Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 10 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Grateful for the Love & The Wins @DigPedLab Cairo #DigPed

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 10 seconds

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Yesterday was the last day of Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo. You don’t really say goodbye to your virtual friends, right?

Before the event started my colleague commented on how I was organizing the event with love for others. This event was also a gift to myself, if I am honest, both professionally and personally. Personally I had the opportunity to meet some good friends in person. Professionally I was able to immerse others around me in the way I have been thinking and working for the past 3 or so years… And to watch some aha moments.

The event helped expand the international participants’ mindsets, and also exposed the facilitators to something they rarely experience – a roomful of people with contexts different from each other’s and different from the facilitators’ own. This kind of diversity has the potential to bring in the best and the worst of people – and I am grateful that it seems to have brought out the best in most people (possibly not me; you should have seen how I snapped at the vermicelli being added to rice making it no longer gluten-free)

It is completely affirming to know that I loved these people face to face as much as I have loved the online all this time. That being alone with Jesse, he felt like we had been in high school together and being alone with Bonnie was as comfortable as being alone with ourselves after an exhausting day. The intimacy we share online transfers in person. It totally does. It really really does/did.

I also loved the participants. I had grown to love many of them from email and Slack exchanges as they prepared to come here. I loved my CLT colleagues who embraced this with enthusiasm when they really could have approached it with trepidation… And I am grateful for all the learning moments I witnessed and shared with people.

I am extremely grateful for the very strong online presence in this event. I could attribute it to my own virtual sensitivity that I made so much of the event open online, but it’s not really about me. It’s about continuing to use things people knew – #DigPed hashtag which already had its community, Virtually Connecting which is already also a community, and livestreams which most people are familiar with. All of that enriched the onsite experience so well and really made sense for an event on digital pedagogy.

It also makes sense to make plans to continue collaborating online after a digital pedagogy event and I look forward to this.

In one of the Virtually Connecting sessions I unpacked the use of the term “love” as used by Amy Collier citing Gardner Campbell… And I was saying there is the love we have for our students, the love students have for their learning, the love we have for what we teach. In some ways, love can be a feeling you can’t help…in other ways love can be an intentional attitude you begin with and try to maintain.

I can’t say I have never hated or that love is easy and stable. Love is hard. It’s dynamic. It hurts often more than it helps. But when we have it, it makes our lives so much richer and more meaningful. When we let love guide us, we make different decisions and we make peace with ourselves.

Some people around me felt uncomfortable with the use of the term love in a scholarly context. But the wonderful Sean Michael Morris writes:

Deciding not to love the learners we accompany is an uncritical decision, and ultimately not scholarly

And

why is it painful for the academic to admit that love stirs them? 

But putting scholarship aside for a moment…

No one has the right to deny another person their love. I have seen the looks on people’s faces when I talked of how I loved my online friends. I don’t care that others have never experienced this, it does not reduce the depth of my own feelings.

No one has the right to deny another the right to have a loving attitude. We are all free to take our own attitudes towards life.

So.. Yeah…feel free to say that loving students doesn’t work for you or that you can’t imagine loving an online friend. But that in no way undermines how others feel about their students and anyone else. Someone suggested we use the term “care” as it would be less alienating. Someone wondered how “love” fit into educational policy. There isn’t really much I can say to them…except…really? If love is an alienating word, then there is something distorted about our intuition about what matters. If policy is what you think about when you hear about loving students you are just closing yourself to the possibilities in learning situations.

Ending this with a heart full of love for those who participated in this event in any way.

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