Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

June 19, 2016
by Maha Bali

Feminist Mom’s Critique of Children’s Cartoons

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you’re a mom who is also an educator, feminist and critical pedagogue, it’s extremely difficult to enjoy watching cartoons with your child without looking at them critically (and yeah I am not a hero that limits screentime; some days we get more, some days we get less, but overall I try to stay nearby and make sure the content isn’t violent or otherwise inappropriate).

So here are my views on some cartoons (starting with one I can’t stand)

Shimmer and Shine (Nick Jr)
The only thing I like about this cartoon is the colorfulness of everything in it. I don’t like that the main character Leah solves all her problems by calling on her two genie “friends” (also: they’re not “friends” any more than Uber drivers are our “friends” – they are doing a service). I have no idea why she never tries to solve problems in more normal ways or where the adults are in this cartoon. Moreover, clearly the genies are from another culture and continually misunderstand her and grant the wishes wrong (this seems typical of genies) – why doesn’t she eventually learn to articulate herself more clearly? I get the song where they celebrate failure (it’s something many educators like to do, including me) but “when we make a big mistake, don’t fret let’s celebrate…[ignore middle part]… Oopsie save the day” it’s a little weird. Whatever.

What bugs me most is Leah’s friend Zack and how she constantly uses magic and her genies to help him while he just..uh.. Goes to his place or whatever. One episode they win tickets together at an arcade and the machine eats them up. Instead of asking an adult to help or winning tickets back together, Leah gets help from her genies while Zack goes and gets some pizza. Yeah. And she goes through a heck of a lot because the genies aren’t really all that helpful (every episode is full of frustrating stupidity which i think is meant to teach Cross-cultural communication but really fails at this and just makes the genies look stupid). And Zack just celebrates the reward. There are at least 3 episodes kinda like this, where she helps him with his magic show, to find his toy dinosaur and find a particular seashell. Really, why does she do this? And the one time she needed help baking cupcakes he left her alone and just came back to taste. He is useless. The solutions are illogical, and i don’t get why she’s such a doormat. And aaarghhh my kid loves watching them coz of the pretty colors.

Miles from Tomorrow (Disney Jr)
This is one I like a lot. Although the main character (Miles) is a boy from the future who basically is the hero of most episodes, there’s a lot of feminism going on here. His sister who seems slightly older also has a role and they have different personalities and often work against or with each other in interesting ways. More importantly their mom is the captain of the ship ; the dad a pilot/engineer. It’s interesting they gave the dad a leading but subordinate role to the mom (it’s one thing to have more career success/leadership than the husband and another to be his direct boss). The family live on a starjetter with their robo-ostrich Merc where it seems like the kids are homeschooled (or er starjetter-schooled) in this cool way where they participate fully in the missions their parents undertake and they have a real role to play and come up with creative solutions to problems. There’s also a lot of real science one can learn from watching this (tho my kid is too young yet).

Peppa Pig (British series)
This one is just full of the daddy doing typical male things like getting lost while refusing to admit it. There are quite a few episodes where women do things men expect them not to be able to do and one memorable moment where Mummy Sheep helps Daddy Pig find the engine in a rental car (while admitting she knows little about cars and engines). The episodes make fun of daddy Pig slightly more than is strictly necessary but not all the time. The most active citizen in the stories is Miss Rabbit who works all the jobs around town all the time (it’s a little crazy). There’s an episode where Peppa says her mom is lucky she doesn’t work and can play on the computer all day…and her mom explains that she doesn’t play, she does work on her computer.

Paw Patrol (Nick Jr)
I love this cartoon but they’ve got Ryder and a team of pups who are all male but ONE. There are maybe 6 or 7 of them. Why couldn’t they have two girls or something? Also the mayor who is usually in trouble (mayor Goodway or Goodwin) is always flustered and stuff. Most of Ryder’s adult friends are men and there are only occasional strong female presences.

Doc McStuffins (Disney Jr)
Definitely feminist. The little girl who’s a toy doctor, her mom is a real doctor, and her toys are mixed gender

My Little Pony (Hasbro)
Definitely feminist with mostly female characters who manage all kinds of things. They are very girly in terms of aesthetics but balanced as character and sometimes unnecessarily violent and men appear so occasionally that it’s not realistic.

Sofia the First (Disney Jr)
Definitely feminist especially the episodes around sports where Sofia becomes a flying horse derby competitor and the reverse happening with Prince Hugo who learns to ice skate (it’s called something else in the episode coz they have magic flying skates). I love Sofia and all the ways characters are never fully evil but have a good side as well. But Sofia needs to occasionally not always win. She isn’t always doing what’s “right” and she learns. But she wins too often 🙂

Dora, Blaze, Bubble Guppies, Umizoomi and other interactive episodes (Nick Jr)
These are generally fun because my kid gets into the interaction and seems to be learning. Most of them have an even mix of male/female characters (except Dora and Friends into the City which is female-heavy with just the one guy, Pablo, not Diego from the little Dora, for some odd reason) and usually roles are cool. E.g. In Blaze, although the main characters are male, the car mechanic is a girl.

Oh man. I watch a lot of cartoons 😉

June 16, 2016
by Maha Bali
1 Comment

Parenting Like Moses’ Mother

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I read the story of Moses in the Quran, and how his mother placed him in a basket (in Arabic it says tabout which implies something more closed like a tomb) and into the Nile, instead of allowing the pharoahs to kill him (apparently they would kill male Hebrew children at the time). (story on Wikipedia, similar in Judeo-Christian tradition).

I used to read that story and think it’s a miracle that she had that intuition, or that divine revelation, that her child would be ok, that she was placing him in the hands of God, and God would protect him. And God did. He was raised with the pharoahs (in Islam it was pharoah’s wife, it may be different in other stories) but his mother was reunited with him as his wet nurse (the story in the Quran is how Moses’ sister followed him and was able to help make that connection).

Anyway. It occurred to me yesterday that this story isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In the sense that, in reality, parents throw their kids into God’s hands on a regular basis.

Obviously, for people who believe, every breath a human being takes is a gift from God. Anything can happen to a loved one while we are next to them or even holding them in our arms.

But every time we leave our child – at daycare, at school, with a family member or babysitter, we are trusting in God to protect them when we can’t (even though when they’re right there with us, they are still in the hands of God, and we can’t protect them without Him anyway).

So…yeah. I wouldn’t throw my child into the river like Moses’ mother, but I understand that feeling of putting your child in God’s hands and just letting go…trusting in God to protect them and return them to us, safe… Because, really, what else can you do?

June 12, 2016
by Maha Bali

Homeschooling for a Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes


I have mixed feelings about homeschooling. On one hand I critique much of what formal schooling is about and don’t get me started about how bad schooling is in Egypt. But I also feel it’s beneficial for kids to be exposed to something other than the home environment and to experience different approaches to pedagogy (and having bad experiences just helps them question authority i think). I say this and of course it pisses me the hell off when teachers do stupid things to kids in school. I also know that much homeschooling is communal and kids get exposed to other kids and parents.

But anyway. My kid isn’t homeschooled and I love my work, so…

During Ramadan I am off work and while I wanted to enroll my kid in some camp or daycare for summer, that hasn’t started yet…so I thought I would try my hand at homeschooling for a bit. Obviously I am an educator anyway and much of what I do with my kid is intentional. We have educational toys and books and I take advantage of cooking time and play time and even watching cartoons time as much as I can to stimulate learning. But trying to do if for a day was interesting.

It was pretty spontaneous. Last night while asking about something on Facebook, the wonderful Miranda Beshara shared an article she wrote about colloquial (3ameya) Arabic resources she recommends, one of which is the Egyptian dialect Sesame street. I have known for some time that my kid can’t read the numbers in Arabic (don’t get this confused – the numbers 1,2,3 are called Arabic numerals but for some crazy reason when we write in Arabic we have a different set of numerals. See Wikipedia). She can also barely count in Arabic and I remember asking her Arabic teacher if they learn the numbers in school along with the letters and she looked at me weird and said, “would you like me to teach that?” and I was like “dude, it’s not in the curriculum? How’s she gonna learn them? From calendars?” (I said that coz her first exposure was thru calendars with English/Arabic text.

Anyway. So we had breakfast while watching the entertaining Sesame Street numbers video. It was better than I expected and she seemed animated and seemed to enjoy it after 5 mins of resistance (she resists watching Arabic shows for some reason I need to rectify). After that we ate some grapes and counted as we ate and she made up her own game mimicking one of the skits from the show where things disappear as someone eats them.

There were some colorful umbrellas on the show she liked, made of tissue paper. I was too tired to go out and buy tissue paper, so I took some kitchen paper, cut some into circles and got out the glitter paints and we started painting them and some empty toilet rolls. Then we left those to dry.

After lunch I took out some play-doh and started making the numerals with play-doh and we played around w making little balls or flowers for each number (as on 3 things for number 3, 4 for 4). She commented on how 7 looks like a V and the 8 is an upside down 7. She commented on how the 4 looks like the English 3 and the 5 like English Zero. At this point i felt this could get really confusing and felt out of my depth. When she wanted to switch to making other stuff w play-doh we went ahead and did that.

A little later it’s snack time and I get an apple and get inspired to cut it up in numberal shapes. After a disheartening “again?” we ended up having lots of fun. Matching apple numbers with play-doh numbers and noticing how eating parts of a number makes u end up with a 1 quite often. She even independently made a 10 from apples. Then we pretended the rest of the apple pieces were French fries and she ate those, halfway thru changing them into bricks (there was a boat phase too). I totally forgot during her morning bath to do any counting, but breaks are good. During lunch we read some little English books with simple word/image combos; we tried to guess the words before seeing the pictures but she got bored quickly.

Soon after it was time to go out to a family iftar and back home from that was dinner and bedtime. If I had time, my plan would have been to show Arabic numbers in authentic contexts like building numbers and prices in supermarkets. But we can do it another day. For now, I plan on getting a book with those numbers and showing the episode of Sesame Street again inshallah

I remember the first time I panicked about the numbers I played ball with her counting aloud but I didn’t reinforce it over time. I feel like it would get pretty boring to focus on one thing for a full day, but I also felt we made progress today. Only time will tell

And no. I don’t know if I can sustain this.

So tomorrow inshallah we are going out and let’s see if I can make the trip worth it. Main goal is to buy some Arabic books for her and buy clothes for me. Then to get some arts/crafts materials. I think if we madw some permanent crafty stuff about numbers and hung it in her room and if I read a book with numbers in it, they would help a lot to reinforce over time.

June 10, 2016
by Maha Bali

The Wheelchair Question – Talking to Kids About Disabilities

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Wheelchair whizzes by
Kids are in art class, painting and drawing and moving around, occasionally getting in each others’ way. One of the kids is on a wheelchair and he looks a lot like this other kid who is dressed identically (school uniform?) but a bit shorter (brother?)

My daughter watches with fascination as wheelchair kid (I am now ashamed I never asked his name) presses buttons and his chair moves.

She asks, “What’s that?” and I say “It’s a wheelchair” (convo is in English; unsure how many ppl in the room understand English)

She says “I want one of those!”

And for some reason, my first reaction was “Yeah it’s kinda cool, isn’t it?”

At the same time I hear someone say “be3d el Shar 3aleiki” which literally translated means “may such evil be far from you” and is a common reaction to that kind of situation in Egypt but I found it deeply offensive.

Apparently the kid’s brother didn’t like my answer and told me knowingly, “he has it because he has a problem with-”

“Yes, I know” I say. I smile.

“Can I have one?” she asks. And I draw a total blank as to what I should do. And we leave quickly.

This scenario happened to my almost 5 yo the other day and I want a redo.

I have been thinking about it for a bit over a day now.

I should have asked the guy his name
I should have told him and my daughter that while I understand he is on a wheelchair because he can’t walk without it, I still think it’s a really cool thing and he is a special person.

Or something. I went to my mom and she was pretty blank, too, even though I seem to remember her doing a good job with me. But maybe when I was older?

Before writing this blogpost (which is btw meant to solicit tips on how to introduce kids to disabilities)  I Googled the question of how to introduce kids to disabilities. I got Baby Center. Which was my best friend when I was pregnant but I rarely checked since she turned one. Because “baby”. In the title. They had good tips for 5-8 year olds. Including being honest with your child (erm no “yeah, it’s cool” then?) but I don’t think they say how you should handle things when your kid is loud and the other kid is within hearing range.

My daughter has a pretty serious syndrome that isn’t immediately visible in a way that would make people point at her. Even though I know about that, it’s much easier to know and not have attention drawn about something outwardly obvious. E.g. My mom’s building has a kid with one eye that is clearly not normal. My kid constantly asks what’s up with it when she sees it. Loudly. The kid is her age. I ache for him. I tell her he has a wawa (Arabic for booboo) and she should not point at him. Hopefully soon she will be old enough to at least be less loud? Maybe I should be having these conversations more openly at home, using photos from the Internet or something.

I remember when I was young and first saw some kids with Down’s Syndrome. My mom (a physician) explained what it was and encouraged me to smile and wave to them. I still do that to this day. It’s automatic.

I should have asked the kid his name. If it had been a cool device that wasn’t a wheelchair I would have asked his name. I should have just asked

June 9, 2016
by Maha Bali

A Quick Reflection on @Vconnecting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I just can’t get over the beauty of this blogpost by the wonderful Lisa Hammershaimb (one of our earlist Virtually Connecting team members). She talks about how, as a grad student, VC offers her opportunities to see academics as they are (unplugged) rather than just their polished publications.

This quote is amazing:

One of my favorite parts of Virtually Connecting is its casual immediacy and spontaneous insight. Seeing the kind of “unplugged” version of people I’ve previously only encountered in highly polished + edited perfection is so refreshing. Perhaps it’s just me but…I think this modeling of open sharing and community amongst participants as all are willing to jump into an experience that is fully unpredictable and emergent is so inspiring because it reminds me that behind all of these ideas are humans who actually aren’t all that different than me. If they’ve done it…perhaps someday I too will find my way and be able to help others along.

What I love most about this is that Lisa is actually sharing a perspective that O had actually never THOUGHT of before. It was never my aspiration to provide what she’s talking about because I personally tend to have access to the unplugged versions of others. It had never even occurred to me that VC was a way to expand that kind of access to others in that way. I am grateful that many successful academics have been willing to let down their guard during these conversations (and of course onsite and virtual buddies help facilitate that) such that this little thing that we do with VC can mean so much to early career academics.

On a context note, Lisa wrote that prior to a presentation we did jointly (Autumm Caines, Rebecca Hogue, Lisa and me) at #T3Blaise conference this week in which only Autumm was onsite and rest of us were virtual (I was actually on recording because timing was too close to iftar time. I joined silently while doing the dishes etc – otherwise I wouldn’t have had enthusiasm for the dishes; my husband and daughter must have thought i was made for doing all the dishes lol).

Anyway here is the recording of presentation (and my part in the beginning may not be working on the recording so here it is first followed by the rest

May 31, 2016
by Maha Bali

Modes of Seeking Collaboration

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I recently gave a talk at the ELearning Africa conference entitled Virtual Scholarly Collaboration for Development. The presentation is available on Haikudeck (will embed or post link in the morning… Not working from Android at the moment – ok done)

Virtual Collaborative Scholarship for Development – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

It’s gotten me thinking beyond what I talked about. My focus was on different types of scholarly collaboration (for research, for teaching, for learning and for professional development – a subtle difference from “just” learning). This particular presentation focused on power dynamics in such collaborations and especially when they take place between someone from a more developed country/context and someone from a less developed country/context. Because… AFRICA.

But right now I am thinking also about how one goes about encouraging others to start thinking about collaboration. And am thinking of different modes and spectrums and also technologies that support you in different places depending where you’re at.

So for example… As someone seeking collaboration, you can be in either

A. Listening mode: reading what other people are writing, listening to presentations at events, or searching for profiles on LinkedIn or browsing hashtags on Twitter. People who are e.g. I assume journal editors probably do this for special issues if they don’t get enough submissions. The listening mode can happen in both an “ongoing” and “targeted” manner depending on what’s happening in your life at the moment and your needs/interests

B. Broadcast mode: this is like when you just blog it or publish it or present it (in a not-necessarily interactive way) at a conference. This isn’t in the sense of literally broadcasting “hey anyone wanna collaborate on this?” but in the sense of “this is who i am and what i am working on these days” kinda thing which allows others just to know what you do in case they are interested in collaborating. I could call this “open to invitation” mode but not “inviting mode”. This can have both an ongoing or targeted manner but its targeted manner is likely to be closer to inviting mode

C. Interactive Mode: this is when you actively respond to other people’s blogs or seek them out to talk after their presentations. Or when you make a point of asking folks to comment on ir blog and make ur blog conversational…or make your conf presentations interactive enough that people get a chance to talk with you during and after. This works great as an ongoing manner of being online or at conferences but can be done in a more targeted manner as well.

D. Actively Inviting Mode: this is when you target particular types of collaboration with particular people but can be broadcast or done privately ; if you’re often in interaction mode in an ongoing way, you may find it easier to target particular people without broadcasting but sometimes you will broadcast to cast a wider net..depending on what you really need

As you will notice I mentioned targeted vs ongoing manners of seeking collaboration. I think being interactive in an ongoing manner facilitates things for when you need to target people. Being a listener helps you know people and being a broadcaster helps others know you…. But being interactive ongoing makes everything go more smoothly as it opens doors both ways – helps ppl know they can seek you and helps you seek others… Both to know whom to approach/seek/invite/target and to more likely get a favorable response. For example..Coz i was in interaction mode with Jim Groom I learned that he moved to Italy and could therefore invite him to keynote for AMICAL conference in Rome this year (also coz i was in interaction mode with AMICAL organizers and could make that happen).

I am wondering if what I just laid out here is at all a useful framework (ugh i hate frameworks) or if it’s so obvious it’s actually ridiculous… Or if it’s obvious for us who are “connected” or good networkers but not so much to others. Or uhh if someone else has already said it and i haven’t noticed. Any feedback welcome. And this is an invitational broadcast mode post 🙂 but I will target some specific ppl if i don’t get enough responses 😉

May 21, 2016
by Maha Bali

Virtual Open Office Space

Reading Time: 1 minutes

So this may sound a little crazy…but while it is often difficult to be productive in my actual physical office because of all the socializing that goes on (which I absolutely love and cannot live without).. When I work from home, I am almost sharing virtual office space with some people. As in DMing, Slacking or FB PMing while I work.

Sounds like I am defeating the whole purpose of working from home, right?

Actually no. I have a need for socialization. I just need it not to interfere with certain work at certain times. With virtual open office space, no one will think it’s rude if u don’t look them in the eye as you finish that paragraph. No one will get mad at you for responding after 15 or 30 mins. It’s a semi-synchronous heaven.

Thanks Rebecca, Autumm and Alex for being part of my virtual semi-synchronous open office space this week 😉 You helped me feel less lonely while being productive 🙂

May 20, 2016
by Maha Bali

Academia = Lifetime of Homework

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out… But choosing an academic life seems to mean accepting (embracing?) a lifetime of homework. I mean, I sort of understood this early on, but not like this.

Think about it. A huge portion of what we do requires work that won’t be happening inside a classroom or meeting or office. Well it could happen in the office, if you could spend enough ALONE time in said office without students and colleagues and meetings getting in the way.

So if you teach, you spend time preparing for class and grading student work. I never EVER have enough time to do that in the office. Grading student work is largely a midnight or early morning thing. Only very low stakes stuff can get graded in the office. I say “get graded” because, like, it’s not as conscious an activity.

If you give lots of workshops like I do, you can get a lot done in the office but very often need to spend time working at home to refine. I can’t focus as well in the office. Is it just me? I put up signs of “please do not disturb unless urgent” and like, unless it’s really clear I am on a conference call (even then actually!) I get interrupted. It’s ok. It’s just not conducive to getting anything done. And that’s fine. I love all the stuff that ends up happening in the office with people and stuff 🙂 There is just so much I need to do without other people physically present.

For every research project, I cannot imagine getting all that work done during “work hours”. Not the research nor the writing. For every conference presentation, I usually work at home. I don’t Think I even write conference proposals from the office. For every article or even blogpost I write – those I work on around the clock. Occasionally I will write something from the office on a day without meetings or classes, but those days are rare. That’s why I am on my phone so much. Writing during my commute to/from work, or taking any opportunity my daughter is napping to get a bit of work done wherever I find myself.

For things like academic peer reviews. That doesn’t feel like something I should be doing while at work. So I do those outside the office.

And then of course everything that involves collaboration gets more complex for me because of timezones. I am not even talking about the FUN things like Twitter chats or Virtually Connecting sessions. I am talking actual work on academic papers and preparing conference presentations.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how anyone can choose this life unless they really love it. Work-life balance? Pfft. How many times would I have to say “no” to achieve THAT?

Ya can’t blame me for not sleeping. I swear if I sleep too much (aka more than 5 hours) for a whole week in a row my entire work (aka homework stuff) becomes overwhelming. Of course also when I don’t sleep at all because of a family thing (e.g. sick child) I end up both tired AND unproductive.

I’m rereading this and thinking I must be absolutely crazy. But I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

Update: and speaking of how busy i am and needing to say no…i…uh…just signed up for a MOOC! #curiouscolab. More info here

May 13, 2016
by Maha Bali

Participate Remotely in #AMICALNET Rome with @jimgroom & me – Fri May 13

Reading Time: 1 minutes

Friday May 13 – the day I go to Rome, hoping to build Rome in a day with Jim Groom 🙂 whom I will inshallah meet for the first time and collaborate with on 3 things (bad things happen in 3s but good things happen in 3s as well!!! I hope)

Note: I’m writing this post ahead of time and it *should* self-publish sometime tomorrow morning. 

9:30am Jim Groom Keynote: Small is Beautiful (livestreamed)

If you’re seeing this and are interested in watching Jim Groom’s keynote, you can ask questions virtually on Twitter using #amicalnet or via YouTube comments

11am Virtually Connecting with Jim Groom and me (livestreamed – Tweet @vconnecting to join)

12:20pm Session “Does Ed Tech Have an Ethos?” (livestreamed – Jim & me)

These are the slides we are using, and we’ve scheduled tweets to invite folks to participate via #amicalnet hashtag but you can also add comments on the Google slides if you like

May 10, 2016
by Maha Bali

Knowing You as I Read You

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I remember way back during my IGCSE exams (that’s International GCSEs, high school degree) we had in our English Literature a paper called the “Unseen”. This was and still remains my favorite example of what it means to teach AGAINST memorization. Our literature exams had a paper that was open book and notes so you could take the books you had been studying all year and use those while answering questions (also anti-memorization because the book is right there – questions were quite analytical).

The “unseen” paper meant you got to read a poem or book excerpt that you had not studied before and answer some questions on it.

I remember something interesting that happened to me. It was a poem by an Irish poet. I had never read it before. But I had flipped through our entire poetry book (we were only assigned a few poems maybe 3 or something) and I remember reading some bios of poets. And so I remembered that this particular poet had been through war. I read the poem and reinterpreted it based on what I knew of the poet. I think I could have still done a good analysis/interpretation without that prior knowledge, but the prior knowledge made me feel I was closer to understanding where that poet was coming from. I did well in my literature exam so I assume I answered that one well 🙂

Now I am thinking about the impact of social media and blogging on how I interpret what people write. Like when I see Dave Cormier use a word like resilience it reminds me of the term “grit” but because I know Dave, I know he means it differently. So I read on with a different eye.

It occurs to me that, of course, without social media, if you read a particular author often enough (Edward Said, Freire, bell hooks, even novelists and playwrights) you get to know them a little and what you know of them from before influences how you read new stuff. When these authors have been often interviewed as well (e.g. Said, Chomsky, hooks) there is an added layer of personal understanding. Now what if you had actually personally conversed with these individuals?

That’s the case now with blogging and social media. There was a time when people like Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh, Bonnie Stewart, Jenny Mackness, Lee Skallerup Bessette, Martin Weller, Mike Caulfield, Phil Hill, Kate Bowles, Howard Rheingold, Mimi Ito, Janine DeBaise, Jim Groom …There was a time when these people were authore to me. People I read. People I cited. Authors not acquaintances or friends. But because of social media, all of these people are ones I know from acquaintance to very close friend. From people whom I have met and do close work with, and people I have developed games with, to people I have co-authored and co-presented with, to people I interact with often on social media Or Virtually Connecting. When I read something from these people there is a lot of public and private history involved in how I interpret what they say/write.

And then I looked at the schedule of NLC 2016 and saw it has a mix of people I know closely like Laura Gogia and Suzan Koseoglu and Jeffrey Keefer and Dian Bayne and Jen Ross and people I have met in person and also know quite a bit like Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz and Frances Bell (And Suzan)…and people I have interacted with like Gemma Tombs…and then people I have read before like way back in the early days of ELearning but never interacted with. Like Peter Goodyear. And other names that strike a memory when I see them but don’t last as much as the others because they are less “current” and less a part of my life now.

And that’s kind of good and bad. It’s kind of good to know who you are reading because you have opportunities for dialogue and viewing the writer’s thinking process as they develop ideas over time (Mike Caulfield is amazing at making this explicit with Fedwiki and Wikity ; Laura Gogia is amazing at that with pretty much everything)… And also they sort of become part of my own head, somehow? Like I don’t live inside just my own head…like my friend said that during Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo she felt she was living inside my head as she interacted with Sean and Amy and Jesse and Bonnie. And I totally got that.

On the other hand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading a writer we don’t know at all and will never talk to. Coz they are dead, say. Or just not into social media. Or really just not social. And we do it all the time obviously.

For me though – if I can have an opportunity to know an author I would rather take it. I often write emails to authors of novels I like and they usually respond! They do! I also love getting to know a person when I am reviewing their work openly for a Hybrid Pedagogy article. It’s looking at authors as whole people and it seems a waste NOT to do it if you can. If they’re open to it.

So… I would love opportunities to connect virtually with people I have read but never met. It’s just a little harder to convince them to meet me 🙂

Just yesterday I got an email from my university’s ex-president saying how much she enjoyed reading my Prof Hacker articles. That was so cool that she got in touch to let me know she was reading my work…and our dean often emails me saying she enjoyed a particular piece of mine. It’s so lovely coz it’s unexpected. And I assume knowing me influences how they read it.

What’s hilarious is when a colleague from the library who knows me well sent me a Prof Hacker article on open access and copyright saying I would like it. My response: “but Mark, I wrote that piece myself!”


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