Book cover featuring light bulb
ePortfolio,  Equity and Inclusion,  Multimodal,  Professional Development

New Year, New Beginnings

January is my favorite time to think about the previous year. Maybe it’s the feeling that a new year means a new start or just that the holiday rush has subsided and my mind is clearer. Maybe it’s the cold and dark of January that looms between a holiday break and the start of a new term. Whatever it is, I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about how things are progressing and what I am reaching for in the upcoming year.

Although 2021 did not bring a return to “normal” pre-pandemic times as I hoped last year at this time, I think the world made some progress toward it. I also made some important strides in two areas particularly. First, I was able to participate in creating an open-source ebook, sponsored by ePortfolio Ireland and the AAEEBL (Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning). My activity for scaffolding for audio projects is simple, but I hope it inspires someone to try an audio project for fun or to share with the world.

Contributing to an open-source publication is important to me because I rely on open-source and accessible information. From the WordPress community for technical information to online sources like the International Journal of ePortfolio for professional development reading, I find so much value in the ePortfolio and WordPress communities. Sites that offer art and sound for free are also highly valued, such as Contributing in a small way to this community feels good.

Book cover featuring light bulb
Exploring Diversity of ePortfolio (open-source ebook); Ed. Lisa Donaldson, 2022

The other area where I am feeling like I made some progress is continuing to educate myself about social justice. I am learning so much American history. Through reading followed by discussion with a community-based equity group, I am revising my understanding of the US and its history and pushing myself to be introspective about my experiences, feelings, and teaching. Some of the most impactful books that I read in 2021 were How The Word is Passed by Clint Smith, Caste by Isobel Wilkerson, and You Are Your Best Thing by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown. After reading Between the World and Me in 2020, I knew I needed to focus my reading on learning and better understanding the way Black people experience life in the US and that I would need to address the gaps in my knowledge about US history.

stack of books

How the Word is Passed focused on specific sites, mostly in America, that are historical sites connected to slavery, some of which remain spaces of oppression to Black people today. By incorporating history and a contemporary reckoning with these locations, Smith brings his insights as a Black American and someone who is trying to see these spaces as they once were and as they are currently are. I hope to go to some of the places such as Monticello and Galveston Island to learn more about their history and to better understand the ways in which we, as a nation, must continue to reckon with our tendency to favor nostalgia over reality.

Caste opened my eyes to the history of oppression and violence against Black people in America. The main focus of the book is the argument that America upholds a caste system in the same way as some of countries, such as India. It is our history and our present. The book is filled with upsetting events in American history, many of which I had never learned about or fully understood. Through historical events, our governmental and societal structures, and everyday examples, Wilkerson highlights the way that we reinforce an American caste system and that its dismantling is the only way forward. I appreciated that the final chapter of the book came back to a metaphor that was introduced in the beginning: that of a house with a crumbling foundation. If we do not address our past (the foundation of American on the backs of the enslaved), how can we continue to live in the house and improve the house? In the final chapter, the author connects with a person who comes to make a repair in her basement, leaving me thinking about repairing generations of disrepair by making individual, human connection with as many people as possible — because this problem cannot be fixed without efforts from Americans of all generations and all backgrounds.

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