Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

#OpenBlog19 Most Valuable Lesson I Ever Learned

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

So David Hopkins apparently woke up with this cool idea and it has a cool hashtag now #OpenBlog19 and I wanna try it in class soon! Someone challenges another person or people to blog about some topic, they challenge others with some other topic, and so on.

For me, the cool thing for using it in class is to have my own students come up with blogging prompts for each other. And then taking them up. Still thinking of whether to let them challenge particular people or allow each person to choose their own prompt. In any case, I like it and I would love it if their posts used the same hashtag as a global community and they got to interact with them…

My challenge is this:

This is a tough one! Like, really? You can go really deep and still be really superficial with this one!

But there is a time limit, so.. I’m gonna go with a lesson on complexity and perpetual learning… but it sounds obvious, right?

It’s about context and perspective and intersectionality and how something can appear to be one thing to you, but once you look at it differently you see something else…and that something else can transform your understanding. There are also multiple other somethings it could be. And this is true of everyday life as well as it is true in social science research and in teaching, I think. In social science research I like the poststructural/postmodern approach of Richardson called Crystallization – that the same thing reveals different things depending on how you look at it and from which direction/dimension.

This makes a huge difference in terms of empathy. Intellectually speaking, we need to recognize the “other” person as having a different journey and path in life that leads them to feel, think, behave in ways that differ from our own.

My child just now was looking at a photo of something called a fringehead fish. The text underneath calls it scary. She sees rainbow colors and sees it as beautiful.

I wanna step away from the obviousness of all of this in abstraction and give a few examples, I guess?

Some of the best learning moments in my classroom have come out of some of worst. When a student cries in a class, it could be an awful moment but it could be a beautiful moment of vulnerability and connection and building of trust and community. And it’s that same moment that might be beautiful for one person in the room but ugly for another, uncomfortable for another. And a beautiful moment could turn ugly by a reaction, or an ugly moment can be transformed into something beautiful.

On a more concrete level, I think about Virtually Connecting and how it originated from the idea that I didn’t want to miss out on social hallway conversations at a conference I couldn’t go to. I still can’t go to many conferences in person…but because Virtually Connecting is happening year round, I actually participate in more conference conversations than most people who travel a lot – and this is the case for many others who volunteer with or participate in Virtually Connecting. It’s almost not just Virtually, but Perpetually Connecting. In all the good ways social media and the internet can be, but hybrid and not a separate virtual thing. And yet depending on who you are, Virtually Connecting can be a lifeline or an annoyance. You can think of it as challenging power structures or perpetuating existing hierarchies or creating new hierarchies.

I guess the biggest lesson I learned is that I can comfortably entertain all these ideas at the same time.

Today my students and I were discussing the ethics of showing images of human suffering/violence and whether it is good for promoting empathy or unethical and dehumanizing, and who makes those decisions on behalf of whom (I need to share this articleon that with my class). So much of issues important for humanity are complex in these ways…and it is not “anything goes”, but rather nuanced and contextual, and highly dependent on our core values which are not always explicit to us.

I gotta go…

3 Comments

  1. Thank you Maha, and I am so looking forward to reading the posts form your students.
    David

  2. I really like this nickname “Perpetually Connecting”, Maha. It feels like a nice succinct way of describing this perpetual (and I think productive) tension in VC: that we’re both a _community_, by which I mean a network of personal relationships which need perpetual tending, and a _platform_ (oh that word!) which produces some opportunities and resources under its own identity (and requires a certain kind of care and feeding of its own).

    • Thanks Joe. I like the emphasis on care and feeding. You might have just uncovered another possible direction for VC research!!

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