My name is Elza Dunkels - @dunkels on Twitter. I am a researcher and teacher educator at Umeå University, in the very north of Sweden. I am 53 years old, mother of four, grandmother of two (and one on the way), cat owner and step-master of many dogs. I will most likely be tweeting about my research, my rich and chaotic family life and Umeå, currently the European Capital of Culture.
My research is not only a source of income; it is also a way of life and, to be honest, my only hobby. I study young people’s internet cultures and adult’s attitudes towards these things. I call myself an expert on young people’s online safety, but I am also interested in net based learning models and informal learning in general. I pride myself in being a children’s rights activist and I think of my research, and my position in Academia as means of giving young people a voice.
Even though I will mostly write about my research, you will probably notice that my family takes up much if my time and thoughts. Ever since we had our first child, in 1985, our family has been priority number one for me and my husband. This kind of attitude would normally stop a woman from having a career in Academia but I was smarter than that. When I started my University career, I was the only female teacher at our department. I had the lowest salary of all, and my habit of leaving work early every second day to pick up my children did nothing to improve this (the Swedish way is to share parental leave and the responsibility for home and family equally between the parents). Because decisions seemed to be made when I had already left work I never got the chance to teach the interesting courses and thereby move forward in my career. But then I became interested in young people’s net cultures and I tried to find research about this, to use in our courses. This was in the late 1990’s and I couldn’t find anything useful. So I turned to my children and their friends, asking them about the internet and their thoughts on safety and learning. Together we created a website which was used as course literature in our teacher education. This lead to me getting funded for doctoral studies and in 2007 I earned my PhD defending my thesis on young people’s net cultures. Today, I have a blossoming academic career, not in spite of having many children, but thanks to it. So, in your face, sexism!
My hometown Umeå is situated 400 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. This means that this time of year the sun is finally returning. Before Christmas we have only a few hours of bleak sunlight every day. The upside is that in the summer, it never gets dark. Up here, you can find people mowing their lawns at midnight.