Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

equity vs care axes

From Twitter Thread to Model to Keynote #OpenEd20 & #MandL20


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 3 seconds

The recent equity/care model Mia Zamora and I came up with for our #OpenEd20 keynote, which builds on a Twitter thread I started originally to prepare for my Media & Learning conference invited talk, is for me evidence of how you can indeed leverage Twitter for educator wisdom, and build on the ideas of living humans, expressed in bite-sized tweets, to theorize a model that can be useful to people.

[I will not apologize that I built this model entirely on the tweets of people without doing background research – there is probably some stuff about this in the literature – when it’s time to publish it in a peer reviewed journal, I’ll work on the literature part. But I believe so much in the value of the in-the-moment-thoughts of living humans who respond to me on Twitter, and I have noticed more recently that many ppl I don’t know personally are responding to these, so that it’s maybe more of a subset of academics that show “who follows me” rather than “whom I follow”, if that makes sense? I hope that the way we presented our model clearly attributed all the ideas to the people who came up with them, in the slides leading up to the model, and also in the first slide in the model – see the pictures embedded towards the end of this post]

It is extremely difficult to come up with new material for every keynote I’m invited to, often also because they’re very close in time with each other, and often also because they’re asking me to focus on similar things – themes like equity, care, community, etc. online. Occasionally one will ask me to focus on faculty development (still equity and care theme!) and workshop invitations will often ask me to do some liberating structures.

In any case, one of the ways I try to insert something “new” into each of my sessions, is by trying to read new stuff, and sometimes, I try inviting people to participate in a Twitter conversation! Asking a thought-provoking question on Twitter can provide some really enriching keynote material. Mia Zamora and I had tried to invite Twitter responses to “What does Equity Unbound mean to you?” but we did not get a ton of responses. For another keynote (Media & Learning Conference), I had chosen a title of “Equity and Care for Students, Equity and Care for Teachers”, and this keynote was about a week after the Open Ed one… so I posted the Twitter question: What is care without equity? What is equity without care?

The responses to THIS one were amazing! It’s not so much in the number of responses (they were still a lot) but in the thoughtfulness of the responses, and what people came up with, how different they were, but also how they built on each other’s responses. So I made a slide deck that curate them all, which I am embedding below if you’d like to go through it.

So while Mia and I were talking about our own keynote, which also had themes of equity and care, we looked together at this Twitter thread (which neither of us actually contributed to, it was so rich that, to me, I don’t think I could have come up with something as smart as what folks here came up with! Seriously!) in the midst of our conversation we started to see patterns, but also different ways of looking at the same thing. For example, some people felt Equity without care was about “systemic” and “transformative” impact, such that people who did not care would not harm others (e.g. Donna Lanclos, Tanya Elias, Sukaina Walji); then again, other folks wondered if equity without care would be tokenism (Parisa Mehran), diversity theater (Sarah Lambert) or mechanical. On the other side of it, people felt care with out equity would either result in a lot of affective labor to make up for systemic inequality (Autumm Caines) or would be selective, “care for the few” (Catherine Cronin) (these ideas also by Tim Fawns and Martin Weller).

Mia and I shared this model in our OpenEd20 keynote, using these slides here: . You can watch the recording – the explanation of the model is towards the beginning of the session, 10 minutes in:

I made a slight modification for my Media and Learning Conference session (slides at

Here is the model in its latest form, which hopefully Mia and I can publish in more detail soon:

Axes of Care-No Care and Equity-Inequity with embedded tweets. Maha Bali & Mia Zamora (2020) from our OpenEd20 keynote
Axes of Care-No Care and Equity-Inequity with embedded tweets. Maha Bali & Mia Zamora (2020) from our OpenEd20 keynote
Equity without care: tokenism? Diversity Theater? Mechanical? Or systemic? Care with out equity is ameliorative? Selective? Affective labor? Equity and care together as justice? No equity, no care = systemic injustice
Slightly updated from OpenEd20, used in my MandL20 keynote – without the tweets

This is still a work-in-progress, but someone recently was looking for this Twitter thread and found it useful, so I thought it made sense to publish it on my blog, along with narrating the process, so that it would be easier for folks to find it and reflect with me on the process. Feedback welcome on the process and the model itself.

Oh, one last thing. I’m unsure exactly how we create Twitter threads that “catch on”. In this particular one, I feel I got particularly lucky that a lot of people responded THOUGHTFULLY (more than that a lot of people responded – my OLC Innovate keynote had more responses, but the responses were relatively similar).

I think there might be 2-3 factors that make a difference in the success of these Twitter threads.

  1. Asking a provocative or interesting question. The “What is care without equity, what is equity without care” prompt seemed to resonate with people; or at least, people who follow me on Twitter. Same with the OLCInnovate keynote, where people responded to the question of what kind of technology they would Un-invent, and same with my EDEN keynote where I asked about paradigm shifts people had during the pandemic
  2. Pinning the Tweet and using the same tweet and quote-tweeting it, but not sending a new tweet with the question. This makes the tweet itself appear more prominent to the algorithms as a popular tweet, and people will all respond to the same tweet, it will be easier to curate. You cannot “unroll” btw, because the thread is not linear, but you can take links and screenshots (screenshots easier/quicker but not accessible, unfortunately). I think our mistake with the “what does equity unbound mean to you?” tweet is that we had different tweets coming from different accounts rather than one tweet being re-tweeted.
  3. Tagging some people. I tagged particular people and quoted the tweet – and I sent it to some group DMs and such, to let people know it was there. Tagging the people publicly I think makes it appear to their followers as well, which helps again make the Tweet more prominent.

Finally, I always tell people why I’m doing the tweet, and what I plan to do with responses, always promising attribution, and always trying to present their tweets as they are, for the most part, without too much modification, so that I don’t misquote someone.


  1. great description of your process, Maha, and evolving model with @MiaZamoraPhD. thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing the process Maha! When you launched this, I had an inkling it might be related to your #MandL20 keynote @MediaLearning and it was certainly appreciated 🙏

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