I started this blog for a course that I am currently taking at the University of Washington Bothell called New Literacies for Digital Learning (BEDUC 476). As a Social Studies teacher and former undergraduate student in the Jackson School of International Studies, I have always been fascinated by studying the way people identify themselves. Do we still identify with our nationality in current times? How do secondary students slowly build their identities? Is 7th grade truly just a period of finding our tribe?

It is no wonder that I am so fascinated by tribes because I also love studying Africa and the Middle East, where tribes continue to rule certain geographic areas despite decades and centuries of outsiders trying to split them up through nation building. Closer to home, even in the United States, we live in a very divisive time where our recent presidential election has divided many of us and I wonder if our grandparents are trying to hold on to their tribe or maintain the tribes that they grew up with? Are teenagers around the world who snap chat with one another really mixing across cultural, racial and gender lines?

In one of our course readings this week for BEDUC 476 we read Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s book Networked: The New Social Operating System. In this book, the first chapter addresses Social Networks. The chapter describes from a Sociological standpoint the rise of social networks through the increased access to the internet. Perhaps we used to meet face to face with our neighbors, our colleagues and our family members. As the pace of our lives increased, people began traveling further distances in shorter time frames, and people move away from their hometowns to work, study and live, many barriers were eliminated and people now live all over the world yet are still connected with friends and families online. The book discusses that as our social contacts have increased, the types of friends or acquaintances we have are now more complex because we socialize in a variety of ways today in various networks.

Simply one reading in my class is not going to answer my questions but still, I find it interesting to ponder that although five-ten years ago we felt that the internet was going to break down so many national, cultural, racial and ethnic boundaries, I wonder if sometimes we are going backwards? Are the social networks that we are creating online mirroring our real life tribes? Are we really meeting people from other social groups on the world wide web?


Arson at Bellevue Mosque Reveals Beauty of Social Media

It was a typical Saturday morning. After feeding, dressing and playing with my kiddos, I took a brain break on Facebook. A friend posted a news article “Fire burns Eastside mosque: one arrested“. I clicked on the link. My heart sank deep into my chest.


I have connections to this mosque although I have never attended. During September and October, I was a substitute teacher at Odle Middle School in Bellevue, Washington. I built strong relationships with my students, many of whom attend this mosque with their families and/or are part of the Muslim community living near this mosque.

Second, I lived and worked in Dubai during the 2009-2010 school year at an all girls American school teaching World History to 9th & 10th grade students. Coincidentally, there was another Seattle native working at this school as a math teacher in the Middle School in the same building. We worked together and I enjoyed conversing with her on occasion. When I moved back to Seattle in 2014, I looked her up. She is still teaching and has kids now. I texted her upon learning about the fire at the Bellevue mosque. She replied and said, WOW! Thanks for your text. I just read the news. It was at this mosque where for three years she studied Islam while converting to Islam. I hated being the barer of such bad news. After exchanging text messages regarding the mosque, we made plans to reconnect since we had not seen one another for over a year (thanks to being busy working Moms)!

Last, the news article describing the details of the mosque burning in the wee hours on early Saturday morning included a link where people could go to donate money, an online fundraiser. On Saturday afternoon, the campaign had raised around $45,000 and checking back on Sunday, the amount was up to $150,000. Community members visited the mosque and many left balloons and flowers.


This sad and tragic news event has made me recognize the beauty in technology. It was through Facebook (social media) that I learned about the event. I immediately connected with my Muslim-American friends in the Seattle area through text messaging to process the event. I witnessed substantial generosity flowing to the mosque and Bellevue Muslim community through online news articles and observed donations pouring in through an online fundraising campaign that I imagine gave immediate hope. All of these tools represent our ability to use technology in a positive light.

*Images courtesy of Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times