“And again who are we seeing higher education is reserved for? It’s not about just not systematically alienating a segment of our population. It’s about all benefiting from taking a more inclusive approach. So it’s like at the end of every conference presentation there’s usually the Q and A period and somebody will so I don’t need the mic. But the mic is not for you, it’s for the people in the room who are hard of hearing. And it’s that the thinking that I’d really like to trigger as people think about accessibility.” – Rajiv Jhangiani, Critical Open Pedagogy
Out of this week’s resources, this quote really stood out to me. As instructors, we often rely on our experiences of learning when we develop our teaching methods. How often do we pause and think about the students in the room who come from learning backgrounds that are different from ours?
Rajiv’s podcast episode made me reflect on some important conversations that we have had in our class so far. The episode opened with a conversation about accessibility and the dreaded, expensive textbooks that most professors require their students to purchase. That made me think about the discussions we had in Week 3 – Digital Technology. The small group that I was in talked extensively about the affordability of technology in the classroom. One example that I gave was about when my friends and I shopping for laptops before the beginning of our freshman year. It was almost expected that each student owned a laptop and at the time, I didn’t think that anyone would have a problem with buying a laptop. However, I mentioned this conversation to my friend who went to a smaller university where many of the students were first-generation college students. She had a friend who didn’t have a laptop and never owned one throughout college. He took notes by hand and had to go to the library every night to do his homework. To me, this seemed like a huge accessibility issue since almost every assignment of any class requires a laptop or computer. I’m not sure if that school allowed their students to loan laptops, but I remember when my laptop broke down and I had to loan one from the VT library. The library has a small supply of laptops and some weeks it was difficult for me to borrow one because they were in high demand.
My biggest question right now is how do we get “old school” professors to think in a new mindset where they alter their course to accommodate the needs of marginalized students? One of the professors that I used to TA for often goes to higher education pedagogy workshops and talks on campus. She aspires to learn new techniques to improve her class and make it more inclusive. However, she mentioned that every time she goes to these events, she always sees the same people. How do we include more professors to attend these workshops and improve their classes? In short, there are multiple reasons why they don’t attend, such as time and their focus on research, which takes priority over teaching. Maybe they’re not interested in changing the way they teach because they’ve been teaching like that for decades. However, being exposed to the discussions around open critical pedagogy may allow them to make subtle changes to their classrooms, which could benefit their students.