Subconsciously Held Bias: Exposing the Myth of Racial Colorblindedness. Aram deKoven of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was Friday’s keynote speaker. Dr. deKoven focused on how people, including experienced educators, have biases, many of which are used subconsciously to interpret situations. A quick vocabulary activity demonstrated how our minds are wired to make associations. Dr. deKoven explained that our biases can be explicit or implicit. It is important to understand that once a sensation is subconscious, we cannot modify it or control its affects. As educators, we must recognize how biases can negatively affect students and their performance. If students are aware of biases held against them due to race, gender, etc., then their performance can only improve when those social pressures are lifted. Dr. deKoven explored the concept of identity and the possible sources of subconscious messages. He drove home the point that education holds the key to liberation and that teachers are some of the first gatekeepers. We can help students succeed when we have positive first impressions of them. Teachers can support learners through a warm climate, a challenging amount of input, opportunities for greater student response, and detailed feedback. Dr. deKoven suggested participants take a social attitudes test through Project Implicit.
A Balancing Act? Materials Writers, Publishers, Classroom Teachers and Researchers. The Materials Writers Interest Section assembled a panel of experts, and though there were unavoidable last-minute changes in the lineup, the session allowed for an honest, productive discussion on how perspectives, needs, and wants get balanced as textbooks get written and published for classroom use. Christina Cavage, the new MWIS co-chair, introduced each speaker for this academic session. Irene Schoneberg of Hunter College spoke first, and began by noting how both teachers and materials writers each have their own balancing act to perform. Many aspiring materials writers were in attendance, and I hope they appreciated some of the frank insights this experienced author shared. Irene emphasized that schedules matter to publishers and explained how the marketing team and development editor (DE) make final decisions, which are influenced by market feedback. In the case of art, publishers have to make decisions partly based on the art budget.
Keith Folse inspired many with his humorous narrative of his road to becoming a materials writer. In the early days, he was simply a young teacher in the making who saw a need that was not being met, so he created the materials that were in demand at his school. Prompting by a supervisor put him in contact with a publisher and he grabbed their attention. That early publication remains in print today.
Pierre Montagano was a delightful addition to the panel. This marketer from Cambridge University Press addressed trends and truths about publishing today. Some of the trends? Video is replacing print. Adult gadget ownership is increasing. More courses are going online. As for the truths, Pierre observed how this new generation of learners and teachers doesn’t like to read instructions. They learn by doing. This form of impatience forces publishers to create platforms that are intuitive. Also, Pierre pointed out that while technology has a definite “cool” factor, we must always determine a purpose for any technology brought into the classroom. He used stimulating visuals to prompt reflection on concepts in publishing, such as the marriage between marketing and editorial.
Nick Robinson rounded up the group with his dynamic perspective as an independent publishing professional. He has not only authored books, but now works to represent other authors, making matches between writers and publishers. (You can find him on LinkedIn.) Nick discussed options of self-publishing, which he recognizes as a possible route for niche markets, and the use of open platforms, like English360. Some of his points supported the online trends mentioned by Pierre.
Thank you to all four speakers for sharing their helpful insights.
Day 3 highlights to come!