Tagged sustainability

Screenshot of University of Mary Washington Libraries Digital Collections homepage.

What Do You Do with 11,000 Blogs? Preserving, Archiving, and Maintaining UMW Blogs—A Case Study


What do you do with 11,000 blogs on a platform that is over a decade old? That is the question that the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) and the UMW Libraries are trying to answer. This essay outlines the challenges of maintaining a large WordPress multisite installation and offers potential solutions for preserving institutional digital history. Using a combination of data mining, personal outreach, and available web archiving tools, we show the importance of a systematic, collaborative approach to the challenges we didn’t expect to face in 2007 when UMW Blogs launched. Complicating matters is the increased awareness of digital privacy and the importance of maintaining ownership and control over one’s data online; the collaborative nature of a multisite and the life cycle of a student or even faculty member within an institution blurs the lines of who owns or controls the data found on one of these sites. The answers may seem obvious, but as each test case emerges, the situation becomes more and more complex. As an increasing number of institutions are dealing with legacy digital platforms that are housing intellectual property and scholarship, we believe that this essay will outline one potential path forward for the long-term sustainability and preservation.

As a leader in what is called the Digital Liberal Arts, we at the University of Mary Washington are facing the unique challenge of archiving our early digital output, namely, UMW Blogs. Started in 2007, UMW Blogs contains 11 years of digital history, learning, and archives. Although we are best known today as the birthplace of Domain of One’s Own, UMW Blogs was a testcase for showing the viability of such a widely available online platform for faculty, staff, and students.

After three years in which Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) staff and a few UMW faculty experimented with blogs in and out of the classroom (Campbell 2009, 20), UMW Blogs launched in 2007. It provided the campus with a WordPress installation that allowed any student, faculty, or staff member to get their own subdomain (e.g. mygreatblog.umwblogs.org) and WordPress site, administered by DTLT. Since then, the 600 blogs of 2007 has grown to over 11,000 blogs and 13,000 users as of 2018! Each site has any number of themes, plugins, and widgets installed and running, creating a database that is exponentially larger and more cumbersome than the user numbers suggest at first glance.

The viability and popularity of a digital platform available to the UMW community convinced the administration that we should be providing faculty, students, and staff not only with a space on the web, but with their own web address, hosting capabilities, and “back-end” access to build on the web beyond a WordPress multisite installation. Domain of One’s Own was born, where anyone with a UMW NetID could claim their own domain name and server space on the web, and where they could install not just WordPress, but also platforms like Omeka, docuwiki, or even just a hand-coded HTML website.

As a result, we now have two “competing” platforms—one legacy, one current—to administer and maintain.

Maintaining UMW Blogs today can be quite a challenge, and as the administrators we frequently alternated between idyllic bliss and mass panic. It’s not very heavily used (most users have moved to Domain of One’s Own instead), but when something does go wrong, it goes really wrong, bringing down every site on the system. And with a number of sites that haven’t been updated since the twenty-aughts, there are many that are poised to cause such problems: too many sites using too many outdated themes and plugins, leaving too many security vulnerabilities, and impacting the overall performance of the platform.

And while there was the initial expectation that the sites would be left up on UMW Blogs forever, the changing nature of the web and our understanding of digital privacy and data ownership has evolved as well. We have an open, online platform featuring works by former faculty and students that are over a decade old, many of which are inaccessible to the original creator of the content to delete. Content they may no longer want on the web. How do we balance preservation and privacy?

Of course, we can’t just pull the plug—well, okay, we could, but for many faculty, this would be unacceptable. Some of our faculty and students are still using UMW Blogs, and many of the sites no longer being maintained are important to our institution and its history—whether it’s an innovative (for its time) course website, an example of awesome student collaboration, or an important piece of institutional history. Former students, as well, may still be using content they have created on UMW Blogs in their job search. We want to ensure the UMW Blogs system works and that those important pieces of our institutional history and students’ intellectual property don’t become digital flotsam.

With that in mind, DTLT in collaboration with UMW Libraries have embarked on a major project to ensure the stability of our legacy system and the long-term preservation of UMW’s digital history. We are going to chronicle some of those efforts, both for the benefit of the UMW community and for those at other institutions who find themselves in a similar situation, or soon will.

Outline of the Problem

UMW Blogs contains some stellar content. A group of students (some of whom are now UMW staff) catalogued historical markers and other landmarks throughout the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania area, mostly from the Civil War, providing important historical context. A student wrote love letters to his girlfriend at another university regularly for several months, leaving her coded messages and invitations to dinner dates (“don’t forget the coupon!”). Two colleges on campus hosted their Faculty Senate sites there. Student government leaders (and campaigns) hosted sites on UMW Blogs. And there are historical sites from many student clubs, activists, and research groups. And who can forget Ermahgerd Sperts, or possibly the most creatively unimaginative username: umwblogs.umwblogs.org.

While most faculty, students, and staff have migrated to Domain of One’s Own (DoOO), there are always those who remain on the the platform they are most familiar with. As a public liberal arts, teaching-intensive institution, many upper-division courses are only taught on a three-year rotation, meaning that course sites built in UMW Blogs remain inactive for two or three years until the course itself is once again offered. While the course sites could (and often eventually are) migrated into DoOO, the way that faculty and students then interact with those sites inevitably shifts, causing some degree of anxiety from faculty members, who thus delay the migration process.

In other words, in the faculty’s mind, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Except, of course, it does break. Often. Leaving their course sites down.

In addition to valuable contributions to UMW history, scholarship, and archives, UMW Blogs also contains about 700 sites that were last updated on the same date they were created. (“Hello, World!”… and nothing since.) A number of sites have “broken” since they were last maintained, mostly as a result of using themes and plugins that have not been updated by their developers to retain compatibility with upgrades to the WordPress core platform. And then there are sites that, while valuable to some at the time, have been neither updated nor visited in a long time. This leaves broken and vulnerable sites, compromising those who are currently using the platform.

One of the challenges we are facing in the process of archiving the sites is the ethos under which the project was created, of openness and experimentation. The original Terms of Service for UMW Blogs reads:

UMW Blogs is an intellectual and creative environment, owned and maintained by the University of Mary Washington’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. Users of the system are expected to abide by all relevant copyright and intellectual property laws as well as by the University’s Network and Computer Use Policy.

Users are encouraged to use UMW Blogs to explore the boundaries of Web publication in support of teaching and learning at the University, with the understanding that UMW may decide to remove at any time content that is found to be in violation of community standards, University policy, or applicable federal or state laws.

As participants in a public Web space, users must also understand that the work they publish on UMW Blogs generally may be browsed or viewed by anyone on the Web. Some features are available to users who wish to protect content or their own identity. Information about protecting content and/or your identity within the system can be found at the following address:[1]

While the TOS capture the ethos and spirit of UMW Blogs and prompt users to think about privacy, they don’t prompt users to address their own IP and copyright. This oversight is partially a reflection of the approach to the Web as open. Nevertheless, it leaves us, now, wondering what we can actually do with student work, former faculty and staff work, group blogs, long-term collaborative projects between faculty, staff, and students.

The intention was always that copyright would remain with the creator of the content (which was made explicit in the Domain of One’s Own Terms of Service). But as we archive sites, we have encountered a number of issues regarding whose permission we need to move these sites into the (public) archive, to which the original creators will no longer have access. This is particularly difficult for collaboratively created sites, where contributors to the site are not owners of the site.

There’s another related issue that has been weighing on our minds. Past members of DTLT (none of whom are still administering the platform) told users that their UMW Blogs sites would be hosted in perpetuity, but that presents a major data ownership and privacy issue. The internet is a different place than it was in 2007. According to Paul Mason, the entire internet in 2007 was smaller than Facebook is today (Mason 2015, 7)! And that’s to say nothing of the changing ways in which we view our personal data, even our public creative work, since GamerGate, Ferguson, and Cambridge Analytica. And as the birthplace of Domain of One’s Own, UMW (and DTLT in particular) has focused increasingly over the past decade on the ownership aspect of writing and working on the web—empowering students to make critical decisions about what they put on the web, what they don’t put on the web, and what they delete from the web.

We’ve also received a number of requests from alumni asking us to remove their blog from UMW Blogs, to remove a specific post they created on a faculty course site, or even to remove specific comments they left on a classmate’s blog as part of an assignment. We are well aware of the vulnerabilities that working in public can create, as well as the ways in which we as people change and grow, leaving behind aspects of the (digital) identity that we once shared with the world.

And so, beyond the need to streamline the platform, we think it’s important that we take the initiative to remove old content from our public platform, and to pass it along to former students and faculty so they can decide what should be public and where it should be hosted.

After everything is archived locally and before anything is deleted from the platform, DTLT will be reaching out to those former students, faculty, and staff, letting them know our plans, and providing them the opportunity (and documentation) to export their data and preserve it publicly or privately, in a place of their choosing. This not only helps those currently on the platform have a better experience, but it helps our former community members once again reflect critically on their public digital identity and take a bit more ownership over their data and what’s done with it.

As proponents of “digital minimalism,” we often tell our students and colleagues that what we delete is as important a part of curating our digital identity as what we publish. We want to encourage students (and faculty and staff) to think about how large a digital footprint they are leaving, and help devise strategies everyone can use to minimize traces of themselves online. And our freedom to delete increases our freedom to experiment. As the attention economy and algorithmically driven content discovery have radically changed the internet since the early days of UMW Blogs, it’s worth rethinking both what we as an institution hold onto, and what we as individuals decide to keep in public venues.

Another challenge was that at the start of this project, we at UMW did not currently have any policies governing data storage, collection, and deletion. Alumni could keep their email addresses, the only time we ever deleted a course in the LMS was when we moved from one to another, and we do not have a enterprise-solution cloud-based shared digital storage space. We were starting from scratch.

The Process, DTLT

We identified over 5000 blogs on the platform that have not been updated since 2015 or earlier, are not administered by any current UMW community members, and have either not been visited at all in the last two years or have been visited less than 100 times in the entire time period for which we have analytics. That means essentially half the platform is inactive and no longer providing benefit to users, but is also open to vulnerabilities or “bit rot,” which can cause problems for the active sites.

However, some of the inactive sites we identified are also important pieces of institutional history. After analyzing the metadata for all 11,333 sites in the UMW Blogs database, we identified a list of over 5000 blogs that meet all of the following criteria:

  • The blog has not been updated since Jan 1, 2016.
  • None of the blog administrators are current members of the UMW community.
  • The site has either not been visited at all in the last two years, or has logged fewer than 100 visits all-time.

We then went through the entire list to identify sites important to our institutional history, as well as course websites that are less than five years old. (Some courses are offered every three or four years, and having relatively recent course websites live can be useful for faculty and students.) These are sites that we either think should be kept on the platform, or—more likely—that we think would be good candidates for UMW Libraries’ new Digital Archive. The latter will create a flat-file archive (a website with no databases or dynamic content, only HTML and CSS code) that will be far more future-proof and less likely to just break one day.

Now, we didn’t visit all 5000+ blogs manually! Rather, we looked carefully at the metadata—site titles, the person(s) attached to the sites as administrators, the administrator’s email address, and the dates the sites were created and last updated. This told us if the site was created by a student or faculty member, and if the site was a course website, collaborative student project, personal blog, etc. We identified almost 300 sites from this collection which we did check manually, often consulting with each other about them, before deciding on the 62 of these 5000+ sites that were important to keep public or submit to the UMW Digital Archive (more on that process below).

In the end, we determined that of the 11,333 blogs on the UMW Blogs platform, 6012 of them were important to keep actively published on the web (including about 50 which would best serve the UMW Community by being frozen in time and preserved publicly before “bit rot” and broken plugins bring them down). The other 5321 blogs, many of which were important in their time, are ready to be removed from the platform.

To be clear, we’re not talking about just deleting them! We are working with our hosting company, Reclaim Hosting, to create a flat-file archive and a WordPress XML export of each of those blogs, which DTLT will retain for 2 years before permanently deleting them. We are also preparing to email the administrators of those sites to let them know our plans so they can download their content before we remove anything from the platform (or, worst-case scenario, ask us to email them the backup archive after we purge the platform). But ultimately, it is important for the health of the platform to streamline the database and focus on supporting the more recent and active sites.

Through this process, we also identified a number of faculty and staff “power users” of UMW Blogs—those people who had more than 10 sites on UMW Blogs or had created a course site on the blog within the last two semesters. Once that handful of faculty were identified, we reached out to them to schedule one-on-one meetings with a member of DTLT to discuss the options for their UMW Blog site: deletion, personal archive, library archive, or migration to personal subdomain.

This was, admittedly, a fraught process for some of the faculty; these sites had become important and significant resources, examples, and case-studies of the viability and ultimate success of working openly on the web. They were sometimes years in the making, informed by countless hours of student and faculty work. To come in and say, “These sites aren’t viable in this space anymore” is intimidating.

One advantage of targeting the “power users” first is that we interacted frequently with these faculty members on a number of other projects, and thus had already developed a relationship with them, not to mention an understanding of their values, their work, and their pedagogy. We decided collectively which DTLT team member would work with each individual faculty member based on past relationships and interactions. We weren’t cold-calling these faculty; we were approaching colleagues with whom we had previously collaborated. Thus, we knew better how to discuss the issues with each individual faculty. While time consuming, we built on our relationships to tailor each interaction to the specific needs of the faculty member, allowing us to better explain and recommend options for their UMW Blog sites.

Explaining that our goal is, in fact, to preserve these websites in a more sustainable format, in order to celebrate and highlight their importance and significance to faculty, is key. We also want faculty to take more control over their data and their sites, understanding better how WordPress works and how the archival process will be of benefit to them. No technology, no matter how advanced, can survive this long without a lot of help, a lot of work, and some hard decisions about how we are going to invest our time, energy, and monetary resources.

We worked with faculty, then, to create a list of sites on UMW Blogs and categorized them based on how they wanted them to be preserved. Once that list was created and finalized, we passed the information along to the relevant people, including DTLT and UMW Archives staff, to make sure that all sites ended up in working order where they were supposed to be. When moving sites to Domain of One’s Own, we often had to replace themes and plugins, so that while the site might not look the way it did when initially created, we tried to ensure it would still retain its original functionality. The static library archive preserved the original link and function of the site in a static file.

The Process, UMW Libraries

UMW Libraries has been archiving the University’s web presence for several years now, primarily with established, automated web crawls and the occasional manual crawl to capture historical context during a special event, such as a university presidential inauguration. Our focus has been on archiving institutional sites, such as the main website, social media, UMW Athletics, or UMW News. Despite this effort, we were often missing the individual stories of the campus community.

We have a fantastic scrapbook collection in the University Archives. Stories from UMW (or MWC) students across the decades. Though students are still creating and donating scrapbooks, many are recording their college experience online, through Domain of One’s Own or UMW Blogs, rather than on paper. We also have detailed records of university business, such as meeting minutes, correspondence, and publications. The vast majority of this information is online today, with blogs or other platforms used to keep notes on committee work or to provide transparency on important campus issues, such as faculty governance or strategic planning. We must be proactive in not only preserving but providing access to these records for future students and researchers.

The UMW Archives appraisal process is an important step in beginning to archive this material. We not only need to make sure that the websites and digital projects we collect fit within our collection development policies, but we must also be confident in our abilities, through both technology and staff power, to preserve and provide access to the material we agree to accept. To help us with this process, we developed a set of criteria for appraisal:

  1. Scholarship that is new and impactful in its field.
  2. Highly innovative technical and/or creative aspects.
  3. Content that complements existing archival collections and subject areas of emphasis.
  4. Content that documents the history, administration, and/or culture of the University.
  5. Unique content that supports the research and curriculum needs of faculty.
  6. Content created, owned, or used by university departments, faculty, or students in carrying out university-related business, functions, or activities.
  7. Compatibility with SCUA’s preservation software.
  8. A faculty member’s statement of support for student-created websites.

This set of criteria will help us work through lists of current websites to determine what would be best suited for the UMW Archives. It is also published on the library website so that faculty, staff, and students can read through the list and determine if their website will be a good fit for the library’s collections. However, even if a UMW community member is unsure of where their website belongs, our hope is that the broad guidelines will encourage them to contact us and start a conversation. Even if a suggested website is not acquired by the archives, DTLT and UMW Archives staff will work with the creator to find other alternatives for migrating or archiving their content.

The lists of current websites that we are combing through and appraising do not contain the thousands of websites that DTLT started with on this project. For example, we removed from consideration sites that were created but never built out, don’t have any content, haven’t been accessed, etc. Other websites were also included because they were listed in previous university publications or suggested by a colleague. Our initial list of potential websites to archive is not all-inclusive, and it will be a continuous process as more URLs are recommended or discovered.

After websites are selected for archiving, the very important step of requesting permission follows. While the University Archives actively archives institutional websites, such as UMW Athletics or UMW Social Media, we feel strongly that we must receive permission before archiving individual blogs, websites, and other digital projects. DTLT and UMW Archives work together to reach out to the community to request permission from all creators and contributors of items that we want to archive. For those submitting archive requests, the copyright permission statement is published on the library’s website so that anyone can read and understand the terms before submission. Even if a faculty member recommends a website for archiving, the student still must provide permission before archiving takes place.

If permission is received to archive a website, the crawling can begin! UMW uses three tools for archiving websites: Preservica, Archive-It, and Webrecorder. Each web crawl is manually initiated by staff and student aides, as well as checked over for quality control after the crawl is complete. The crawl creates a WARC file, which is uploaded in the library’s digital preservation system. A metadata record in the form of Dublin Core is created for each WARC file, which includes creator(s), contributor(s), and two to three subject headings. Library staff used “Descriptive Metadata for Web Archiving: Recommendations of the OCLC Research Library Partnership Web Archiving Metadata Working Group” to help determine metadata guidelines, in addition to local, unique needs (Dooley and Bowers 2018).

The final component to the archiving process is making the archived websites accessible. Once a WARC file is created and metadata is applied, the archival item is published in Digital Collections, the library’s digital preservation and access platform. Users of the platform are able to locate archived websites through search functions that use both metadata and full-text. The websites render within the browser itself, so users can navigate the website as it existed at the time of capture.

Conclusion: Further Challenges, looking forward, plan for it

This is only the beginning of a long process of preserving and protecting our legacy platform, UMW Blogs. The platform was a launch pad for Domain of One’s Own and put UMW on the map for innovative digital learning. At the time, there was no precedent, no best practices, no road map, no rules. Now, we hope the lessons shared in this essay help schools trying to maintain their own legacy, open, digital learning platforms.

Moving forward, we will likely confront similar issues with Domain of One’s Own, particularly concerning what we should preserve in our library archives. We are developing a process for students, faculty, and staff to submit a site for preservation consideration. But given the ethos of DoOO—that the work done on users’ website is theirs to do with as they like—we know there have already been some potentially important sites deleted, as is the prerogative of the user.

How, then do you balance the imperative to save, preserve, and keep digital artifacts of (potential) historical significance with the need for agency, privacy, and freedom of the student, staff, or faculty member to delete, let die, or decay? These are the questions we are now collectively grappling with, and will continue to moving forward.


[1] Much like this project itself is trying to illustrate in the preserving of historic or significant materials that lived online, the original links to these policies and information are broken and the original information is all but inaccessible.


Campbell, Gardner. 2009. “UMWeb 2.0: University of Mary Washington Webifies Its World.” University of Mary Washington Magazine, Fall/Winter 2017. https://archive.org/details/universityofmary33fwuniv.

Dooley, Jackie, and Kate Bowers. 2018. Descriptive Metadata for Web Archiving: Recommendations of the OCLC Research Library Partnership Web Archiving Metadata Working Group. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. https://doi.org/10.25333/C3005C.

Mason, Paul. 2015. Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

About the Authors

Angie Kemp is the Digital Resources Librarian at the University of Mary Washington. She works in Special Collections and University Archives, focusing on maintaining and expanding the university’s digital archives. She also oversees the Digital Archiving Lab, where campus and community members go to collaborate on digital collection projects and preservation. Her research interests include ethics and privacy in digital archives, as well as the long-term sustainability of digital projects.

Lee Skallerup Bessette is a Learning Design Specialist at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University. Previously, she was a Instructional Technology Specialist at DTLT at UMW working digital literacy and Domain of One’s Own. Her research interests include the intersections of technology and pedagogy, affect, and staff labor issues. Her writing has appeared in Hybrid Pedagogy, Inside Higher Ed, ProfHacker, Women in Higher Education, and Popula. You can find her talking about everything on Twitter as @readywriting.

Kris Shaffer is a data scientist and Senior Computational Disinformation Analyst for New Knowledge. His book, Data versus Democracy: How Big Data Algorithms Shape Opinions and Alter the Course of History, will be published Spring 2019 by Apress. Kris also coauthored “The Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency,” a report prepared for the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on social media. A former academic, Kris has worked as an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington and has taught courses in music theory and cognition, computer science, and digital studies at Yale University, the University of Colorado–Boulder, the University of Mary Washington, and Charleston Southern University. He holds a PhD from Yale University.

Empowering Local Women through Technology Training: A Sustainable Income-Generating Model in Hyderabad, India

Ioana Literat
USC Annenberg School for Communication



In an effort to increase the local sustainability of a digital storytelling program in Indian public schools, the author piloted a professional development program to train young Muslim women and employ them as digital storytelling teachers in all-female public schools in Hyderabad. Drawing on this experience, and on interviews with the trainees and their fellow teachers, this article discusses the elements contributing to a critical participation gap in terms of Muslim women’s acquisition of digital skills, education and employment, and outlines the potential benefits of such locally sustainable training programs. The article concludes by presenting a set of best practices and lessons learned, which will hopefully facilitate a better understanding and implementation of digital training programs for women in Muslim communities.



Before starting my doctoral studies, I worked in Hyderabad, India, as the field coordinator of The Modern Story (TMS), a non-profit organization that teaches digital storytelling to children of daily wageworkers from traditionally underserved religious and caste minorities. Through extensive fundraising, TMS donates cameras, computers, and multimedia equipment to public schools in India, and places young college graduates from all over the world as digital storytelling instructors in these classrooms. The young instructors – called TMS fellows – teach these students (aged 12-14) how to use photography and video to create and share stories of personal, social, and environmental relevance. The students select the topics themselves; past topics for these video projects have included educational opportunities for women, healthy nutrition, child labor, traffic safety, marriage and life choices, pollution, and other various issues that affect the students and their communities.

Figure 1. The Modern Story digital storytelling program, in the words of its students, fellows and teachers


In order to increase the local sustainability of the project – which was one of my main objectives as field coordinator – I piloted a professional development program whereby we recruited disempowered young Muslim women from the Hyderabad slums, trained them in digital media-making and, upon completion of the training process, employed them as digital storytelling teachers in all-female public schools in the city. Drawing on this training experience, as well as on interviews with the trainees and their fellow teachers in the pilot stage of the program, this article explores the social and cultural complexities associated with implementing such technology-based pedagogical initiatives for women in Indian Muslim communities. I will discuss the socio-cultural and economic elements contributing to a critical participation gap in terms of Muslim women’s acquisition of digital skills, education and employment, and outline the benefits that such tech-based training and employment interventions bring to the various social groups involved in the educational process. Finally, I will devote the last part of the article to presenting a set of best practices – as well as challenges, or lessons learned – that will hopefully facilitate a better understanding and implementation of future digital training programs for women in Muslim communities.


The Digital Training Process

Rationale and Genesis

Henry Jenkins (2006) identifies the “participation gap” as a principal challenge to the acquisition of digital skills and new media literacies, noting that this problem is particularly acute in economically or socially disempowered communities. Indeed, the participation gap goes beyond the scope of the oft-cited digital divide, and is described as the inequality of access to the full range of “opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow” (Jenkins et al. 2006, xii). In this research community, we most often talk about the participation gap in terms of the students’ acquisition of digital and information communication technology (ICT) skills, and yet, in my personal experience working in education in developing countries, I have found that it similarly applies to teachers as well, and especially to female educators coming from disempowered or underprivileged communities. Indeed, young female educators like our TMS trainees are subject to the same inequality of access that characterizes their students, and are most often denied the professional development opportunities that would allow them to take part in meaningful communities – digital and non-digital alike – and to cultivate the digital skills that they hope to pass on to their students.

Our initiative focused on Muslim communities at the expense of other social groups in Hyderabad, because of our understanding that women in these communities face a much wider array of obstacles in their personal and professional development. We believed that these women would thus benefit to a greater extent from a boost in self-efficacy and empowerment, as well as mastering practical ICT skills that would enhance their autonomy, social participation and future job marketability. Due to cultural restrictions limiting their mobility and their interactions with men, young Muslim women in the impoverished inner-city areas of Hyderabad do not usually get to benefit from ICT training programs or professional development opportunities. Instead of pursuing further studies or specializations, the vast majority of these young women take up full-time domestic work and handicrafts such as silk embroidery or jewelry-making, usually within the confines of their homes.

Since TMS had not worked with these Muslim communities before and thus had no direct experience with this group nor established relations of trust with the larger community, we were fortunate in finding an early partner in Technology for the People (TFTP), a Hyderabad-based NGO with a long track record of working with young women in inner-city Muslim areas. A paragon of social innovation, TFTP showcases the potential of capitalizing on the target population’s existing practical skills in order to help them gain new media literacies and digital skills. The organization taps into the creative potential of young Muslim women (aged 16 to 22), who are skilled in Henna tattooing and silk embroidery, by using this propensity for visual creativity and design to train them in multimedia software, digital design, and animation as a strategy of social and economic empowerment. Identifying our strikingly similar core values and objectives, TMS and TFTP collaborated to devise a symbiotic training and employment program that simultaneously aided two underserved population segments (young Muslim women and, respectively, female public school students), with a focus on education and job placement as closely linked processes.



The intensive month-long training module was designed to accomplish two main goals: the mastering of digital production skills (which included both hardware and software) and, respectively, the acquisition of pedagogical skills that would allow the young women to function as successful digital storytelling instructors in public schools.

Our first task was made considerably easier by the fact that TFTP had already offered these women practical training in graphic design, animation, and web design basics. As such, in terms of software, the young women were comfortable working in CorelDraw (for graphic design), 3DSMax (for 3D modeling), Flash (for animation), and basic HTML (for web design). Their experience with these programs translated, importantly, into an overall familiarity and intuitiveness with multimedia software in general, which could then be channeled into the specific area of digital storytelling production. Therefore, in addition to these extant skills, during their month-long TMS training they learned how to operate audiovisual hardware (specifically: digital cameras, video cameras, tripods, microphones, and other multimedia accessories), and how to use relevant software (primarily, Photoshop and PowerPoint for photography projects, and Windows Movie Maker[1] for video storytelling).

The other key objective of the training module was to address the pedagogy of implementing such curricula in secondary schools. None of the trainees had any pedagogical experience, and our aim was to make them feel confident and comfortable in their role as teachers. We discussed the cornerstones of successful teaching – such as mutual respect, patience, and investment in students’ interests – that can be applied across disciplines and subject areas, but we also addressed, in more specific terms, the pedagogical requirements of digital storytelling programs. We talked about the elements of a good story and the transformation of narratives into digital stories; we discussed what makes an effective assignment, and how to encourage and guide students to convey the stories and topics that they find relevant in an audiovisual format.

Perhaps the most significant challenge during the training process was the language barrier: the training module was in English because the digital storytelling program that they would be teaching is in English as well, and is meant to simultaneously hone the students’ English-language proficiency in addition to their digital skills. However, at the beginning, the young women felt highly self-conscious about their English abilities, especially in front of me, a foreign trainer. Thus, a considerable amount of effort was devoted to encouraging them to express themselves assertively in English, and, by the end of the training, most of them had overcome their shyness with the language and were speaking it confidently.

To assess the effectiveness of the training program and to gauge their comfort as digital storytelling instructors, I designed two final assignments that all trainees completed. The first assignment was to create a digital story, using their newly acquired hardware and software skills. The young women chose to focus this digital story on the educational activities of TFTP and their training in graphic design at the TFTP center. The resulting video story – conceived, written, filmed, and edited entirely by the trainees – is embedded below:

Figure 2. The young women’s first digital assignment: A video introduction to Technology for the People (TFTP)


The second assignment was meant to assess their pedagogical skills, and determine whether they felt confident in teaching these skills to younger students. For this assignment, we identified a local orphanage that was in need of volunteer instructors and whose children would benefit from an introductory course in digital media-making. The young women then did a week of practical training at this orphanage, teaching an abbreviated digital storytelling course to a cohort of around twenty children. They taught the children the basics of using digital cameras and video cameras, although time did not allow for an in-depth video editing tutorial. The novice teachers really enjoyed working with these children, and the feeling was certainly mutual: when the women left, on their last day of teaching, the children were mischievously blocking their way out, saying “Don’t go, sisters, teach us more!”


figure3-ioana-JiTP-e1406222581847Figure 3. The TMS trainees showing the children how to use digital cameras, as part of their practical training at a local orphanage


Throughout the training process, the young women proved to have a deep yearning for learning and self-betterment and often had to overcome substantial obstacles to attend the TFTP and TMS training sessions: many of them commuted for hours by bus to reach the center, and many had to defy their families in order to continue with the professional development program. But in spite of the women’s desire and drive, we had a difficult time recruiting trainees in these patriarchal communities, and convincing their families to allow them to commit to a year of employment as teachers proved to be an even harder task. Therefore, following the training phase, we selected two young women – Asma (age 19) and Neha (age 20) – to participate in the pilot employment program at the secondary schools, on the basis of their commitment to the training, their heightened interest in teaching, and, last but not least, their families’ willingness to let them follow through with a year of employment in public secondary schools. Following the procurement of written permissions from their families, Asma and Neha signed a one-year contract – which, given their enthusiasm and excellent performance, has since been renewed every academic year – and were placed in an all-female public school to work as digital storytelling instructors alongside our own TMS foreign teachers.

Together with the foreign TMS fellows, the young Muslim women teach a digital storytelling curriculum focused on the acquisition of ICT and multimedia skills, as well as English language proficiency and an understanding of social justice issues affecting the students’ communities. The course begins with a theoretical exploration of storytelling (oral, written and digital) and of the elements of a story. Once this foundation is laid, the students are taught how to use digital cameras, upload and manipulate photographs, and use these pictures to create stories, primarily in Microsoft PowerPoint. After they master the photography module, the remainder of the course focuses on using the video camera to create and share more complex narratives around topics of personal, social or environmental significance. Some of the practical video skills they learn are: conducting interviews, recording voiceovers, filming via specific camera angles, editing sound and video, uploading footage, publishing and sharing digital stories. As an illustration of their work, the video below, produced under the supervision of Asma and Neha, addresses the topic of what it feels like to be a young girl in today’s India:

Figure 4. “Who We Are: Being a Girl in Modern India”: A digital story produced by the students of Railway Girls High School, Hyderabad.


Benefits for All

Teaching these young Muslim women how to use technologies of such current relevance and to hone their digital skills is an enormous step forward in their individual empowerment, professional development, and economic independence. However, the manner in which the training and employment program is designed extends the range of social benefits to the other groups involved in the process as well, enhancing the potential for positive change at a variety of levels. Thus, the women’s involvement in this program also benefits, as I shall explain in this section, the young secondary school students, the TMS fellows, and – through a significant ripple effect – the women’s Muslim communities as a whole.

For the young teachers themselves, perhaps the greatest benefit that comes out of this experience is the newfound feeling of self-efficacy and empowerment that they derive from meaningful employment. According to Bandura (2009), self-efficacy is an individual’s needed confidence in his or her own skills and abilities to implement specific prosocial behaviors. In the case of these young women, it emerges from the confidence and fulfillment they derive out of putting their new skills to practical use in the classroom and beyond, and succeeding in this endeavor. Given their lack of pedagogical experience and their young ages (at 19 and, respectively, 20, Asma and Neha are by far the youngest teachers at the school), they were initially quiet and subservient, refraining from contributing to lesson planning or making conceptual suggestions and, instead, merely offering to help translate for the foreign teachers and to provide technical assistance to the students in the computer lab. Soon enough, however, Asma’s and Neha’s increased sense of confidence in their abilities as teachers became apparent both in their general manner and speech in the classroom, but also in their desire to take on more and more responsibilities as their first semester went on. They began by teaching sections of the class, and then moved on to crafting original lesson plans and providing feedback and instruction entirely on their own.

Participating in the training program and then pursuing regular employment made these young women fully aware of their own capabilities, while encouraging them to dream bigger, and have greater aspirations for their future. Kara and Ilana, the two American TMS fellows who first worked with Asma and Neha in the classroom, had a first-hand perception of this gradual transformation. “Their ambition, already high, seemed to find a footing that reached out, as well as inwards,” said Ilana (Millner 2011). And Kara agreed: “Asma and Neha are both strong women to start with, but their work with TMS creates a particular role to identify themselves in. They very much recognize themselves as capable and experienced teachers, which only increases their strength and drive to build fulfilling lives for themselves while also supporting their families” (Newhouse 2011). Neha now wants to stay in the teaching field and continue as a computer studies instructor in public schools, while Asma wants to work in IT and animation.

By participating in this training and employment program, the young Muslim women gained digital skills and English language proficiency, two essential ingredients enhancing their future perspectives and career marketability. It is important to note that these women understand the relevance and necessity of new technologies and digital media, both on a personal level and in terms of regional and national development. They also understand the value of educational initiatives promoting these skills and knowledge. Speaking about digital media education, Neha considers it to be “very important for the future of our country,” and wants to avoid falling into the participation gap: “in a few years, everything will be done on the computer and if you don’t know how to do it, you will have a big challenge….When I will have children, I will of course teach them about computers and media, because I want them to be successful and creative,” she adds, and this is perhaps the greatest indication of the value she places on this educational current (Nuzhath 2011).

However, there is a risk of overemphasizing these practical skills at the expense of other consequential changes in their personal development and social behavior. As such, one must not underestimate the significance of the social and emotional learning (SEL) they underwent as a result of their exposure to this program. The SEL framework is based around the development of five core social and emotional competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making (Durlak et al. 2011). Because of the conservative nature of their communities, these young Muslim women in Hyderabad had lived sheltered lives, where interaction with men, foreigners, and representatives of other religions, castes, and social classes was limited. Working for TMS, they came into contact, in a safe and culturally respectful setting, with male teachers, foreigners from Europe and the United States, young Indians from other cities and provinces, Hindus, Catholics, Buddhists, and many other cultural and religious varieties. By interacting with these diverse groups, Asma and Neha gained relationship skills – in Asma’s own words, “learning how to communicate with others” (Allaudin 2011) – as well as an important sense of social awareness and self-awareness, including a better understanding of themselves and their own social roles and potential. This inter- and intra-cultural exposure is vital for their empowerment; by being exposed to different lifestyles and outlooks beyond their immediate community, the women gain a wider perspective and eclectic knowledge.

The financial aspect of this opportunity is also consequential, facilitating an enhanced sense of empowerment and personal autonomy. Specifically, by pursuing this type of employment, which brings a secure monthly income, they can contribute to their families’ welfare in ways other than performing domestic chores and craftwork. And, as the foreign TMS fellows observed, while in Western cultures, success is often associated with breaking the financial ties with one’s parents and extended family, in these women’s communities, success is measured in the ability to contribute to the family’s economic welfare (Millner 2011; Newhouse 2011). Neha, for instance, says she uses most of her paycheck to help out with her younger brother’s tuition and her nephew’s educational needs. The rest, she saves up in order to buy a laptop for herself. Beyond direct contributions to their household welfare, having a sustainable personal income offers them a further degree of economic freedom, confidence, and social independence within their communities, and also allows them to have a greater say in their households regarding issues such as pursuing higher education or postponing arranged marriages. In addition, holding a regular job and administering their own money also teaches them the vital SEL skill of self-management, all the more valuable for their development since these women had never been employed before and seldom traveled alone across the city.

Because of the patriarchal norms that characterize these young women’s conservative Muslim environment, their families often prohibit them from working in the commercial media and animation industries, as that would require being in public spaces around men. Our project aimed to work around this social prohibition by providing the young women with jobs that are seen as highly respectable for women: teaching in all-girls government schools. Thus, beyond their vocational and professional development, the training greatly enhanced their social status in their communities, as they learned to act as role models to the younger generation of girls in these traditional Muslim neighborhoods. “In my community and my family, this has changed everything,” says Asma. “Before, they were behaving with me like a regular person. But now, they are behaving differently and respecting me more, for being a teacher and teaching at a public girls school, especially in a foreign organization. They say, ‘she is something now, she is a teacher!’” (Allaudin 2011).

The collaboration with these local Muslim women had significant benefits for the foreign TMS fellows as well, both inside the classroom and outside of it. In the classroom, the presence of local instructors like Asma and Neha proved to be an enormous help for the TMS instructors, who could now share teaching and supervision responsibilities with these women. Because of the technology-intensive digital storytelling curriculum, instruction worked best when the class could be broken down into three or four smaller groups or stations, each led by one teacher: thus, while one group is researching on the Internet, another can be filming an interview, while yet another group can be editing the footage recorded the previous day.

It is clear, furthermore, that these young women have specific skills and attributes that the foreign teachers do not possess. Beyond the obvious language skills – helping to translate tricky words and concepts from English to Hindi and vice-versa – that often facilitate the students’ comprehension and their interaction with the foreign teachers, local instructors like Asma and Neha also have a consequential sense of cultural understanding and are able to contribute culturally-specific ideas for homework, projects, and class activities. For instance, being familiar with the annual calendar of Indian festivals and holidays, they can ask the students to draw parallels between class themes and upcoming cultural rituals and celebrations; or, using examples from the girls’ favorite Bollywood films, they can launch an important discussion about female body consciousness that the students can understand and relate to. Finally, their ability to engage the girls and to joke with them is really useful in helping make the classroom a comfortable, safe space for the students, especially in the first weeks of the digital storytelling course.

The benefits of this collaboration for the TMS fellows extended outside of the classroom as well, as the friendship with the young Muslim women enhanced their cultural immersion and facilitated their adjustment in this new and unfamiliar environment. “They were really eager to be our friends, and we were eager to be theirs, so our relationship was mutually beneficial,” said Ilana, the American TMS fellow working with Asma and Neha. She adds, “Working with these young women was a key part of my experience in Hyderabad, and definitely a huge reason why Kara and I were successful teachers at [the school]” (Millner 2011). Kara, her fellow teacher, agrees. “Seeing Asma and Neha build engaged and fun relationships with the students (in ways that I couldn’t because they shared a language and culture) as they themselves learned non-traditional educational methods was one of the most inspiring aspects of the fellowship” (Newhouse 2011).

What is more, these local women proved to be an important point of support for the foreign teachers in Hyderabad. They were eager to show the TMS fellows around, and to make sure that they are safe and comfortable in Hyderabad; in Neha’s words, “we are all part of the TMS team and we have to take care of each other” (Nuzhath 2011). They were also instrumental in providing continuity and an established support system for each batch of new teachers – since the TMS fellowship consists of only one school year, and new fellows are selected annually. In addition, TMS will be working with these “veteran” local teachers to recruit and train more local staff from these Muslim communities. As such, Asma and Neha are a great resource in identifying future digital storytelling teachers from their own social circles and training them in the curriculum, by sharing their technical knowledge and pedagogical experience gained thus far in the program.

For the students they are teaching at the all-girls school, the involvement of these young women from the Hyderabadi Muslim communities was a defining aspect of the digital storytelling program. In addition to making the classroom environment more comfortable through their familiar presence, they serve as role models for the young girls, in a social milieu where women coming from their disadvantaged backgrounds do not have many training or employment opportunities of this type. Their ambition and eagerness to learn is an inspiration for these 12- to 14-year-old girls, and the women’s personal experiences can make a significant and positive impact on their students’ future life choices. For instance, when Asma and Neha led a class debate on arranged marriage, it was a profoundly significant moment for the girls, and a lesson that could not have been achieved with the same efficiency and emotional impact by the foreign teachers, who are outsiders to this practice. Furthermore, unlike the TMS fellows, who come and go every academic year, these local teachers, who live in Hyderabad on a permanent basis, represent a stable support system and provide lasting mentorship, maintaining a close relationship with their students and encouraging them, beyond secondary school, to make responsible decisions and to continue their education.

The same role-modeling process is taking place in these young women’s Muslim communities as well, albeit in a more indirect manner. Asma and Neha, for instance, are the only young women in their immediate community who have a regular job that does not involve domestic work or handicrafts. Their involvement with digital technologies and their mastery of these skills is seen as extraordinary and unique; they report receiving a lot of questions from the other girls in their neighborhoods about the experience of employment and of working with computers, multimedia and new technologies. Asma says, “The girls on my street always ask me about my job, and they say ‘Sister, how is it to work?’ and ‘Sister, what kind of job do you have? …Are you working in a government school? …How can we learn computers?” (Allaudin 2011). By setting a positive example in their community and sharing their experiences with their peers, these young women can be a powerful force for change and, in time, stimulate a feeling of collective efficacy in these communities. According to Bandura (2009), collective efficacy is the degree to which individuals within a system believe that they can effectively organize and carry out courses of action in order to achieve collective goals. While collective efficacy is a systemic change that happens in a longer timeframe and with more difficulty than self-efficacy does, the ripple effect of these women’s behavioral and attitudinal modeling in their communities is a promising first step toward a significant communal change.


Challenges and Best Practices in Digital Pedagogy Training with Muslim Women

These young women’s experiences have the potential to teach us some critical lessons about the implementation of ICT training programs in Muslim communities, so this final section will focus on discussing the challenges and lessons that can be drawn from this initial experience. First, what this example demonstrates is the need for professional development programs in underprivileged Muslim communities to be preceded by a comprehensive preliminary research process that properly identifies the causes of the participation gap, and then works to address these specific factors. If we are to analyze the root causes of the participation gap in the case of our initial batch of trainees, three principal factors emerge: socioeconomic status, gender, and cultural restrictions. The latter two, however, are intertwined, given the patriarchal nature of traditional Muslim communities. Indeed, one of the most pronounced themes in conversations with Neha and Asma was their difficulties in reconciling their own aspirations with the traditionalism of their families and community. During the initial TFTP training, for instance, one of the women was so determined, that she even went on a two-day hunger strike when her father forbade her from continuing with the training. While the decision to go to such extreme measures in order to reach their educational goals adds further testimony to these women’s strength and dedication, such actions simultaneously represent a worrisome threat to their wellbeing. Therefore, knowing that cultural restrictions play such a critical part in these women’s ability to follow through with the training, it is important to involve their families in the training process and to speak to the parents, brothers, or husbands personally, providing them with detailed information and assurances about the nature of the program, so that the women will not have to face this obstacle alone. Given our own hardships concerning the reticence of the families to allow them to pursue employment, this experience has taught us that there is a consequential need for programs like ours to work with the young women’s families and make sure they understand the safe, culturally respectful nature of the program and the significant benefits that it brings to their futures.

It should be clear that training must always be free of cost and feasibly accessible via available means of transportation. Moreover, when employing the women in official teaching positions in the aftermath of the training, it is important, even when funds are limited, to offer some kind of recompense. This recompense can take the form of a regular salary, or some other kind of material incentive, such as meals, IT/digital equipment, etc., in order to boost the young women’s independence and self-efficacy and to ensure that the families will let them pursue this employment opportunity in lieu of domestic work. Similarly, special care must be taken in order to ensure that both the training circumstances and the work environment are culturally respectful and in line with the behavioral requirements of the target population. For instance, the presence of male teachers or male students may be seen as culturally inappropriate, threatening or intimidating; thus, an all-girls school may be more desirable as an ideal working environment than a co-ed school, since this choice would be respected by the women’s families and would also enable them to act as role-models for the younger girls.

Another critical function of the formative research process is to identify potential community partners that can facilitate in the recruitment of the trainees and the establishment of trust relations with the target population. This is especially important in cases where the training organization has not worked before with Muslim communities in that area and therefore has limited knowledge of the specific obstacles that may prevent their participation in the program. By finding the right community partners and developing clear terms of collaboration, both for the short term and the long term, the training organization can thus use this formative research stage to develop flexible, cause-tailored solutions that will help ensure the sustainable success of the program.

Prior to the start of the training process, the organizers should also identify the baseline skills that the participants need to bring to the table, in order to better build on these existing competencies, passions, and inclinations. Once the TFTP trainers found out, for instance, that Asma is very visually-inclined and talented at drawing and design – as a result of her work with silk embroidery and henna tattoos – they decided to start with animation and 3D modeling, since these activities would be more enjoyable and also more accessible to her as a starting point. It is also vital to make the learning process highly transparent: when they made this decision about animation and 3D design, the trainers explained this rationale to Asma and she therefore understood this progression.

Once the training is over and the trainees successfully complete their final requirements, in order to fully facilitate their sense of self-efficacy, they should be allowed to have a high degree of autonomy in the classroom, as long as support systems are in place. The fact that Asma and Neha were trusted with coming up with their own ideas for projects or lesson plans, but could always call on the TMS instructors for help, gave them an immense amount of encouragement and self-efficacy. And while their young age seemed to be an obstacle in the beginning, it proved that it could actually facilitate collegial pedagogy – a non-hierarchical, participatory mode of learning – in the context of a digital storytelling classroom (Soep and Chavez 2010).

In terms of professional growth, however, Asma’s and Neha’s example – as well as my daily experiences working in education in India – certainly point to the need to move away from the foreign model of centralized, nonprofit educational programs and toward more locally sustainable professional development programs that allow these young people to craft a rewarding, and autonomous career path leading to an independent future. Therefore, training local educators in underprivileged or disempowered communities to learn and teach digital skills can alleviate the participation gap that is hindering their personal and professional development, while simultaneously building local sustainability and ensuring a scalable implementation of the program in the future that avoids overreliance on foreign management and coordination.



Ultimately, what Asma’s and Neha’s case best illustrates is the concept of empowerment, and the relationship between the ICT training, self-efficacy, and collective efficacy. Their sense of empowerment and newfound confidence is apparent in their very words; they really did find their “voices,” and I am not only referring to their new style of “talking like a teacher.” During their training, I got to know these young women well, and I am simply in awe of their strength, ambition, and dedication. They are exceptional young women: unconventional, stubborn, witty, and the most knowledgeable cricket fans you’ll ever meet. But what also sets them apart is their desire to transcend the barriers stifling their development, and their having found the courage and the drive to be, simultaneously, learners and educators, and role-models for an entire community.

For the next multimedia project in their digital storytelling portfolio, Asma and Neha want to make a video report about “differences between girls’ education and boys’ education in Muslim culture.” “We raised this point in our community, asking why people think education is important for the boys but not for the girls, and why the girls can’t work in a job. We would like to ask this to the elders in my community” (Nuzhath 2011). Asma’s and Neha’s strength and self-efficacy will hopefully inspire other women in their community to follow their example and transcend the various obstacles that are stifling their personal and professional growth. With the digital storytelling program in Hyderabad currently expanding as a result of these young women’s initial success, we sincerely hope that the ICT training of more women in the Muslim inner-city areas will bring about a lasting improvement in their future prospects and act as a catalyst of development in their communities and beyond. When asked whether she will continue teaching after she gets married, Neha becomes pensive. “I will have to convince my husband to allow me,” she says. “How will you do that?” I ask. “I will take him with me into the classroom, and show him that I am doing nothing wrong, just teaching children.” She pauses, then smiles. “If I am not able to continue teaching, I will feel something is missing in my life” (Nuzhath 2011).



Allaudin, Asma. August 2011. Personal communication (audio interview).

Bandura, Albert. 2009. “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication.” In Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, edited by Jennings Bryant and Mary Beth Oliver, 121-154. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. OCLC 878705231.

Durlak, Joseph A., Roger P. Weissberg, Allison B. Dymnicki, Rebecca D.Taylor, and Kriston B. Schellinger. 2011. “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions.” Child Development 82: 405–432. OCLC 704625500.

Jenkins, Henry, with Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robinson, and Margaret Weigel. 2006. Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. White Paper for The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Accessed September 2013. http://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF OCLC 820248240.

Millner, Ilana. August 2011. Personal communication(e-mail interview).

Newhouse, Kara. August 2011. Personal communication (e-mail interview).

Nuzhath, Neha. August 2011. Personal communication (audio interview).

Soep, Elisabeth, and Vivian Chavez. 2010. Drop That Knowledge: Youth Radio Stories. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. OCLC 340961369.


[1] Windows Movie Maker was selected at the expense of more powerful video editing software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier, because – due to limited financial and technological resources – it is the most common editing software available in Indian public schools.



About the Author

Ioana Literat is a PhD Candidate and Provost Fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. Her research explores the educational, cultural and transnational aspects of digital participation, with a current focus on crowdsourced art and online creativity. Ioana’s background is in media education. Before coming to USC, she worked as the field coordinator of The Modern Story in India, designing and teaching digital storytelling courses to underserved youth in public schools.

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