Naming Names

Alec Couros raised a question on Twitter.

The responses were swift and many. Multiple lists of Twitter personalities, representing a handful of recognizable networks of folks in both PK-12 and higher education appeared. Much gratitude was conveyed and several statements of mutual admiration shared. My own Twitter handle showed up in more than one list. This is always an honor and I do not take such recognition lightly. Generally, serial responses of Twitter users singing each others’ praises through hashtags such as Friday Follow #FF and #SundayScholars are positive moments on a platform where on the other end of the behavior spectrum extremely vicious and harmful attacks on individuals and groups can be unforgiving, relentless and a daily phenomenon.

I also appreciate Alec’s question about the people who push and stretch our thinking about education and the wider world. The question itself is an invitation to think carefully about the connections between our online encounters and our inner processes to take on new ideas, or wrestle with controversy, or to simply to place ourselves on a spectrum of experience. Who are the people who make this happen for us – perhaps regularly? The many lists which emerged today suggest more than popularity metrics and that is important to acknowledge.

At the same time, as the train of responses grew longer and the overlapping increased, intermingled with congratulatory back and forth, I had an odd feeling. Even as my own handle cropped up here, and then there, and then again a little later, I felt a little strange.  If I step away from several personal connections I find among these varying clusters of mentions, I see lists of names and handles which suddenly lack a necessary context. So many names of people whose work and presence I value piled up in various 140 character combinations – somehow today this felt like a let down.

Because when I name a name, I want you to know exactly, explicitly why. Considering our world in which data (often numerical) takes greater prominence, creating lists or collections of names and handles suggests that this is enough. Get the Twitter handle, follow, welcome fresh insights. If only it were that simple.

If we truly want to help each other see and take advantage of what’s available, we need to spend more time (which many would claim we don’t have) to provide the necessary context. If you have followed this blog for a while you will know that @AudreyWatters and @TressieMcPhD have rocked my intellectual world in significant ways over the last 3 years. You will have heard me crow about my online mentors and explain precisely which people allow me to claim Twitter as a sort of online homebase.

Context, context, context – we are going to need more and more of it in our information-overloaded existences, not less. We may not need to follow all the wonderful folks who are writing and challenging, protesting and clarifying – but we will need the critical referral that connects us to the blog post, the rebuttal, the upcoming event which meets us right where we need to go next. Recently, I was introduced to @schmutzie’s (Elan Morgan’s) Five Star Mixtape in which she assembles a weekly cross section of  blog readings and found one post which literally opened my world up to an understanding I wasn’t even aware that I was lacking. So sometimes it can be a single piece of writing or a video or podcast that tips the scales. Let’s also remember this when we create lists. We need both the people and their work.

Yes, please tell us whom you appreciate and why and then feed us with the substance we need to go further. Provide us with the tools to get beneath the surface. Retweet with a comment. Leave a comment on the blog itself. Name names and wrap them in context. These days that can be a genuine gift.

3 thoughts on “Naming Names

  1. slowchatpe says:

    Love your thinking as always. My charge to you is how can we get you more involved in #physed community? We lack the voices of people of color. I was direct message the other day when a montage of who to follow in physed was posted and it was all white. This is unacceptable. How can we change this?

    • Your question raises a vital topic in open online forums. The #PhysEd community, like many other areas of education, in North America in particular, remains predominately white and will likely stay that way for some time to come. Online platforms naturally reflect that, potentially in an exaggerated form. And to your question of how to change that – hmmm… I don’t have an answer. However, what brought me to social media and blogging originally was not physed even if I have gained a great deal from the community since my arrival. I am sure that there are plenty of PE folks of color active on various channels of social media, but PE may not be their main focus of interest on these forums. I think the path to change likely involves more nuanced questions about where POC in the field are active, how and under which auspices they may be engaging in social media.
      When I observe my own engagement choices, it is not lost on me that #physed often takes a back seat to other themes. I can only wonder to what degree that may be true for other #physed professional of color who are already on social media or considering an entry.

      • slowchatpe says:

        I have started a lit of POC to follow in the #physed community. I can not guess why others may or may not be active in the #physed community. I do know that I recognize there is a problem and will do my best to amplify the voices that I do come across.

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