This Fall semester (2018), students in Integrated Thinking and Writing, ITW-101, section 27 (I called it “Can’t Stay Here!”) have been collaborating on a google spreadsheet to share their research on immigration and refugees in the European context. While immigration is a contentious topic in U.S. politics (at the time of writing this post, the 2018 mid-term elections are taking place within 24 hours!), the research the students have been doing this semester is helping them develop ways to articulate what’s happening in Europe and the rest of the world, and many are also exploring similarities and differences between the immigration situations in Europe and the U.S. In some of their reading that they have researched on their own, and in some that I have assigned them, students are also learning from reading interdisciplinary scholarly work, sharing their knowledge with each other in the classroom with in-class discussions, creating Kahoot! quizzes, and working on an annotated bibliography throughout the semester. This work is alongside their essay projects, which are also ongoing throughout the semester.
By reading works in academic journals about immigration, students are working with terms used that they have told me they wouldn’t use in a day-to-day conversation. These terms such “host country,” “country of origin,” “push and pull factors” are new to many of the first-year college students. As their professor, I’m happy that they learn that these words exist, what they mean and how to use them appropriately in their academic writing. I’m not concerned that they’ll use these terms in their casual language outside of class. As a language professor, I’m also keen to the ways that languages are used formally and informally, so I work that concept into this class as well.
Students in this ITW course are also working on thinking critically, by asking and responding to questions that have come up from their reading. I asked them in the beginning of the semester to start to use their reading to come up with research questions. This isn’t a skill that we’re just born with, so the research question task was not easy, but it has been worthwhile. I also tasked the students with thinking about whether they could find an answer that satisfied them, and to use their curiosity to keep searching (as in keep learning!) They came up with questions like the following: What does it mean to be called “illegal” or “criminal”? (<– This one led to discussion about Jim Crow laws in the U.S.) At what point is an asylum seeker “illegal” and how does that differ in various contexts? Why would a European country pay immigrants to repatriate? Why are refugees leaving their countries of origin? Is it always about jobs?
Because I have a background in studying the Holocaust as part of my Ph.D. work on German films about Jewish children in the Holocaust, I also work in my perspective with questions about racism driving legislation like the Nuremberg Laws, and about refugees not being accepted to countries like the U.S. because of immigration quotas. I raise questions about empathy, about humanitarian aid, about being human. But it’s not only me asking the questions; the students do this work, too. I share with the students what I also wanted to know during my research on my dissertation, and what I still have questions about today. I point out that the Nazism was permitted to grow in Germany and Hitler became a dictator because he legitimated it with law. Our conversations make our learning experience a shared one, which is important to me as I set out to do my part in shifting higher education to be equitable and inclusive. Part of the job is to be authentic.
I began placing the students’ entries in the google spreadsheet into a group bibliography on Zotero and made it visible to everyone. Only the students or I can edit the entries, so as to keep this work student-centered, but also Open and Free. The bibliography is an Open Educational Resource (OER). (To learn more about OER, check out Lumen Learning, which includes a TEDxTalk by David Wiley.) Check out the Zotero bibliography in the works. It is one of the course goals that students will also be contributing to the annotated bibliography throughout the rest of the semester. They have begun this in their individual working annotated bibliographies and will add the info they found into this shared google doc.
In the spirit of OER and Open Pedagogy, both the Zotero bibliography and the Working Annotated Bibliography will be “living” documents. That is, students and I will continue to work together throughout the rest of the current semester to update and improve them; when I teach this course again, students at that time will be able to contribute to the documents; and in the meantime, readers who are curious can use this bibliography to read about immigration policy and patterns in relation to Europe, how immigration factors into economies, public opinion and statistics about immigrants, various ways people become refugees and try to arrive at and settle in host country or become repatriated, and even how sports plays a role in immigration and acceptance (or not) of immigrant athletes, or how a far-right group tried to keep refugees from leaving their country of origin in the first place.