Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Silent Ones

The ongoing student protests in Montreal are impossible to ignore.  This is one social debate that citizens cannot detach themselves from by tuning out and ignoring the din of the nightly demonstrations (often violent) on the streets of Montreal and in my downtown neighborhood. The protest has morphed from the original focus on tuition hikes to the contesting of the special law 78 and many of its provisions that citizens believe are contravening Canadian's fundamental rights of expression and association. Every evening at 8 pm sharp, citizens of all ages take to the streets banging on pots and pans. This 'manif des casseroles' happens mostly downtown and looks like this: (video from my balcony)

But this post is not about the students and their contention that the government is marginalizing them with the increase in tuition.  Rather it is about another marginalized group in our society; one that is almost completely silent.  The elderly sit quietly through their final years, often alone and unproductive.  Yesterday, as I strolled the sunny streets of downtown Montreal, at the corner of deMaisonneuve and St. Denis, I saw this:

These elderly people sat quietly in their chairs, not acknowledging their perplexed audience below.  Understand this as you will; its meaning is not as striking as the contrast it provides between the divergent needs of these two groups and way in which their voices are heard, or not.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Low Tech Learning

It is inevitable.  Computers crash, hard drives die and servers can fail spectacularly leaving their dependents (teachers and student in this case) gasping for our virtual breath.  Today was one of those days when even plan b gave way to plan c and d!

In my Philosophy for Teens class,  we turned our temporary 'web-less-ness' into some old school fun. For homework, the students had watched two short videos on the amazing Alice Sommer-Herz, a centagenarian who survived the Nazi camps and lived to share her love of music and inspiring wisdom in her book, "A Garden of Eden in Hell".  They had also read Einstein's famous essay, "The World As I See It".  In class, they worked on individual concept maps for each thinker (Sommer-Herz and Einstein).  Then together they went up to the board and worked on a collaborative map.  Normally, we would have done this activity with mindmeister but today it was paper, pencil and the whiteboard.  It was, as they say, 'old school' but they thoroughly enjoyed standing up at the board and deciding together, what idea goes where and who writes what.  I was pleased and somewhat surprised at how well the lesson went.  To be sure, the visual representation of ideas and their connections is a powerful way to learn, done digitally or on the whiteboard.