School, critical pedagogy and NGL

I’ve been thinking a lot about critical pedagogy. I love the work of Chris Emdin (whom I’ve talked about in a previous post). I love his passion for teaching science to students through hip hop. I really think this is so relevant!

Annelise’s fantastic blog about entitled, “Learning to Fall and Rise in the 21st Century”, encapsulates the essence of both traditional schooling paradigms and connectivism.

In relation to traditional schooling, she states:

As children I believe that their experience of being coerced to learn, rather than receiving guidance to develop into who they have the potential to be (which encourages autonomy and responsibility) contributes to feelings of powerlessness. This is particularly so in traditional schooling where learning is scaffolded to such a repetitive degree that the learners’ become dependent on the teacher, leading to passivity, or even worse, to a lack of self-confidence. When one believes that they must rely on authority to tell them what to do, they silence their inner voice and rely of the voices of others. – See more at:

This is how schools work. I teach in this. I hate this!

I hate that I’m contributing to student’s loss of voice. I hate that through the way our schools work, they don’t think. “I do, We do, YOU do”. Over and over. Thoughtless and mind numbing!

I guess tho is why I love the ideals of critical pedagogy. Where the teacher moves over and hands back the “power” to the student and becomes a learner along side them. Where students have a voice and their voice, their capital, their background knowledge and experiences frame the knowledge they share.

However, even constructivists Freire (1970) and Kincheloe (1999) have stated quite bluntly “that educators who have nothing to teach their students should look for a different profession (Gordon 2009 p.48)

I’m learning that through NGL I can give my students a voice and re-empower them to make connections with their lives and the content of our class.

Gordon, M. (2009) Toward a pragmatic discourse of constructivism: Reflections on lessons from practice. EDUCATIONAL STUDIES, 45: 39–58,


Connected learning and Generative themes

I was just reading Clare’s post discussing Stephen  Downes’ (2011) article regarding connecting for learning, and the journey involved in the learning rather than the end product.

She quotes:

“what you’re doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content ….People appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people …share with you.” (Downes, 2011).

I was recently reading Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change by Ira Shore (1992). The introduction to this book I find interesting and challenging. Shore talks about his first day of teaching a writing class to students who had failed their initial College entry writing exam. They were angry, didn’t want to participate and didn’t feel like they had the agency to participate. Shore asked them an open ended question, “Why did you hate the test?”, “What’s wrong with the test? Why is it unfair?”

After asking these questions, hands flew up everywhere! “The students found their voices, enough to carry us through a ferocious hour, once I found a generative theme” (Shore 1992 p.3).

This notion of a “generative theme” is further expounded as Shore goes on to describe how one person’s ideas led to another’s and another’s, culminating in the students (who failed their entry basic writing exam) critiquing University policy and coming up with alternatives.

I have found these “generative themes” within NGL. One person blogs about something, then someone else takes their idea and furthers it with more literature and soon, so much content is developed, it feels impossible to take it all in. Yet, I feel this is democratic learning at its finest. Students are able to critically evaluate, position theory within their context and recognise the biases and assumptions in learning.

What a powerful tool for our students to engage in!

I am loving Mari’s blog on making connections with ideas and knowledge rather than people. I wish I had read her advice 7 weeks ago – even though she only recently wrote it!
I love how she has stated explicitly how to “create some waves”. Mari, I think you have been very successful! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and ideas with us!

Giving students a voice

Christopher Emdin, a comptemporary researcher, writer, and thinker in the domain of critical pedagogy, talks about the importance of what he calls “science talk”. He draws on Brown (2005) discussing the importance of using students’ ways of communicating as a tool to expand their scientific vocabulary. Additionally, he states that talking and writing science in the classroom among peers, to support the notion that “deep communication in and about science can evolve into comfort with the subject.

He goes further to state that “exchanges in the classroom that foster augmentation, active debate, complex thinking, deep questioning, the demonstration of mastery, and defending one’s position with appropriate words and content knowledge supports true science”. Emdin does this through the use of Hip-Hop. He uses the language of the students to empower them and allow them to work together to create meaning. 

I love Emdin’s passion. I love how he ignites passion in those who listen to him. I love how he is not just happy with how things have always been done, but challenges the norms to allow his students to create real knowledge. 

This is something I’d love to be able to inspire with my teaching. 

In this video, Emdin states “transforming the world of education is not about what people outside of education do and think about that make a difference, but it is what you do in the lives of young people to allow them to envision new possibilities”. 

Through giving students a voice, using blogging, I believe we are able to allow our students to engage in meaningful ways with information, to build knowledge in communities and share their knowledge in ways that are helpful to them. 


Emdin, C. (2009) Urban science classrooms and new possibilities:

on intersubjectivity and grammar in the third space. Cultural Studies of Science Education. 4:239–254 DOI 10.1007/s11422-008-9162-5

Re-inventing the wheel?

Paul wrote a fantastic post challenging some of the ideas about knowledge that this course has shown us. 

He states:

I personally, wonder what this means with the rise of subjectivism, where knowledge is generated in the mind with no real concrete reference to reality.   With the rise of networks and the recycling of knowledge does this mean that the world becomes little more our imagination? Will this mean that in the future “anything goes”, and lets desires, whims, and emotions run rampant?

I find these ideas interesting, and scarily true. However, perhaps this is not an entirely new idea? Constructivism is founded on the premise that students actively construct their knowledge rather than just absorbing the knowledge lectured to them by teachers. 

Savery and Duffy (2005) summarise Constructivism in three main points:

  1. “Understanding is in our interactions with the environment(p.1). Piaget (1970) stated that children try to make sense of the world through manipulation of their environment and learn through the process of doing. In this way, students are responsible for their learning.
  2. “Cognitive conflict or puzzlement is the stimulus for learning and determines the organization and nature of what is learned” (Savery & Duffy, p.2). Dewey (1938, in Savery & Duffy 1995), states that it is the “problematic” that leads to learning and organizes learning. The goal of the learner is central to what is being learnt (Savery & Duffy 1995).
  1. “Knowledge evolves through social negotiation and through the evaluation of the viability of individual understandings.” (Savery & Duffy 2005, p.2).

So perhaps this notion of the social construction of knowledge is now made incredibly explicit through the use of technology? 

Hmm, I think I need to think through this a little more!

Savery & Duffy (1995). Problem based learning: an instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational Technology 35, 31-38.

What the World Needs Now…

 Dr. Michael Wesch makes the argument in this video, that we need to move our students from being knowledgeable to being knowledge ABLE.

“New media bring with them new possibilities for openness, transparency, engagement and participation, they also bring new possibilities for surveillance, manipulation, distraction and control”.

He makes the point that knowledge is everywhere. “There’s something in the air”. We all have at least one device that connects to it. 

Media allow us to connect with each other and connect with each other in various ways. When media changes, our relationships change. He compares the bringing of TV where conversations are controlled by a few and is a one way conversation to now where everyone can contribute to the “knowledge”. 

People today are meaning seekers, though being bombarded with media. This media can bet very damaging. Critical thinking is not only imperative, but Wesch makes the point that we now need to go beyond critical thinking.

Now we have a global conversation using various media. This media makes things happen. 

We can use technology to change lives, to change the world. 

Dewey states that “students learn what they do”. The message in our classrooms today is that authority and knowledge is found at the front of the room. The power comes from the front. It is removed from their lives.

Whilst technology makes it easy to physically to connect with others, in reality it is incredibly hard to do it in a meaningful way.

Knowledgeability is a practice not something we just talk about. We need to teach our students to practice how to use knowledge. Wesch suggests some ways in which we can do this:

1. embrace real problems (teacher as learner)

2. With students

3. Harnessing relevant tools when we can

4. Recognise we need to convince students that meaning is not something we find, but something we create together. 

Wesch states, “We must create learning environments that inspire a way of being-in-the-world in which they can harness and leverage this new media environment as well as recognize and actively examine, question and even re-create the (increasingly digital) structures that shape our world”.

The most important questions our students need to ask, is not “what do we need to do to pass this assessment” but, “what do we need to know for the real test – the test of our lives”. How can we use technology to change the world. 


“Content Delivery in the Blogosphere”

This article contains some helpful information I may use when writing up my proposal. It is written in a simple way with subheadings, and eliminates a whole lot of jargon others (including myself!) may not always understand. 

Next year sees me teaching a different year level. I am thinking of putting forward this proposal as our school looks to start integrating technology in our classrooms. I really feel that blogging is an excellent way forward for us and I’m hoping I can put together a robust proposal for our executive. I realise that this literature regarding blogging is a tad old, however, I believe it may form a good basis for further work.

It outlines the Pedagogy behind blogs, and contains practical suggestions for implementing blogs such as:

Consider blogging yourself

Spend time visiting other classroom blogs

Model blogging for your students

Make the blogs more public

Explain the reach of blogs to students

It also provides four benefits of blogging for students:

The use of blogs helps students become subject matter experts

The use of blogs increases student’s interest and ownership in learning

The use of blogs gives students legitimate chances to participate

The use of blogs provides opportunities for diverse perspectives, both within and outside the classroom. 


As I find more (I know there are a plethora of articles!), I’ll post summaries so I can readily find them again 🙂