SpProj.: Exploring the Foundations of Diversity: A Trans-Cultural Learning Lodge

Project Proposed: This very non-traditional project for a relatively focused audience, aiming to teach, train, and learn, takes place across the larger academic environment, particularly within the Native American (NA) communities. To augment the more formal methodologies of conferences, papers, and lecture-based learning, the project intends to enhance understanding for the scientific community on a more personal network level. Using the Socratic method combined with the dialog processes should encourage a renewed focus on people-to-people, face-to-face learning beyond iPhone, Facebook, texting, and internet-based tools more commonly used in today's world. The work enables broader dissemination of results through selected workshops for the wider NA community, and even diverse groups across the university community and government agencies. The proposal states: 'Trans-cultural learning is rigorous primarily because it requires suspension of unexamined assumptions and reveals the cultural lens through which we view one another.' Thus, the work constitutes an educational policy effort, offering several 'convenings' focused on science, engineering, and educational policies and strategies. The basic concept of the 'convenings,' a Native American Concept, uses a forum, a lodge, or a wide-area discussion at which all aspects of the topic area are discussed and heard before any decisions or dissentions are admitted. Since this idea is used in places like Mongolia and Central Asia (e.g., the lawya jurga of Afghanistan), the concept may well be Asian in origin. The NA form of such meetings is couched in the form of 'lodges' in the project. The work has the potential for creating a broader understanding of a more informal technology known as 'talking circles' in 'Indian Country.' By its very nature, the proposed meetings are diverse and open to all subject areas within the umbrella of science, engineering, and education. Various events will be held to which NSF personnel and some PIs will be invited and at which Native scientists, scholars, educators, and traditional knowledge holders would attend with the purpose of exposing the attendees to the Native learning processes, culture, and knowledge, thus opening new ways of thinking and other cultures that approach knowledge and life in different ways. The project encourages diversity in science endeavors, both among the people involved in science and in the approaches to scientific research. The work enables understanding alternative sources of knowledge and generates 'shared perspectives from which radical new approaches may address commonly held goals.'

Broader Impacts: This project is all about broader impact. In the past three years the American Society of Engineering Education (www.asee.org) has focused on a similar 'year of dialog' approach with excellent results in increased informal networking among the members and has established several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within the Corporate Member Council. The Learning Lodge exhibits the same potential for success via outreach encompassing diversity, K-12, and life-long learning forums.

Project Report

The goal of this work is to support a collaborative effort linking policy makers with Native scientists, scholars, educators and traditional knowledge holders in an inquiry into Indigenous learning processes and to extend that collaboration directly to the students these policies impact. The underlying purpose is to broaden participation in STEM. Central to this goal is to broaden the definition of diversity to include the knowledge and learning systems of Indigenous peoples. Two Learning Lodges were convened for NSF Program Directors. A third was held at S.F. State University for undergraduate students in the American Indian Studies Department and their faculty. This included a summer session in which student interns began working on the Native American Academy archive and continued studying the process of creating learning spaces that enact Indigenous philosophies of learning. Objectives: ∞ Demonstrate how Indigenous learning complements and enriches conventional western education processes. ∞ Restore the self esteem of Native students and others with alternative learning processes. ∞ Demonstrate Indigenous learning theory. ∞ Articulate the concept and experience of sensory learning and the sensing capacities of the entire body. Identify the intellect as a tool for integration and dissemination guided by many intelligences. ∞ Provide an experience of learning in community. ∞ Demonstrate the need for a forum for different ways of knowing the world. ∞ Demonstrate the value and efficacy of the capacity to hold divergent views as equal and valid to one’s own. Below are excerpts from a final report written by Valerie Perez Ordonez who participated as a student in the Learning Lodge and as an intern. Her writings are an accurate example of the student response. Perspectives Understanding learning as a spiral allows us to see and learn from a variety of perspectives which enables us to recognize new methods for learning and demonstrates the idea of cognitive pluralism. This learning process reveals a physical form–the spiral–as a dynamic that enriches our cognitive capacities to learn in new, creative, and diverse methodologies. Philosophical foundation of Indigenous learning– The foundation of Indigenous learning is relationship and realizing the relationship we generate with our own learning processes. A shift of consciousness unfolds allowing a relationship with knowledge and greater access to deeper portals of learning. We consciously experience the process of metacognition. We use our capacity to understand each other by suspending our own ideas while we explore the thoughts of others. We play with ideas and search the unknown. We think more deeply and are inclusive. Our quality of consciousness enables us to listen and still the mind and create an ethical engagement with others. Indigenous learning values sharing knowledge and applying the learning process to everyday life. How does this philosophy contradict, or complement the western educational system? Western educational process does not generate a space of relationship. Value is placed on the possession of knowledge. We build an artificial relationship with knowledge only seeing it as a lucrative investment. The heart of Indigenous knowledge systems offers us the opportunity to explore a deeper relationship with knowledge and opens our relationship with all forms of life and their knowledge systems. Philosophical context and the pragmatics of the Learning Lodge I am grateful for the opportunity to explore learning outside of western conventions. During an Indigenous Dialogue we spoke about how we related to the pursuit of knowledge. We were able to think critically about contemporary methodological practices and what they revealed in terms of learning. What is a propositional approach to knowledge? Is propositional knowledge the only way to obtain knowledge? it was nourishing to learn with my colleagues within a western institution while practicing Indigenous methodologies. I have been able to explore my own learning process and understand how I come to know, how a sacred space for learning can foster new methods for understanding our world. Academy Archive I was able to tap into the sacred learning space of the Academy Dialogues by transcribing audio files. I became aware of deepening my understanding through working with this body of knowledge. I understand what it means to listen fully. It is immensely rewarding to be present in that kind of learning space. The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that we all have the autonomy to learn from our own knowledge systems. We are capable of generating spaces where our narratives can be present, where we can shift the way we learn and hold it as valid. We can learn from our own people–we can be rooted through this learning transformation. The San Francisco State Learning Lodge demonstrated that it is possible to bring trans cultural learning into a conventional western institution with the support of faculty who themselves are transculturally educated.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Rita V. Rodriguez
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Silver Buffalo Consulting
Pt. Richmond
United States
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