Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*

Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*

Gill Kirkup (Open University, UK), Sigrid Schmitz (University of Freiburg, Germany), Erna Kotkamp (Utrecht University, Netherlands), Els Rommes (Radboud University, Netherlands) and Aino-Maija Hiltunen (University of Helsinki, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-813-5.ch015
OnDemand PDF Download:


This chapter argues that the future development of European e-learning needs to be informed by gender theory, and feminist and other critical pedagogies. The authors explore four themes that have been important in gender theory: embodiment, knowledge, power and ethics, and illustrate how these would give a new and more critical perspective for future e-learning developments, and for social progress if they were incorporated into educational policy and practice. The chapter ends with a framework for using this analysis to inform future action, expressed as the first draft of a manifesto.
Chapter Preview

Introduction: Why Do We Need A Manifesto?

Why do we need a feminist manifesto for e-learning? A manifesto is a call for action. A feminist manifesto for e-learning is a call for action for the development and use of e-learning driven by a feminist agenda which places ‘gender’ as a central explanatory concept for understanding inequality and difference in educational systems, pedagogy and learning. In this chapter we review what we consider to be the main arguments and justifications for e-learning in higher education in particular – which is the field in which we, the authors, all work. We illustrate these arguments through some of the most recent e-learning activities and applications. The list of our affiliations at the top of this chapter indicates that we work in a number of different countries. What it does not show is that we come from different disciplines: computer science, educational technology, psychology, and gender studies. In working together on a framework for a feminist manifesto for e-learning what we clearly had in common was our underlying explanatory gender theories. However, we found that our disciplines and the four different languages we work in meant that we often used different words to describe the same thing, or that the words we were using had different connotations for us. This has involved us in long discussions about our writing, and we have decided in the end to leave alternative words and expressions in the paper, in the hope that this will increase accessibility without causing confusion.

One set of values that we hold in common are those of feminist pedagogy. These are a set of values and practices which were developed by gender studies teachers and feminist educators in the last two decades of the twentieth century. The five main practices that we consider to be central to feminist pedagogy are:

  • •Reformation of the relationship between professor and student

  • •Empowerment of all participants

  • •Building communities through education

  • •Respect for the diversity of personal experience

  • •Challenging traditional views (of knowledge, curricula and values)

However, although we use e-learning technologies in our own pedagogy and we are involved in other aspects of theorizing the impact of digital technologies on gender and lived experience, we felt that the principles and practices of feminist pedagogy and the practices of e-learning had never been integrated. This is the task we have set ourselves, a task for which this chapter forms the first stage. The creation of a manifesto, we felt, would provide a focus to bring together our developing ideas, and the conclusions of this chapter comprise a draft of theses for our feminist manifesto for e-learning.

In this chapter we argue that neither the justifications made for state investment in e-learning in Europe nor most e-learning activities themselves are informed by critical thinking about feminist pedagogy or feminist theory; if these were applied, they would produce an evaluative perspective which would make e-learning a better tool for knowledge production and for social change. This is especially important in a twenty first century Europe, where the permeability of previously rigid national borders inside Europe and the influx of workers from outside have created a diverse and mobile population. The success of this new European depends on its ability to capitalize on the dynamic potential of this diverse population, rather than excluding or marginalizing them. Understanding gender diversity and implementing gender equality action initiatives can provide a model of inclusion that can be applied to other aspects of diversity.

We focus our discussion on four issues that have received significant attention from feminist scholars outside the field of education: embodiment, knowledge, power, and ethics, and explore what a serious consideration of these issues might mean if applied to e-learning pedagogy. We selected these issues in particular because they directly influence the way we look at teaching, learning and technology. They are not an exhaustive list of all possible issues but they provide what we consider to be key planks for a platform to debate what should be the key principles for critical inclusive e-learning,.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Madeleine Cæsar
Shirley Booth, Sara Goodman, Gill Kirkup
Chapter 1
Inger Boivie
This chapter explores aspects of the gendering of computer science and IT, related to epistemological issues of what computing is and what type of... Sample PDF
Women, Men and Programming : Knowledge, Metaphors and Masculinity
Chapter 2
Ulf Mellström
This chapter investigates how and why computer science in Malaysia is dominated by women. Drawing on recent critical interventions in gender and... Sample PDF
New Gender Relations in the Transforming IT-Industry of Malaysia
Chapter 3
Eva Maria Hoffmann
In Afghanistan, the development of information technology (IT) as an industry and an educational field is still quite young, but this provides the... Sample PDF
Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan
Chapter 4
Johanna Sefyrin
In information technology (IT) design it is essential to develop rich and nuanced understandings of messy design realities. In this chapter Karen... Sample PDF
"For me it doesn't matter where I put my information": Enactments of Agency, Mutual Learning, and Gender in IT Design
Chapter 5
Christina Mörtberg, Pirjo Elovaara
The Swedish public sector is involved in an overwhelming change process aiming towards creating a good-service society based on information... Sample PDF
Attaching People and Technology: Between E and Government
Chapter 6
Marie Griffiths, Helen Richardson
The trend for women to be severely under-represented in the UK ICT (information and communication technology) sector persists. Girls continue, year... Sample PDF
Against All Odds, from All-Girls Schools to All-Boys Workplaces: Women’s Unsuspecting Trajectory Into the UK ICT Sector
Chapter 7
Agneta Gulz, Magnus Haake
This chapter explores motivational and cognitive effects of more neutral or androgynous-looking versus more feminine-looking and masculine-looking... Sample PDF
Challenging Gender Stereotypes Using Virtual Pedagogical Characters
Chapter 8
Martha Blomqvist
This chapter presents a study on the use of research based information on gender and IT education disseminated by Swedish newspapers between 1994... Sample PDF
Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers
Chapter 9
Els Rommes
The aim of this chapter is to explore to what extent heteronormativity, the norm that man and woman are attracted to each other because of their... Sample PDF
Heteronormativity Revisited: Adolescents’ Educational Choices, Sexuality and Soaps
Chapter 10
Shirley Booth, Eva Wigforss
The chapter tells of two women with low educational qualifications who embark on a journey into higher education by taking a distance course to... Sample PDF
Approaching Higher Education: A Life-World Story of Home-Places, Work-Places and Learn-Places
Chapter 11
Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt, Sandra Riomar
This chapter problematizes how gender is constructed and used in the arguments of flexible distance education. By using a gender and space analysis... Sample PDF
Gendered Distance Education Spaces: “Keeping Women in Place”?
Chapter 12
Minna Salminen-Karlsson
In this study of computer courses in municipal adult education, 173 questionnaires from 10 Swedish adult education centres with students taking a... Sample PDF
Computer Courses in Adult Education in a Gender Perspective
Chapter 13
Gill Kirkup
This chapter examines the access women have had historically to engage in knowledge production as university scholars or students. It discusses the... Sample PDF
Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World
Chapter 14
Gwyneth Hughes
Collaborative learning online is increasingly popular and the interaction between learners is documented and discussed, but gender is largely absent... Sample PDF
Queen Bees, Workers and Drones : Gender Performance in Virtual Learning Groups
Chapter 15
Gill Kirkup, Sigrid Schmitz, Erna Kotkamp, Els Rommes, Aino-Maija Hiltunen
This chapter argues that the future development of European e-learning needs to be informed by gender theory, and feminist and other critical... Sample PDF
Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*
About the Contributors