Part of TRC Calls to Action #27 and #28 includes training in “intercultural competency”. I find myself reflecting on the very real challenge for many of us working in law: how do we as professors strengthen the grounds of our own intercultural competency? Part of what we are engaged in is a new practice of balancing. What resources are available to both students and faculty alike?
There are some very interesting resources out there and available in the world. Just as one example, here at UVic, our colleagues Robina Thomas and Rob Hancock at the office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement have developed a Cultural Acumen Training, program, and have been providing the first module (an 80 minute ‘foundations’ session) to Faculty, to staff, and in classrooms. It is a delight (and a politically meaningful one) to see institutional support for the kind of learning/unlearning that has to be done as we move forward on this work. One of the ways I think all of us can contribute to the work is to support and make use of the resources available in our particular institutions (conscious of course of the thoughtful cautions of Jula Hughes re the colonization of cultural competency work).
I also want to do a big shout out to University of Alberta, and their Indigenous Canada MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) [taught by Professors Tracy Bear and Paul Gareau]. It is a wonderful response to the TRC, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
If I were to suggest a gift for the holidays, it would be to give yourself the gift of signing up for this course. OK. The thing is, this gift is FREE! But you can also pay for it. I think it was something like $65 if you want to take it for the Certificate. I took the PAYMENT option, partly as a way of trying to keep myself accountable (and so i would have a small amount of pressure, so i would TAKE the time needed each week to actually DO the work).
The Course is super well designed, and has 12 lessons/weeks. The site tells you to anticipate a time commitment of 3-5 hours a work per week. I will say it took me less time… maybe because i am just so smart already?! 🙂 That said, i have subsequently returned to and re-watched several components (sometimes with my kids), so there you go on the time front.
Here some truly delicious things about the course:
- It is in manageable time chunks! The course is online (I guess that is why one of the “O”s in “MOOC” is for “online?”) It has been designed so you can work around a fragmented schedule (if your life works as does mine). It is broken down into small video components (each between 10 and 20 minutes long at the most). The videos have little quizzes built into them (so you can answer questions right at the spot that you are getting access to new information). I totally enjoyed watching a segment or two in the evening, sometimes while eating dinner.
- There is art! In the design of the course, they worked with artist Leah Dorion, to have her produce original art work for the course. For each week in the course, there is “Interactive Painting” segment where the artist walks you through one of the paintings, discussing the elements in the painting, and how they relate to the subject. Various elements from the paintings are then incorporated (as visual markers) into the weekly lessons in ways that really help to anchor and extend the content.
- There is significant breadth in coverage. Topics for the 12 lessons include the fur trade and other exchange relationships, land claims and environmental impacts, Indigenous women, legal systems and rights, political conflicts and alliances, Indigenous political activism,urban Indigenous governance practices, contemporary Indigenous life, art and its expressions and more. There is also a great 49 page “Native Studies Glossary” with links to internet resources.
- The production values make it a pleasure to watch. We academics are smart, but not always fun to watch when filmed. They did a really good job on the design, and so I found the mix of talking heads, images, animations, and text to really hold my attention. It is designed in a way to touch various learning styles. In short, the videos not only held my attention, but gave me lots to think about in terms of pedagogies! I am also in love with the intro music for the course (and often found myself humming along).
In short, there are great resources out there to support us as we do the work of extending our own intercultural acumen, of familiarizing ourselves with the history that is our own. This is a resource that I would feel comfortable recommending to students and colleagues alike. Certainly worth thinking about as a concrete action each of us can take in the direction of taking up our own personal obligations under the TRC to educate ourselves for the work ahead.