Freedom Writers – inspired…

Freedom Writers is a movie about a young, idealistic teacher (Hillary Swank) who is getting a class of children from various races. The elder teachers and the school principal have already given up on those kids, who are struggling daily to survive the racial gang fights that are going on in their neighbourhoods and need to travel more than an hour each way to get to school. The teacher Erin is determined to give these kids a chance to learn something and believes in them. She finds a way let them learn by relating to their world and uses the technique of letting them write personal journals to reflect on their emotions, problems, etc. This empowered them and they got courage to take control of their own lives. And last but not least this is based on a true story! Inspiring…

It’s interesting from an educational perspective, as the teacher uses situated learning (she gives the kids the Diary of Anne Frank to read as she feels they are also living in a war-like situation) and she is using personal journals for the kids to reflect on what they are going through daily and what they are learning, which empowers them. It reminded me of Paulo Freire who used a similar technique to empower the  poor in rural Brazil by using personal reflection.

At the same time I’m wondering whether I should apply this technique in the computer classes that I’m teaching on Sunday’s. On one hand I’m very convinced of the power of personal reflection and that it is a good tool to empower and reflect on learning and daily encounters. On the other hand, how do I implement this for students whose native language is not English? Should I let them write in their native languages (Sinhalese, Tamil, Hindi, Birmese, Tagalog)? In that case they can use it for their own personal usage only and I won’t be able to look at it and review it, to get an idea of what they are going through, what they are picking up from the course. Letting them do it in English will be creating an extra threshold, as well as a learning point, as most of them are also studying English and are not very fluent in it. A new beginner’s class is going to start in June and maybe I should use this as a topic for my dissertation.

I could do a design research (which I also had the idea of exploring) and start of with using the transformative reflection as a technique to empower the students. At the same time I have a few other ideas to improve the course and maybe use a LMS like moodle to give them some assignments. That would be a big project, but it has been shaping in my head for almost a year now.

More updates soon! I set a new target for myself to finalise my topic for dissertation and write a research proposal by end of this month! Then I can start approaching lecturers to be my supervisor, for which I have 2 in mind now, hopefully they are interested….


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