Making #The4thBox @ #educon #ED677

WriteOut 2018-07-22

For a few years now I’ve been teaching ED677, an online course at Arcadia University called Seeking Equity in Connected Learning and Teaching. My intention in the course is to support educators in exploring connected practices in their own learning and teaching, and in doing so, think together about the core issues of equity in our work and build toward it with/for our learners.

While we continue to seek equity, after 4 years I really do have to stand back and wonder, are we actually getting anywhere? It’s a hard question because really, it’s a much bigger job than any single course could impact. And it’s a hard question, because as the instructor, I’m not even sure what I am expecting to see. And this is also why we keep seeking it, year after year. And try to figure this out together.

I see a lot of interesting work in their final projects (will post a link in a bit to a curated set of these) but I wanted to first write about something we did along the way this year which was new. And I think significant.

During the 3rd week of ED677 we focus specifically on imagining what we mean by equity as a means of starting that conversation which then threads throughout the semester. This year we had a range of readings/watchings to frame what we were thinking about, and then because we always include the opportunity to make something each week, this time around I recommended #The4thBox project by the Center For Story-based Strategy and Interaction Institute for Social Change.

The week’s make was meant to support us in imagining how we might get into this fight for equity. We used an alternative image/remix of a popular equality/equity graphic and meme and then followed the questions and prompts created by the Center, ie:

Use the 4th box to discuss the importance of not just telling a different version of the same story, but of actually changing the story (by challenging assumptions).

Questions include:

What other story could be revealed in this setting?

What other “psychic break” could you make up?

What other underlying assumption here could you challenge?

Who built that wall in the first place and/or who took it away?

Before I did this online with ED677, however, I also facilitated a “conversation” that incorporated this activity at Educon 2018 alongside some previous participants of ED677. Here are the slides we used – at the workshop we prompted the discussion in much the same way; however we followed up that activity with small group work and discussion.


A few pictures from the face to face work at EduCon 2018.

Doing this activity both in person as well as online, I found it to be remarkably effective in supporting the kind of conversation I was hoping would emerge – and helped me get clear on what I was even looking for. First, I found it supported us in engaging physically as well as intellectually with the idea of equity – in the face to face setting, it was the first thing we did together as a group of mostly strangers, and it supported spontaneous conversations at the table as well as a sort of shared nervousness and anticipation about what the 4th box should be. Online, it was less initially collaborative as each individual made their own 4th box on their own (I had set up a specific discussion for them to share about this work as they did it, but no one used it) – however, the discussions about what we made and why continued throughout the semester, showing up in their shared blogs, collaborative work, and in their final projects. I attribute this staying power to the physical and creative nature of the activity – I could see how it resonated in a way that our general readings, discussions, and blog posts don’t (well, except when we use to annotate … which is an interesting parallel but maybe also be a slightly different blog post.)

Second, I found that this activity supported a range of 4th boxes to be created and that was exciting to me. There wasn’t just one approach to equity, not just one reason that things are inequitable, and no one external reason to blame. The first group we did it with was dominated by educators who, for the most part, I believe are used to talking about equity more frequently – the second group, in ED677, seemed to me to be more dominated by educators who are maybe less frequently engaged in such conversations. And yet, in both situations, the complexities of supporting equity were evident, as were its approaches and solutions. I also saw, and continue to see in ED677, educators putting themselves firmly into the equation.

Below are a few examples of what we came up with, individually, in ED677. And in this collaborative presentation we made, you’ll see the theme’s continuation through to the end of the semester which shows its resonance.


Read more: Equity with a Twist


Read more: #The4thBox … Collaboration


Read more: Participation


Read more: My Fourth Box


Read more: Equality vs. Equity


Read more: How Can We Hit it Out Of the Park?


Read more: The 4th Box

I want to thank the Center For Story-based Strategy and Interaction Institute for Social Change for the creation of this activity set and the opportunity to begin and foster essential conversations in support of creating equity together.