Collaborative and Open Education by Interdisciplinary Women's Networks: FemTechNet and Feminist Pedagogies in Digital Education

Collaborative and Open Education by Interdisciplinary Women's Networks: FemTechNet and Feminist Pedagogies in Digital Education

Elena Robles Mateo
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4930-8.ch008
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter describes FemTechNet, a case study that exemplifies the way in which an informal network of professional women can develop alternative dissemination formats for digital educational content. FemTechNet is an interdisciplinary and transnational network formed by women feminist scholars, educators, and artists mainly from North America, also Europe and Asia. Aiming to apply feminist principles to online education content on gender and technology, FemTechNet created in 2013 the DOCC, a feminist approach to collaborative open formats for online education, especially focused on feminism, new media, and liberal arts. While new formats of massive online courses perpetuate old patterns of hierarchical educational structures, this network aims to promote open pedagogic and inclusive content off and online by the collaboration of the different nodes implicated internationally. This chapter explores FemTechNet principles and methods that made from it a unique network that has successfully addressed contemporary problematics on open accessible content online.
Chapter Preview


In the last decades, universities and academic centers have experienced a revolution in methodologies and formats due to the impact of the Internet and digital tools in their classrooms. Internationally, most universities have designed virtual courses which have been implemented to their ordinary content. In many cases, the same institutions have developed online content by implementing new digital formats to existing courses. Capitalized and digitalized societies have adopted new policies regarding e-learning and the importance of adapting new technologies to the contemporary education environments. New platforms dedicated to these purposes have started to appear, supported by courseware companies linked to the most notable universities, offering virtual courses by acclaimed experts and professionals, drifting in popular formats like MOOC. MOOC are massive online open courses, which have been pointed for having signified a step forward in open digital education cross borders. Educators have also started to use social networks to disseminate their content or create group dynamics based on communication, for example YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. All these emerging formats have been defined as collaborative tools and sources for free open content. Many scholars support this hybridation or mutation of the classical teacher to the digital technologies that students use daily. However, such formats have been critically pointed by feminist scholars for their lack of pedagogical values, prolonging old and male and white-centered educational structures and because of their questionable real change in education towards openness, diversity and accessibility.

Decades before the digitalization of educational and communication content, feminist scholars and educators have developed alternative ways to think pedagogy, concretely since the 1970s. From Arts to Science, feminist theoreticians have proposed new formats for class conception reformulating the relationship between learners and educators, between classes and environment. In 2012, two North American researchers and educators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz established a transnational network, based on their own professional and personal network formed mostly by female colleagues. Through it, they sought to build a better dissemination of feminism and technology-related content. Balsamo and Juhasz came up with the idea of designing a feminist online course via an open collaborative platform. The resulting project was called Feminist Technology Network: FemTechNet, an interdisciplinary network with professionals from diverse but connected disciplines such as: liberal arts, new media arts, feminism, technology, communication, women studies, humanities, etc. Such project aimed to improve the use of new technologies for online education from a feminist pedagogical perspective and to create feminist historiography. Critics of the emerging MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), they developed an innovative format based on feminist pedagogical principles: the DOCCS. An open collaborative format that started to be used in different classrooms from different institutions in the United States by the members of the network. It ended up creating the “Feminist Dialogues in Technology” with a wide range of courses on feminism and new media, arts, ethnic studies, etc., which later developed in a series of courses and real events collaboratively organized.

Since 2012, FemTechNet network grew rapidly, involving several universities from but not limited to the United States of America and Canada, also UK, Germany, Spain, and countries in Asia. The first results of their innovative format were quickly evident: high engagement of students, a notable feedback by the students enrolling the courses and several nodes in five continents. The conceptual framework that supports the praxis of the project is clue. Concepts that are pillar in the DOCCS are: network, distributed, openness, collaboration, improvisation and (dis)course. Their range of formats was quickly extended, opening a Facebook group with more than 2,000 members today, a Slack channel for private communication and organization, conferences and personal encounters, wiki storming, publications, etc.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Idiosyncrasy: Particularity or habit in a personality that characterizes someone.

Cyberfeminism: Social and artistic practices on the net with feminist ideological content.

Open Education: Education that does not require traditional academic admission and follows non-traditional formats, generally promoted online.

Courseware Companies: Companies that develop educational software to be used in schools and colleges’ computers.

Digital Hybridation: Blending analog with digital methodologies.

Liberatory Pedagogy: Pedagogy of liberation and social change based on consciousness raising and affiliation with oppressed collectives.

Learner-Centered: Education methodology that shifts the center of the structure from teacher to students.

Digital Mutation: Change from analog to digital type.

Transdisciplinary: Research strategy based on the intersection of many disciplines’ methods or approaches.

New Media Arts: Art practices that use digital media formats of technical expression.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: