activity were summarised and responded to immediately.  In some cases, students were requested to make contact with me after the session for additional information.  When the first TLA was completed, 13 primary concepts had been identified.

The second activity utilised the laptops, students' mobile devices, and a whiteboard.  Students were asked to stand in alphabetical order by common name in front of the Post-It wall.  Students were split in the middle into two groups of similar number.  Each group was allocated their alphabetical end of the 13 concepts.

Students used laptops and mobile devices to define their group's concepts.  One group split their concepts between their members, whilst the other tried to work as a whole unit.  As I had only supplied two laptops, both of which were relatively slow, students tended to favour their smartphones and personal laptops for researching.  I sat with each group for a time answering questions, and offering suggestions about where in the online learning environment they might find more information.

When the groups finished researching, they wrote their answers onto their allocated half of the whiteboard.  I gave five-minute and one-minute warnings before asking them to return.  Each group stood and reported on their findings.  The audience and I corrected any misunderstandings through verbal feedback, and the reporting group adjusted their whiteboard accordingly.

The best part of this process is what happened after the class ended: about six students sat and copied the whiteboards.  Having tested the information, and now being able to find supporting information themselves, the students were confident of what their peers had taught them.  This is a process I would undertake again, and highly recommend.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Teaching Stream via VLT

Stream is Massey University's learning management system.  Based on Moodle, Stream offers a learning environment to students and teachers alike.  I am not a Stream expert, nor am I required to have any technical knowledge of this learning tool.  However, it is part of my University's infrastructure, and I have learnt to employ it well enough to be able to provide a modicum of support to other users.

I was requested to offer teaching development on a number of topics, including Stream, to sessional faculty within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  Although I have taught Stream on a one-to-one basis before, I have never taught it to a group.  As my expert colleagues were busy, I taught my first group session on this topic today.  

Video-Linked Teaching (VLT) are rooms with video conferencing facilities for interactive teaching and learning across Massey University's campuses.  All facilities offer flat floors and furniture which can be arranged in different ways.  VLT facilitators are present at each site to offer technical support.  The primary room is at Manawatū from where I taught my group session.

In total, 15 participants were in attendance.  Three Albany faculty were present.  The remaining 12 were from Manawatū, one of which attended at Albany. 

The overall feedback from the session affirmed my practice.  The Manawatū VLT facilitator gave positive verbal feedback, reporting that the session offered three things unusual or brand new to the space:

    (1) use of Stream in VLT;
    (2) simultaneous editing by multiple Teachers of a Stream site;
    (3) projection of the far-end, resident computer for observation of teaching and learning activity.

I will be completing an evaluation report for the primary stakeholder.  As a result of written and verbal feedback, I will be recommending additional workshops – including blended and online teaching skills – for sessional faculty of that College.

Today was a good day.