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What is the problem tree for?

Had an interesting conversation about the problem tree activity with some people who are using it in the context of a migrant worker organizing project. As part of a series of monthly worker assemblies, they are facilitating a three part problem tree activity -- one session for generating the leaves, another for the branches/trunk, a third for the roots. Where to go after that is not settled, it seems, but they seem to be thinking of some kind of discussion of solutions.

Technique and Content

It is often said that popular education is not about the participatory techniques that we use (or not just about the techniques), it is about the content. One argument is that techniques are just tools that can be used for good or bad purposes, to liberate or to enslave. I remember Neville Alexander making this point in Education and the Struggle for National Liberation in Southern Africa. He writes that after Freire was exiled from Brazil the military junta used some of his techniques to conduct pro-government literacy education.

Regarding games

Reading Ranciere on Jacotot (Ignorant Schoolmaster) I have been thinking about the idea of constraint, of force, or the subordination of one will to another without sacrificing the equality of intelligences. ("Entre l'eleve et le maitre s'etait etabli un pur rapport de volonte a volunte..."p25) The student's will is subjected to that of the teacher, but the intelligences of the teacher and student are separate and equal.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...

I made this one up for the English for Activists class I teach. The first class of the new season came one month after the 3/11/2011 great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting nuclear disaster, on the day the disaster was rated a Level 7 -- the highest level of nuclear accident on a global scale.

I wanted a way for the group to share about this enormous disaster that we all confront and all share. Inspired by the "Head, Heart, and Hands" activity in Educating for a Change, I drew six icons on index cards: a heart, an ear, an eye, a hand, a mouth, and a question mark. (I made three sets.)

Oni ha soto! (Demons out!)

This role play activity is based on setsubun, the Japanese festival of the coming spring, held in early February. One feature of setsubun is the mamemaki, ritual bean-throwing to chase away demons. I learned from a local shinto priest that the practice is based on the peasants' struggle to survive the winter. The demons represent hunger, death, disease and the beans -- the most nutritious food available at that time of year -- represent health and potential growth, the power to survive until spring.

The flow:

Improve this box

How to make it easier for people to visualize the course content and then suggest improvements? How to stimulate thinking by making abstractions physical?

An idea:

Get a dozen cardboard boxes (or other 3-dimensional objects) of different sizes, label each so that it represents a different aspect of the course, for example one box could be tagged: "Writing journal entries on the course website" or "meeting with union activist" or "watching film Human Resources" or "student participation"...

Games and roles

What makes games useful in learning is not just that they get people participating, that they involve physical movement and responding to a changing environment, that they require creativity and quick responses, that they create a kind of mini-world in which what we say and do has immediate and obvious relevance and measurable impact, not just that they are fun...

Making a learning strategy

In my current English for Activists (EFA) course in Tokyo for Labor Now, I have started out by having participants create a learning strategy for the course. I introduced the Que, Para Que, Como, Quien/Con Quienes, Con Que, Donde, Cuando format from Alforja, Vol 1. (El Camino Logico).

The WHAT is simply our course title: English for Activists (most participants are returning, so there is a pretty good sense of what EFA has meant. In any case, defining our objectives fleshes this out.

"Still Life with Union Movement"

Learned a great opening activity in the Labor Education study group I participate in at Meiji University's Labor Media and Education Center. Needs a good title -- "Still Life with Union Movement"?

The activity is similar to Statues (where participants use other participants to create a statue representing an idea or situation).

Facilitator piles up three or four chairs in the middle of the room, some on top of others, in a jumble.

She asks participants to think of this pile of chairs as "The Union Movement."

Augusto Boal talks about solidarity, dialogue and democracy

Interview with Augusto Boal on Democracy Now from 2007. Boal died recently, at the age of 78.

The interview is great -- he describes his evolution as an educator/actor as well as the evolution of movements in Brazil, including the MST, landless workers movement. I love the way he describes the moment when he realized that he needed an alternative to using theater to tell people what to do.


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