Engaging Difference in the Digital Age: Learning with/from Three Somali-Canadian, Muslim, Female YouTubers

  • Diane P. WattEmail author
  • Kayf Abdulqadir
  • Fartousa Siyad
  • Hodan Hujaleh
Part of the Education, Equity, Economy book series (EEEC, volume 7)


This collaborative visual ethnography engages the creative work and perspectives of three Somali-Canadian, Muslim, Black female youth YouTubers. The groundbreaking videos they produce and share outside the classroom speak back to absence in the Ontario High School Curriculum and stereotypes circulating in the spaces of popular culture. In this chapter we highlight examples from their work and argue educators and researchers can learn a great deal from the innovative New Literacies practices youth are engaging in outside of school. Kayf, Fartousa, and Hodan’s videos: (a) provide insights into the lived experiences of youth from marginalized communities; (b) point to the need to reconceptualize teacher-student roles in the digital classroom; and (c) demonstrate the power of youth-produced videos to intervene in critical conversations on difference at the intersections of religion, racialization, gender, social class, and ethnicity. To rethink difference and transform teaching and learning, K-12 teachers, teacher educators, and researchers need to pay attention to how youth are representing their identities and perspectives outside the classroom using digital technologies.


YouTubers Somali-Canadian Muslim Black female youth Critical digital literacy Youth media activism School curriculum Diversity and difference 



Funding for this research was provided by: the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary and the Association of Part Time Professors, University of Ottawa. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided funding for The Critical Digital Literacy Project.

Special thank you to Dr. Patricia Palulis and Dr. Shirley Steinberg for supporting our work.

This project received ethics approval from the Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board at the University of Calgary.

YouTube Videos

Somali Problems.

Three Things You Should Know About My Hijab.

Somali Aabo (Father) Farah Teaser.

Chronicles of a Somali Girl.

Normal Reactions versus Somali Reactions

Hoyoo (Mother) Gives Valentine’s Day Advice

*Kayf, Fartousa, and Hodan’s videos and a teacher’s guide are available on our website.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane P. Watt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kayf Abdulqadir
    • 2
  • Fartousa Siyad
    • 2
  • Hodan Hujaleh
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.YouTuber, Media Activist, Research CollaboratorOttawaCanada

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