In 1973, Yukon First Nations presented a “statement of grievances and an approach to settlement” to the Federal Government in a document called Together Today for our Children Tomorrow. In appendix one (page 49) they provide twelve recommendations regarding education in the Yukon. Each of these recommendations was given to help ensure that First Nations ways of knowing and doing are reflected in our schools. When implemented, they help decolonize education and create a positive school experience for First Nations peoples that prepares them to be successful in a changing world. This ambition to decolonize education must be considered as we contemplate the effectively use of technology in classrooms.
One of the major characteristics of decolonizing education in the Yukon requires teachers to foster a deeper connection to the land, people, and language amongst their students and to provide opportunities for their students to enhance this connection. In the short video “Practical Decolonization”, Taikaike Alfred, a professor of Indigenous governance at the University of Victoria, says that “the only way to restore that [the souls of Indigenous peoples], to make it full and whole again is to put them back into connection with the land.” He explains that when First Nations peoples spend time on the land with their own people and speaking their own language, physical health is re-established, the community becomes unified, people inherently become more cultured, and what colonization took away is restored. These sentiments were echoed in our classroom last week by our guest speaker from Yukon First Nations Programs and Partnerships. He agreed that this connection to land and to one another is essential for First Nations students and spoke about the benefits of a five-day, technology-free, on the land field trip.
Arguably, digital technology does the opposite of foster deep, meaningful connections to place and people. For this reason, teachers need to think critically about the utilization of technologies in Yukon classrooms and question how it may hinder our goals to decolonize education by potentially increasing disconnection. This is not to suggest that there is no place for technology in our schools. In fact, I believe that to prepare students to be successful in a technological world, teachers need to ensure student develop the skills to use technology effectively. This week we have been exploring the many ways technology can enhance learning and allow us to redesign old tasks as well as create new ones which I think can be hugely beneficial. However, there must be a balance.
For example, we are currently seeing the development of language apps for several Yukon First Nations languages. This will make memorizing new words and phrases much easier as it allows learners to hear the words repeated as many times as needed, which would not otherwise be possible. This is helpful, but because there is no growth in connection to people when learning through an app, it should be used a supplement. Another example is that of the technology-free field trip. Perhaps this balance could be achieved by ensuring technology is used at appropriate times such as in the classroom for specific tasks, but then fully omitted when the opportunity to gain deeper connections occurs such as when on the land or in the presence of guest speakers.
I hope to achieve this balance in my teaching practice and in doing so, find my “pedagogical peace.”