inequality & networks: the sociocultural implications for higher ed

Next week is #dLRN15 at Stanford. Months of planning and debating and collaborating (and panicking!) all come together to launch an inaugural conference/conversation on Making Sense of Higher Education: Networks & Change.

It’s all Panic At The Disco around here these days, people.

There are some serious high hopes embedded and embodied in #dLRN15. Not just for a successful event – though a successful event is a joy forever, as the poets say. Or, erm, something like that. But success is a complex thing, and hopes go beyond the event.

#dLRN15 is grounded in the kind of quiet hopes most of us in higher ed these days don’t talk about all that much: the hopes that things can actually get better. The hopes that research can be conducted and communicated in such a way as to shape the direction of change. The hopes for a future for the spirit of public education, in a time when much in higher ed seems to have been unbundled or disrupted or had its goalposts moved.

Those kinds of hopes are waaaaay too big to lay on the shoulders of any single event or single collection of people…but still, we got hopes, and they underpin the conversations we’re hoping to start through this small, first-time conference next week. We have the privilege of bringing together powerful thinkers like Adeline Koh and Marcia Devlin and Mike Caulfield as keynotes, plus systems-level folks and established researchers and students and grad students and people from all sorts of status positions within higher ed, all thinking about the intersection of networked practices and learning with the institutional structures of higher ed.

However, there’s one strand of conversation, one hope, in the mix at #dLRN15 that I’m particularly attached to. It’s the Sociocultural Implications of Networks and Change in Higher Ed conference theme, and particularly the opening plenary panel of the conference, on Inequities & Networks: The Sociocultural Implications for Higher Ed. I’m chairing, and the ever-thoughtful George Station, Djenana Jalovcic, and Marcia Devlin have agreed to lead the conversation from the stage.

But we need you.

No plenary panel is an island…and while all of us contributing have our own deep ties to this topic, our role is only to start the conversation. Help us make it wider and take it further. Whether you’ll be there or not, your thoughts and input are welcome on the #dLRN15 hashtag or on our Slack channel, or here in the comments. Throw in.

To me, this is the strand that gets at the heart of what education is for, and who it includes, and how, in a time of massive stress: is the digital helping widen participation and equality? Is it hindering?

If the answer to both is “yes,” WHAT NOW?

The aim of the panel is to explore how intersectional issues – race, gender, class, ability, even academic status – in higher education are amplified and complexified by digital technologies and networked participation. While digital higher education initiatives are often framed for the media in emancipatory terms, what effects does the changing landscape of higher education actually have on learners whose identities are marked by race/gender/class and other factors within their societies?

We’ll be sharing and unpacking some of the places we get stuck when we think about this in the context of our work as educators and researchers.

What effects do you see digital networks having on inequalities in higher ed? What sociocultural implications do networked practices hold for institutional practices? What are universities’ responsibilities to students who live and learn in hybrid online/offline contexts?

Please. Add your voices, so that this panel becomes more a node in a networked conversation than a one-off to itself. That in itself would pretty much make #dLRN15 a success, in my mind. :)

something is rotten in the state of…Twitter

I read another article yesterday on The Death of Twitter: they’re multiplying, these narratives, just like the fruit flies in my kitchen.

Like fruit flies, these lamentations for Twitter do not spontaneously generate, but are born from a process of decay: they are the visible signs of something left neglected, something rotting quietly out of sight.

Since I’m currently in the extended throes of researching Twitter for my dissertation, I read these articles like I used to read Cosmo back when I was twenty: half-anxious that Enlightenment will be contained in the next paragraph, half-anxious it won’t. When I was twenty, I had Cosmo to make me feel miserable about the gap between what I valued and what I saw reflected and valued by the world. These days, I have The End of Big Twitter.

I wonder about what it means to research something changing so quickly, so drastically. Will my dissertation end up being about the Twitter that was, rather than whatever it is in the process of becoming? Can a person become an historian by accident?

Is this all there is to say, anymore?
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Because once there was more, at least for me. Way back in the arcane days of 2006 and 2007, I went to live among another culture – participatory culture, in its heyday – and felt at home for the first time. A particular confluence of privilege and obscurity and the need to speak things I had no place to speak aloud contributed…and the experience was mostly good. Not always ideal, by any means, but networks and Twitter in particular opened for me whole worlds of conversations and ties that I would never – flat-out – otherwise have had access to. And those conversations and ties have shaped my identity, my work, and my trajectory in life dramatically over the last eight years. Yet I sense the conditions that made all that possible shifting, slipping away.

I do not know what comes next, at this strange intersection. This post is My Own Private Fruitfly: its lifespan short and humid. It may be dead or obsolete in fifty days. But it is what I see, here and now, on the heels of a sweltering and disturbing August.

“The Death of Twitter” is Not About Twitter
I’m no great fan of their recent platform changes and even less of the likelihood that they’re about to make what I see in my feed far more algorithmically-determined, a la Facebook. But I don’t think a new platform will arise to save what’s getting lost and lamented about Twitter. The issue all the articles point to is about Twitter As We Knew It (TM) as a representation of an era, a kind of practice. At the core, it is about the ebbing away of networked communications and participatory culture – or at least, first-generation participatory culture as I knew it, as Jenkins is perhaps best-known for describing it.

It is also about the concurrent rise of what I *hope* is peak Attention Economy.

(Of course, the founding premise of the Attention Economy is there’s no such thing as too much Attention Economy, so yeh, I’m probably wrong on the peak front .)

Consolidation of the Status Quo
Some of this is overt hostile takeover – a trifecta of monetization and algorithmic thinking and status quo interests like big brands and big institutions and big privilege pecking away at participatory practices since at least 2008.

Oh, you formed a little unicorn world where you can communicate at scale outside the broadcast media model? Let us sponsor that for you, sisters and brothers. Let us draw you from your domains of your own to mass platforms where networking will, for awhile, come fully into flower while all the while Venture Capital logics tweak and incentivize and boil you slowly in the bosom of your networked connections until you wake up and realize that the way you talk to half the people you talk to doesn’t encourage talking so much as broadcasting anymore. Yeh. Oh hey, *that* went well.

And in academia, with Twitter finally on the radar of major institutions, and universities issuing social media policies and playing damage control over faculty tweets with the Salaita firing and even more recent, deeply disturbing rumours of institutional interventions in employee’s lives, this takeover threatens to choke a messy but powerful set of scholarly practices and approaches it never really got around to understanding. The threat of being summarily acted upon by the academy as a consequence of tweets – always present, frankly, particularly for untenured and more vulnerable members of the academic community – now hangs visibly over all heads…even while the medium is still scorned as scholarship by many.

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You’re Doing It Wrong 
But there’s more. The sense of participatory collective – always fraught – has waned as more and more subcultures are crammed and collapsed into a common, traceable, searchable medium. We hang over each other’s heads, more and more heavily, self-appointed swords of Damocles waiting with baited breath to strike. Participation is built on a set of practices that network consumption AND production of media together…so that audiences and producers shift roles and come to share contexts, to an extent. Sure, the whole thing can be gamed by the public and participatory sharing of sensationalism and scandal and sympathy and all the other things that drive eyeballs.

But where there are shared contexts, the big nodes and the smaller nodes are – ideally – still people to each other, with longterm, sustained exposure and impressions formed. In this sense, drawing on Walter Ong’s work on the distinctions between oral and literate cultures, Liliana Bounegru has claimed that Twitter is a hybrid: orality is performative and participatory and often repetitive, premised on memory and agonistic struggle and the acceptance of many things happening at once, which sounds like Twitter As We Knew It (TM), while textuality enables subjective and objective stances, transcending of time and space, and collaborative, archivable, analytical knowledge, among other things.

Thomas Pettitt even calls the era of pre-digital print literacy “The Gutenberg Parenthesis;” an anomaly of history that will be superceded by secondary orality via digital media. 

Um…we may want to rethink signing up for that rodeo. Because lately secondary orality via digital media seems like a pretty nasty, reactive state of being, a collective hiss of “you’re doing it wrong.” Tweets are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers…because the Attention Economy rewards those behaviours. Oh hai, print literacies and related vested interests back in ascendency, creating a competitive, zero-sum arena for interaction. Such fun!

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Which is not to say there’s no place for “you’re doing it wrong.” Twitter, dead or no, is still a powerful and as yet unsurpassed platform for raising issues and calling out uncomfortable truths, as shown in its amplification of the #Ferguson protests to media visibility (in a way Facebook absolutely failed to do thanks to the aforementioned algorithmic filters). Twitter is, as my research continues to show, a path to voice. At the same time, Twitter is also a free soapbox for all kinds of shitty and hateful statements that minimize or reinforce marginalization, as any woman or person of colour who’s dared to speak openly about the raw deal of power relations in society will likely attest. And calls for civility will do nothing except reinforce a respectability politics of victim-blaming within networks. This intractable contradiction is where we are, as a global neoliberal society: Twitter just makes it particularly painfully visible, at times.

Impossible Identities
Because there is no way to win. The rot we’re seeing in Twitter is the rot of participatory media devolved into competitive spheres where the collective “we” treats conversational contributions as fixed print-like identity claims. As Emily Gordon notes, musing about contemporary Twitter as a misery vaccuum, the platform brings into collision people who would probably never otherwise end up in the same public space. Ever. And that can be amazing, when there are processes by which people are scaffolded into shared contexts. Or just absolutely exhausting. We don’t know how to deal with collapsed publics, full stop. We don’t know how to talk across our differences. So participatory media becomes a cacophonic sermon of shame and judgement and calling each other out, to the point where no identity is pure enough to escape the smug and pointless carnage of petty collective reproach.

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Somewhere, Donna Haraway and her partial, ironic, hybrid cyborg weep, I think.

This doesn’t mean I’m leaving Twitter. I’m not leaving Twitter. If this post is a fruit fly signalling rot, it is likewise the testament of a life dependent on the decaying platform for its sustenance. The fruit is still sweet, around the rotten bits. And there is no other fruit in the basket that will do so well.
Perhaps it is not rot. Some would call it inevitable, part of the cycle of change and enclosure that seems to mark the emergence of all new forms of working and thinking together. I’m not so sure: that still smells to me like high modernity. Either way, I will miss Twitter As We Knew It (TM)…but I wonder: what am I not seeing yet? What paths of subversion, connection, hybridity are still open?

I’m over by the fruit bowl, listening.

do you know networks? on leaving the Garden of Eden

Today, class, we’re going to talk about networks. And education. And power relations. Yes, again. I KNOW. You poor lambs.

I fear becoming a proselytizer. The good people who show up at my door asking if I know Jesus are not my people. I like doubters, complications, ideas that break down assumptions and build toward further questions, not answers.

And yet every time I introduce the topic of networks I feel as if I inch a little closer to preaching to the self-selected network choir and ONLY the network choir and I worry. Preaching is not the work I set out to do. Rather, I want to dig, to lay out ideas, to build new ideas. I am ever-tempted by the Tree of Knowledge. But – and this is my problem, perhaps, a problem shared by my entire household…or at least its members over four feet tall – I no longer think it is a tree.

I have thought, for ten years since I first read Deleuze and Guattari and mentioned them in passing to Dave Cormier in a long-distance phone booth call from Switzerland to Korea, that it is a rhizome. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is not an apple, in my belief systems.

It is a weed.

Yet I was raised by the tidy gardeners and the pesticide companies and the folks who built enclosures for weedy ideas, locking them in like dandelions under glass. And likely, dear reader, so were you.

I talk about networks not to try to convert you…but to try to understand the limits of the systems we were raised in. To understand what is happening now that structure of those systems and their institutions no longer describes the structure of information flow in our society. To understand how and why the powers-that-be still rely, structurally, on those systems’ totalizing capacity. To ask how it has come to be that participatory networked practices are more likely to be framed as threats than opportunities for education in the 21st century. And to wonder who benefits from that framing.

(Okay, maybe I am trying to convert you, a little. Only because the Eden we thought we grew up in is gone.)

I chose a profession I initially understood in terms of tidy gardener and encloser roles: I became a teacher. I wanted to get as close to the Tree of Knowledge as I could, and to bring others into that garden. But teaching is messy: it bears little resemblance to distributing apples in Eden. I taught Inuit high school students from a social studies curriculum in which their people and their history did not appear at all; I taught GED adult learners in a back room in a tiny rural schoolhouse where many of them had learned, as children, that they were not made to succeed in school. The desks were too small for all of us. The metaphorical apples clunked on the floor. My students had long ago learned to distrust apples.

It was through weeds that I reached them, any of them, to whatever extent I reached them: informal threads snaking from one human to another. They were not Eves waiting to eat. Our learning happened underground, snaking underneath the formal level of the curriculum. Tentative connections, in multiple directions. I tried to design learning experiences, but I did not control them. Most often it was me who learned: variations on How Not To Fail The Same Way Twice.

I began to understand that my concepts of success and failure were stacked around a very narrow stream of life options and legitimacy. I began to sense the edges of what Knobel & Lankshear (2006) call “the deep grammar of schooling,” the institutionalization of my own thoughts and conceptual tools. I began to think of print as an educational problem for my students, not a solution.

My issue was not with the technology of letters per se. I love print as text, the ways its technology of letters allows for skimming and floating and starting in the middle.

My critique was for the culture of print: the Truths we use it to reinforce and regulate and reify.

My Masters thesis (2000) led me to think about the ways print works, about the ways in which the technologies of a given time shape what it means to know in that time. Things written in print are either finished or not. They do not blend into each other; they do not create webs. They create canons, privileging some over others and erasing the steps of their logic so as to make it all appear natural. They encourage us to see knowledge as finite and discrete; truth as singular, sanctioned. Our cultural attachment to the idea of knowledge as arboreal, tree-like, apple-whole: this is based in print, in The Good Book itself and moreso, in the very idea of The Good Book. Yet this Eden of high print culture, so deeply embedded in Enlightenment ideals of binaries and taxonomies, has never really had apples for everybody.

Dave Cormier’s #rhizo14 course this week is taking on the limitations of print in a Nicholas Carr parody titled “Is books making us stupid?” Risky, that. Even those of us who have spent years unpacking all the ways that print as a medium hardens and solidifies knowledge are still culturally conditioned to love books. *I* love books. When Dave announced the title for this week’s theme, I laughed and winced and hoped no offended book enthusiasts would feel it necessary to beat him about the head with a dictionary.

I don’t think books make us any stupider currently than we always have been. But even as we cling to our bookshelves of beloved companions with their dusty pages and their old-book smell, it behooves us to consider the ways in which print has shaped us societally towards institutionalization and compliance, the ways in which the deep grammar of schooling is written in print.

Because we are conditioned think of books not as technologies of paper, with particular affordances, but as representations of human good.

It’s true that until the last generation, books stood as the epitome of human capacity to share knowledge. Books were bastions against ignorance…symbols of freedom of thought against repression and enclosure. But…and this is important…it was the free exchange of ideas and communications we valorized in that Enlightenment ideal. Not actually the small yet increasingly commodified paper packet. Yet we conflated the two. And in the process, we allowed the grammar of schooling to reinforce a Romantic identification of books, in particular, with all things noble about humanity.

And that’s a mistake, because for all that good and that beautiful, undeniable history, books and their affordances – their action possibilities – are part of a complex economic system just as digital technologies are, and create mindsets that can be as limiting as they are freeing.

Books teach us implicitly that the culmination of writing as an act of communications is a product, not a conversation; a finite rather than a fluid thing. Books teach us that the one speaks to the many, but the many cannot speak back and be heard.

Education as a system is built upon and relies on the taxonomic, hierarchic structures print reinforces. It relies on people learning their places within those structures. Education is historically both a product and a producer of a deeply-embedded command and control society, as Matt Reed pointed out in Inside Higher Ed earlier this week. Now, networks have power relations too…networks can amplify inequality just as they amplify everything else. But their power relations are less fixed, more quixotic. They can cause harm, absolutely. But our conversations about that harm and about throwing one’s life away with a tweet seldom take up the harm that institutionalized power relations of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and classism enact upon people every day. Those are the power relations naturalized by The Book and the deep grammar of schooling it is embedded in.

And here’s the thing. Perhaps that was, arguably, the best we could do. At least until knowledge and information exceeded the scarce and weighty bonds of paper and the distribution structures of shipping through time and space. It is no longer the best we can do. It is no longer WHAT most of us do, in our day to day lives. Yet the institutions and gatekeepers of the old Eden struggle to adapt and maintain the familiar balance of power by convincing us we are still better off relying, passive and trusting, on their noblesse oblige than on each other.

I do not think we should throw out our books. I am not such a network evangelist that I want what books have stood for to fall away from us, as humans. But nor do I want that to remain the limit of our vision.

Because in a world of information abundance, the walled Garden of Eden it reified is…gone. It cannot be brought back. Those who sell us a simulacra of its glories are only propping up the power relations of the past.

That Eden of *real* print culture is only a Potemkin village now, no matter how the gardeners and the pesticide companies would like to gain control back over the weeds. Let us leave the apples behind, and see what those weeds can reap.

learning to unlearn: building networked identities in education

In a little less than two weeks time, I’m facilitating a week-long discussion/overview/ exploration on “Building a Networked Identity: Becoming a Connected Educator” as part of the #wweopen13 MOOC-ish course on Online Instruction for Open Educators.

I say MOOC-ish because the term has become so fraught lately I’m not even sure what people conjure up when they hear it. Insidious corporate encroachment and consolidation of Big Ed interests? Yep, that’s definitely under the big MOOC tent. Something interesting to do? That’s there too. A learning structure not entirely given over to the logics and informatics of domination? Depends entirely on the model.

(Note: there is a difference between what MOOCs in their many incarnations actually bring to the education conversation and what they’re sold as bringing. A revolutionary solution for educating society? Please, no. That’s just PR and the fantasy of free market education, not something any MOOC has any business claiming. Even if they insist on claiming it. There are things MOOCs are good for, and then there’s the hype cycle. Caveat emptor.)

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Image by Aaron Bady

Anyhoo. Like George Veletsianos says in his slides from last week’s COHERE 2013 conference, MOOCs represent something broader than any of the courses – or even the platforms – themselves: they’re a phenomenon, a symptom of the many chronic issues and narratives intersecting in education at this juncture. Enter #wweopen13, which ironically isn’t quite as open as it might like to be, bound as it is to a D2L LMS platform for this iteration. I’m trying to mitigate some of that platform constraint by doing my thinking aloud for the course here, before my week gets started. Because in a sense, I think the conversation about becoming a networked educator needs to be – at least in part – a truly public conversation, one where random connections can be made and the scope and scale of the discussion isn’t limited by membership on a class list, even if that class list is free to sign up for.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t want you to sign up: we’d LOVE to have you, even if only for the one week. Or all four remaining…it’s never too late. This week, Jenni Hayman & Sean Gallagher take you on a Tour of Technology. Next week, that Dave Cormier guy is going to go on about Community and Curriculum. It’ll be jolly. And any ideas and experiences you share here will effectively become part of the course conversation for the week I’m teaching, whether you make the leap into the course itself or no.
Connected Educator = An Identity
You’ll notice I’m talking about conversations. If you landed here hoping for a tidy list of failsafe takeaways for how to become a connected educator, mine’s disappointingly short. It goes something like this:

Step #1: um, talk to people. Online, offline…network with people who are interesting and interested in stuff you find interesting. Learn. Grow.

That’s it.

The whole week is designed around two things: the first is a meta-exploration of networked identities, or the implications of being a connected educator, especially in the online context. We’ll talk about different aspects of digital identities, and about how digitally-networked identities differ in structure and possibility from institutional identities. The second thing we’ll do is try to put some of those explorations into practice, with activities focused on your own profiles and networks.

*If* you want to. It’s a MOOC. There’s no grade, participation is voluntary, and you have the agency to decide what you want to do, and what you don’t. You may already be doing most of it, or connecting just fine offline and that’s enough for you, thankyouverymuch, and that’s all good by me. A vein of almost-evangelism about online connectedness has popped up, especially in the K-12 ed circuit, where people are sometimes made to feel as if they *have* to network online in order to be an effective, active, growing educator, and I don’t entirely believe that. I do think online connectedness can offer real value, and part of my focus during the #wweopen13 week will be on what that value is and how it differs from being connected offline. But you can take big or small or zero steps in that direction during our week: up to you. Just being part of the conversation – even about why you don’t want to network online in a professional capacity – is welcome.

How Networks Change Online Education
Because in a course on open online teaching, it’s important for me to emphasize that the open, networked side of online practice is different from just teaching via computer: networked activities can affect the pedagogy and power structures of your classes.

As Stephen Downes has been saying for years, there are key differences between groups and networks, and one is that groups are collections based on some property or commonality (welcome to kindergarten, all children born in 20o8!) whereas a network is an association. In associations, connections are more voluntary, but they also require visible signalling in order to occur. In a classroom, you can sit quietly all year and to some extent, you are nonetheless part of the group: visible, even if by your non-participation. In online networks in particular, non-participation does not signal. You need to make yourself visible in order to form connections; to become part of the association.

I research networked practices, or the ways people signal their participation. My work in online ed wasn’t always networked, though: I started in this field back in the early days, from 1998-2000, and have taught online and blended courses in a variety of higher ed settings since 2002. I’ve worked with and on platforms like Jones that don’t exist anymore, and on WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, and now D2L. I think a lot of valuable education can occur within the bounds of an LMS, just as it can occur within the bounds of a classroom…and both classroom and LMS spaces can provide what some learners experience as a safer, more supportive jumping-off point for learning than the cacophony and exposure of public conversation.

But. Habits and roles around education are learned early and deeply, and the line between safety and learned passivity can be hard to challenge, particularly in an online environment. The design and affordances of most LMS spaces parse conversation into discrete, digestible chunks that are teacher-controlled and linear, encouraging behaviours and practices that replicate traditional transmission-style education, or what Freire called the banking model. Even – and this is important – if that’s no one’s intent.

So if your vision of education is one of higher order thinking and open-ended inquiry and participatory networked connections, working entirely within a closed LMS isn’t necessarily optimal.

Which is where networks can certainly help. Networked learning means not just opening up the walls of the classroom to enable connection with those outside – Twitter discussions with authors being read, for example, or public posting of questions for input from students and whoever else is interested – but also reconfiguring the idea and power relations of the classroom itself. As George Siemens points out in this slideshow, the architecture of networked information is distributed, scalable, self-organizing and adaptive: it has no centre. So networked courses create temporary centres around it, but also leave the possibility of multiple rabbit holes and open-ended inquiries and meaningful connections open, ideally. More importantly, when the networking takes place using platforms participants already use in their daily lives, you create the opportunity for ongoing connection and learning long after the temporary centre of the course is finished.

Still, networked learning is messy. It requires a great deal of leadership and support from teachers/facilitators. It requires UNlearning, for teachers and students. And that unlearning has to take place at the identity level.

Networked Identities Begin with Unlearning
Participating in a networked learning environment involves confronting and smacking down ten or twenty years of implicit and internalized messages that tend to run a bit like this: Raise your hand, Bonnie. Stay on task, Bonnie. That book in your lap is NOT your math assignment, Bonnie. Please stop talking to your neighbour, Bonnie. Speak when you’re spoken to, Bonnie.

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Now, those are not the only identity messages education teaches, at least if we’re lucky. I’ve had a great many wonderful teachers who’ve connected with me, been patient with me, altered my trajectories and fostered my gifts. But education is a system and tacitly, it systematizes us, even if it manages to exhort us to more. And when we hit networked learning environments, especially if they’re massive and open, those systematized identities can be an albatross.

Because in a networked environment, the contained one-to-many teacher-student relationship and responsibility which is the driving logic behind most of those systematizing practices (that, and the traditional role of teacher as knower) no longer operates. There’s no sense of where belonging to a given conversation begins and ends. For those of us who’ve internalized the “speak only when you’re called upon” message, the slow, painful, eventual realization is this: there is no one standing at the proverbial front of the class to validate our inner Lisa Simpson when she politely waves her hand. Waiting quietly to join in does not signal.

Likewise, from a teaching perspective, assuming everyone can and will just leap in and join the conversation doesn’t help foster any kind of real opportunities for participation for those who might struggle. We are all different, and some of us are used to being heard more than others. The old adage says “on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog,” but that’s perhaps only because there’s no way to see who sits on cue. Our gendered, raced, classed embodied selves – who all fall along varying spectra of sexual orientation and gender performance and neurotypicality and ability AND whose ways of signalling identity and reading signals in conversation come from the experiences we’ve been accustomed to having in those respective bodies – shape the kinds of signalling and participating we’re comfortable doing. So…online is not the great leveller. Power relations manifest differently, but they’re still there. And thus teaching as a connected educator not only involves trying to create opportunities for people to participate or signal that they want to participate, but also being aware of power imbalances, modelling attentiveness, and trying to find backchannel ways of helping people feel as included as possible. Especially if conversation is your goal.

As a sort of trailer for my upcoming week with #wweopen13, I’d like to end this intro to networked identities in educational spaces by asking you – whether you’re in the course or wouldn’t be caught dead there, whether you have an online network of 3 or 30,000 – what YOUR experiences have been with networks, in or out of education, good or bad.

What are your stories? What are the risks? The joys? The things you think people should consider before embarking on this path of opening up the walls surrounding teacher & student identities?

And if you’re in the course or *thinking* of being a part of it…don’t worry. There won’t be any other invitations to do homework in advance. ;)