People in the Field: Deb Chachra (edited – This is what I should have said)

As an Indigenous person, it was incredibly important for me to seek out a BIPOC member of the education community to lift up, and frankly to admire, even if ever so briefly in this fast-paced world. More importantly, however, it was about changing the discourse that seemed to be thick with the status quo.

I want to engage in topics that appear to be on the fringe and to bend them back into our conversations. I want to be helpful, and if that means something only for the community of learners for which I am responsible day in and day out, then that will suffice. For the moment.

Delving deep into issues of equity and social justice is exhausting work, but it is necessary.

I share with you Deb Chachra, Professor of Engineering at Olin College, a small undergraduate university in Massachusetts, USA. Dr. Chachra is an example of the spark that we all need every once in a while to get the fire started. I share her work because it has been a spark for me.

I was instantly struck by her enthusiasm, inspired by her energy, and by her views on education. Listening to her speak in Sources and Methods #30: Deb Chachra (2016), Chachra describes her article in the Atlantic, Why I am not a Maker, which deals with maker culture, the social history of makers-of-things as elitist and overvalued while calling out the stigmatization of those who do the labour. She speaks of how we learn from the making that we put out into the world, and of having a zibaldone, and of libraries. She speaks of education models, of how the factory model of education is about quality control and cost efficiency (which we see a lot of in Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech). In Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings, Chachra speaks of invisible systems that underpin our democratic society, systems that we subscribe to as members of citizenry and only notice when these systems fail (think pandemic). She also wrote Care at Scale, centring infrastructural citizenship that begins with place-based learning and reads like a manifesto where we follow Chachra on an analysis of interconnectivity. On Twitter, she shares variations on the intersections of education, engineering and science, gender studies, technology and culture, and the environment. She writes a weekly newsletter, Metafoundry, you can also find her on Instagram, and she is writing a book on Infrastructural Systems.

I hope you find value in her work, but if you do not, I challenge you to seek out BIPOC members of the international educational technology community and the work they are doing. There are many.

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