JALTCALL2018 from My Angle

JALTCALL2018 from My Angle

I attended and presented at JALTCALL2018 in June (you can find my poster here) and here are some highlights, takeaways, and thoughts (I know I should have written this blog post much earlier!):

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  • I attended Andrew Blyth’s workshop, How to Set up Your Own Website to Support Your Students and Career. Check HelloSpace to learn more on this topic.

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  • I talked to Gary Ross about how to learn to code, and here is his advice:
  1. Start with creating a webpage
  2. Take online courses on coding
  3. Listen to Jen Simmons’s podcasts:  http://jensimmons.com/
  4. Read books (I’m waiting for Gary to share his favorite books with me. I’ll add them later).

After talking to Gary, I searched and found these two websites:

https://learntocodewith.me/

https://1millionwomentotech.com/

  • While I liked the interactive nature of the roundtable, The Future of Educational Technology, I found the discussion about introversion and shyness simplistic and biased. Also, linguistic imperialism was acknowledged, however, the message was: That’s the way it is. We enjoy it!
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PanSIG2018: GALE Forum

Debunking Stereotypes about Middle Eastern Women in the EFL Classroom

I won the JALT GALE Professional Development Scholarship 2018 and had the chance to present at GALE Forum: “Equality Across Borders” which examined issues related to gender and identity both within Japan and globally.

My colleague, Elisabeth Fernandes, and I explored the theme of debunking stereotypes of Middle Eastern Women. We are both teaching English in the Japanese university context. We first shared our personal narratives focusing on Iran, my homeland, and Pakistan, which Elisabeth visited. We then talked about our collaboration in our English classrooms to dispel stereotypes about Middle Eastern women. We introduced our projects (e.g., “I Am More Than A Stereotype: Meet An Iranian Woman”, “Exploring Stereotypes”, and “Write4Change”) aimed at helping our learners reflect upon these existing stereotypes, and the impact of these misconceptions on attitudes towards the identity of these women. We also discussed how technology helps us fulfill our goals of challenging stereotypes.

 

PanSIG2018: MAVR Forum

Connecting to Puerto Rico through Augmented and Virtual Realities

After a massive hurricane hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, Antonio Vantaggiato, a professor at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, started a campaign on social media for his students, asking people to send postcards of encouragement. In response, we designed a corresponding project for our university classes in Japan, titled “How Can I Change the World: Bookmarks for Puerto Rico”. We chose bookmarks as an “educational” item on which our students could write encouraging messages in English, and which could then become a keepsake for the Puerto Rican students. Through the use of virtual reality (VR), our students were able to “travel” to Puerto Rico to experience the devastating results of the hurricane. They were also able to explore the campus of the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón through 3D images. We also utilized augmented reality (AR) to bring our #care4sagrado message to life. Our learning objectives in this project were to teach our EFL Japanese learners to empathize and to become caring global citizens. In our presentation, we demoed our AR-generated message and introduced the AR app, Blippar, we used to create it.

 

On the Buzzwords of “Diversity” and “Inclusion”

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Diversity and Inclusion: Before coming to Japan, I had no idea what they mean! After experiencing exclusion and feeling marginalized, I am gradually getting to know these terms.

ELT people in Japan have felt that there is a need to talk about diversity and inclusion and probably this is why the theme of JALT2018 is “Diversity and Inclusion”. It is worth noting that the theme of SIETAR Japan 2017 was “Promoting Equity and Social Change: Acknowledging the Diversity Within”.

Here is the message on JALT2018 webpage:

“To everything there is a season.” And a reason. Now is the season for inclusion, to embrace the incredible diversity within our profession. Although there seems to be much diversion, division, and exclusion in the wider world, the time is now ripe for us to look at the diversity within our practices and ask, “How can we be more inclusive?” In order to support inclusion and create a more level playing field for our students, we need to better understand the evolving language learning and teaching landscape, become aware of the work that is being done in new areas and heed the call from our learners, teachers, and institutions to play our parts in a brighter future.

JALT2018 will provide a platform for new ideas and hitherto unheard voices to be heard. It will provide avenues to open up our classrooms and challenge existing ideas about what we language teachers and our learners need in order to usher in an era of change. We aim to address the concerns of teachers, learners, and leaders and show how “inclusion” provides a place from which multiplicity of thought and action can flourish.

The theme of the conference has been questioned. Here are the questions and you can find them on JALT social media:

  1. Is ‘exclusion’ a problem among JALT members that needs to be addressed?
  2. I must be confused. What does diversity and inclusion have to do with teaching English?
  3. Inclusion is a complex notion. I wonder what it means to everyone. It is obviously more than just being “included in a group”, with a lot of politics attached. Is it equality as well? Is it oriented to inclusion of minorities and removing discrimination?
  4. Would this inclusion and diversity you speak of be extended to those who are skeptical of the leftist / Marxist / post-modern conceptual framework on which the conference is based. This is a sincere question.

These questions encouraged me to do a deep research and find some information about diversity and inclusion. Maha Bali’s blog post, Unpacking terms around equity, power and privilege, and podcast, Complicating diversity and inclusion hosted by Greg Curran, were the best resources to start with. I read her blog post three times and listened to her podcast twice. I paused the podcast and went back and forth many times.

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Here are the parts that I found interesting and thought-provoking:


♥ Becoming Conscious of Our Oppression ♥

Everyone who is a minority in some way at some point in their life becomes conscious of oppression hopefully if they are educated and they start to open their eyes. If you are in that situation and it is happening to you all the time, you start noticing it, and then you realize that it is actually intersectional.

Also, I found the term “colorblind” related to this point. Here are some parts from a post by Na Shai Alexander, Gen Y on D&I: The Problem with Colorblindness in the Selfie Generation. She remarks:

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How many times have you heard someone in your professional or personal circles say that they are “colorblind” or “don’t see color?”  Or that “color doesn’t matter” to them?  On the surface, these statements seem innocuous. And in a society where much history has been marked with painful recollections of racial tension, injustice, and discrimination, wounds that in many cases are still tender, it is easy to see why the term prevails. Talking about color isn’t easy, and so, in many cases, we don’t.

It is even more bizarre to conclude that we can be “colorblind” in this day of Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the like. In this “selfie generation,” color is often the first (and hopefully not the last) detail that we see.

Diversity begins with color consciousness, or critical awareness of race and racism. However, awareness of and valuing diversity are not sufficient to achieve it.

Assuming that diverse persons will be attracted to an institution simply because of its excellence or because it values diversity is a passive approach that is unlikely to diversify an institution.

Proactive and ongoing efforts toward inclusion and equity are necessary to create and sustain diversity.


♥ Getting Beyond Generic Approaches to Diversity and Inclusion ♥

A lot of times we talk about diversity or we bring a different person but that does not take into account the complexity of how that different person will fit into the structures that already exist and a lot of times those structures are not modified to support the inclusion.

A lot of times diversity is tokenistic and it is just bringing a different person to look like we have the person but then it does not take into account the complexities why it is difficult for that person to be there in the first place, and once they are there, how to make sure that when they are there their voices are understood not just heard.

Diversity is a “nice” term for the dominant to use, and it implies that just having different people with different backgrounds is a desirable thing, because it benefits everyone, including the dominant. The problem with the term diversity is that it removes power from the equation.


♥ An Intentional Approach to Diversity and Inclusion ♥

The trickier thing is recognizing that diversity is HARD WORK if you want to do it right. Because integrating people who are different from the dominant majority/perspective is not a matter of plunging them in and expecting it all to work out. There will be tension. There needs to be intentional effort to make this work. To make the voices exist alongside each other, when in reality, having a couple of “diverse” voices in a sea of dominance does nothing to challenge the status quo.

Inclusivity is such a problematic term because:

♦ It implies there is a thing that belongs to certain people, and they’re being generous by including others into it, by letting others in.

♦ When I “include” someone, I include them on my own terms, and that’s not the epitome of empowerment. Inclusivity is better than not inclusivity, right? But inclusivity is not empowerment.

You involve people but you keep doing things exactly the same as you have been doing it before. That is not really solving the problem.

When you include one person who is different from everybody else, that does not help. But if you have the diversity of diverse people, that becomes different.


♥ Final Remarks ♥

As a Muslim who has lived in the US and UK, I don’t have a lot of instances of people discriminating me, but when it happens, it is deep because it is not that one incident. There is a lot more behind it. There is background to that feeling. You as an individual are not problematic.

Even marginal people together can silence each other, for example, by not being willing to speak up about certain things.


I keep reading and blogging! 🙂

 

 

How to Achieve Gender Parity in ELT Conferences and Events: Some Guidelines

How to Achieve Gender Parity in ELT Conferences & Events (1)

I am an active member of JALT GALE SIG and we are discussing how to achieve gender parity in ELT conferences, events, and associations in general. It is believed that some guidelines are needed to make the selection processes systematic as there is a fine line between inclusion and positive discrimination. Some good articles have been shared on the GALE mailing list. As usual, I consulted EVE: Equal Voices in ELT. Also, I personally did a search and found some resources.

Here is the list of articles and other resources on this topic that I have read so far:

And here are the parts that I found interesting:

  1. Become aware of our own biases, which means recognizing the lenses that we’ve looked through for our entire lives.
  2. To reduce gender biases, we need to acknowledge them.
  3. Avoid these excuses: https://www.genderavenger.com/excuses/ and https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44310225
  4. Collect the data; i.e., count the number of women and men attending a conference.
  5. Develop a speaker policy; for example, the conference committee wants to achieve a gender balance of speakers that roughly reflects that of its audience.
  6. Make the policy visible and put it online for everyone to see.
  7. Establish a balanced and informed program committee. If the conference program committee is not diverse, then neither will be the speaker list.
  8. Report the data to see how well the conference, speaker series, or symposium meets its stated policy goals.
  9. Build and use databases because some people find it difficult to come up with names of women speakers, compared with men speakers. Here is an example: https://genderequalityelt.wordpress.com/database-of-women/
  10. Respond to resistance. Most criticisms are easily addressed by establishing a dialogue with those who are critical about establishing a policy, and you can prepare in advance.
  11. Support women at meetings. Women often have primary caring responsibility for children. This can limit their ability to travel and to attend conferences. So, be family-friendly.
  12. Take the pledge: When you are invited to help organize, attend, or speak at a conference, ask to see the conference speaker policy before you accept.
  13. Make diversity a strategic priority and expect those who work for and/or with us to do so as well.
  14. Raise awareness of diversity. If you are asked to present, be on a panel, or serve on a committee, ask if there are (other) women participating. If not, suggest names of women to invite.
  15. Consider not speaking at an event unless the event’s organizers are clearly working hard to address diversity on stage.

At Buffer, they ask themselves if the event displays the characteristics of their core  values. Here are some of them:

  • Default to transparency
  • Listen first, then listen more
  • Have a bias toward clarity
  • Make time to reflect
  • Show gratitude
  • Do the right thing

I think some of these guidelines can be applied to achieve highly proficient speaker parity in ELT conferences and events as well.

Finally, here is the most interesting conflict of interest I have ever read:

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
We care about diversity in science and may therefore be biased.

If you want to add more guidelines or share some resources on how to achieve gender parity in ELT conferences and events, which should not be an issue but it is in some contexts, please leave a comment.

Thank you.

Peace ❤

Diversity at JALT and the JALT Code of Conduct

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After this incident my life changed completely. Now, I actively give talks about the real Iran and the Iranian people behind the news, and blog about the Iranian identity at https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/. I am dealing with smiling depression and social anxiety. To heal myself and learn how to respond to micro/macroaggressions, I participate in events/workshops on harassment. I became an active member of JALT GALE SIG. I joined SIETAR Japan. So, I am trying to create something positive out of a horrible experience.

BTW, I added “An Equity Advocate” to the title of my blog, and a couple of emojis to my Twitter account! I also tweet randomly and quite irrelevantly about the unseen Iran!

I just finished writing a report on Gifu JALT event in January 2018 about diversity at JALT and the JALT Code of Conduct, which was developed due to several unpleasant incidents at JALT conferences (including the incident that happened to me –> That was the reason I did not quit JALT and decided to stick around and make little changes, and I am pushing myself to feel belonged to JALT, as inclusion is not the same as involvement).

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Here are my sketchnotes:

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p.s. Recently, I have realized that there is no “JALT National Conference” but there is a “JALT International Conference”! Well, it is time to dispel stereotypes about JATL, too 😉 I am working on that 🙂

Here is the link to the report in JALT GALE Newsletter:

http://gale-sig.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Spring-Gale-Newsletter-2018-May-16-FINAL-small-5.31.pdf

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