Storytelling and reflection in North American curriculum: discussions and readings

by Melissa Shaquid Pirie, Gail Ring


Storytelling and reflection in North American curriculum: discussions and readings

~ Discussion and Readings ~

MARCH 18th 2022
Melissa Shaquid Pirie
Gail Ring


Inspired by discussions at this year’s AAC&U, we share what we’ve been reading as we dive deeper into ways of using storytelling and reflection in North American curriculum.

At PebblePad we have spent the better part of two decades supporting authentic storytelling and reflective practices. We know that critical autoethnography approaches in educational settings can support educators to invite the holistic lives of our learners into the culture of academy.

The theme of the 2022 AACU Annual Meeting and Forum for Open Learning and ePortfolios was Educating for Democracy and included sessions on topics ranging from liberal education’s role in preserving democracy to The Future of Higher Education and Our Democracy and of course - storytelling.

After attending the event, the PebblePad team were inspired to check out some key publications around the topic authored by the keynote speakers of the closing plenary sessions.

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The Sum of Us

Scholar, author, and renowned expert on the American economy and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Sum of Us, Heather McGhee maintains that racism is at the core of the United States’ most vexing problems. She shares with us that “To a large degree, the story of the hollowing out of the American working class is a story of the Southern economy, with its deep legacy of exploitative labor and divide-and-conquer tactics, going national.” Yet she strives to create a new story of hopefulness when she reminds us that when we “unlock the Solidarity Dividend”, that is when we work together to recast the story is when we see America’s promise. Learn more about Heather’s book “The Sum of Us” here:

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Indigenous People and Mobile Technologies

Then there is Traci Morris, the executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. She has worked with Native American nations, Tribal businesses and Native American non-profits; written a college-accredited curriculum; and has advocated for digital inclusion at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. In her plenary session for the ePortfolio Forum on Open Learning and ePortfolios Traci discussed the digital inequities that exist on tribal lands and how the digital divide in the US relates to the inadequacies of broadband access that disproportionally affect indigenous communities. Like Heather, she makes the case for connection rather than division and argues that expanding internet access can combat this pervasive divide in information access.

Morris’s research and publications on Native American media and the digital divide is focused on Internet use, digital inclusion, network neutrality, digital and new media curriculums, and development of broadband networks in Indian Country. (Her book, “Native American Voices: A Reader,” is a teaching tool utilized in colleges throughout the country). When she accepted her position as American Indian Policy Institute Director she shared that, “From the traditional to the technological, our team will build on the great work of the past and create new policy pathways to remain on the forefront of strategic storytelling.”

Learn more about “Indigenous People and Mobile Technologies” here -

Reflection and storytelling are vital in the process of reaching for democracy in educational settings and beyond.  For those of you who did not have the privilege of attending AAC&U this year, we highly recommend having a look at the respective titles that provided the basis for each of these compelling and important stories.  Happy reading!

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Melissa has two decades of experience working in Higher Education and is a self-confessed addict of problem-solving and innovating. Fortunately for us (and our customers in North America) Melissa's addiction to finding better ways to do stuff makes her a natural in her role as an Implementation Specialist. Melissa lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and you guessed it – spends her free time solving gardening problems (of the permaculture design kind).  

Gail is a great believer in the power of portfolios for learning and has been using them in her teaching and research since her graduate work at the University of Florida. Formerly the Director of the ePortfolio Program at Clemson University, Gail joined the PebblePad team in 2015 as she wanted the opportunity to share her knowledge and passion for the transformational nature of portfolio with a broader audience. Therefore, on any given day, you'll most likely find Gail eulogising all things portfolio somewhere in North America (albeit with a healthy bias towards a rather wonderful portfolio platform going by the name of PebblePad).