<span class='p-name'>Engaging With Activist Texts in Learning Environments</span>

Engaging With Activist Texts in Learning Environments

I’m honored to present at the NCTE 2020 Conference.

My session is titled Educate, Empower, Advocate: Engaging with activist texts in learning environments. In this, I will discuss the challenges and opportunities as educators identify ways they can leverage digital technologies to work toward positive social change.

The Internet and other communication technologies can provide a powerful tool or social justice and civic action. These digital devices and social media have shown enormous potential by activists to mobilize the public, document their activities, and the injustices they witness, and spread information to a wider audience.

The challenge is that youth are watching and learning from the events and texts as well. As youth utilize these digital, connected texts, educators need to know what makes their voices uniquely powerful. Perhaps more importantly, educators need to consider ways in which they can bring these skills, practices, and texts into the classroom.

Presentation Materials

The slides for my talk are available here, and embedded below. I will add video of the talk as it is made available.

Presentation Overview

Meditation: What are you going to do about that when the dust settles? How are you going to work to learn & unlearn & teach your family, your students, or your colleagues to see & learn in new ways?Laura M. Jimenez

Beginning with the self. Identifying my positionality in this work. Who am I? Where am I? What is my focus?

Start with the self…before moving to local…before moving to the global.

The Internet provides opportunities to broadcast a narrative for a variety of purposes, but it does not guarantee a receptive audience

The Perfect Crucible

Meditation: To engage in dialogue is one of the simplest ways we can begin as teachers, scholars and critical thinkers to cross boundaries, the barriers that may or may not be erected by race, gender, class, professional standing, and a host of other differences.bell hooks

Across society, we are seeing youth step up to address societal problems. What can educators learn about these practices as they bring activism & texts or narratives shared by activists into learning environments?

The Parkland Kids, The Climate Kids

Teacher Protests – 55 Strong in WV, Red 4 Ed in NC, SC for Ed protests

Educate, Empower, Advocate

Meditation: Higher education’s role, as I see it, is to help society reflect beyond activism and resistance, necessary and important as they are. There is a need to develop critical citizens capable of negotiating multiple conflicting interests in a process of creatively co-constructing a better future.Maha Bali

My areas of focus:

  • How do activists use digital, social technologies for the purposes of amplifying marginalized voices & enacting social change?
  • How can these acts of digital activism be leveraged to inform educators as they support inquiry, empathy, & connection in their classrooms?

We need to make space in our learning settings to:


Defined as giving intellectual, moral, and/or social instruction to the self, another person, or group. 

Developing mentally, morally, or aesthetically by instruction. 

Educate can be viewed as persuading, arguing, or conditioning someone to feel, believe, or act in a desired capacity or manner.


Empower is defined as giving authority or power to the self, another individual, or a group to take action, become stronger, or more confident. 

Enabling the self or others to control their own lives, claim rights, or promote self-actualization or influence.


Advocate is defined as publicly supporting or recommending a particular cause or policy. 

Pleading the cause or interests of the self, another individual, or a group.

Do The Work

The first one I think is most helpful is don’t prescribe unless you can describe. It’s really learning about how to describe the impact of a policy decision or the impact of a situation from a first-person perspective. If you can’t do it from a first-person perspective then don’t prescribe a solution because you could be actually exacerbating the problem and that might have unintended consequences in the future.Muhiyidin d’Baha

First, start with the self. Do the work and consider your power, privilege, and identity. My starting point was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and this guide on White Supremacy Culture from SURJ.

After focusing on doing your own work, build from the block up. Move to the global as last resort.

This can’t be the Internet we want for ourselves, or for our youth. There is a need to pay attention to youth and their practices. We’ve seen individuals using tools and spaces like VSCO, TikTok, Snapchat, WeChat, Signal, Telegram, Discord, and Mastodon for sharing their narratives.

Wicked Problems

In education, we need to discuss & problematize identity & privilege in the classroom. These picture books may help.

Need to simultaneously educate oneself on the histories of numerous communities of color, & indigenous or immigrant communities whose histories have been neglected in most schools.

Need to unpack & continuously uncover technology usage in our schools. We’re doing some of this in the Screentime Research Group.

In research, we need to discuss the challenges of digitizing traditional research practices in digital spaces. As an example, Facebook & Cambridge Analytica derailed some of my early research.

Twitter and Tear Gas is a must read as you work in these spaces.

We need to identify and develop digitally native research practices. This includes fluidity in research tools and practices, as well as open-source tools & open educational practices.

This also includes the use of APIs, computer languages (e.g., , Python), understanding the ethics of web scraping practices, as well as navigating endlessly changing terms of use/service.

Some final guidance as you begin:

  • multiple social media accounts on platforms
  • create multiheaded media org (website/blog, podcasts, streaming video [Facebook Live, YouTube, etc], TikTok, Snapchat, VSCO
  • keep it authentic, speak your truth, speak your narrative

This is just the beginning of the discussion. I recommend subscribing to my blog and newsletter to build your skillset.

I am social. Say hey on the network of your choice.

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

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