Tag Archives: PLN

Why we cannot stay silent: performing online to build networks of solidarity

Digital Sleuthing and Context Collapse

In my ECMP 355 class, we recently engaged in a digital sleuthing activity, where we were put into groups and challenged to find out and record as much information as we could about an individual in about 7 minutes. This activity launched discussion around the importance of having a strong, positive digital identity in today’s world. This article even suggests that digital profiles, including professional Twitter, YouTube, and blog accounts, will soon replace the paper resumé.

Naturally, after digital sleuthing Alan Levine, I felt compelled to Google myself and check out my digital identity these days. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised (and slightly uncomfortable) with the results. Everything that came up on Google’s first page was actually about me. It came up with my portfolio, my Twitter account, pictures of me, my profile on the Regina Cougars Athletics site, my Storify account, an article about Katia and I presenting at an education conference in London, my YouTube channel, and my Pinterest account.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 2.40.37 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-19 at 2.40.52 PM

What freaked me out a little more was looking through the images associated with my name: 6 pictures of my face; a bowl of the delicious honey lemon chicken I pinned on Pinterest last week; pictures from #TreatyEdCamp; STARS Regina logos; and pictures of my friends, classmates, and profs.

Google knows me very well… (and therefore, anyone with Internet access potentially knows me that well). It creates an interesting and strange dynamic. I can no longer control who knows what about me (context collapse); I can only control what is out there for people to know about me.  

Performing Online (and IRL)

I like to refer to “what is out there for people to know about me” as how I perform online. To me, ‘performance’ means mean the way I choose to portray myself in certain online spaces (ie. the topics I deem important enough to tweet/write about, how I choose to respond or not respond to controversial articles, whether or not I share that picture of the super healthy salmon, quinoa, and broccoli dinner I had last night, etc).   

I like to use the word ‘perform’ for a couple of reasons:

  1. It felt a bit like acting when I first started sharing on social media. I was unsure of myself, I was overthinking my hashtag use, and I was constantly wondering what others would think about what I was sharing. However, I sneakily pretended I knew what I was doing over and over again until I actually felt like I knew what I was doing. 
  2. I’m taken to the Butler/Foucault idea of performativity – that everything is performance, that we are constantly enacting particular discourses, and that identity is fluid rather than fixed.
  3. I think performance is a constructive starting point (and sometimes the only possible starting point), as I describe in this blog post and Arthur Chu describes in this critique of #NotYourShield.

Performing as Anti-Oppressive Educator

I perform the role of anti-oppressive educator online in many ways:

I include #starsregina, #socialjustice, #treatyed in my Twitter bio, and I identify my location as Treaty 4 Land.

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I tweet about social justice issues.

I write (not often enough) about privilege, racism, sexism, and mental health.

Why engage with these difficult topics in online spaces?

  1. Because they are important. Plain and simple.

It can be terrifying to share about these topics, as Kendra describes in her beautiful post, The Untold Story; however, silence often means complicity in the dominant narrative.

Audre Lorde challenged others on their silence in an incredible speech she gave way back in 1977:

“What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?

She also warned against staying silent due to fear:

“For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

And finally, she emphasizes that speaking out bridges differences:

“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”

You should probably just go read the whole thing. It’s amazing.

  1.  Because sharing and bridging differences in this way builds powerful networks.

We talk all the time about the importance of building a PLN and how these connections provide us with invaluable resources and relationships, but it’s even more than that. Our networks help sustain us when we feel we are falling short, when we lose ourselves in fear and drift back toward silence.

As Sherri Spelic eloquently describes in this post:

Pooled with other folks’ resources, the radical can grow, the imagination nurtured, a collective power set free. Precisely when I am feeling small, deflated or unheard, when I am asking myself that critical question: “Who am I to do this work?”, this is when I have to see that I do not and need not walk alone.”

So I will continue to perform in real life and online, aiming to maintain and strengthen my positive digital identity. When sharing, I aspire to overcome my fears, reject my silences, and respect my need for language, definition, and discussion around important, sometimes discomforting topics. In doing this, I hope to build a network that will support, encourage, and challenge me, but most of all, remind me that I’m not alone.

Has your PLN ever helped you through challenging times or times when you felt isolated? Has your network ever encouraged you to break your silence on an important issue?  Comment below – I’d love to read your thoughts on this!

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Feedly and Feminism

I started using Feedly about a year ago, at the suggestion of the brilliant Katia Hildebrandt.  I immediately saw the value in using it; however, as I struggled to find time to read and share articles over the summer and throughout my internship, my use of Feedly dwindled.

Evaluating My Feedly 

Since the start of this new semester, I have been getting back into the swing of tweeting and sharing content daily, and am now inspired to get back into using Feedly as a tool for this.  This week, I took some time to evaluate my Feedly page.  Here is what it looked like when I started:

Feedly Before

As you can see, I had previously followed quite a few blogs on feminism and race, a couple on mental health, and one ed tech blog. I decided to expand some of the categories I already had, to add to my ed tech category, and to start a new category for inclusive ed. Additionally, I decided to delete some of the blogs that I usually skip past on my reader. I think getting rid of blogs you aren’t reading is an important part of keeping a Feedly page so you don’t get bogged down by content that isn’t useful to you.

How I Found Blogs to Follow

I used the Explore option to search for topics, such as “ed tech.”  After clicking on a site, I also found it useful to check out the Related Feeds that Feedly suggests.  I also checked out The 50 Best Blogs for Future Teachers and Teach 100 – Top Educational Blogs, as suggested by Katia and Alec.  After searching “inclusive education” in Explore and not finding anything, I googled “inclusive education blogs” and found this article – Top Ten Blogs About Inclusive Education, which was really helpful.  I added several blogs from that article (using the Google Chrome Feedly extension), including Eliminating the Box, a blog by an inclusion facilitator in Alberta.  On her page, she includes a list of blogs she follows as a widget on the right-hand side, so I also looked at some of those blogs.  As you can see, one thing leads to another which leads to another, which is why exploring Feedly facilitated some of my procrastination this week.

(Side note:  Click here for a hilarious post about why procrastinators procrastinate.)

What I Look For in a Blog

When I’m deciding whether or not to follow a blog, I ask myself a few questions.

  • Do I like the way this blog looks?
  • Is it useful content that will help me grow as a person and/or teacher?
  • How related is this to my current context (ie. where I live)?
  • Who writes this blog?  What is their background in the field?
  • Will I actually click on these articles or will I scroll past them every day?

Then I make a judgment call (usually after excessive overthinking has taken place). The good thing about Feedly is you can always delete content after if you decide it isn’t useful!

Everyday Feminism 

One digital media site that I find extremely useful is Everyday Feminism.  Their mission is “to help people dismantle everyday violence, discrimination, and marginalization through applied intersectional feminism and to create a world where self-determination and loving communities are social norms through compassionate activism.”  Here is a screenshot of how it looks on my Feedly:

Everyday Feminism

They post articles on topics such as privilege, trans&GNC, LGBTQIA, race, class, religion, and more.  I love that their articles are engaging, clear, and easy to read.  This site is helpful because it allows me (as a white, middle class, cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied woman) to read stories/perspectives from people who experience oppression in a variety of areas.  Reading these articles helps me understand the privilege I hold and allows me to learn about issues that others (and many of my future students) face every single day.

My Updated Feedly

Here is a screenshot of what my Feedly looks like now:

Feedly After

I will definitely continue to update my Feedly reader by adding/deleting content as I see fit.  I look forward to using it as a tool for learning and sharing!

What is your favourite blog that you follow?  How did you come across it and what makes it so awesome?

Can we pretend our way to becoming anti-oppressive educators?

Lately, I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about the ideas of performance and authenticity. As a chronic people pleaser, I often feel myself “performing” or taking on certain roles to suit the social situation I find myself in. Watch this unreal spoken word piece describing performance to understand what I mean.

I am also constantly performing my gender. I don’t do this intentionally, but I do think of it as performing because I’ve learned to act, walk, speak, and even take up space in “feminine ways” through regulated discourses of what it means to be female since before I was even born. This might also have something to do with why I’m a people pleaser..  Food for thought.

Likewise, my journey to becoming an anti-oppressive educator began as a performance. I was performing “good student” in ECS 110 and ECS 210, which both focused on the “isms,” dominant discourses or common sense, and oppression in schools and society. To perform good student, I read about racism, gender performance, national identity, white privilege, heterosexism, ableism, colonialism, and social class; I critiqued popular culture for problematic representations of self/other; I started thinking and talking about race; I reflected on my positionality and privilege; I engaged on Twitter and on my blog to start to build my PLN; I learned about treaty education. The list goes on… And all of those things started because I was determined to perform good student.

When I first realized that I cringed at the idea. Why did this journey have to start as a performance? Can’t I be authentic in anything I do? (Possibly not, because I’m not sure that authenticity is a real thing.) I thought that since anti-oppressive work is important to me, it should have been “real” from the start.

Now I’m realizing that maybe it had to start as a performance because these are uncomfortable issues to engage with. Maybe performing helped me ease into the role of attempting to be an anti-oppressive educator because I was able to “try it on” first. This gets even more complex when I think about the different social media platforms I engage on, because I perform anti-oppressive educator on Twitter but not on Facebook (but that’s a blog post for another day).

Anyway, at some point in my performing, I found real value in and passion for this new role.  I can’t pinpoint exactly when I shifted from performing anti-oppressive educator to truly believing in and trying to live out this role, but I don’t think it really matters.  I’d like to say that I no longer perform it at all, but that isn’t true either.  Performance is ongoing, but I believe this kind of performance is constructive.

I’ll leave you with a few questions and I’d love to hear thoughts, feedback, or more questions in return!

How are performing online and performing face-to-face similar and different?  Do you agree that performance can be constructive or do you think it makes anti-oppressive work less authentic/less valuable?