A constant argument you will hear in the world of education at any level is how to grade or assess students. Should we measure a student’s intellect from a standardized test produced from a major corporation or from a project that allows more creativity? While these arguments seem to center around a disagreement on what captures intellect, I think it touches on something different and more fundamental wrong with our education system: we do not care about a student’s identity. Schools and institutions struggle to separate from standardized testing because we operate on the fundamental belief that students should be defined in graphs and charts, not their own growth.
This is why I think that programs like “Domain of One’s Own” are essential but face huge structural obstacles. The creators of “Domain of One’s Own” wished to allow students to create their own digital space and truly express their own identity and creativity for free. Domains like Facebook essentially control the digital identities of their customers, so if Facebook dies, so does their digital identity. However, with “Domain of One’s Own”, students can control and define their digital identity after a class is done or once they have finished their education. This is an exciting development, but I think this program will face many of the same problems that other developments in education have faced: “well, that doesn’t really count to show capability.”
New and emerging historians can relate to this problem. We feel discouraged to invest our time and energy into projects that express our interests and ideas through different platforms because our tenured peers do not recognize them as actual pieces of work. I am not sure how to combat this in an effective manner besides actively working to promote our identities and present how this can aid our fields. Kathleen Fitzpatrick stated in her article “Voices: Twitter at Conferences” that platforms like Twitter “have the potential to demonstrate what it is that we as scholars do, and why the broader culture should care about it.” Engaging online with Twitter, creating new domains, and advocating for ourselves as our own historians is the best way we can maintain our digital identity in the face of academic oppression.
In the face of social distancing and the mandate to work from home during a pandemic, I think the older faculty in our field will realize that digital platforms do matter, and not just for our work, but for our own mental health. There are many reasons to be scared right now, but the thing that disorients me the most is my daily routine of engaging with peers on academic discussion is gone. My intellectual productivity is about to look very different in the face of COVID-19. Therefore, I think it is valuable for all teachers, professors, and administrators to take into account how we express our academic identities, rather than limiting our success to a previous model that no longer applies. We are all trying to do our best during this time, and I hope this shows how our system needs to move towards one based on identity and success rather than meeting goals.