I’ve written extensively here about the Ethic of Care, and it’s something I’ll speak about to anyone who’ll listen.
Lately, I’ve had the chance to talk and listen to people about a quesiton that’s been jumping around my brain. Namely, how do we enact an ethic of care in online spaces?
Today, I had a conversation with a former student. She’s in college now, studying to be a teacher, and wanted some advice on what to disclose to her eventual students and what to keep private.
Her concern was driven by her experiences in school and the realization she would have benefitted greatly from an adult in her life who’d been open about being where she’d been.
She wanted to know how I’d approached similar situations in my practice.
She’s in Philadelphia.
I’m in Boulder.
What’s more, I was in class at the time.
She was texting me. I was typing back on my browser.
As I built my understanding of qualitative theory and research practices, I was also attempting to guide a future teacher in her thinking about her practice.
Somewhere in there, care resides.
She had the number because I’d created it when I was in the classroom so that I might ask kids to submit questions or responses using their phones. If they had no phones, they were able to send the text via a chat client.
She kept the number.
I’m glad she did. (I hope others did too.)
If I can continue to care for my students, let them know my care for their learning didn’t end at Day 180, I’ll leverage whatever tools possible to do that. I understand the counter-arguments to this approach. It can be abused and used for nepharious purposes. I understand this to be true. I have a hard time seeing how those who would abuse these tools are going to be convinced to stop using them because those who would use them to help students refuse to consider the tools.
If anything, this is an argument for their widespread adoption of these practices by thoughtful and caring professionals who are driven by high standards of compassion and see their work as nurturing their students in safe spaces. Without such a precence, digital environments will be devoid of care. Minus that care, danger fills in the empty spaces.
I’m still tinkering with a more unified theory of care in online spaces. The conversation today helped me to see it in action, and that observation helped me to understand the power and necessity of such connections and availability.
It also left me with questions. Would this student have recognized my care for her if we’d not interacted in face-to-face environments? Did she benefit from our conversation in the same way she would have if we’d been in the same physical space? Was the caring relation reciprocal in the same way if can be in face-to-face interactions?
I don’t have answers to the questions, but I’m glad they’re getting more specific as I look more closely at trying to understand the issue.