Chapter 3: Digital Reading and Writing to Connect with Others
Digital Reading and Writing to Connect with Others
By Deb Frazier
I want the children in my classroom to be open to various perspectives, to be accepting of others and to learn about the person behind the one they see. As a young adult I lived in Okinawa, Japan. I had read books prior to my move to Japan, but nothing could prepare me for the actuality of standing amidst all these differences at the same time. I was overwhelmed by clothes worn by everyday people and the writing in strange shapes covering signs and buildings in every direction. I gawked at all that surrounded me. I noticed the sound of the language and its sense of rhythm and tone and wondered how people could talk so fast. I quickly spotted the tiny cars driving on the right side of the road and wondered how long it would take me to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road. I was engulfed by new sights and sounds and I immediately wanted to learn about the people and their daily lives. I began to meet friends who graciously shared their traditions, their food, and their language. The differences were clear, but hearing, seeing and feeling the similarities between us as people changed the way I view the world. As I listened to my friends share their traditions it became clear, behind all that looks so different to my naive eyes is a person. A person with ideas driven by beliefs, fears and hopes. A person who wakes up each morning and seeks nourishment from food and others. A person who hurts and laughs just as we do. My perspective on the world was changed; I was a new person with open views on the world.
My experience in Japan wasn’t my only experience with differences and misjudged perceptions. I grew up alongside a sister with mental and physical disabilities. My sister didn’t talk nor walk. She communicated much like a toddler, attempted words that sounded like grunts and groans. Those who spent the most time with her came to understand her language. As a young child she crawled and as she grew this became increasingly difficult and she got her first wheelchair. Despite her disabilities she had her opinions and her jokes! We all knew what would make her laugh and again, I learned there is far more to a person than what we can see with our eyes. This is a lesson that was hard learned and worth its weight in my heart.
Growing up in our family I became accustomed to stares and stereotypes. People are quick to judge what they can not understand. In today’s global and diverse society I see much of the same judgement in cultures and lifestyles. This worries me as our world is increasingly more diverse and those who are becoming adults in this culture will need to be understanding of others. Success in employment and happiness for our society will demand we see the value in the ideas of others and use these ideas along with our own. I learned naturally to search for the person and not to settle for what I see. Growing up in my family was the beginning of my understanding of the importance and need to live in a world of acceptance and understanding. Now as an educator I have a strong desire to connect people on a deeper level, a level of understanding that goes deeper than what we see with our eye.
Digital tools offer us the opportunity to learn with others whom were once out of our reach. I decided my start would be in starting a professional blog, Primary Perspective. My mentor sat beside me at the neighborhood coffee shop as I took this first step into connecting my students to students of the world, with the intention to open minds to differences. I asked her questions and she asked me even more pushing me to find my own path into being digitally literate and building connections with others. All along I doubted the power of what I would say and the connections I would find, but I knew opportunities were far too great. I had to reach for them. I couldn’t leave them unexplored. As I began this journey I thought of all we could bring into our classroom to help the students look past diversity. This goal was strong in what I believe in being a literate citizen. Digital tools were making it possible for me to embrace my teaching in a deeper way.