No laughing matter: my experience as a Wikipedia visiting scholar at ACPA

WikiEdu.org screenshot of Jackie Koerner: Wikipedia Visiting Scholar at SFSU

Wednesday night I got home from a higher education convention I attend each year. ACPA is an international organization for higher education personnel. Beyond an annual convention each March, ACPA provides professional development opportunities and various publications.

Last year, I attended the ACPA convention as a PhD candidate and graduate assistant at Saint Louis University. I graduated with my PhD in August 2016.

This year, I attended convention as an independent researcher and visiting scholar with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability. On the daily, I do independent research, submit my articles to publications, and I edit Wikipedia. In editing Wikipedia, I use sources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia. I focus on disability topics, whether it’s culture, history, or adjusting bias in existing content.

For the 2017 ACPA convention I was a program review coordinator on the organizing committee. I also presented an educational session about attitudinal bias in disability and career. I also gave a PechaKucha talk about mental health and graduate programs. I was stoked!

That was, until I had a crowd of hundreds of people laughing at me.

It all started Saturday morning at a council meeting for the leadership of the state chapters. I talked about the work I was doing with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability and Wikipedia. At first, I was a little skeptical of talking about what I was doing in my group of professional peers, considering the mixed bag of responses I have received when talking about Wikipedia in the Midwest. The thirty plus people in the room thought this was pretty cool. I was super excited by their responses! I thought, “Yes! They get it!”

Then on Tuesday, I was presenting in a session with two of my colleagues (and friends) about attitudinal bias about disabilities in career. I mentioned media representation of self-hate of people with disabilities as an overwhelming theme, especially in movies. I mentioned Million Dollar Baby as an example, and noted although I had not seen it, I had read about its problematic plot on Wikipedia. A man in a suit seated at the front table loudly yelled, “HA!” I started at his outburst, then I laid out the logic for him. I told him numerous scholars are on Wikipedia, and commented on how funny it was he was attending a session about attitudinal bias and scoffing at Wikipedia. He turned red and continued mumbling under his breath lamenting the “problems” of Wikipedia. In interest of time, I continued with my presentation intending to catch up with him after the session. He left before I could greet him and hand him my card. The guy, however, was lucky enough to sit behind me in a later session, where I was able to continue my clarification about Wikipedia. His only concession was that maybe it “has gotten better” and a shoulder shrug.

That night, I prepared myself to go on stage to deliver a talk to a crowd of hundreds of people about mental health and graduate education. The evening’s M.C. mentioned I edit Wikipedia in my introduction. The crowd laughed. It was like they were watching slapstick or some incredibly funny cat video.

It hurt. It really hurt. After I got off stage, I posted this thread on Twitter:

No one responded, but some other Wikipedians retweeted my posts.

Evidently we still have some work to do educating educators about education. Sadly, those educators in the room did not know that very likely they had people at their educational institutions using Wikipedia in their courses. When I say use, I mean assigning editing Wikipedia as the course assignments, watching emerging events unfold as civic learning, and learning to engage in the scholarly community by learning to debate and support their arguments (and more…). Oh, and it’s been shown educators teaching with Wikipedia have students who achieve the course learning goals. (See “Read more…” below)

So, I want to hear it: what are your thoughts about Wikipedia? Why do you feel this way? I want to hear from academics, educators, scholars, and from other Wikipedians!

Read more…

Wikipedia community suggested practices about students editing as assignments

Editing Wikipedia is becoming a class assignment

Teach with Wikipedia

How to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool

Case Studies: How professors are teaching with Wikipedia

Wikis and Wikipedia as a teaching tool: Five years later

I’m an academic and I use Wikipedia

Ok, friends, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s time to move on. Everybody does it. I’ve seen colleagues do much worse. We all secretly do it, but are sure our colleagues will judge us for it.

I am an academic and I read and contribute to Wikipedia.

No one has unfriended me. I don’t have to wear a scarlet W around campus. I have kept my honors. Heck, I even am a visiting scholar because I contribute to Wikipedia.

Why am I saying this?

Because tonight I read a study about a study completed at two public Spanish universities (Aibar, E., Lladós-Masllorens, J., Meseguer-Artola, A., Minguillón, J., & Lerga, M. (2014). Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it. The Electronic Library. 33(4). 668-683. doi: 10.1108/EL-12-2-2013-0217) – both relatively new and one of them was online only. The faculty used Wikipedia but only for subjects that were not in their primary field. Academics in STEM fields were more comfortable using Wikipedia for their scholarship and teaching. “So-called soft-science academics” were more skeptical.

Oh, my fellow social scientists, own up to it. You use Wikipedia. If you don’t, you should. What does this say about your bias? Go on. Go reflect on your actions and if your actions of judging Wikipedia/cloaking your true feelings are 1. valid and 2. really working toward the Truth we seek on the daily.

Did you know your students could learn in a collaborative environment where you don’t have to force inorganic collaboration? Pedagogical application is receiving mixed reviews in the literature. Why? Because many of those respondents are simply theorizing on how teaching with Wikipedia would be based on their assumptions about what Wikipedia is.

Wikipedia is “a new and powerful channel for the public communication of science.” Isn’t that what we want? Someone to read our work and to further scholarship? What are you waiting for? Give contributing to Wikipedia a chance, and what do you know, you might even let your hair down and teach with it next semester!

I’ll even volunteer to get you started.

Don’t be fooled by token diversity

Last night I had a chat and dinner with other area educators (thanks, Sherita Love of ExpandED Equity Collaborative for hosting). We talked about the opportunity gap and perpetuated bias. Such a valuable conversation and because of it I am growing. I thank and value everyone who attended last night and shared their challenges, experiences, and knowledge. I keep trying to think of possible solutions to some of these issues. I was thinking the whole drive home and I had a horrible night of sleep because my mind kept going. So, this morning, here is what I have come up with:

The opportunity gap and bias will remain unless people with deep appreciation of the issues perpetuating the gap and bias are continually invested in closing the gap and affecting bias.

Subterfuge may be the only way to get people, unaware of the true plight the gap creates, to participate in efforts of closing the gap. Many still think the gap is a novelty. It is very real. And it’s hurting us all. When, for instance, qualified student teachers request placement in districts with little to no ethnic or racial diversity, they are doing a disservice to their personal growth and their potential as part of the solution to the opportunity gap. Shouldn’t they want to grow to support all students?

Growth is uncomfortable. That’s what makes it a process. Many of the privileged cannot say they have had true life challenges due to the opportunity gap. Society, however, suffers at the continuation of the opportunity gap. The potential of every person affected by the opportunity gap is altered artificially by a system they did not start. None of us started it, but those of us who benefit from it, it’s certainly ours to join in ending.

There is no one solution to close the opportunity gap. This is a complex social problem. In order to truly appreciate the effect caution the gap and the effects of the gap on people and society, witnessing is key. Articles and books can share the essence of experience, and the effects are often fleeting, but the true impact of personally witnessing the system of oppression is lasting.

I am constantly reminded of my first experience as an adult witnessing the oppression of a child due to someone’s implicit bias. My role was to volunteer in the classroom. A little boy with a name that started with “N” was so brilliant. I just loved watching him and listening to him. Kids are just so fascinating to watch as they make their meaning of the world. To me, his giftedness was obvious, but to his teacher, his skin color precipitated his abilities. Why? She had not had her implicit bias challenged earlier in her life. Now “N” was receiving the effects of her ignorance.

At only 6, he was being told he was being told no matter his aptitude, he would never be good enough. What a stark contrast to the white children being pushed into every special program, activity, or school by their parents regardless of their aptitude.

No child should be left behind their potential, but also no child should have to shoulder greatness. The successful student should not be paraded like a show pony to prove the opportunity gap doesn’t exist. These are children and showcasing them for the sake of marketing is just gross. I frequently think about the pictures on many suburban school district websites, including every “diverse” child they can in the shot. This shows a fake picture of the population and suggests the student body is more diverse than it really is. This false image of diversity lulls adults into an incorrect belief that we are beyond inequality; that is elsewhere, but not here. Yes, here. Especially here.

People get slightly ruffled when I say “white” area, school, etc. I know they are “predominately white” but I just don’t see anything being included but the physical bodies of people of different ethnicities, races, or religions. Where are we talking about their specific needs much less addressing them? Where are we teaching all of the children about equality and multiculturalism? Where are we truly including everyone? Are we even open and inviting so people feel welcome in our community?

This year during Black History Month, I encourage you to not only consume the arts and history created by the African American community, and cherished people now passed, but really engage with it. Truly go deep into the meaning and examine the pieces. You will see much farther into the solution of the opportunity gap by appreciating not only the diversity, but striving to see multiculturalism.

Read more…

90 cities, one road and a whole lot of laws, We Live Here

Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America must do to give every student a chance

10 Reasons Why Building Multicultural Competence in College Matters

Cruel and unusual treatment

It is if you think about it. What is done to women in this country is cruel and unusual. The expectations we place on them. The assumptions we make of them.

I have an opportunity to write a guest blog on a site focused on gender equality. I have been considering what to write about for the past week, and my mind keeps going back to balance and what bullshit that is. And then this article pops up:

The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down

Yes.

This is it.

And it’s not okay.

While this article is a funny read, it’s also very real. There are days when I’m overwhelmed by the volume on my to-do list. I just want to cry, or give up, but realize rationally that will just take up more time I already don’t have and it won’t check anything off my list. My other half helps sometimes, but when he nudges me for recognition, I resent it. And frankly, I feel justified in resenting the hint. (Really, I do say thank you and I appreciate it quite a bit, but I also recognize how we all want to hear it more often.)

Here is a quote from Should Women Thank Men for Doing the Dishes?:

Enter the awkward concept of gratitude. It’s awkward because many women frankly resent the idea that men should be thanked for doing the work they’ve always been expected to do. The resentment is personal and it’s political. It’s personal, because every woman who comments on these issues has had a man in her life that didn’t do his fair share. And it’s political, because the debate is fundamentally about the balance of power between men and women as groups. In fact, research shows that men will withhold gratitude as an expression of power over women.

I have a hardtime visualizing myself as who I am: an independent women who earned a goddamn PhD and started successful non-profit while working full-time and raising kids. Most days I daydream about being a caregiver. Not just for my own kids, but for others’ kids too. I shouldn’t fantasize about that!

I’m not saying caring for children isn’t noble, and let’s be honest, it does not get the recognition the profession deserves. Saying it’s hard is the understatement of the year, but that’s not my only lot in life nor should it be any woman’s! I may be the trash woman, the maid, the cat-vomit-wiper-upper, the laundress, the cook, and the primary child caregiver at home, but is that all I am made of?

No.

But what is it we tell women?

Can women visualize themselves as successful professionals? Maybe not. It’s no secret that dressing for success is real. Studies have shown what you wear impacts your performance. There was even a study done about girls playing dress up and the effects of lab coats on their career aspirations. But what if the aspirations are there, and the jobs aren’t?

The lack of quality jobs to allow for flexible work schedules or working from home is embarrassing. There are some smart-as-sin women out there who are doing data entry from home. Why? Because it was the only work from home or flexible gig they could find. What an absolute tragedy.

Just about all of the women in that room planned to combine careers and family in some way. But almost all assumed and accepted that they would have to make compromises that the men in their lives were far less likely to have to make.

Let’s talk child care. There is no denying it is heavily shouldered by women. Arranging for child care is even seen as a woman’s responsibility. Really. Let me explain.

How many times have you heard, “Want me to watch the kids for you?” come out of someone’s mouth? That person is probably almost always male. I at least know my husband saying, “Mind if I run up the street?” is never followed by “Want me to watch the kids for you?” from me.

A search on npr.org for stories in the past year about “child care” returns stories where women and children are only depicted in the illustrations.

How is it we expect women to reach for that brass ring when they’re wearing a suit made of lead? Many of us still do it, but the climb is more strenuous than it should be.

While it would be wonderful if you would read all the linked content, please, at minimum, do read Why women still can’t have it all. It will begin to solve all of the world’s problems.

I’m a visiting scholar!

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I am very excited to announce I was selected to be a visiting scholar with San Francisco State University. The goal of my position is to use the library resources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia regarding disability. This includes art, culture, history, and so much more. The directors at the Longmore Institute already created a list of potential topics for me to examine.

Here’s the information about the role:

Historian and activist Paul K. Longmore founded the Institute on Disability at SFSU in 1996. When he passed away in 2010, the university created an endowment for the Institute and renamed it in his honor. It undertakes projects that work to challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes of disability by showcasing disabled people’s strength, ingenuity, and originality. Its public education and cultural events connect the Bay Area’s vibrant disability communities and the general public with faculty and students at SF State to fight disability stigma with disability culture.

Already I have so much to add! I am using my old pal, Scrivener, to collect the information before I make edits. I love Scrivener’s functions, which allow me to search my literature research notes, which will ultimately allow me to improve numerous articles with each source I find.

Oh! Did you know you can edit Wikipedia too? It not only helps build and improve the free, quality knowledge available on the Internet, it’s a great free time activity too – addictive, and habit-forming, but [generally] not harmful to your health. 🙂 Feel free to see what I’m up to on Wikipedia.

Let’s talk about blackface

It’s that time of year again: the time where people will choose costumes that are not racist and those that are. Ok, some of you reading this are thinking: “WHOA! Costumes are not racist!” You, my dear friend, need to read this.

Always like clockwork, someone shows up on the Internet or at a party wearing blackface. Sadly, it seems to happen a little more frequently in the region where I am. I get it, maybe no one has broken it down enough for you to understand and the Internet says: “No, just no, not ever!” but you are a person who will do something unless you know precisely why. This is your come to Jesus party, my friend. I am writing this to break it down into something that might make sense for you.

Some people are still confused about why and how blackface is offensive. Let me put this simply:

What is it that drew you to your Halloween costume?

Let’s take Beyonce, because, really, who wouldn’t want to channel Queen Bey for a night!?

What do you like about Beyonce? Her amazing talent? Her incredible dance moves? That she’s a strong woman? That she grew up kicking stereotypes in their teeth?

How could you dress like Beyonce? A wicked body suit with jewels? Some fishnets or shimmery stockings? A fiercely sexy yet empowered outfit? Or if you’re funny, a tiara and a bee costume.

You can dress up in any of these outfits and be an amazing Beyonce!

Are you thinking, “But, wait! No one will know who I am!” Is what makes Beyonce ‘Beyonce’ her skin color? It’s part of her identity, but not her single identity, and that part of her identity you should not imitate. It is hers. You cannot borrow it. This is the part where the Internet said, “No, just no, not ever!”

Blackface has a history in the theater. It was used to wrongfully imitate and demean a group of people, not a particular person in most instances. This meant perpetuating stereotypes while wearing burnt cork, dark paint, or shoe polish to darken the wearer’s skin, as if their racism was not evident enough. This practice only has once place: in history. Please do not continue to perpetuate these stereotypes. And, yes, my friend, stereotypes are racist.

By wearing blackface, it sends the message that all you see about people with skin different than yours is their skin color. You only see and care about the caricature you imagine of them. People are human beings, and their culture and identity are not for sale. Let me also bring up that history piece. Stereotypes are harmful. Maybe history wasn’t your thing in school, but it is important. Do some soul searching with Google and Wikipedia. They can help.

This year, and forevermore, just say no to blackface. Really, would you want to insult your pal Bey in that way? I sure hope not.

Now that you know why you say no to blackface, it’s your job to go inform others. You might see someone wearing blackface at a Halloween party or in costume around the neighborhood. Take them into the bathroom, wash their face, and give them a much needed lesson on history and racism. Some people need an education and sadly had no one in their lives challenged their beliefs. Be that amazing person for them. It’s a tough conversation, but a necessary one.

Now go have a safe, and smart, Halloween!

Locked out by paywalls

As a lifelong university student, I have never been without scholarly articles and quality information. I remember starting college when the World Wide Web was still young and reading articles online for the first time. Forget homework! I had my nose in some research article or op-ed piece about the desperate state of something. I love learning.

But so do many other people. They just don’t have equal access to information as I do…or did. Now I’m locked out. My guilty pleasure of swiftly replacing citations on Wikipedia with more valid sources is now more challenging.

What is the difference between a valid source and what I can find just by googling it? Well, published articles in journals have hefty weight. Most are peer reviewed and some are juried, so the content cannot be too ‘creative’ or far from the ‘truth’. On the other hand, people can say anything on the Internet. I can say I’m a dog, and you’d have to believe me. I could also say I have purple spots and ride a pineapple. Or take some of the election 2016 content. You get the point.

Being that anyone on the Internet can say anything, providing free, quality knowledge to people can be a challenge. This hits me right at my core beliefs: education and equity.

We are insanely privileged. We all may fuss about our clothes, our houses, or our cars, but we have access to quality knowledge. We have books in our homes. We have libraries. We have Internet access. Education is a human right, but only accessible to the privileged.

I am trying to change that. I hope you do too. Instead of just reading Wikipedia from now on, make an edit each time you read. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. We can provide a free, quality education through Wikipedia.

If you can’t edit, keep me editing! Consider donating to help me purchase remote access to my alma maters’s databases so I can keep updating those citations. I greatly appreciate it!

Mourning a dissertation

No Escape, a work by Judith Carlin, showing how unescapable depression can seem.
No Escape, a work by Judith Carlin, showing how unescapable depression can seem. Licensed under Creative Commons

This is tough to admit. I’m depressed. To many who have experienced this before me, it’s known as the Post-PhD Blues or Post-Doc Slump. Call it what you like, but just like other forms with their own nicknames, this is depression. No one ever told me about that part of a PhD program.

For me, this depression started after I sent my first “final” draft of my complete dissertation. It was so anti-climactic, attaching the very thing that consumed my every free moment, kept me from lazy weekends with my family, and created my distracted existence…to an email. I honestly thought, “Wow. That’s it!?”  I told Chris that I sent my first final draft and he seemed nonplussed. Maybe I was depending on him too much to reassure me of the excitement of the situation; that excitement I lacked. He said he just didn’t want to get my hopes up.

I felt a panic to start the job search. After the spring semester, my job ended. I have no job. At least not one with a paycheck. Chris assured me to not panic and just to focus on my dissertation, because without that there was no PhD, and without that, no academic career.

A couple of days later Kari and I left for Florida. I had a great time and was able to relax. I do admit to checking my email each time we went back to the condo to see if I had yet received revisions. I felt empty when I found none. Eventually, they did come and I felt like I had a purpose again! I stayed up late after she went to bed working on my paper. It was like an addiction, one I didn’t want, but one that gave me meaning and purpose.

After my defense on July 21, I was happy but maybe not as happy as I should have been when my advisor and committee came back in and said, “Congratulations, Doctor.”

Chris had a meeting to go to that afternoon immediately after my defense, so while Chris was in his meeting, I made the changes to my dissertation at a Starbucks. I kept thinking to myself, “Doctor. I couldn’t be a doctor. Not me. What did I do to earn this? I didn’t earn this.”

I still don’t know what I did that was enough to earn my PhD. Am I really smart enough? What do I really know? The saying “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know” is very true. I know nothing.

On August 13, all of my friends and family were really nice to get together with me to celebrate. It’s so kind of them – it made me tear up. I do appreciate them all taking the time to come to dinner to celebrate with me. On the way there, we are about 5 minutes from the restaurant and I tell Chris this is hard for me. I’m a fraud. I tell him I appreciate him organizing this dinner, but I feel like I don’t really deserve it. He gives me a look and I suck it up. I get over myself.

Imposter syndrome is hard to live with. You’re not sure why or how you’re successful and you’re sure you don’t deserve the success you have. This has been me my whole life. I know it seems like I’m ungrateful for the luck I have had in my life, but I’m really not. It’s really “confusing” to me about how I got here.

After earning my PhD, the uncertainty really began. What would I do? What could I do? What jobs can I get that really challenge me while offering the flexibility I need as a parent?

Chris and I are a team, and he told me not to take a job to just have a job. He said I worked too hard for too long just to get a job. I love that I get to be intentional in my job search. For now, while casually searching, I’m enjoying my sabbatical from school and work. I get to enjoy my kids. Go biking and running. I am volunteering for education organizations, which does take a lot of time, but it’s from home and I can do the work whenever in the day I want.

Some days are harder than others – the days when I’m not busy are the hardest. Sometimes I get a pinch in my chest making me feel like I should to be doing something else – editing, reading, writing – working. I feel sad that I’m not working in a traditional job utilizing my PhD, but maybe I can be more outside a traditional job.

I do like the idea of making my own way, researching what I find to be needed, collaborating with colleagues and friends I choose, presenting the research found, and setting my own hours. I feel like I can make a larger impact that way.

It’ll just take time to get comfortable with ambiguity. With not having a consistent paycheck. With being my own cheerleader. I’m getting better at relaxing. I’m getting better at it all…slowly. And some days will still be tough.

I submitted a PechaKucha talk to an upcoming convention. The topic: Post-PhD Blues. Today is a good day. I can objectively talk about it, but, just a couple of days ago. Tuesday was a really bad day. Sometimes depression can feel inescapable, and now I have a small taste of what that is.

Calling colleges and universities

I am reaching out to St. Louis colleges and universities to chat with them about my research on the lived experiences of college students with disabilities.

This research will help us serve our campus community better!

If you’re interested in having me come speak with faculty, staff, and/or students on your campus, let me know!

Sexual Assault Documentaries

Put this documentary, Audrie and Daisy, on your watch list for this fall. Sexual assault is a painful topic, but one we have to talk about.

If you have not watched, do watch the Hunting Ground.

We cannot let more people become victims. Being a victim is isolating enough. It is the isolation, lack of empathy, and outright hatred by society that hurts too much. Be an advocate. If you can’t be an advocate, be an ally.