Episode #43 The Missing Voices In Math: An interview With Rafranz Davis

Sep 23, 2019 | Podcast | 0 comments


Today we speak with the author of The Missing Voices in Edtech: Bringing Diversity into Edtech. Rafranz Davis. Rafranz is an instructional technologist and national speaker that uses her voice to challenge those in education communities on topics of edtech, equity, and diversity in education. 

In this episode we speak with Rafranz on what experiences she’s had that shaped her beliefs and values on education, she shares what she thinks diversity is and what it is not, how we should teach students first and foremost, and how we educators can learn a thing or two from boy bands! 

You’ll Learn

  • What Rafranz says is Diversity and what it is NOT. 
  • How we should teach students first and foremost. 
  • How we educators can learn a thing or two from boy bands!


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Rafranz Davis: I don’t think we talk enough about what deeper learning means and how that translates. We don’t talk enough about the K12 school to college to career pipeline of technology. We talk about coding, in a sense, but we only talk about as much as we are comfortable talking about, so let’s talk robots, and throw in doing some block coding, and keep it moving, but we don’t talk about how that translates into understanding what computer science or computing means, or understanding [crosstalk 00:00:30]-

Jon Orr: That there is the author of The Missing Voices In Ed Tech Bringing Diversity Into Ed Tech, Rafranz Davis. Rafranz is an instructional technologist and national speaker that uses her voice to challenge those in education communities on topics of equity and diversity in ed tech and education.

Kyle Pearce: In this episode, we speak with Rafranz on what experiences she’s had that have shaped her beliefs and values on education. She shares what she thinks diversity is, and what it is not, how we should teach students, first and foremost, and how we educators can learn a thing or two from boy bands. Let’s first play that intro music.

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce from tapintoteenminds.com …

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr from mrorr-isageek.com. We are two math teachers who, together-

Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of educators worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement …

Jon Orr: Fuel learning-

Kyle Pearce: … and ignite teacher action. Let’s get ready to dive into another episode. How are you feeling today, Jon?

Jon Orr: Awesome, awesome. We are honored to have spoken with Rafranz and appreciate that you, yeah, you, the one listening to this right now, have taken the time in your day to listen in. Before we get to our discussion with Rafranz, we wanted to let you know that if you’re listening to this before September 27, 2019, then you are cutting it pretty close to joining us for our 16-week full online workshop.

Kyle Pearce: Yes, that’s right, our online workshop is designed to walk you through, step-by-step, to help you teach through real-world problems and create those resilient problem solvers you’re after. If you’re interested in learning more about registering, be sure to check out makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. If you’re listening after the fall 2019 registration close date, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop to join the waiting list in order to get notified for your next opportunity to participate.

Jon Orr: That’s makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop.

Kyle Pearce: Without further ado, here is our chat with Rafranz.

Jon Orr: Hey there, Rafranz. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are so excited to have you on the show today. How are you doing this lovely evening?

Rafranz Davis: I am super excited to be here.

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. We’ve actually had our eye on inviting you on for quite some time. I know you and I both go back quite a ways from the Twitter world. We’ve bumped into each other along the way at some ed tech conferences a number of years ago, but it’s been a while since we bumped into each other.

Kyle Pearce: How about, for those at home, I’m wondering, do you mind letting our listeners understand a little bit more about who Rafranz Davis is? Can you fill us in on your role, where you’re located, and maybe a little bit of your teaching backstory?

Rafranz Davis: Sure. I have been an educator for almost 20 years, if you actually consider all of my pre-service time, when I was a working pre-service teacher, which is an interesting thing that we don’t honor enough. I taught math from second grade all the way up to seniors in high school in the span of about two and a half years. It’s a hilarious story how that all was.

Jon Orr: Wow, yes.

Rafranz Davis: It’s pretty funny. Yeah.

Jon Orr: You just [crosstalk 00:04:14]-

Kyle Pearce: Please, tell us more.

Rafranz Davis: No. I started my pre-service time, I was actually hired as a math assistant. My job was literally to teach a class. I taught, actually, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade 30 minute math sessions all day. I had maybe five to six students each math session. I mean, that was before I was actually certified to teach.

Rafranz Davis: Then, once I started my internship, then I moved up to sixth grade, and then I took on fifth grade remediation, at the same time. Then, I was hired that same December to teach eighth grade. Then, I taught eighth grade for like that year and a half. Then, I had a student that clearly needed my guidance, or he would not have graduated high school. That is the truth.

Rafranz Davis: I took the test to teach high school, passed it, and was hired the following year to teach geometry at high school. Then, I taught geometry, algebra I, and algebra II the year after that.

Kyle Pearce: Wow, that is quite the ride.

Jon Orr: Right. It was like you followed that student into high school. That’s pretty awesome.

Rafranz Davis: I didn’t have a choice. I mean, he was not going graduate, if I didn’t. I mean, we both recognized that that was going to be the case, just because of the things that he was facing in our community. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Rafranz Davis: Yeah, that was the gist of my math education career. Then, I transitioned from there to instructional technology. Spent, actually, a year in a larger school district as a math strategist, following year as an instructional technologist, for like a year and a half. Then, I took on my latest role as a executive director of professional and digital learning for a school in east Texas.

Rafranz Davis: I actually just left that school district. Now, I am in a brand-new transition, to be doing some new and interesting things, as far as [Steam 00:06:01] and working with low-access schools.

Kyle Pearce: Interesting. Now, is that through a specific district, or the same district, or is that through a different district, or maybe some other type of organization?

Rafranz Davis: Yeah, it’s with a new organization that’s actually not completely live, yet. I don’t want to say too, too much.

Kyle Pearce: Suspense.

Rafranz Davis: Yeah, it is. Basically, my role will be to take the opportunities and programs that I created in my last school district and spread that, so that other schools can have access to those same materials and resources.

Jon Orr: One of the questions we ask every guest we have is this one question, which relates to our title of the podcast. Could you fill us in on, what’s a memorable math moment from math class, when you think back to you, as a student, going through the education system, and maybe, it could be from any grade, at any level? When we say math class, there’s something that … When I think of math class, there’s something that pops in my brain, as soon as I say it, and it just always has stuck with me. What would be your memorable math moment from math class?

Rafranz Davis: Probably the most memorable one was when I realized that I was smarter than I’d thought, and probably knew a great deal more than most people around me, including my teacher. That’s sort of the way it was. I mean, when I was a student in school, my mother used to actually take me to tutor our high school students in our church that were struggling to pass our state assessments. I was in probably sixth grade. She would yank me up to go to church and tutor.

Rafranz Davis: I always have had that close relationship with math, is what I like to call it. I did have a moment in class when I realized that I was dumbing myself down, because I didn’t want the ridicule from the students around me. I also didn’t really want to say anything that would make my teacher feel bad, because she was awfully wrong a lot, but that, probably what’s stuck out to me more than anything is just sitting there, knowing that you know something, but not feeling confident or comfortable enough to say it. That probably is what I think about most often.

Kyle Pearce: I’m curious, when you say that the teacher was often wrong, are you referencing mostly around the idea of solutions, or maybe even, do you feel even about maybe the mindset of the teacher, in terms of what makes a good math student? Do you mind elaborating on that?

Rafranz Davis: Sure. One of the big issues that I felt like, I probably had maybe two great math teachers in school, one in middle school, one in high school. The problem with that position, often, from what I encountered, actually three, I take that back. My trigonometry teacher was amazing.

Rafranz Davis: The problem that I had was, I don’t know if any other students faced this. In Texas, football coaching makes the decision for everything in school. When a coach is hired, and they need a position for his wife, they would often find various positions in school to give that wife a job.

Jon Orr: Did you say wife?

Rafranz Davis: I hate to say this, but it happened. Yes. I’m not kidding. It actually happened. I worked with one, too, so I know full well, in this particular school district, how it went. This particular teacher that we had, she didn’t even have a math degree, had not ever studied math. I think her degree was in PE. I mean, I felt bad for her, because on one part, after teaching, I realized, she’s got to do a lot of studying to be able to teach this.

Rafranz Davis: As a student, it was frustrating, because I wanted to learn a little bit. It was algebra I. I wanted to learn a little bit more. I wanted to go beyond the book. I wanted to do more complex problems, but she didn’t really understand how to explain anything.

Rafranz Davis: Even as a student who knows, the hard part is, you have to blank yourself out in that moment, just so you don’t … I wanted to be respectful of her, but at the same time, I also didn’t want my peers to make fun of me. You’re dealing with that, which is a pretty significant thing to deal with, as a teenager. Then, the other part of it was, I had to do a lot of self-study, myself, back then, because I didn’t learn a thing in that classroom.

Kyle Pearce: That’s really interesting. I know in the US, we’re in Ontario, where athletics is important in schools, and sometimes I feel like teachers here, like, it’s all volunteers who coach the sports, and do the after-school clubs, and all of those things.

Rafranz Davis: No, that is not the case. Texas, it is a-

Kyle Pearce: I know. When you said that, and you told us that that actually has happened, and maybe, dare I say, might happen more often than one might hope, I often, here, get a little bit upset when I feel sometimes a teacher can get off the hook on teaching practice if they’re coaching certain sports or if they’re coaching a lot of sports. I feel like they don’t get, I guess, nudged to try to continue improving instructional practice. It’s just sort of like, “I don’t want to potentially lose the coach of the whatever team,” which I think is an issue. Then, when you described that scenario, that is just so much on the other end of the spectrum, like way over the line. I would really have a hard time with that.

Rafranz Davis: I’m sure it happens a lot less now, especially in algebra I, because it is a core-tested course. Plus, the state does require for schools to have highly certified teachers into those positions. It’s a lot harder to do that, now. The only way they could do that, now, is if the teacher’s grandfathered in. I have not seen very many schools that are willing to do that.

Rafranz Davis: When I was a student, it absolutely happened. I felt awful for her, but at the same time, that was the moment when I realized that sometimes, I just needed to hold it in. I didn’t need for her to feel any type of way about me calling attention to something that she had done. I also didn’t want to bring an additional amount of attention on myself from my peers.

Rafranz Davis: Those are hard times, as a kid, when you’re sitting in class with your big Coke-bottle glasses on. All the awkwardness of being 14, 15 years old in a math class that other kids already do not want to be in, and be the one to say, “That’s not exactly how that works. Whenever you multiply monomials, you actually need to add the exponents.” I mean, like, little things like that, or, “No, that’s not how order of operations works.” It’s just really interesting, basic things, but that is the moment that sticks out to me more than anything.

Kyle Pearce: I’m wondering, as well, so you went back, and you told us a story following a particular student into high school, and essentially helping to support him reach his goal of graduating. I’m wondering, do you have any other examples from when you were in the math classroom, specifically, some things where you were able to find some success? We’ll definitely talk about some challenges, as well, because in a math classroom, there is always challenges, but I’m wondering if you have any other examples of where you’ve come across some successes in your classroom. Then, we’ll move on and discuss maybe some of the challenges that we’ve faced along the way.

Rafranz Davis: Sure. I mean, you said any other situation, and I can talk on and on about that particular student. His challenges, just a lot of it were from how he was treated in other classrooms, and being kicked out of classrooms, and no one really caring for him in school, and me having to step in and be that person that actually cares for him. That, to me, is, I think, worth a great deal of conversation in just where that takes place and how, which I’m sure we can touch on later.

Rafranz Davis: Other situations that really stuck out to me were, one of my algebra I classes, I’ll never forget it. The class was fourth period. It was right after lunch. I had 32 freshman in one class with 28 desks, so there’s a challenge. The other part of that challenge was, we also had a pretty high immigrant student population. We had students that came in almost weekly from Mexico.

Rafranz Davis: The counselors would come in and tell me, “Hey, I’m about to put 13 non-English speaking students in your class at one time. We’re going to provide someone to be a translator, but good luck in your class that is already overextended.” I was like, “Great. All right, let’s do it.”

Rafranz Davis: What they didn’t tell me was that that class would become the “English language learners” math class. Every week when new students would come in, they would try to squeeze them into that class, even if that meant moving other students out of that class. I ended up, at one point in time, with about 16 students who were English language learners in one algebra I class.

Rafranz Davis: The fun part was, I got really invested. I went and bought what I thought was going to help. I bought an English Spanish math dictionary, which, by the way, completely unhelpful. Then, I had a SMART Board, at the time, and I think nowadays, most a lot of people have interactive whiteboards, but I didn’t [inaudible 00:14:52] whiteboard, so I had to learn how to point and shoot, and use a lot of imagery in order to show how the math worked.

Rafranz Davis: The students were completely invested. They wanted to learn the math. They also wanted to learn English, and I wanted to learn Spanish. We had a deal where I would learn new Spanish phrases, and they would learn new English phrases.

Rafranz Davis: It wasn’t that, when I wanted to talk to them, I talked to them directly. I didn’t use the translator as much in one-to-one conversation. We fought our way through those conversations, and we figured it out. They also helped each other, along the way.

Rafranz Davis: I was just like, if I’m going to be your math teacher, I’m not going to be afraid of you being in my class. I’m going to use this as an experience to build this bridge that we can absolutely have with math. It’s so funny, because they say math is a course that, it’s, regardless of language, the kids can just jump in and figure it out.

Rafranz Davis: That is not the case. I knew it wasn’t the case, because I actually took, I went to those TQ Texas Instruments conferences, and one of the lecturers there was a professor from Mexico. I went and sat in his class. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done.

Rafranz Davis: I didn’t understand him. He had a translator there with him. I was so lost. It reminded me of my students. It was that exact same year that I had those students was the same year that I went and sat in that class. It gave me a deeper foundation, I think, of what they were facing, as they were trying to learn, and made me really think about my teaching in a way that I wanted us to be able to bridge our divide a little bit better. I think that just those moments like that …

Rafranz Davis: Then, also, another lesson, a lot of times, you’ll have other Spanish-speaking students in class, and teachers would rely on those students to work with the students that didn’t speak English. Can you translate for them? Can you explain that to them?

Rafranz Davis: A couple of my students were like, “Miss, we love helping, but we need to learn, too. We need to understand it, too. We don’t want to get so caught up in having to do that,” and that gave me a moment of pause, because, number one, it wasn’t their job to do. Number two, it was great for them to do, but it also wasn’t fair for them to be relied upon to do that.

Rafranz Davis: I took the time to try to learn. I would visit them in other classes, stay behind, and before school, and really try to help explain and understand. I think that was probably one of my favorite classes and favorite years, just because I felt like I grew so much as a teacher. I know that those students did very well in class, because they learned.

Jon Orr: That example is huge, and the idea that we’re in math classes, but we are really teaching students. The math curriculum is there. We’re covering that, and we’re bring all the math out in the open, but we have to find a way to reach our students, and not to just teach math. I want to touch back on a little bit about what you had said about that student who was getting kicked out of class all the time, because I think they’re tied together in the sense that if you’re just teaching math, and you’re not actually thinking about the students in front of you, yeah, kids are going to get kicked out, because they’re like, “Yeah, this is not for me. This is not my place.”

Jon Orr: Maybe some of those students would feel like that, too, if you had taken that approach in that class of 68 that you said, because when I think about it, I got into teaching because I was really good at math. We’ve talked about this in the podcast lots of times, that I was a memorizer. I was praised for very good marks on tests. I was like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to go in. I’m going to go into math.”

Jon Orr: When I came out into being a teacher, I was so opinionated, in the sense that I thought I knew what good math teaching was. Good math teaching was exactly how I was a good math student. I was just going to show everybody how to do stuff. If you were late, you weren’t coming in, no matter what the reason was. If you were going to be talking out in class, then I was going to take it out on you.

Jon Orr: I spent years teaching in that way, and I had a lot of trouble, because I was also teaching groups of students who didn’t want to be there, like most of us all have to teach the kids that don’t want to be in math class. I’m thinking back to that student that you said was getting kicked out of class all the time. I used to kick kids out of class for silly reasons that I think, now, for a variety of things. I was just focused on the math, and mostly me. I was thinking about, like, I want to get the math out in this exact way. If you’re not going follow along what I’m doing, that is your fault. See you later.

Jon Orr: It’s been a number of years, now, that I’ve changed, but I had this, like what you said, like a moment of pause, where I realized that some of these students coming into my room, this might be the only positive experience they have with an adult all day. They’re coming into class, and they’re hearing, if I’m being negative towards them, they’re saying, “There’s that, again. I’m getting it from this guy, too.”

Jon Orr: I changed, after that moment of pause. I was like, “I don’t know all the reasons that they’re coming in late or they’re having trouble, but I’m going to listen.” It was a big change for me. Since then, I’ve had very, very few classroom management problems, because we’re teaching kids, now, not just the math.

Rafranz Davis: That’s a very great learning point to have. I think what really helped me was the experiences that I had growing up. Not just myself as a student, but my mother dragging me to the church to tutor these kids who needed to pass the state exam in order to get a high school diploma.

Rafranz Davis: At that point in time, I never thought about teaching. I was mad at my mama, because I didn’t want to go to church and do the math. To see the looks on their faces when they understood something, that does something to you. Even at 12 or 13 years old, it does something to you.

Rafranz Davis: For my students in my class, because I taught where I grew up, in a pretty low-access community. We were racially divided in terms of the communities of where people live, for the most part. We had a high population of Hispanic students, most of them, majority, actually, all of them were … Not all of them, but majority either were immigrants themselves or had immigrant family members within their family ecosystem. We had a lot of growing pains, just from trying to get who we were as people, I guess, to the forefront of what we did.

Rafranz Davis: My foundations of teaching have always been in remediation, and working with students who didn’t understand before, trying to find all of these other different ways to teach them. When you’re in that situation, you have no choice but to really be creative. Because I also understood my community, it helped, I think, in connecting with students whose, the issues that they had had nothing to do with whether or not they could do the math.

Rafranz Davis: The student that I followed through high school, he could do math front, left, back, and right in his brain. It was all the other stuff that was taking place in his life, in school and community, that was holding him back. I think that’s something that I probably adopted a lot more than most people would. I also understood my community enough to know that I had to.

Jon Orr: That’s something that I think we have to learn as we become educators, like you think back to our pre-service time. We had some pre-service time, when I was a student, in classrooms, and some of it is in theory, in classrooms, learning from books and professors. It wasn’t until you’re right in it that you learn that what really matters when you’re teaching any subject.

Jon Orr: We just talked about a couple successes there that you shared with us. I’m wondering if there is an area of challenge for you, in math class, or maybe in your new role, like, what is an area that is challenging you right now that you might share with us?

Rafranz Davis: I will go back a little bit in time. Not a little bit, actually, a lot of bit. My challenge that I am going to share is from my math class. It was, I guess when you are heavy into the theory of math, and teaching how things work, and you have students who just absolutely, no matter how many ways you teach it, it’s just not going to happen. They’re not going to get it. They don’t care what you have to say.

Rafranz Davis: They’re not rude or inappropriate. It’s nothing like that. They just are not able to wrap their minds around the math, period, in any way, shape, or form. Those moments were, I think, real challenges for me.

Rafranz Davis: I had one student that I could look at his paper and know that he didn’t understand, because he would start drawing. It wasn’t just like squigglies and doodling. He had a certain character that he would draw. He would fill his paper with that character. When I would see that and glance at his page, I was like, “Yeah, he has no clue what I’m talking about.”

Rafranz Davis: It can be something simple to me, but to him, it just wasn’t connecting. I could use manipulatives. I could use technologies. I could use videos. I could use other people teaching it. It didn’t matter. It just wasn’t happening.

Rafranz Davis: Those moments, I think, were toughest. I wasn’t always successful. I had some students that were not successful, because I did not know how to reach them. Could they have had other issues that kept them from understanding? Quite possibly, but in my mind, it was almost difficult for me to accept that. I immediately took it as my failure as a teacher, that I wasn’t able to do it.

Rafranz Davis: Now, years later, this particular student was actually taking developmental classes. The developmental classes that he took in college, it was on a automatic program where he would log in online, go through all of the practice sessions, take quizzes and homework to pass. He actually came to me for tutoring with that, like years after he was in my class. I helped him through it, and I got to see him build on those blocks and actually to find some successes, back then.

Rafranz Davis: All the while while I was working with him, and seeing him finally making those connections, it took me back to my time teaching him. I just kept wondering, like, what could I have done to help you have gotten this back then? I think those moments are always the toughest for me, when you just absolutely cannot get a specific idea across.

Rafranz Davis: That’s such a struggle. I think that’s something that even translates to what I do now, in terms of working with adults with technology. I’m like, I don’t understand. Why is it so hard for you to log into a Google account? It’s easy.

Rafranz Davis: I think that those moments helped me, working through those issues, that we all come with our set of structures. We have our own plateaus. We block things out that we just don’t want to learn. I am a horrible cook, but I can do all kinds of stuff. I can connect all of the technology in the house, but if you give me even a cookbook to follow, I’m going to burn it.

Rafranz Davis: It just-

Kyle Pearce: The book, or the food, or both?

Rafranz Davis: All of it. Just, I hate it. I just think that I’m starting to make more direct connections like that to the students in my class. Some of it, absolutely, I’m sure was some type of disability involved, but there were times when it was just, I’m just going to put this mental block up, and I’m not even going to try to work around it.

Rafranz Davis: I struggled with how he dealed with that. I’d go back to myself as a cook. I could probably be a good cook if I wanted. I just choose not to.

Kyle Pearce: Right. I’m listening to this conversation, and Jon’s reflection, as well, on, you can only have your own perspective. I only know what life is like to be me. That’s the life that I have been living. I now realize that I have lived a life of privilege, in so many different ways. You have mentioned that in your school, where you had a high ELL population, where you had quite a large numbers of students who were struggling to, even acquiring the English language, which is a hurdle. Then, you had also referenced, back to the first student that you had followed into high school to be there as a support, we don’t know what’s going on at home for these students and in their world. We haven’t the faintest idea of what is actually happening.

Kyle Pearce: Something that I really respect of your work is, not only are you a huge tech advocate and ed tech advocate, but you also speak a lot about equity and diversity in the classroom. We’re wondering, in your opinion, what is diversity, and what is not diversity? Why is it so important that every educator really … I mean, it’s one thing to say that you care about equity and diversity, but it’s another thing to actually do the hard work of trying to figure it out.

Kyle Pearce: Can you help us understand that a little bit more, for those who are sitting at home, and they’ve only lived the life that they’ve lived, and they might be struggling with, how can they help ensure that there is equity in their classroom?

Rafranz Davis: That’s a pretty loaded question. What is diversity, and what is not, and equity, and what isn’t? I think that the best way I can explain it is like this.

Rafranz Davis: When I’m in a classroom … Forget me in a classroom. Let me go into my professional learning spaces. I would like the area from which I learn to mirror the community and world and which I live. That’s a pretty direct and loaded question to that, and I’m going to get to that in a second.

Rafranz Davis: There are certain things like affinity groups. Affinity groups are like, especially for minority, minority in terms of ethnicity, culture, and race, and gender, sometimes those affinity, like-minded groups are important, in terms of building support structures for each other. For example, one of the school districts that I worked in, the high school girls ran a coding club for girls. The high school girls would visit elementary and middle school campuses, and host these coding clubs just for girls to learn together.

Rafranz Davis: That was my first introduction to that world, because I was like, “Why do we need to do this?” Blah, blah, blah. Once I saw how those girls just were able to blossom, and open up, and learn in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to in what we would consider a more diverse class, it just solidified, for me, on what it meant to have those moments of support.

Rafranz Davis: You have to have, sometimes, those moments of support. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for a person to only be around people who are exactly like them. That shouldn’t be the case. I say that shouldn’t be the case, but it often is the case, especially when those structures are needed.

Rafranz Davis: For example, a community school that is in a predominantly black area is going to have predominantly black students in the classroom. That’s just, there’s no … That’s the way it should be within that community structure. That’s a completely different experience.

Rafranz Davis: I’m trying to find my best way to answer this, because this is what I meant by, this is a loaded question, and it’s hard to answer. In terms of my adult professional learning, I guess, in my experience, coming from tech, I’m used to walking into a room and being like the only black person in the room. I’m surrounded by a whole group of very white, privileged people who have not quite even understanding that, you know, maybe we should have more than one black person in this room.

Rafranz Davis: Where are my native communities? Where are my Hispanic communities? Where are my Asian … Like those, it’s just so mind-boggling to me how we’ve just become okay with that.

Rafranz Davis: That’s one major area. When we talk about diversity, and I don’t mean just filling it with, “We have three people of this race. Now, we need three more of this one, and four more of this one, and five more of this one.” No. That’s not what I mean. I mean that the space needs to be inviting and open to all who need and want to learn, so that’s number one.

Rafranz Davis: Then, in terms of when we’re trying to look at expertise within those spaces, we need to look at people for who they are and the expertise of who they are in, I would like to say regardless of race, but because there’s just this, I guess, inherent, I don’t want to call them blinders of bias, sometimes it is, a person can have the … Not sometimes. It happens often.

Rafranz Davis: Two people can have the exact same qualifications, but 9 times out of 10, the person who is a non-person of color, or a white person, would be seen more of an expert, especially if it’s a white male, than a person of color or a woman. That has been consistent across the board, not just in tech, but across in other fields, as well.

Rafranz Davis: I guess the gist of this whole thing is, make your rooms as mirroring to the world as you can possibly make them. Invite people of different thoughts. Invite people with different backgrounds, ethnicity, cultures, genders, but making sure that everyone has the exact same opportunity to be a part of the learning environment. I don’t even know how else to just tackle … It’s such a broad conversation that it almost deserves its own conversation.

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely, absolutely. I really want to first applaud you for handling that question, and really, I feel like I learned a few things there, as well. Something that I heard echoed in your message was this idea, and I wish, I was trying to Google as we were talking, here. I heard in a book somewhere where they described this idea of empathy being the ability to essentially see the world through the eyes of other people. I try my best to think about that, and try to think of, like, I only see the world through my own eyes.

Kyle Pearce: This is for, you had mentioned, all kinds of different scenarios, here, whether it be race, or whether it be sexual orientation, or whether it be all of these different, the diversity, the pieces that make us different, being able to think about what the world looks like and what the world feels like through somebody else’s eyes I think is really important. It’s really hard, at the same time. I love how you’re just saying about, you know, the number one thing we can do to start is to ensure that the space is inviting, and it’s ready, and it’s … Really creating that nonthreatening classroom environment, so that every learner feels welcomed and feels as though this is going to be a very low-stress, very high and engaging sort of experience, every single day.

Rafranz Davis: Absolutely. I didn’t even talk on sexual identity, and that’s an area that we often leave off, but is also equally as important. It’s not just our classrooms. It’s our school community. Does every person feel like the are part of it? Does every person feel valued? Does every person feel like they have a safe space?

Rafranz Davis: You need safe spaces, and you need communal spaces. We sometimes forget that. I think that my times, whether it be as a student or even now, as a person connecting with the world outside of education, I feel like I’ve learned just so much more on what it truly means to be inclusive, and to even open my eyes broader than I really had ever had before. Even though I thought my eyes were open, broad, they really weren’t. I would like to think that now, I can take these ideals, and somehow embed them into my work in some capacity. That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway.

Kyle Pearce: As I was just reflecting to myself, I realized something interesting in how we make these assumptions. You had referenced a scenario where if a white male is going for a position, and there’s a person of color, or if it’s a female, or name the other groups that might be in the mix, here, how this issue with the table being tilted in one direction, something that is really difficult is the assumptions we make about people just from our initial perception or what we see.

Kyle Pearce: I had a scenario where, for example, and this is not nearly as important or deep, but for my son, my son’s a pretty big boy, and he’s in junior kindergarten. When he’s playing with the other kids in our neighborhood, they’re a few years old. Because he’s so big, he’s about the same size as those students or as those kids. Oftentimes, he gets treated a little differently, because it’s like, they see his size, and they assume that he should know certain things like the older kids know, like what’s appropriate and what’s not, in certain cases.

Kyle Pearce: I’ve seen that scenario. That, to me, is such a minor thing, but to me, it just shows that initially, just by jumping to a conclusion, initially, that can really, really cause some issues. We have to be hypersensitive to these things, especially when we’re working with our students in the classroom, to try to dig deeper, and try to make sure that we understand, without making any sorts of assumptions, so that we can be as equitable, not equal, we want to be equitable, to ensure that we can support everyone in the areas that they need to be supported in most.

Jon Orr: I think we can move this conversation and what we’re talking about into the ed tech world, too, because I know that there is a lot of inconsistencies in ed tech and in classrooms. It seems like a few years ago there was, I guess, while we’re going back, more than five years ago, a huge push for ed tech in classrooms. We were proponents of that. You were proponents of that. There’s so many people who were saying, like, “Yes, this is needed.” Then, we also had those people coming out of the woodwork to say how kids can’t even handle this, like, “Man, give a kid a phone, or give a kid an iPad in a classroom, what are they going to do with it?”

Jon Orr: We heard those things, five, six years ago. I’m wondering, in your experience in your role, and what you’ve experienced where you are, compared to where we are, how is it, five years later? Do you still believe the state about ed tech in classrooms? Are we better? Are we worse? The same? Are the barriers still there? What are your thoughts on ed tech now versus then?

Rafranz Davis: That’s a good question.

Kyle Pearce: Another small question, eh?

Rafranz Davis: Another small question.

Jon Orr: I think I asked about five questions in there.

Rafranz Davis: Yeah, you did. I think that we are still not where we need to be, by any means, at all, especially when you look at the state of ed tech learning. I think the state of ed tech learning is still on the actual tools that we’re using.

Rafranz Davis: When I’m looking at training courses at conferences, and I still see a lot of Chrome apps for teachers, or, here’s the apps you need to know, blah, blah, blah, it just seems very much so that we’re stuck on this micro level. I saw someone tweeting about having flip grid fever, and yeah, Seesaw, and we’re going to have a whole training on Google certification level one and two, or Apple, I’ll even say that, as well. I think that we’re still very much so on the device and app base.

Rafranz Davis: I don’t think we talk enough about what deeper learning means and how that translates. We don’t talk enough about the K12 school to college to career pipeline of technology. We talk about coding, in a sense, but we only talk about as much as we are comfortable talking about, so let’s talk robots, and throw in doing some block coding, and keep it moving, but we don’t talk about how that translates into understanding what computer science or computing means, or understanding just some of the networks that we use.

Rafranz Davis: Like right now, every time, it seems like, I’ve logged on Twitter, something, Instagram is down, or Facebook has given away our data, or Twitter is going crazy, and the algorithms that run the tools that we use, and we’re logging into these same tools as consumers all the time. Our students are logging into these same tools. We have yet to make that connection into the classroom, and not in terms of bringing those tools in, like, let’s get all the kids on Twitter, but in terms of the implications of that.

Rafranz Davis: What does that mean when we share these things? How does a guy who buys a beat from someone across the world and has a producer he’s never met create something like an Old Town Road that has become this massive hit for 13 weeks number one on Billboard, with zero experience of music creating, his very first time doing it? We don’t talk enough about the changes that are happening with technology in the world, because we’re really too stuck on just boxing everything into what it looks like in school.

Rafranz Davis: I think, for me, that might have been part of why I grew out of maybe what I was doing, as much, because in my mind, I would like for us to tackle these issues and see more of that, but schools are not ready to make that leap. I think that’s, for me, something that I need to explore, for me, what does that mean? How does that look in a school? How do we have these conversations? How do we leverage technology as people, instead of just ed tech, or as a student, or as a teacher?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, totally. I couldn’t agree more. I know that it seems like if we’re just tossing technology into the equation, oftentimes it does stay at the surface level, right? It becomes just this thing to do. What is the technology doing for us that is transformational, like something that I couldn’t do before? Then, also, like you had mentioned, what is the implication?

Kyle Pearce: I know for a long time, I was doing a paperless math class. There was a lot of really cool things that came from it, but when I do get back into the classroom, I’m definitely going to be looking at that very differently, based on my experience over these past four years or so, since I’ve been in that scenario. There’s certain things it’s amazing for, but then other things that I was doing it to do it, and that definitely isn’t what we want to see teachers doing, right?

Kyle Pearce: That’s where I think folks like yourself, who are in these roles where you can come in and actually help teachers really try to hone in on why, like, what’s the intentionality of the technology we’re using in our classroom? Then, also, what are the implications? What do we need to ensure that students are aware of, when they’re using the technology, and talking about their digital footprint, and all of the different ramifications that can come from the different things that we could be posting out there in the world?

Rafranz Davis: That’s exactly, I think, my mindset and where I am in terms of technology. I am no longer capable of doing just like a, let’s do a Google training. Let’s teach me how to use Google Drive. I’m incapable of doing things that people can Google.

Rafranz Davis: I know that’s bad, coming from being a math teacher, with part of the stuff we were teaching were things kids could look up themselves, but nowadays, with where technology is, I want to challenge us to apply those same ideas of learning that we would want our students to do in our classrooms to how we learn as adults. I want to have real conversation and real learning beyond that, talking to people in the business world, in professional environments, the doctor’s office, whatever.

Rafranz Davis: I want us to really look out to see how technology is progressing, and how can we bring those elements to our classroom? It’s a little bit hard when you’re teaching algebra I or geometry, but at the same time, there are so many different connections that we can make. I think that we need to make it a point to do that.

Jon Orr: Good points, for sure. We don’t want to keep you too much longer. We only have one more question before we hang up and say goodbye. It’s a question about this music band that I see you tweet about all the time, BTS, which, I actually never heard of them until I saw you talk about them on Twitter. You seem to love this. I actually was reading, a while ago, again, after I saw some of your tweets, a blog post you wrote about how the band helped you see and shape your view of education. Do you mind sharing a little bit about that love of music, and the band, and how that shaped your view of education for our listeners?

Rafranz Davis: I can. For me, I have never, as a connected educator, I actually have a whole nother blog post to write on this. I think I’ve thought of the title, From Connected Educator to Connected BTS Fan, or some crazy thing like that.

Rafranz Davis: No, I’d never really ventured outside … I’ve ventured outside of education, but it was in adult, professional connecting. I did a little pop culture tweeting when an award show was on, and that is actually how I found BTS in 2017. They were performing at the American Music Awards. They trended in the USA and worldwide literally for an entire week leading up to that performance, because their fandom are huge.

Rafranz Davis: Now, in my mind, I thought, fandom? Well, these are my students. These are like 13 to 17 year-old, blah, blah, blah, but that is not the case. These are young adults. Yes, there’s some teenagers, but a majority of the fandom are people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and up, coming from all walks of life, all diversities. If you want to know diversity, you go to a BTS concert, because it’s not what you think.

Rafranz Davis: On my row, at the first concert that I went to this year in LA, sitting next to me were two older women that came in together. They were taking pictures and video. On the other side of me was a college student. In front of me were two 15 year-olds. On the side of them was an 8 and a 10 year-old. Beside all of them, there’s all these big, burly men wearing BTS shirts and hat.

Jon Orr: Wow. You don’t see that very often, all of them together.

Rafranz Davis: No, but you do when you go.

Kyle Pearce: Jon, you’ve got a BTS shirt. You’re a big, burly man.

Rafranz Davis: I will send you both one.

Kyle Pearce: [crosstalk 00:44:18]-

Rafranz Davis: No, I think that the way it’s really impacted me is it made me, number one, stop judging people or judging what I thought about things before checking it out. Number two is, it opened my eyes to this entire, another area that I didn’t care about, prior to them, which was the inequity of entertainment. I had no idea that the US, or even global entertainment, was just very much so pro-white English, and everything else was just kind of, “Yeah, we’re just not going to deal with that.”

Rafranz Davis: The other part of it was language. In America, we don’t learn other languages. Now, it’s more common that we learn English and Spanish, well, a lot of our students are, but growing up, we only learned English. Traveling, getting a passport was not something that we did, whereas when I would travel to other countries, even when I’d go to Canada, everybody in the room was like, “Yeah, I’ve had a passport since I was like 10,” blah, blah, blah, “Since I was like three, and we go everywhere.”

Rafranz Davis: It’s just not something that is a part of our culture and what we do, if we don’t have the financial means to do it. Connecting within this group or this band, you see these women, young women, older women, families traveling the world to see them, traveling to meet with each other, traveling to learn. Everyone’s learning Korean, now.

Rafranz Davis: I have been studying this language for over a year. I remember saying, “I’m going to be fluent in a year,” and people online was like, “Yeah, it’s not going to happen,” and that is true. It does not work that way.

Rafranz Davis: I think, for me, it has made me step outside of my comfort zone. I love their music, and I love supporting them, but I also have enjoyed learning how the world works. Radio is not a listener-chosen medium. It’s not a democratic system.

Rafranz Davis: If you’re hearing a song on the radio, it’s because that artist record label has crafted some kind of back-ended deal with whoever the programmer is of the network or of that station, and that’s how that music is allowed to play. The top 40 songs across the country are crafted in that way, so smaller bands are often not heard and don’t have the opportunity to chart or be heard within that medium, because maybe they don’t have that same type of backing. It’s just really interesting just how the world works, when you look outside of the bubble you’ve placed yourself in.

Rafranz Davis: My bubble was education. I tweeted education. I talked education. If I did travel, it was because I was going to an ed tech. Now, I travel to go to a concert, to hear seven guys sing in Korean, with 60,000 other fans, and it is like the greatest moment ever.

Kyle Pearce: Amazing. I love how you’ve made that connection to education, how it’s, again, it’s about, we have so much to learn from people. It’s not about the assumptions or anything like that, when someone walks into the room. We just need to learn more about what they know, what they like, and I love it. That’s great.

Kyle Pearce: I’m looking at the time, here. I see that we’ve been on for quite a while, here. We don’t want to take up too much more of your time, this evening. Rafranz, where can people find out more about you, the Rafranz Davis, a math, ed tech specialist? Go ahead and drop some social profiles, any links, or any other useful ways that people can connect with you before we sign off for the night.

Rafranz Davis: Sure. I am on Twitter, @RafranzDavis, R-A-F-R-A-N-Z-D-A-V-I-S. If you like to hear sometimes the occasional education, political bashing, and a lot of promotion of my favorite Korean boy band, BTS, that’s where you can catch me. I’m on LinkedIn. I think if you search my name, you find it. People find me all the time that I don’t know where they found me from, but they happen to do that.

Rafranz Davis: Kind of those two networks, mainly. I blog, but … I have my own domain. It’s rafranzdavis.com. I’ll be honest, I have not updated my personal blog since 2017. Here is why.

Rafranz Davis: I started writing on Medium. I like the flow, how the writing works on Medium. I just think it is such a great experience. I hate the way my personal website works. I’ve been saying that I’m going to update it for like two years, and I haven’t done it yet. Now that I have a little bit of extra time, I’m probably going to do it, but for now, I blog on Medium, and I share the Medium writings on Twitter, or you can look me up on Medium, as well.

Jon Orr: Nice, nice. Awesome. Thank you for that. We will put all of that in the show notes, and I think we’ve got a couple other videos from some of your keynotes we’ll throw into the show notes, too. We definitely want to thank you for joining us, here on the podcast. This has been an inspiring conversation, not only for Kyle and I, but I know for the listeners who are going to be hearing this. We definitely want to thank you for that. We hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.

Rafranz Davis: Thank you for having me.

Kyle Pearce: Thank you. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care, and have a great evening, and enjoy the summer.

Rafranz Davis: Bye.

Kyle Pearce: We want to thank Rafranz again for spending some time with us to share her ideas and insights with us, and you, the Math Moment Maker community.

Jon Orr: September 27, 2019 is coming up soon for you, if you’re listening close to when this episode aired. That date is your last chance to register with us for our 16-week full online workshop.

Kyle Pearce: Our workshop’s designed to walk you through, step-by-step, to help you teach through real-world problems and create those resilient problem solvers you’re after.

Jon Orr: If you’re interested in learning more about registering, be sure to check out makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. If you’re listening after the fall 2019 registration close date, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop to join the waiting list in order to get notified for your next opportunity to participate.

Kyle Pearce: That’s makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. We look forward to hanging out with you online and diving into some learning together.

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Jon Orr: We release a new episode every Monday morning, so keep an eye out for our next episode.

Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce …

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us …

Jon Orr: And high fives for you.

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  1. Episode #168: Highlighting The Missing Voices In Math Education - […] Episode 43: The Missing Voices In Math: An interview With Rafranz Davis […]

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