From Rap Battles to the Classroom Practice

Photo of a classroom with chairs on the desks.

Written by guest blogger Melanie M. Wong.

Educational research, in my opinion, is most effective when it is put into practice. In one of my early graduate courses I remember a professor commenting on how it took over forty years for research to enter into the classroom. Hearing this comment at the time both terrified and motivated me as a researcher. In my day job, I build the capacity of hundreds of teachers in a large Canadian school district to support their English Language Learners (ELLs) in their various classrooms. As I read the literature and work with teachers, I recognize the urgent need for both researchers and teachers to consider the implications of research in a classroom and how research can both inform and improve teaching practice. Therefore, in this blog post, I would like to elaborate on some of the potential implications of my own study of a technology-enhanced classroom for K-12 students and teachers. I argue that it is critical that educators have an understanding of what occurs in the various learning spaces of their classrooms and beyond, whether technology-enhanced or not.

In my own personal experience, educators are at varying levels of readiness to use digital technologies in the classroom. Whether it is SMART boards or learning management systems, these tools are often not utilized in K-12 classrooms intentionally or effectively. These digital technologies are tools for learning but they also offer a new world of learning opportunities for K-12 students which has been documented extensively in the literature (e.g., Abrams, 2016; Black, 2008; Ito et al, 2013; Jenkins et al, 2016; Lam, 2009; Lam & Warriner, 2012; Yi, 2008). However, although technologies are readily used by K-12 students in the interstitial (non-sanctioned) learning spaces (e.g., outside of school, hallway etc.), teachers are not necessarily using these technologies in the classroom context. The findings from my study assert that rich and engaging learning experiences occur when teachers intentionally design tasks which allow students to tap into their various shared histories of learning (Wenger, 1998). These shared histories of learning include students’ experiences using digital technologies and their experiences in interstitial learning spaces. It is not about the technology but rather about providing students with a variety of options to represent their meaning making. For example, a teacher might consider providing students with an open-ended/essential question to explore (e.g., What makes a good citizen?). Students will then be asked to unpack/explore this question and represent their understandings in the way they choose. By providing students with different options (digital or not), it helps to meet the learners’ needs and engagement.

In my study, a prevalent theme was the usage of YouTube in both the school-sanctioned and interstitial learning spaces. Youtube was often a first stop for my participants when it came to finding information to inform a school project or the discovery of a new literacy practice (e.g., Rap Battles). Educators need to gain a deeper understanding of what happens in the out of school contexts (e.g., students using YouTube) because it impacts learning in a classroom. Due to the affordances of digital technologies, ideas and practices are moving seamlessly into different physical spaces. Even within the physical spaces of a classroom, students are engaging in numerous learning spaces at one instance. Knowing about what occurs both inside and outside of the classroom helps teachers to be more effective when planning for instruction and knowing their learners. I would argue it is an essential part of being an effective teacher whether technology is utilized in the classroom or not.

References

Abrams, S.S. (2016). Emotionally crafted experiences: Layering literacies in minecraft. The Reading Teacher, 70 (4), 501-506.

Black, R. W. (2008). Adolescents and online fan fiction. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti., M, boyd, d., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P. G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K. Z., Pascoe, C. J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tipp, L. (2013). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Jenkins, H., Ito, M., & boyd, d. (2016). Participatory culture in a networked era. Malden, MA: Polity Press

Lam, W. S. E. (2009). Multiliteracies on Instant Messaging in Negotiating Local, Translocal, and Transnational Affiliations: A Case of an Adolescent Immigrant. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(4), 377-397.

Lam, W. S. E. & Warriner, D. (2012). Transnational and literacy: Investigating the mobility of people, languages, texts and practices in contexts of migration. Reading Research Quarterly, 47 (2), 191-215

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Yi, Y. (2008). Relay writing in an adolescent online community. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51 (8), 670-680.

Melanie M. Wong is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. She is also a K–12 educator. Her latest article in The Canadian Modern Language Review entitled “‘Sa:y What You Want . . .’: Rap Battles in a Technology-Enhanced Classroom” is free to read for a limited time here

What Students Deserve in a Textbook

With the recent release of Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, we asked author Laura Tubelle de González to talk about her new textbook, and her hopes for its use in the classroom. Here, González discusses what inspired her, why she includes her own personal experiences, and how her strategic use of language and graphics will allow students to easily place themselves within the book.


Excerpt from Chapter 8: Gender and Sexuality in Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology.

When my daughter, Maya, was very little, I made sure to provide her with all kinds of toys, including those “meant” for boys, like cars, excavation kits, robots, and other toys from the blue aisle. I didn’t want to confine her imagination to those things that North American society deemed appropriate only for girls. One day, I came into her room, and she was playing with a set of little Hot Wheels cars. I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back, feeling smug that she had chosen the cars over her dolls for playtime. Wanting to know more, I asked, “I see you’re playing with your cars. What are you playing?” Expecting to hear something typical for car play, like “car chase” or “car crash,” I was flabbergasted when she replied, “well, this is the daddy car, this is the mama car, and these are the baby cars.” I realized then that there are aspects of gender that are unquestionably intrinsic to each individual. Maya was who she was, no matter what toys I offered her.

My lower division cultural anthropology courses are full of personal examples, like this one about Maya’s Hot Wheels cars and expectations of gender. I can’t resist telling stories about my first night of fieldwork in Oaxaca when I was served fried grasshoppers, or how deliberating whether or not to buy the most popular (pooping!) baby doll as a holiday gift illustrates the market economy. There are so many ways in which life as a teacher, family member, community member, and citizen highlights anthropological ideas. I believe that the classroom community is made richer when we share our own life examples. My new textbook from UTP, Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, seeks to create the kind of reading environment that connects author and students in the same way we connect in the classroom.

The textbook is an adaptation of a four-field general anthropology textbook that I co-authored with my Canadian colleague, Bob Muckle, called Through the Lens of Anthropology, Second Edition. As we wrote, we made an effort to create a text that was engaging and geared toward lower-division students. The book has a special focus on food, sustainability, and language throughout, with pop culture references that students will recognize. We also tried to write a true North American text, that felt relevant to students from both the US and Canada. Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology develops the cultural and linguistic sections into a full semester’s course text with 12 chapters and additional chapter topics, retaining an emphasis on those areas mentioned above.

When writing Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, I thought of my own students, and what they deserve in a textbook. First, it’s essential that all students see themselves reflected in the book. For this reason, I put special emphasis on the use of gender-neutral pronouns and inclusion of transgender and non-binary issues throughout, not just confined to the gender and sexuality chapter. My research among gender expansive students in community colleges underscores the importance of inclusion of all genders and sexualities in the classroom and in course material.

Credit: Karen Rubins/Alpa Shah.

Secondly, the book makes a special effort to include narratives that are not always emphasized, such as the contributions of Black anthropologists, issues of White privilege, the voices of Canadian First Nations peoples, and others. It is important to me as a teacher and textbook author to enable students to connect to course material in not only logical but also emotional ways. I believe that transformative learning comes from compassion, not only intellectual understanding. Therefore, the book attempts to make these kinds of connections. I deeply appreciate the comment made by my friend and fellow UTP author, Tad McIlwraith, when he said the book “reads like a provocative argument in favour of cultural diversity.”

Finally, following the lead of editor Anne Brackenbury (who has recently left her position at UTP), the textbook uses comics and graphic panels to help tell the story of anthropology in a visual way. The cover has a preview of that focus, with a wonderful set of images of diverse people from the text by artist Charlotte Hollands, who regularly creates graphic panels for the American Anthropological Association. My students enjoy the way that a graphic story can draw them into a set of ideas in ways that text alone often can’t. For instance, reading about praxis may not be as successful as engaging with a graphic panel on praxis in the context of collaborating with the mermaid community (drawn by Karen Rubins, illustrating the article by Alpa Shah).

When I mention to people that I teach anthropology, I often hear “that was my favorite class in college!” The way cultural anthropology connects students’ lives to others around the world makes it a potentially transformative course, especially for students thinking about ethnocentrism or cultural relativism for the first time. Engaging in the act of deconstructing our own behavior – questioning our beliefs and behaviors – is a way to make course material real, both in the classroom and in our texts.


If you want to find out more about Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, click here to view the table of contents and read an exclusive excerpt from the book.

Laura Tubelle de González is a professor of Anthropology at San Diego Miramar College in Southern California.

Understanding What Works: New Book Explores Health Innovations from Around the World

Drawing on the analysis of over one thousand organizations engaged in health market innovations, Private Sector Entrepreneurship in Global Health is a valuable resource for researchers and students in management, global health, medicine, development studies, health economics, and anthropology, as well as program managers, social impact investors, funders, and policymakers interested in understanding approaches emerging from the private sector in health care.

In this post, the editors of Private Sector Entrepreneurship in Global Health discuss the Toronto Health Organization Performance Evaluation (T-HOPE), a group they co-founded back in 2007. They reflect on the outcomes of that group, and discuss why ongoing commitment to improvements in human health is as important now as it was 50 years ago.


This book is the culmination of more than a decade of collaborative work conducted at the University of Toronto, in partnership with colleagues around the world through our group, the Toronto Health Organization Performance Evaluation (T-HOPE). The work published here began when co-editors Onil Bhattacharyya and Anita McGahan joined the faculties of Medicine and Management, respectively, in 2007. We engaged students from each of our disciplines to examine the medical and management innovations of pioneering organizations from the private sector – both social enterprises and non-profits. This led to insights about how some private sector pioneers applied management techniques in finance, operations, and marketing to achieve breakthroughs in health outcomes in resource-limited settings.

In 2010, Will Mitchell and Kathryn Mossman joined the team, and we partnered with Results for Development (R4D) to explore how broad health outcome measures contrasted with the organization-level process and profitability metrics that were customary in our fields of medicine and management. The field needed criteria that reflected differences in the strategies, sustainability, and scale of the innovative organizations that we sought to assess. We wanted to develop a reliable framework that was widely applicable to assess the effectiveness of organizational choices.

To accomplish this, we engaged with a committed, inquisitive, and capable group of students from medicine, social science, public health, management, and global affairs. The T-HOPE team worked on a series of projects focused on understanding how organizations around the globe are innovating to improve healthcare, particularly for the poor. In everything we did, we sought to adhere to strong scholarship while translating our research to findings that would be useful in practice and policy.

This book reflects the outcome of that decade-long effort. Key themes include:

  • Managing trade-offs between access, quality, and efficiency: Credible and feasible measures to guide strategy are essential to create health value in new ways and to apply innovative approaches.
  • Localization: New tools that reflect local needs and local resource constraints are available to support innovative organizations, especially those that seek to address the specific concerns of small communities.
  • Reverse innovation: There are growing opportunities to learn from different contexts and apply innovations from other parts of the world, including diffusion from resource-constrained contexts, in higher-income countries such as Canada.
  • Technological leverage: Digital health tools can improve access and empower patients and providers.
  • Sustainability: Sustaining impactful health innovations requires innovative financing, partnerships, and approaches to cost structure.
  • Scaling: Scaling up innovative approaches begins with generating demand, and is fulfilled by excellence in execution.
  • Management is central to healthcare: Many of the problems facing healthcare are management problems, creating the potential to revolutionize healthcare through innovative approaches to the central management issues of organizational processes, finance, and marketing.
  • Public-private complementarity: Critically, health innovators from the public and private sectors must work together to coordinate and integrate care to maximize impact.

 

Our core message is simple: private sector organizations, including for-profit social enterprises and non-profit NGOs, play a large role in delivering healthcare in many countries. Harnessing the capabilities and activities of these organizations can help achieve sustainable healthcare for those who need it most. A range of organizations in the private sector have implemented technical, organizational, and management innovations that provide healthcare and promote health in a range of settings. These innovations can inform healthcare in other settings.

While we see public sector agencies and initiatives as essential to the planning and sustainability of health care globally, we also acknowledge that public sector organizations face resource limits, political challenges, organizational constraints, and other barriers that can limit their impact. In turn, we highlight the value that private sector organizations can bring to health globally – by testing and scaling new models that fill gaps in care, and by acting as a source of replicable solutions in other settings. Private-sector organizations can extend the reach and impact of public organizations. Through greater coordination, collaboration, and integration, public and private providers can work together to ensure that quality care is accessible to those who need it most around the world.

Globally, a great deal has been accomplished during the past half century to improve healthcare and strengthen health systems. On average, average life expectancy has increased by 20 years since 1960, while infant mortality dropped by 35 children per 1,000 births since 1990. Despite this success, huge gaps in access and quality remain in all countries – both on average and in the lives of individuals. Indeed, improvements in many countries have plateaued, and in some cases even been reversed, during the past decade. Moreover, health challenges that once were isolable now have global implications – the cross-border diffusion of the Ebola virus is one obvious example. Ongoing commitment to improvements in human health is as important now as it was 50 years ago.


Anita M. McGahan is University Professor and George E. Connell Professor of Organizations and Society at the University of Toronto, where she is appointed at the Rotman School, the Munk School, the Physiology Department of the Medical School, and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Kathryn Mossman is Associate Director of Research and Strategy at iD. As an anthropologist and research consultant, her areas of interest include global health, gender and immigration, knowledge translation, insights and strategy, and organizational effectiveness.

Will Mitchell is the Anthony S. Fell Chair in New Technologies and Commercialization at the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto. He studies business dynamics in markets around the world.

Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya is a family physician and the Frigon Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research at Women’s College Hospital. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

Scottish Military Suicide in the Long Twentieth Century




World War One: first aid on the battlefield, Somme. Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Written by guest blogger Dr. Simon Harold Walker.

In 1916, just weeks after the first battle of the Somme, a Scottish Private penned his suicide note. The note began, ‘I cannot stand it anymore…they will not let me come home.’ This desperate Private was not the only man to take his own life during the First World War. In fact, it is increasingly becoming apparent that this was not an entirely rare event. Another, a former driver in the Royal Army Medical Corps, wounded out of service in 1916, also took his own life after being refused for reenlistment. Potentially influenced by the rhetoric of the white feather campaign, and shame and emasculation directed at those not in service, he lay down on a train track in 1917 to be decapitated.

Suicide within the British Military is a long-standing issue and topical issue. For the Scottish Armed Forces, recognition and support for these cases have been a long-term struggle. To this day, the charter from 1923 which outlines who is entitled to be named on the Honour Roll, explicitly forbids the inclusion of suicide cases:

A member of the Armed Forces of the Crown or of the Merchant Navy who was either a Scotsman (i.e. born in Scotland or who had a Scottish born father or Mother) or served in a Scottish Regiment and was killed or died (except as a result of suicide) as a result of a wound, injury or disease sustained (a) in a theatre of operations for which a medal has been or is awarded; or (b) whilst on duty in aid of the Civil Power.

Yet, Scotland has also been at the vanguard of dealing with military mental health in recent history. The infamous Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh developed increasingly sophisticated and innovative ways to treat and understand Shellshock during and after the First World War. Initially, a hydropathic institute specializing in water therapy; as an understanding of Shellshock developed, practical recovery techniques for psychiatric first aid were introduced for patients which included: swimming, golf, tennis, and cricket. Patients made model yachts, joined the camera club, and walked in the grounds. The famous psychologist William Rivers successfully utilized the ‘talking cure’ for shell-shocked officers while practicing at Craiglockhart on famous patients like the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

Sassoon also remains one of the only war poets to publish on the issue of soldier suicide directly. Within his poem, he describes the suicide of a soldier whose death is never again discussed. Sassoon outlines succinctly what remains to be a considerable challenge for historians and modern servicemen and women. In 2018, eight Scottish military personnel took their own lives, prompting Clare Haughey MSP the Minister for Mental Health to issue a statement confirming that steps were being taken to support the mental health of veterans.

Military suicide is a difficult topic to research and consider, but it is also increasingly essential as service and veteran suicide rates have yo-yoed worryingly since 2003 in countries such as Britain, the United States, and Canada. My research focuses on military suicides in Britain between 1914 -2018, and so far it has uncovered many untold histories.

Dr. Simon Harold Walker is a Military Medical Historian and Historical Suicidologist who is currently researching the History of British Suicide in the Long Twentieth Century. He has published on a variety of topics associated with the British Army and Military Medicine and is releasing a book on the physical creation and transformation of soldier’s bodies in the First World War with Bloomsbury Publishing titled Physical Control, Transformation and Damage in the First World War: War Bodies. He also presents the YouTube series Feeding Under Fire, where he takes pleasure in feeding trench food to his unsuspecting guests. You can find out more about Dr. Walker and his research at his website www.simonhwalker.com

Dr. Walker’s latest article in the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History entitled “The Greater Good: Agency and Inoculation in the British Army, 1914–18” is free to read for a limited time here.

Where is the Nearest Starbucks, or, Globalization, Technology and Frontier Migration?


The global(izing) city contains several cultural time zones which are familiar to frontier migrants
Photo by DuBoix at Morguefile.com

Written by guest blogger Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

One early morning in New Delhi, a young American woman who had recently migrated to India said to me, “Thank God for Google Maps!…[My move to India] wouldn’t have been possible…[without] all these stores…Zara is here, Starbucks is here…”

Although India’s capital is a notoriously tough city for Westerners to live in – the pollution, immense income disparities, the everyday struggle to negotiate with vendors and autorickshaw-wallahs and so on – this woman, whose parents had left India before she was subsequently born and raised in the USA, described her migration as being made possible by globalization.

The migration experience for migrants, refugees and even tourists has been totally transformed by technology (Google Maps, Uber, email, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, and so on). My research on migration and globalization finds that technology makes it easier for those far away from their home country to feel closer to those left behind because communication technologies enable convenient and free communication with no time lag. But technology also makes them feel more at home in their new country.

The plethora of GPS navigation apps makes it easier to find one’s way in a new city. And the fact that the same apps are available in several countries means that the new migrant just has to flip on her smartphone and continue where she left off in her home country. Dating on Tinder or watching Netflix or shopping on Amazon or similar online retailers is now possible in scores of countries worldwide. Because of technology and globalization, crossing a national border into a new country does not necessarily mean a disruption in lifestyle. However, my research also finds that migrants from “developed” countries like Japan and South Korea and those in the UK, EU and North America have a significant advantage over other types of migrants when it comes to “finding home” in a new country.

“First World” Dominance

“Developed” or “First World” countries tend to dominate the process we call globalization and that means that migrants from these countries can find their home media, goods, food, apps, architecture, urban design and microspaces I call Cultural Time Zones (cafes, gyms, stores and so on) almost everywhere. For example, the top three most watched TV shows in the world are all American: The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones and then Grey’s Anatomy. These are “global” hits but often, when we use the word “global,” it refers to something that comes from a “developed” economy.

Often, during the course of my research on frontier migration – the move of people, capital, ideas and technology from a more “developed” economy to a “developing” one – migrants mention the foods that they miss most from their home countries. However, with the intensification of globalization in the 21st century, frontier migrants, more often than not, are able to find much of their traditional cuisine in their new countries.

“Global” Food

Starbucks, the well-known chain of coffee stores, operates in about 40% of the world’s nations. McDonald’s, the iconic hamburger chain, operates in over half the world’s countries. Coca-Cola is drunk in practically every country in the world. All these companies come from the USA.

The top ten companies that control the world’s food supply such as Associated British Foods (ABF) and Switzerland’s Nestlé have a common geographical origin. They are all American or European. For frontier migrants from the US, the UK and the EU, this means that they often encounter familiar brands and foodstuffs on their travels far from home. Frontier migrants from Japan and South Korea do not find as much of their home food although sushi is becoming increasingly popular globally but they do find other things that remind them of home.

“Global” Brands

Japanese and South Korean cars, televisions and phones dominate the market in many corners of the globe. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai which also owns Kia are some of the world’s most popular cars. South Korean company, Samsung, has some of the most popular smartphones in the world and Sony electronics are a dominant Japanese brand in several countries.

Other “developed” countries’ automobiles and smartphones are also ubiquitous in many economies. German cars like the Mercedes-Benz and BMW dominate luxury sales along with British Aston Martins and Rolls Royces. No discussion of the smartphone is complete without mentioning US company Apple’s classic iPhone but beyond food, vehicles and electronics, frontier migrants find the urban landscape of many of the world’s globalizing cities like Shanghai, New Delhi, Johannesburg, Moscow, and São Paulo deeply reminiscent of what they left behind.

“Global” Cultural Time Zones

Gleaming skyscrapers that are part of an impressive vertical skyline are increasingly part of a city’s claim to global status. Skyscrapers are an architectural form that was born in the USA in the second half of the 19th-century and now they are built in every country. For frontier migrants, this is just one example of the multiple “global” cultural time zones (CTZs) they will find in the globalizing urbanscape of their new cities of residence.

Western-style CTZs like the American Starbucks and the British chain Costa offer the same lattes and snack foods everywhere. Fast food American restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway are often present in middle-class neighbourhoods in globalizing cities offering familiar fare. When it comes to exercising, Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and Fitness First are some of the “global gyms” founded in the West but now operating in numerous countries. If a frontier migrant should want to buy new clothes, he will again encounter more familiar brands in any of the American-style malls which are increasingly popular in developing countries.

According to McKinsey’s Global Fashion Index, 97% of the world’s retail sector profit is dominated by ten European and American companies including well-known brands like Zara, H&M and Nike. After buying new clothes, the frontier migrant may want to show them off in a hipster bar, another US export to the world.

Or, he can just snap some pics on his phone to post on his social media feeds so that his friends and family in both his home country and his new one can offer their opinion.

Either way, globalization and technology have completely transformed the migrant experience, especially for frontier migrants from “developed” countries which already dominate globalizing processes.

Photo of Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo is a research associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Wits City Institute. She was a 2017 Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study Writing Fellow and the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award to conduct research in India in 2016, where she was affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi. Myambo has a PhD in comparative literature from New York University, and when the weather is warm, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Links to her other writings can be found on her website. Her current research focuses on globalization, migration, and “hipsterification” (hipster-led gentrification).

Her latest article in Diaspora entitled “Bloody Diaspora Theory for the Twenty-First Century: African and Asian Heritage Migrants Return” is free to read for a limited time here.