#WeAreOLC: Equity and Identity in Storytelling


Angela Gunder (Co-Chair, OLC Live at OLC Accelerate 2019) and Madeline Shellgren (Co-Chair, 2019 Technology Test Kitchen at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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People Networking at EdTech Conference

With the idea of stories being a connecting element throughout all of our conference activities, we are creating a variety of opportunities for you to share your story and to hear the stories of others. We’re calling this initiative #WeAreOLC. As the #WeAreOLC initiative unfolds, you will see a series of blog posts focused on how we (the members of the steering committee) are using storytelling to create a memorable and impactful 25th Anniversary experience. Read the first blog post of this series.

In engaged conversations with members of our extended OLC community, colleagues and friends have utilized the phrase that “our stories will save us.”  Indeed, our connections as educators, advocates and champions of equity and access in our field are forged through telling our stories. The practice of storytelling, regardless of the formality of the context, has the power to dispel myths, break stereotypes, and bring us to a place of empathy and understanding.  These stories help us to make sense of the world around us, and we do this as a connected and engaged community of learners (Halliday, 1994). Because we are social and dynamic beings, we require “constant reassembling” (Frank 2012, pg. 83). Stories enable us to engage in this reassembling.  They allow us to amplify voices not typically heard, including our own, and actively fight the danger of telling a single story (Ngozi Adichie 2009).

The OLC community is uniquely aligned and dedicated to providing opportunities and spaces for individuals to share their stories in the hopes of better emphasizing the notion that we can only solve the ubiquitous challenges that we face if we work together.  IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy) was announced to the OLC Innovate 2018 Conference community as a means of establishing a mission and vision for how we might honor the abilities, skills, competencies and goals of the many stakeholders within the online learning landscape.  Shared by the OLC Accelerate planning committee on their website, “The IDEA Committee for Accelerate 2019 broadly defines diversity and inclusion as honoring all individuals for who they are, where they are. It also means connecting with each other and creating an environment where everyone feels like they are part of the conference community.”  At the heart of the efforts of the IDEA Committee is a dedication to stories as “powerful engines of social and cultural reproduction and resistance” (Baszile 2015, pg. 239), surfacing endemic issues of bias across the range of constellating identities (including but not limited to racial, cultural, linguistic, gender, and ability) present within our field and “[examining] the pernicious, unquestioned assumptions” (Barlowe 1995, pg. 117) we make.

Looking forward to the amazing opportunities for collaboration and storytelling present within and beyond OLC Accelerate 2019, we want to invite you to consider the ways in which you might share your story with us on how you support inclusion, diversity, equity, and advocacy in your teaching and learning.  Where are you currently challenged or restricted in your work to support students? How can this community help you overcome those barriers and obstacles? The conference will have several opportunities to explore these questions and connect to allies, to include the OLC IDEA Leadership in Digital Learning Luncheon, a networking event, and fundraiser for the OLC IDEA Scholarship Fund.  Lightweight opportunities to connect around this topic as well, to include the Speed Networking Lounge, the Technology Test Kitchen, and the Field Guide Program and Talk Abouts.  And for those that won’t be in attendance in person, virtual attendees and OLC Live participants can take part in the conversation in fully-online spaces.

Ultimately, we want you to consider this brief examination of storytelling as a tool to help us form our collective identity as a call to action to join us however you see fit.  N. Scott Momaday (1997) once claimed that “we have no being beyond our stories” which Malea Powell (2012) later posited that based on this notion that “we are the stories we tell” (p. 389), what does this say for where we’ve been and where we are going?  We, Angela and Maddie, represent only two of many, many people who are humbled and honored to answer these questions with you, and to collectively determine where we are going as we walk the path.

How Can You Contribute?

We know that we would not be where we are today were it not for your contributions over the last 25 years. With this in mind, we first invite you to share your own OLC narratives. You can join in our quest to story the past (so that we can better prepare for the future) by submitting one or more of the following to this GOOGLE FORM:

Share a visual memory

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we encourage you to help us collect memories from the past. Scour your archives for photos, videos, documents, or other resources that tell a story. We’ll share them with the OLC community through our social media channels as our way of saying “thanks for being a part of the OLC”.(Remember, we’re hoping to build a history of the OLC for the last 25 years)

Share your story

We want to highlight you and your work or contributions to making OLC what it is today. Create a blog post, a twitter post, etc. that we can share with the other members of our community. Here are a few prompts to get you started.

    • How did you first get involved with the OLC?
    • 25 years (then and now): What kinds of technology were you using 25 years ago and what technology do you engage with now?
    • What is one of your favorite OLC experiences?
    • Who composes your OLC community (i.e. the people you have met along the way and always enjoy seeing)? Tell a story that shares about your relationship.
    • How do you support inclusion, diversity, equity, and advocacy in your teaching and learning and how has this evolved in the past 25 years?

We hope that you join us by following along with the series, as we articulate our shared commitment to a more inclusive, equitable, and humanizing OLC through engaging in individual and collective storytelling. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and for being an important part of our community. #WeAreOLC.


Barlowe, Jamie. “Daring to Dialogue: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Rhetoric of Feminist Dialogics.” Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women In The Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1995.

Baszile, Denise Taliaferro. “Rhetorical revolution: Critical race counterstorytelling and the abolition of white democracy.” Qualitative inquiry 21.3 (2015): 239-249. 

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). Language as social semiotic. Language and literacy in social practice, 23-43.

Frank, Arthur W. Letting Stories Breath: A Socio-Narratology. U of Chicago P, 2012. 

Martinez, Aja Y. “A plea for critical race theory counterstory: Stock story versus counterstory dialogues concerning Alejandra’s” fit” in the academy.” Composition Studies 42.2 (2014): 65-85.

Momaday, N Scott. Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages. New York: Macmillan, 1997. Print. 

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda. (2009, October 17). The Danger of a Single Story [YouTube File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg&t=25s

Powell, Malea. “2012 CCCC Chair’s Address: Stories Take Place: A Performance in One Act.” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 64, No.2. (December 2012), pp. 383-406.

Skinnell, Ryan. “Who Cares if Rhetoricians Landed on the Moon? Or, a Plea to Revive the Politics of Historiography.” Rhetoric Review 34.2 (2015): 111-128. Print.  

The Cultural Rhetorics Theory Lab (Malea Powell, Daisy Levy, Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Marilee Brooks-Gillies, Maria Novotny, Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson). “Our Story Begins Here: Constellating Cultural Rhetorics Practices.” enculturation: a journal of rhetoric, writing, and culture 18 (2014): n.p. Web http://enculturation.net/our-story-begins-here

Angela Gunder, University of Arizona (Co-Chair,  Virtual Engagement and OLC Live at OLC Accelerate 2019)
Madeline Shellgren, Michigan State University (Co-Chair, Technology Test Kitchen at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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