Working with a Year 5 class today using and annotating Google Maps when one of the students asked if she could look for her "old home".
I said sure, and then she asked, "How do you spell Sierra Leone?"
I helped her and she quickly navigated her way to Freetown. She zoomed into her old neighbourhood, or what she thought was, checking out some of the linked photos on the map. "Oh, I remember that beach!"
"How long ago did you come to Australia?" I ask in my best diplomatic voice.
"About four years ago. But there are no photos here of my street."
Then I suggested that she grab the yellow Streetview man and drag him into one of the streets.
"It won't work."
Then it dawned on me. The roads were dirt and had never had the Googlemobile cruise them. The civil war that had been the catalyst for this particular student's family decision to depart has meant that this is one of the many places on Earth that Google won't venture into. You can zoom in from on high via a satellite but the real Freetown can be still be explored via the sharing mechanism on Flickr.
And today's little experience connects me back up to a quote from Jose Vilson plucked a little bit out of context from a recent post of his, but I'm sure that as long as it is making me think, I'm sure he won't mind. He says the following at the end of a pointed paragraph:
We say we want the best for all children, but have a hard time using the words “Black,” “Latino,” or “Asian.” Heck, you still think those types of kids don’t come to school to learn how to make it in a world that’s not theirs.
What we push forward in a typical Australian classroom is constructed from cultural and national understandings that are a world away from a child born in Sierra Leone, a second generation Vietnamese kid whose parents had to flee their home country or even an Aboriginal kid whose ancestors were always here but comes from a culture that is often poorly understood and massively underrepresented in Australian society. And after hearing a lot more about the incoming Australian Curriculum, I wonder whether it will empower or disengage our kids from indigenous, migrant and refugee backgrounds in our classrooms.
Or will they wish they were still back in their own "Freetown"?