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13. Teaching Race, Gender, and Information Technologies

Last semester I taught an undergraduate course on race, gender, and information technologies. I had inherited a great course that was well developed by previous doctoral students, with a lot of readings on critical race theory and gender theory with regards to the co-construction of technology. Every once in a while a student would ask for more 'hard evidence' or 'statistics' after reading critical analysis. Teaching the Prison Industrial Complex, an industry where many tech companies benefit from cheap and over-exploited labor, was a good opportunity to bring in a lot of hard numbers. 

Besides a general lecture, I gave a handout of statistics about private prisons and the business of prisons. I had the students take 5 minutes to read through the numbers and highlight the statistic that stood out the most to them, and then we went around the class and each student spoke about why this stood out to them.

This was a very simple exercise, but I got a lot of positive feedback about how much it stuck with the students. They remembered the numbers and the impact it made, and at the end of the semester this was one of the days that had the most impact. I think the critical theory is an important tool for students to learn how to interpret and discuss race and gender, but this quick exercise helped students understand the material reality of prisons and capitalism. 

 

A few other assignments that made this class a success:

- Students learned how to evaluate race, gender, and information technology, and worked on as a group in evaluating a popular movie (i.e.- Blade Runner).

- Student chose a topic/theme and did a final project based on their interests. Most students chose to make a 5-10 minute video where they narrated their research (example- representations of women in gaming)

 

Critique from students:

- Students felt that they needed to understand what 'intersectionality' meant from the beginning. The course was designed to build up to this concept but they wanted to understand it better at the beginning of the semester.

- There was a constant desire to know what could be done about racism and sexism. While it was important for students to know how to evaluate media and information technologies, they also wanted to know how to respond in a practical and impactful response. I'm interested in any pedagogical tips from fellow profs on this. I felt it was important for students to understand how to critically analyze the technologies they came in contact with every day, howerver they often verbalized a sense of 'helplessness' when faced with big issues such as sexism in video games, etc.  

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