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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Engaging New Learning Environments

As some of you know, I am now working full-time at SLC developing an End of Life Care Program.  As part of that I am developing learning opportunities that are both online and face-to-face.  To help me get a grip on this I am taking an online course called #BlendKit2016, to help me learn about course development and to develop my own practice in this new learning environment.  So this is my first reaction blog to a 5 week course that will end next week.  As a learner I am finding that I am able to put off doing online work almost indefinitely.  This is important self-reflection for designing for students who may be like me -- late middle-aged, abundantly degreed, easily bored.

Anyway.  The most striking statement in the first chapter of readings was to "Begin with relevant metaphors for learning" (Thompson, ed., Reader BlendKit Learning Toolkit, https://blended.online.ucf.edu/, p. 9).  To me this is the second starting place.  The first is the "relevant metaphors" for learners.  Individual need is highly valued in the theorizing so far.  This is important but I am equally concerned about building learning community and how adults, especially, come together to learn and solve problems. Transmission of information is important, and addressing barriers to learning for individuals is the obvious task of any teacher.  So I will reflect on these two metaphors and get back to you.

In the case study #2 the chart on critical design decisions is immensely helpful, as is the description of studio-based instruction. Both case studies used a similar design strategy, beginning with "learning and teaching principles" (p. 10), suggesting what is specific to the field or discipline, choosing the learning technology that fits the field, the setting, the teaching capacity and the principles, and then describing how online and face-to-face will interact and complement each other.

There.  I did my assignment.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sandra Bland & Driving While Black

Sandra Bland #SayHerName
We don't know how Sandra Bland (#SayHerName) ended up dead in police custody after an unnecessary, ultimately violent traffic stop and arrest in one of the scarier parts of Texas, at least if you are driving while black.  Waller County Texas has a history of racial tension, a police chief who was fired from the nearby town of Hempstead for unremitting racist behavior; and Waller County, on the edge of Harris County and the Houston municipal limits,  is in the part of the state where police departments make lots of money from stop and seize activities.

A friend, who like me, has enjoyed the freedom of driving as part of our training and consulting activities, commented about how much what happened to Sandra Bland frightened her.  And I share the same worry, especially when crossing the Mason-Dixon line (although central PA always gives me pause).

I once researched a non-fiction piece to answer the question, in how many states, between Maine and the panhandle of Florida, would I find the confederate flag? This was in 2004.  I loaded up the Brown Dog, and we set off from Boston on a 3 day drive -- we had been in Maine and NH earlier, which is why I wanted to write the piece.  The important detail here is the Brown Dog.  Of course I found the confederate flag, stuck to, flapping from or emblazoned on something in every state, from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts (South Boston of course),  New York, and just over the line in the Pennsylvania town of Milford, on a flagpole in front of the cigar shop in its historic district.  I was not surprised, and only appalled once, in West Virginia at the site of Booker T. Washington's first home house in freedom, a truck perpetually parked nearby, a battle flag prominently affixed to its bumper.

Brown Dog was my Co-Pilot
But this post isn't about the flag.  It's about the security I felt with my 60 pound lab/shepherd mix by my side.  An utterly harmless dog who seemed to strike terror in the minds of men.  Brownie, the Brown Dog, traveled the country with me, north and south.  He passed on in 2008, to be with the elders who he had
known and loved.  And every year without him, I am a little more fearful about driving alone.

And isn't this the point of terrorism?  To deprive us of the freedom to go where we please, do what we want, enjoy this country as most white men believe it is their right to enjoy this country? (I know white women think they have this unvarnished right but that is only because of their misplaced faith in white supremacy.  They forget to look over their shoulders at the patriarchal vengeance that seeks to keep them in check.)

#SayHerName Brief, AAPF
I have no words of encouragement, no analysis that relieves the unease I feel -- many Black women feel, most Black men feel -- that in those uninvited interactions with the enforcement mechanisms of white supremacy, the local and state police agencies, our lives do not matter.  We can't be respectable enough, educated enough, dignified enough, distinguished enough, docile enough.  So we might as well resist and disrupt with all our might.

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."  Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals, p. 13

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Exodus of the People of Mossville, Part 3: Who Is Sasol?

This is 3rd in a series of posts on the Exodus of the People of Mossville, Louisiana, an historically African-American community founded in the late 1800s by Jack Moss. Sasol, the South African synthetic oil company, is buying up property to build the first North American (fracked) gas to liquids plant.

The following facts are drawn from the Mossville Environmental Action Now website (see website for citations):

Who Is Sasol?

  • Founded in 1950 in South Africa, in response to international communities' fuel embargo due to the practice of apartheid. 
  • In 1954, Sasol created Sasolburg to supply housing and facilities for employees; it segregated the development into Sasolburg proper (exclusively for white employees) and Zamdela township (for non-whites).
  • Zamdela remains marginalized.
  •  Despite the presence of a major manufacturer in their backyard, unemployment in Zamdela remains high, 43% as of January 2013 (1). 
  • Sasol has been accused of pollution in Zamdela that’s caused sickness and hospitalization, including a chlorine gas leak in 2000, which led to over 200 hospitalized (2).
  • Over 42,000 tons of volatile organic compounds are reported to have been polluted into Zamdela (3). 
  • Residents of Zamdela began monitoring their air in 2001- finding quickly that the level of benzene in the air was over 8 times the US legal limit (4). 
  • Most of Zamdela’s residents earn less than R400 a month (about $40 USD a month); Sasol’s CEO David Constable received a 68% pay increase (5) this year, bringing his salary to R53.7 M for the year ended June 2013. 

What is Sasol North America? 

  • Condea Vista (now Sasol North America) was found guilty of "wanton and reckless disregard of public safety” in 1997 for its responsibility for one of the largest chemical spills in the nation’s history, which contaminated the groundwater underneath the surrounding community. The company was charged with dumping an estimated 19-47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected human carcinogen, into the local estuary (6).  This local estuary is Mossville, Louisiana. 
  • Sasol North America has self-reported releasing dioxins, a cancer-causing highly-toxic group of chemicals in Mossville area (7).
  • Greenpeace is suing Sasol North America for spying: "allegedly trespassing, conducting unlawful surveillance and stealing confidential information related to Greenpeace's work in the Lake Charles region of Louisiana," (8) which includes work with the Mossville.