What I Learned In Class Today


Aboriginal issues have become an important issue at UBC, and part of it is the work done by “What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom,” which is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at UBC.  It can be said that through this project by two UBC students, Karrmen Crey and Amy Perreault, that UBC has focussed much more on the challenges of aboriginal students in university.  In 2009, it released its  Aboriginal Strategic Plan to better understand and support students of aboriginal ancestry on campus and also studies about this very important topic.   Developed in the First Nations Studies Program at UBC, this project examines the experiences of students, instructors, and administrators at the university to make these problems visible, better understand how difficulties arise, and to find ways to have more professional and productive classroom discussions.

Students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class. These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class.  Using technology as its main platform, the project looks at how the challenges around talking about race work as an educational barrier at the classroom level.  Not sufficiently addressed in educational institutions, and yet, desperately needing attention & to be discussed, video interviews of students, instructors, and reactions from viewers to the videos are carefully displayed on the website as a digital tool for study and research.   In doing so, the project works to improve the conversations around politically and culturally sensitive issues in a classroom by asking: how does cultural communication happen in a classroom, and how can it be improved?  This goes to show that technology isn’t just neutral — it can be used to create change.  For the better.

This project has generated quite a bit of public attention, including articles online at CBC and Rabble.ca.  I’m glad it has, for the better!




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