I spent some time yesterday reading about and then discussing the Rachel Dolezal situation. Amidst the “Can you be transracial?” argument (which I think is nicely addressed here), another question arose – is it possible to black people to “pass” as white in the same way that Ms. Dolezal “passed” as black – which led to a lengthy and rich discussion of race, dominant narratives, and identity.
And this led me to think about the amazing possibilities offered by the Internet and by social media for rich thinking that is informed by a constellation of viewpoints from across the globe. At a barbeque the other day, we were discussing Chatroulette, which not everyone present had heard of. When one friend commented that he had learned something new about the Internet that day, another recalled the Samuel Johnson quote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Replace the word London with the word Internet (well, and replace man with human), and you have some sort of metaphor for the ethos of our time. The Internet is constantly offering something new and different, and there is tremendous potential in that.
This obviously isn’t to say that rich thought sprang up as result of the web. But our ability to connect with others and to be exposed to conversations that might once not have reached our social circles has been exponentially amplified. Because of Twitter, the world has been able to follow the complex conversations going on about Rachel Dolezal. Earlier that week, the world got to laugh at the #distractinglysexy hashtag (including my personal favourite below) while also taking a closer look at sexism and stereotyping in the sciences.
— Point Mutation (@Point_Mutation) June 11, 2015
And the connectedness that comes with the Internet also offers incredible possibilities for addressing issues of equity and social justice. Social media can make uncomfortable knowledge more accessible to the mainstream; it allows for things like articles about colourblind discourses or cartoons about white privilege to provide more accessible explanations of social justice issues and to circulate among wider audiences. The availability of streaming apps like Periscope and the ubiquity of phone cameras leads to increased accountability and awareness of issues that were once ignored by mainstream media (like the recent police violence recorded in McKinney, Texas).
So now we need to work on extending this to the classroom as well. Just the other day, my colleague Alec Couros tweeted this call for edtech to promote social causes:
#edtech needs more social conscience and less rah rah rah tech is awesome.
— Alec Couros (@courosa) June 12, 2015
There is lots that we can be doing. To start, you can take a look at this list of resources related to technology, social justice, and storytelling – and if you have something to add, leave a comment. But we can also reimagine the very idea of technology in education: Audrey Watters’ recent post on the idea of “edtech” (ed-tech? EdTech?) is a reminder of the wide range of meaning that has been/can be associated with the term. So let’s take the loose meaning of edtech and work to associate it with justice and equity. Let’s reimagine edtech models to include the new goal of technology integration: Equitable participation with the aim of social justice.