School Cultures: Digital Images and Artifacts from the Classroom

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Michael Svec, Associate Professor of Education, Furman University

This poster describes the creation of a digital archive for use with in-service teachers as a means to engage them in analysis and reflections centering on the culture of their own classrooms. Through comparisons of their space, and materials with those of other schools in different times and countries, teachers examine their underlying cultural messages and then become more deliberate in the creation of their classroom culture.

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School Cultures: Digital Images and Artifacts from the Classroom

  1. 1. School Cultures: Digital Images and Artifacts from the Classroom Michael Svec, Ph.D., Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC, 29613 michael.svec@furman.edu ABSTRACT Technology Infrastructure Furman University’s Library is home to the Digitcenter which helps faculty createThis poster describes the creation of a digital archive for use with in-service collections and customize material to fit instructor’s teaching needs. The Digicenterteachers as a means to engage them in analysis and reflections centering on also provided copyright policies and digitization standards. Digitized collections arethe culture of their own classrooms. Through comparisons of their space, and made available through a web-based digital asset management system, LUNAmaterials with those of other schools in different times and countries, teachers Insight www.lunaimaging.com . Images from the archive were accessed duringexamine their underlying cultural messages and then become more deliberate class for analysis and discussion. The search features allowed instant access toin the creation of their classroom culture. additional images to test tentative claims about values expressed through artifactsProject Goal in various classrooms.The pedagogical goal for this digital archive emerged from a graduate course, CodingCulture of American Schools, for practicing teachers. The function of thearchive is to provide materials that will be used to engage the teachers in File name Title 2-10 words (nativereflections centering on the culture of their own classrooms. Through language)comparisons of their space, materials, etc. with those of other schools in Creator Name of photographer Description Paragraph formatdifferent times and countries, teachers can examine their underlying cultural Location City, state, country Date originalmessages and then be more deliberate in the creation of their future class Format Subject Broad description,cultures. The course assumes that artifact analysis is part of a process to help original controlled vocabularyteachers embrace the centrality of culture in school learning (Hollins). The entrance to one school in South Carolina features winners of the high school’s beauty pageant Activity Controlled vocabulary Objects Controlled vocabulary While the entrance to a private high school in Guilin China includes academic achievements. Both images highlight achievement although they differ in who is highlighted and the expectations for Source PublisherFreire (2005) explains that “[i]t is necessary, for example, to observe well, to achievement.compare well, to infer well, to imagine well, to free one’s sensibilities well, and The artifact assignment was first assigned in the Spring 2012 and has beento believe others, without believing too much what one may think about others.” completed. The digital archive is currently being constructed based on theWoven into the culture course are opportunities to observe, infer, and compare Spring semester results. The controlled vocabulary is being constructed basedtheir school and classrooms with others. The classrooms of the teachers in the on teacher and the instructor’s observations.course provide one set of comparison, but digital artifacts from European andChinese schools as well as historical artifacts provide another source of data. Conclusion Schools are important cultural institutions, yet the recognition of the influenceThe archive consists of 1) images of schools and classrooms, 2) scans of of culture on children and teachers is largely ignored in teacher preparationclassroom documents including sample of student work, parent and professional development. An anthropological perspective on teachingcommunications, etc., and 3) movies of instruction and other school activities. and schooling can empower teachers and their students. Exposure toMaterials will be collected from contemporary schools, historic images, and anthropological research helps teachers recognize the role of culture in theirinternational school settings. classroom and better build a sense of belonging for their students and a stronger connection to the community. This digital archive provides materialArtifact Analysis for analysis as well as a product that teachers can use to improve the culture Comparison of an American Biology classroom on the left with a Czech physics lab on the right.The theory of multimodality (Kress, van Leeuwen 2001) allows for ideas to be of their classrooms to be more inclusive. The archive as well as the teachers’ Teachers noted the class size, orientation of the students toward the teacher, technology, andrepresented visually as well as in writing. The artifact analysis combines classroom decorations (attitude posters vs. content posters). classrooms become the data upon which inquiries and reflections emergemultimodality with ethnography as a method to explore the symbolic and ultimately leading to a transformation of the teachers’ professional practice.technological expressions of a school or classroom culture. Pahl and Roswell(2010) articulate a theory of critical artifactual literacy that uses artifacts, spaces Works Citedand the stories they tell as a means to lever more power for the meaning Freire, P. (2005). Teachers as cultural workers. Boulder Colorado: Westviewmakers. Press. Hollins, E.R. (2008) Culture in school learning (2nd ed). New York:Routledge.Teachers produce an artifact analysis and share it on a class wiki. In Kress, G.R., & van Leeuwen, T. (2001) Multimodal discourse: The modes andcollaboration with their students, the teachers identify several artifacts in their media of contemporary communication. London: Arnold.classroom to explore the meaning of those objects. The teacher then continues Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. (2010) Artifactual Literacies: Every object tells a story.to analyze how the objects connect the community, lead to discussions, and New York: Teacher College Press.convey values and beliefs. The inquiry concludes with a reflection on how tofurther engage students in defining the classroom culture in part through the Acknowledgeexpression of the objects and the stories they tell. This project and poster were completed with the support of the Comparison of a Czech 2nd grade classroom on the left with a South Carolina 2nd grade classroom onThe digital archive is used as a source of images and objects for use in class to the right. The colors, quantity of decorations, technology, and engagement of the students was Archives that Count project provided by thedevelop the skills necessary for the completion of the assignment. In addition noted. American teachers were also concerned by the lack of a visible classroom management plan Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Grant 2011-12.the objects and images gathered by the teachers are then added to the archive resulting in a discussion of communicating behavior expectations.to expand the contents of the archive.

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