I am a Lucky Girl – Gender in EdTech

We had a guest visit with Audrey Watters on the topic of Gender in Educational Technology. Completing the pre-reading for the night left me with a new vocabulary word: “mansplaining”. I’ve experienced this in a variety of ways in my career but also personally. My husband is very adept at navigating this when a salesperson begins deferring to him when I am the potential customer.

I enjoyed Audrey’s visit with us and her passion for creating an inclusive community online. She is well-researched and has a great sense of humour. As Audrey spoke I reflected on my own journey as a female edtech dabbler.

I think that I have an unfortunate bit of a Pollyanna perspective on gender issues. This comes from a sincere place in my heart, though. I have been a lucky girl. I have also been a stubborn girl. I know that there are huge imbalances between the way women and men are treated. I know that this is true historically, and continues in our present day. I have witnessed and been subject to unfairness that seems to be based on my gender. But, I am a lucky girl. I was raised to believe that I could do anything that I want to do. Being told “no” (whatever the reason I was given) was an invitation to begin negotiations. My parents encouraged and supported my explorations, my curiosities and my passions. I came home muddy, bruised and exhilarated. I pushed boundaries and asked endless questions. And things did not always work out how I had hoped, and when disappointments ensued, my parents were there to answer my new questions, offer the insights that I missed, and to encourage me to dust off and try again.

While Audrey spoke, I actually took a moment to text a quick “Thank you” to my Mom. I’ve loved technology since before my parents brought home our first computer. We used to record audiotape letters to send to my Great Grandma. My parents shared a tape with me where the toddler me was demanding “Heidi do” to set up the taping that day. Dad kept insisting “Daddy do”, and had apparently already “done” setting up the taping, forever capturing my stubborn young self attempting to take charge with technology.

Our Vic 20 later upgraded to a Commodore 64. My parents encouraged my use of this technology and I remember sharing our discoveries about these tools as a family. Print Shop became one of my favourite obsessions, and I created endless streams of dot-matrix brilliance. Looking back now, I can’t believe that my parents didn’t shut me down about wasting printer ink, reams of paper (who needs another banner??!?), or even my time – maybe I should have been doing more homework? My parents ensured that I lived a balanced childhood, and I still carry my love of technology AND my love of the outdoors with me. I should be saying thank you more often. I am a lucky girl.

Audrey’s talk, and my sense of feeling blessed makes me wonder what my role is in supporting others. My road has not always been easy, I have had my ideas belittled, stolen, and claimed by others. I have been asked to feel shame because of my emotional nature. But, I storm on.

(I often cry first, but then I storm on)

How do I stand beside those who are being left out? How do I ask the right questions? Who do I ask? Where do I reach out my hand? I take my parents’ teachings and practice them with my students. I know that they can do anything. How do I extend this mindset beyond my classroom walls?

I am a lucky girl. And I should be doing more to help.

(Thank you, Mom and Dad)

My own Digital Participation

Like several #tiegrad cohort members, I spent some time this weekend reflecting on my online presence. In our very first term of our Masters work, we were fortunate enough to have a visit with Bonnie Stewart who posed a similar question asking us to think about who we were online. Unfortunately, that was one of the blogs lost when UVic was hacked, but even so, my answer has changed over time. She shared our professor, Alec Couros as an example of someone who seamlessly blends his professional and personal lives online.

I am only digitally active in a few areas. I have a Twitter account, this blog, a Kidblog account with my students, a classroom Twitter account, a couple of social bookmarking sites, and dormant About.Me and LinkedIn pages. Oh, and I also was starting to develop a Fitbit PLN, until my Fitbit decided to part company with me. I am my most true self on my two blog sites. I try to include personal stories, and a few more personal pictures. I was very saddened to lose my UVic blog where I shared how I learned to read, with a picture of my brother and me outside of the Prince George public library. I still have a Word copy of that post, but I heartbreakingly lost my treasured comments from my family and my #tiegrad cohort. It’s funny that we teach about the permanence/footprint of our online identities – maybe it’s only the stuff that we wish we could forget that is actually permanent!

I am more careful with my words on Twitter. 140 characters leaves a lot of room for context collapse and I worry about what to say or share. I feel great when something I tweet is re-tweeted, but when I retweet, I feel like I might be perceived as fangirling!

I think that the main difference between my blog and Twitter is that few people actually read through my blog in its entirety, but anyone could stumble across my words on Twitter. We often snoop through each other’s lists to see whom people are following and what they have to say. My visualization of blogging is like walking through a semi-deserted street verbally telling a friend a story or answering a question. However, Twitter is like graffiti – very visual and left to linger for all to see. I still hesitate and hover over both the “Publish” and the “Tweet” buttons.

I liked the ideas by Melody and Suzanne of creating a Task List for developing a more well-rounded digital identity.

My Task List:

  1. Refine my About.Me and LinkedIn pages (or start fresh!)
  2. Be more active on Twitter: I loved co-moderating our #anxietyined chats, and participating in #bcedchat, #byodchat, and #mschat. I am currently only participating in #bcedchat. Hesitate less, share more.
  3. Blog more frequently. It is an expectation of this course, but I also enjoyed completing the 30 Days Reflective Blogging Challenge in September. I need my blogging to serve me, not just be an assignment to complete. I may need to examine or reflect upon other areas of my life, not just my thoughts and learning as a Masters student. I’ve been managing to blog twice a week since the term began, but it has been entirely assignment-based. These posts will only engage my fellow Grad students. Time to broaden my focus.
  4. Get to know my PLN. I have gotten to know a few of the people I have connected with on Twitter, but mainly by asking questions. I need to look for more opportunities to connect and give back.
  5. Re-read and reflect on the article that was shared out by Valerie Irvine: The Guide to Social Media Time Management. Keep my task list in mind and refine my goals as I work.
  6. Maintain balance. Cultivate my in-person relationships as I develop my digital relationships.

#tiebc Chapter 8 Ambient Awareness

I am smiling as I write this post, with my Mom’s beautiful face clearly in my mind. You see, I know that my Mom is usually one of the first to read my blog posts. And, I believe that she reads them from beginning to end; truly wading through the mire of my digital diary, not just skimming for salient details and points of interest.

Clive Thompson’s Chapter 8 “Ambient Awareness” in his book Smarter Than You Think became one of my favourite chapters, as I was reminded repeatedly of the opportunities and connections that technology has brought into our lives. Clive is a strong proponent of our micro-blogged status updates, our shared dinner pictures and our endless chatter about the minutiae of our days. He describes the wonder of our culture of over-sharing; how it becomes like an ongoing conversation. He actually describes it as social proprioception – an awareness of where our digital community members are, and what they may be engaged in: a group’s sense of itself. What is appealing about these morsels of shared information is that they invite you to interact; they do not demand your attention. When a friend shares out that they are considering which movie to watch on a Friday evening, you can experience a moment of envy about their evening plans and move your attention to other things, or you can offer an opinion and begin a conversation.

I admire people who can blend their personal and professional selves seamlessly online. They can share tidbits about their day, as well as professional resources that their followers will appreciate. My Twitter timeline shares a lot of my celebrations as a learner and a teacher, but I rarely sneak in the occasional personal tweet. I might enthuse about the snow falling, or how my dogs are demanding my attention as I multi-task through my schoolwork on my front deck.

Thompson made me laugh out loud when he talked about how our ambient awareness allows other people know how truly weird you actually are! He describes how freeing text can be. When I reflect on the people who follow my Twitter account and how they read my thoughts about my Masters, my ideas about teaching or my conversations with other people; I regain my fear about posting my words so publicly. It is bizarre to have a clear understanding of and sense of closeness with someone you have never met. Twitter allows us a new social opportunity that breaks the standard conventions of conversations. We drop into conversations held between other people, we leave without polite goodbyes, and we share out random facts, pictures, ideas, and conversation starters to see if anyone wants to talk to us. Our recent history is filled with stories of the dreaded evenings at family or friends’ homes where we may have been forced to sit through endless photo albums, or worse, a slideshow. Yet, Instagram has been embraced as a window into the lives of those around us. This is another example of being invited in, as opposed to feeling trapped.

Ambient awareness extends to everyone. Although we may be intending to share our words or pictures with a few friends in our digital community, we must remain aware that our true audience is huge. Future employers, friends or spouses can see our interactions, or trace our histories with a simple search. Our current employers, friends and spouses have an ongoing geo-tagged window into our every digital utterance. A new mindset of how to behave when we know someone is watching should be taught at a younger age. In discussing my “audience awareness” with my students at the advent of blogging together, I have learned that most of my students do not think about what it means to be interacting publicly.

After reading this chapter, and experiencing my ever-present anxiety of living this public life, I also acquired a new calm. Thompson’s rebuttal to the many people who mourn the use of our social networks to post random updates is that these tools do not actually make us trivial: they just reveal how trivial we truly are. I, for one, am grateful for all of the opportunities that technology has brought into my life. I do feel more connected – to the people I know well, and also to people I have yet to meet in person.

So, post away. Tell me about the dessert you just ate. Connect with me through Fitbit so that I may know how many steps you took today. Post another cute picture of your dog napping. Tell me the funny thing that happened at work today. Capture the beauty outside your front door in a quick pic. Tag me into that conversation about popcorn, because you know I have an opinion about that. What unexpected plot twists filled your day today?

Enjoying the view with my dog Ash. One of my favourite hikes behind my house.

Enjoying the view with my dog Ash. One of my favourite hikes behind my house.

Because, I know that if I shared these things more often, my lovely Mom would feel even more up-to-date in my day. I know that she would be happy to see how my elaborate dinner turned out. She would be able to picture me on my hiking trails vividly if I shared a picture in real time. She would laugh at my stories, even if no one else did. Our connection would deepen because she would be able to see the blend of my personal life and my professional life and how all of the pieces fit together in the course of each day.

Status update: I’m off to tidy my house so that I may decorate for Christmas tomorrow. 🙂

Reflective Teaching – Day 27

Te@chThought‘s Day 27 Challenge is: “What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Whew, right now my weekends and the all-too distant holidays play the role of bonus “catch-up” time. Teachers in BC are only two weeks into teaching after a period of job action. So, it still feels like the beginning of September. I am tired every day! My mind is completely overwhelmed with the problem-solving that begins every school year: who are these learners? How can I best support their efforts? What plans do I need to work on? How do they fit together? Do I need to make changes to our classroom lay out? How can I ensure that they feel welcome? Why is my room such a mess still???! What could this space be like if we got rid of all of the desks? How should I review math concepts in order to best meet the needs of the most learners? What book should I read to them? Will they like me?

My mind does not stop when I get home. It does not stop when I lay down to sleep. If anything, sometimes the questions get louder!

And, that is only one piece of the puzzle. I am almost half-way through a Masters of Education program. And I am enrolled in TWO courses this term. I have class meetings regularly. And homework assignments. And blog posts to write – I have not completed any of the three that I thought I would have done by now. I have Twitter to respond to. Blog posts to read. Two text books to read and respond to. A book club. A MOOC. A Literature Review to craft- um, and I guess I will need to actually begin reviewing that literature!

The most important part of my life is my family. My wonderful husband has not yet complained that the cookie plate (that was full all summer) has not been filled in over a week. And that I am too tired to be any fun. My dogs, however, have been giving me “guilt eyes” and needing extra cuddles to make up for our new time apart.

My weekends are filled with work right now. That is a necessity so that I can keep up with the academic and workplace demands. Balance will eventually be restored. I know this. I am COUNTING on this!! Soon my weekends will be times where I can recharge my batteries, devote some time to planning fun learning opportunities for my students, learn things to help improve my practice, AND spend time with my loved ones and do the things that I love to do.

Reflective Teaching – Day 15

Te@chThought‘s Day 15 Challenge is: “Name three strengths you have as an educator.

This is an awkward question. My strengths and weaknesses vary each year. I am a work in progress! Sometimes I make gains in one area, and another area begins to suffer. I am a learner.

Three things that I hold as important and feel proud of are:

  • relationships: I am not always successful, but I work very hard to establish relationships in our classroom. I identify our learning community as a FAMILY on the first day and I refer to that relationship often. It is a powerful feeling when our learning family begins to come together. The level of trust and willingness to take risks sky-rockets!
  • my own learning: I share my mistakes and my learning journeys with my students. We take time to share the process of learning together, and begin to develop understandings that we all learn differently and can benefit from learning together. I celebrate the many things that I learn from my students. I invite my student experts to teach me and their peers. #geniushour has been great for this!
  • reading: My parents gave me a love of reading. I have been very lucky to teach in schools that have diverse libraries and have enjoyed watching a few reluctant readers discover a joy in reading. I read aloud to my Middle School family. We exchange our personal favourites by title and by sharing actual books over weekends. Students will lend me their ownArchie comics after they learn about my own phase of reading Archie as “brain candy”!

Reflective Teaching – Day 10

Te@chThought‘s Day 10 challenge is:

Share five random facts about yourself.

  • I love to read
  • I love to swim and usually swim in every body of water that I encounter
  • I am a former volunteer fire-fighter/first responder
  • I have quite tiny feet for my height
  • My favourite flowers are Sweet Peas and Lilacs

Share four things from your bucket list.

  • Go back to Cuba to celebrate our wedding anniversary
  • Sail on a liveaboard somewhere warm. Maybe the South Pacific?
  • Eat lobster on the East Coast
  • Dive historic shipwrecks

Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.

  • to extend a growth-mindset into more areas of my life
  • to narrow down my Masters topic!
  • to listen to my learners (past and present) to ensure that I am growing as an educator and providing dynamic and inviting educational opportunities

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.

  • Laugh: too many to count! Middle School is hilarious. The “inside jokes” keep me going. Unexpected phrases that have little meaning to others, but cause uproarious laughter whenever they are uttered are priceless! Some examples include: “base-jumping bacteria”, “we’ve got the sauce” (screamed in the IKEA “start the car” fashion), “squirt”, and “Ducky”.
  • Cry: the times that I could not find my way in. The students I was unable to support in the way that they needed. The relationships that never quite gelled. The kids who didn’t feel connected to the classroom community.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

  • I have an outstanding family. My parents work hard and care deeply about my brother and me. We had a great childhood. My husband is an incredible man. He supports me and encourages me in my journeys. I am surrounded by loving, thoughtful and generous people. My family taught me to read, gave me a love of play, keep me young, and encourage me to celebrate – often. I feel blessed.