Who’s voice is being silenced?

Who do we silence when we “collaborate” and “connect”?

Trust Pam Hook to ask this question.

I recently read a blog post where Pam commented and asked this question.


Those of you who know me, connecting, collaborating, creating and sharing are my ongoing personal teacher inquiry. So much so that I have literally made an online name for myself with doing all this “connect” and “collaborate” online stuff..

Pam asked an interesting question and one that I am sure like me you had never really thought about or really cared about and you have been hell bent on gathering followers or creating virtual communities to have teachers work together because you realise how much of an impact this has on teachers learning.

But if we think about it, who are the teachers who are  being silenced by all this online learning ‘stuff.’  I remember in the early days of social media trying to convince teachers to ‘at least read emails’. or saying things like, ‘The information is on the server #DUH.’

And ‘Paper?? What’s that.  Give it to me digitally so I can have the option of repurposing what you have created.’

I know the internet is the main form of communication in this 21st Century and who does not have a cell phone? Correct? But it is still a valid question.

We are extremely lucky at my school because we have a strong school leader who has always been forward thinking in her approach. Such as giving the teachers the tools. So we all had an iPad 2 when they first came out and have since been updated and senior teachers were given an iphone with a school plan. She gave us all a chrome to play with because this was a tool we would be using with our children. We can even choose what kind of a TELA we want.

Yet I grew up in a 3rd world nation and I speak to other teachers who do not have the same access to technology or professional learning as what we have at Newmarket School.

I visited 13 countries in 11 weeks and spoke with teachers who many do not have the same opportunities and access that we have here in New Zealand. I visited many teachers whose classes do not have internet access.  For teachers in New Zealand I query their access because TELA has been available since 2003 and access to the internet really took off in 2004 when the first waves of schools were snupped. Name a new Zealand teacher who has not been part of an ICTPD contract in the past 10 years. Our Ministry of Education has poured millions of dollars into our digital learning.

So again whose voices are being silenced through connection and collaboration?

I am aware of the challenges that some outlying schools have to access. They do not yet have broadband and are still reliant on dial up. But I believe that if you want access bad enough somehow you can find a path. Even if you pay for access yourself. When I think back to schools that I have been at where I have had to pay for first of all for my own laptop and then my own lease or when when I was an early adopter of technology and bought dial up at phenomenal costs.

Online I notice that my twitter PLN are made up of mostly European educators. I find the Maori and Pasifika Educators appear to gravitate to Facebook. As for Asian educators I talk to them on WeChat. So I guess if I am looking for certain voices then as an educator I must move in the social media that has greater numbers.

When I have run online professional learning for educators I particularly target voices that are often very quiet. I am much more conscious of this then I have ever been because of my work with Pam.  Yes using digital communication can silence when we “collaborate” and “connect”.

The ones taking part in connecting and collaborating online can have their voices amplified like being the only ones holding a microphone at a face to face meeting. Yet what about our children who do not yet have access to home broadband because the extra cost is a luxury that is over and above feeding a family? That and even having a device to access communication with. Yes we still have those.

I also think about the work I do with my Samoan colleagues who insist on face to face meetings because, ‘This is the way we work best.’ I encourage digital communication but that is on ongoing journey I have always had. I also find that in the face to face meetings I am the voice being silent. I am used to having my voice amplified with media that sometimes I feel frustration in the noisy face to face meetings. I feel frustration at the speed of getting things done because I am so used to getting things done at super speed using online communication. I am the educator who amplifies our Samoan voices digitally and I do so willingly because I know some can be very quiet online.

My citizenship question to you is the same as Pam’s.

Who do you silence when you “collaborate” and “connect”?


I should have begun with this quote taken straight from Tahu’s Blog Post on Whānaungatanga.

Me hui kanohi ki te kanohi kia rongo i te mauri o te tangata!’ It is important to meet face to face, eye to eye, breath to breath to get a full understanding of the people we are working with.

4 thoughts on “Who’s voice is being silenced?

  1. Hi Sonya,
    Thanks for continuing to think out loud over the summer 😉

    I think you might enjoy Ivan Illich’s remarks on something similar – but coming from a different perspective –

    Silence is a commons http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Silence.html

    The speech given in 1982 – remains highly relevant – when we recognise scarcity as a means of exploitation

    How do we change the human environment when we communicate on the terms of an electronic device?

    For example, I am currently interested in how the political ecology of charity is changing with the proliferation of fundraising platforms like “GiveaLittle” and “Kickstarter”. But the political ecology of education also changes when the “megaphone” arrives on the island.

    Illich prompts me to ask how have the commons of speech about teaching and learning become vulnerable – when speech is mediated through devices.

    The other writing you may enjoy thinking about is on Illich’s rejection of the microphone. This one makes me wonder about the loss of “place” in our current educational discourse and how this changes the ecology of our discourse – politically and socially

    The Loudspeaker on the Tower http://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/2000_loudsppu.pdf

    “For a quarter of a century, now, I have tried to avoid using a microphone, even when
    addressing a large audience. I use it only when I’m on a panel, or when the architecture of the
    auditorium is so modern that it silences the naked voice. I refuse to be made into a loudspeaker. I
    refuse to address people who are beyond the reach of my voice. I refuse to address people who are
    put at an acoustic disadvantage during the question period because of my access to a microphone. I
    refuse, because I treasure the balance between auditory and visual presence, and reject that phony
    intimacy which arises from the distant speaker’s overpowering “whisper.””

    “But there are deeper reasons why I have renounced the microphone – its use in those
    circumstances in which I am physically present. I believe that speaking creates a place. Place is
    something precious that to a large degree has been obliterated by the homogeneous space generated
    by speedy locomotion, standardized planning, screens and loudspeakers. These powerful techniques
    displace the voice and dissolve speech into a message, coded sound waves that fit universal space.
    “Speakers” can make a voice omnipresent in a physical space of any size. But only the viva vox has
    the power to engender the shell within which speaker and audience are in the locality of their

    Is why those conversations (sans the machine) over eggs on toast are so powerful


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam,
      Thanks for your response.
      And I have added Illich to my hyperconnective list of educators who ask us to question about what we are doing with tech and education.
      They are so few that I do have a list to amplify their work.
      My digital megaphone ?????
      I remember my first F2F with Larry Cuban.
      He gave me such a shock when he raised questions about the waste of resources being poured into the digital pit.
      I find it important to have people around me who regularly hold up markers to remind me about humanness.
      In the same way I hold onto Service from my Samoan background and the way my colleagues stress the importance of face to face meetings.


  2. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for responding.
    I am at the stage where I think access to communication is as important as access to clean running water, access to clear air and access to clean soil. I can envisage a future where access is part of taxes like our roads are. At the same time I am aware that life can go on without access. But we can’t survive without water, soil or air.
    Where do you get time to read blogs. I thought picture books would have been your current reading :). Thats if you can even take time to take your eyes off your beautiful grand daughter.


  3. I remember a few years ago listening to Derek Wenmoth talking about the infrastructure needed to support connectedness in a digital future. I agreed with him when he said that the fat pipes of fibre that were being laid down were like the water mains and sewers that were invested in by public works during the late 19th early 20th Century. Access needs to be easy and cheap, and a human right. There’ll be pockets that need help with standalone installations, just like those with water collection systems and septic tanks, but they also need to be subsidised to make them affordable. People joke about WiFi being at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, it doesn’t belong exactly there, but it has its place amongst human needs.

    If the Internet can be nominated for the Noble Peace Prize (did it win) then surely it ranks as one of the essentials if modern life?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s