Diversity or tokenism – what images are you using?

  • The future of education

I’ve just attended online the closing keynote address of RSCON3 given by Steve Wheeler, (@timbuckteeth). It was fascinating and inspiring – a discussion on future trends in education with many nuggets of wise counsel, in which he drew on ideas as much from the past (even including Chris Woodhead!) as his ability to see into the future.

Using technology to free up students to move around, using the real world, the outside world for personalised but collaborative learning. The teacher as inspirer, facilitator, curator, collaborator…this all made sense without being dystopian.

  • Choice of images

But…in his entertaining slideshow, with its arresting images, there was not a single picture of someone who was not white – apart from quite a good joke about Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. Not one person from India, or China, Latin America or an African face. Not one person with a disability although there was a great picture of a homeless man intently studying his laptop.

So there are two things here. What message are we sending about the technological (r)evolution? If it is to enable collaborative learning then we have to send a concurrent message of inclusivity, or else we are in danger of creating another version of educational inequity.

Secondly, as educators, we need to consider carefully the images that we portray of our intended audience. In the race forwards to technological progress we may be in danger of forgetting some lessons we gleaned along the way from the field of development education good practice. This is not tokenism…whatever that may be. It is not OK to speak about education for the future without including the diverse population who is being spoken to. This is a matter of courtesy, of addressing every learner as if they mattered, of inclusion, of responsible education. 

  • Who is represented on the walls of your institution?

And by the way, what is depicted on the walls of your school or university or organisation? If “every child matters”, and we take seriously our responsibilities for all our neighbours, is there representation of the diverse nature of our society? If you find this irritating and tokenistic, I ask you to consider whether you would feel the same if you found yourself, or someone like you, not represented? 

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4 responses to “Diversity or tokenism – what images are you using?

  1. Powerful notation! Sadly, I did not notice this stark truth. Reminds me of a “Privilege Walk” activity we did with new teachers. As a white female, however, the reality hit me – I have more privileges than I thought .. and my blinders keep me from seeing how truly blessed I have been. Thank you for reminding us that equity in education must start with us – as leaders – being very deliberate to include all cultures in our presentations. As a result of your blog, I believe that I will be more cognizant of that reality. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Inclusion and “Every child matters”…or do some matter more than others? | edjitraining

  3. Thank you, Sylvia. This isn’t straight forward but I think it’s instructive to think how we would like ourselves to be represented and to use that as a guide.

  4. Pingback: Ele'mentor » Blog Archive » 5 Favorite Blog “Posts” This Month – July

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