16 October 2016

Many Facets to the Same Jewel

Over the last several months, I've been doing a lot of reading about additional perspectives on data visualization. We are all familiar with bar and line charts...and many other types, mostly developed and promoted by white males. On one hand, it would seem that the basic versions of charts we use would be somewhat agnostic; but then, nothing ever is.

As I was traveling down another rabbit hole, I ran across an article by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert: Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete. It is not an article about data viz, but it does explore ideas related to "accepting the validity of multiple ways of knowing and thinking." The focus of the article is STEM, and in particular, the difficulty with recruiting and retaining women. They seek to "address sources of exclusion determined not by rules that keep women out, but by ways of thinking that make them reluctant to join in." The article was written in 1992, so some of the references feel dated, but the concept that there should be a variety of valid pathways to the same endpoint is timeless.

I couldn't help wondering about connections with education. We are primarily a profession of women (about 76%), and yet only about half of all principals and just 15% of superintendents are female. Turkle and Papert write that "Women are too often faced with the not necessarily conscious choice of putting themselves at odds either with the cultural meanings of being a scientist or with the cultural constructions of being a woman." I would guess that you could replace scientist in the previous sentence with principal, superintendent, or even leader and have a partial explanation about why there are so few of us at the organizational helm. Or perhaps administration lacks appeal because of how many women view the world as "a web of interconnections among people" vs. a "hierarchy of autonomous positions."

Further than that, I've been thinking about the implications for how we offer professional learning opportunities. I was talking with a male colleague recently about a project he's been working on to use video and remote coaching in the classroom. When he wound down, I asked him if he'd noticed that all of the names he'd mentioned...all of the teachers involved...were male. He had, but his reflection on that was focused on recruiting women. I suggested that maybe they wanted a different opportunity to engage. There's more than one way to engage in reflective practice, after all. In another conversation last week, I listened as a teacher passionately described several pieces of information from her various heroes of grading. All men. Don't know if she noticed that, but I sure did.

All this has started me wondering about PLCs, conferences, edcamps, instructional coaching, workshops, and other opportunities we provide for professional learning. Do we ever apply a lens which causes us to look at how practitioners view things---including societal messaging---vs. the goals we have in the name of "support"?

As I mentioned earlier, the article that prompted this thinking was written in 1992. It focuses on gender. There is no mention of the rich backgrounds and intersectionality that all teachers bring to the classroom...their ethnicity or race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more. And that absence points to the lack of a full range of conversation about what our system of education looks like from something other than a white male message. We continue to make efforts around social justice conversations in our classrooms. How do we reframe the entire context of school to include the different viewpoints of those who work in it?

I'll continue to keep an eye out for that, as I read through various articles on Feminist Data Visualization, alternate histories of data viz, and other aspects of the digital humanities. What have you seen in your travels through the web?

Interesting article in today's Guardian asks Why aren't we designing cities that work for women---not just men?

And, via Jennifer Borgioli Binis, here's a podcast (Episode #48) on the intersection of women, education, and leadership.

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