An exploration of the physical frontiers that define race in America

Animated lectures, the educational achievement gap, and Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz

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Three quick thoughts about the above video:

1. How awesome is it that these types of videos exist? Animated lecture videos are a perfect example of how we can turn traditional learning paradigms on their head – fitting given the topic of this video. But seriously, put me in a lecture hall and ask me to listen to a talk on educational achievement? I’m probably either passed out or watching ESPN on my laptop within 2-3 minutes. Give me an animated video to accompany said talk on educational achievement? You have my absolute full attention, and have increased my ability to retain information from the lecture. It’s no secret that humans are visual beings, but the potential power of lectures coupled with some sort of visual stimulus is absolutely incredible. If you have the time, I highly recommend watching some of the animated lectures put together by the British Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). They are incredibly powerful, and offer you a glimpse at how effective animated lectures can be.

2. Why is this video important to my topic? The part of the video I want to key in on is the portion discussing the educational achievement gap in America (1:00 – 1:38), which is often formed on the basis of factors like race, class, gender, and immigration status. These factors, as the video notes, often mean that children are starting “on different parts of the playing field”. This is an intriguing metaphor because it uses the idea of different geographic space to signify some sort of disadvantage – that by starting in the wrong spot, you are put in a position of weakness relative to others. This is important because our public school system is mostly tied to district and county lines, with different schools serving different districts even within miles of each other. Most local educational funding comes from district/county taxes. If there is a great school in one part of town and a mediocre school in another part of town, what does the quality of the school say about the quality of the district around it? What would cause one district to be ‘mediocre’ relative to another? Are there groups of people who are systematically consigned to living in ‘mediocre’ districts? If so, how does that affect their ability to close the educational gap? The idea that your physical location could put you at an inherent disadvantage in the education space is very central to the type of analysis and thought I want to put forth on this blog.

3. But, even more importantly, this video is particularly relevant in terms of the case studies I plan to look at in Marin County. That is because the narrator of this video, JuanCarlos Arauz, Founding Director of E3 Education, is one of the most influential thinkers in education in Marin County. I got a chance to work for him when he ran the Canal Alliance, an educational program that serves youth in Marin’s Canal district, and I plan to reconnect with him for the purposes of my case studies in Marin.

So, overall, the video that you see above is three things: it is an awesome example of a bleeding edge educational tool, it brings up an intriguing point about the power of spatiality within the realm of education, and it offers a local angle that I plan to explore in depth on this site.

Now, a gift for the dedicated readers who made it to the end of this post: Enjoy!


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