Collaborating with a group for the last set of assignments has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during my tenure in the Instructional Technology Graduate Program at SUNY Oneonta. My cohort was a group of professionals who, despite challenging circumstances shared their understanding and expertise in their respective fields. We were able to develop a structure that allowed for flexible but comprehensive communication.
Our social awareness topic was Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex individuals (LGBTQI) and how their identity, awareness, and understanding could be represented and valued in the school curriculum. We conducted research on the topic in order to provide ourselves with information about the experiences and needs of individuals who identify as LGBTQI. We used this information to create a set of standards that would guide social justice curriculum planning. The objectives included:
- Analyze authentic examples of social justice issues within your classroom from multiple perspectives. Teach through multiple perspectives to broaden students’ knowledge.
- Being intentional about valuing student identity to promote equity is critical to the core of your design. Leverage diversity through connected and shared values.
- Be aware of all aspects of diversity (LGBTQI, Racial, Cultural, etc.) within your student body in order to connect these students’ experiences to one another. Show the students that prejudices and biases do exist but teach them how to overcome them.
- Lead by example.
I am really proud of the standards that we were able to develop because they spoke to our core beliefs as educators and reflected the needs of the students. We communicated primarily through text as our schedules had not permitted face to face meetings. Through this form of communication, we provided each other feedback and helped one another to flesh out ideas to make sure the presented a unified message. One group member developed the structure for the shared document, everyone contributed, and I uploaded the information.
For the next task, we were assigned to review games and digital media applications with social justice themes. We provided a brief overview of the games including price and content. We then determined possible ways that these games could be used within the curriculum to bring awareness to students who identify as LGBTQI. During this task, group leaders organically took on roles to provide structure and organization. Every member participated as we communicated through text and Google Docs to complete the task. For this task, I would have liked the opportunity to view the synopsis developed by other groups as well.
Finally, one of the most rewarding experiences was providing feedback on lesson plans based around social justice ideas of equity. As a group, we divided the lesson plans in order to be able to provide comprehensive and detailed feedback. We supported one another by having each other look at specific components that we were uncertain about or helping each other to how to word feedback so that the intent was not lost in translation. We utilized the social justice standards as our criteria for feedback. This task was an authentic collegial experience. My coworkers and I engage in this activity twice monthly to ensure that our instructional design is meeting the student’s needs.
Working collaboratively is a 21st-century skill that promotes diverse perspectives and thoughtful communication. Working with a cohort provided a level of accountability that is sometimes lacking when attending school online. I was able to learn to communicate more effectively, ask for guidance, provide guidance and feel connected. I look forward to more opportunities to collaborate.