After including the GenLit Project in my Experimental Writing course during the Fall 2014 semester, three senior undergraduates remained mesmerized by the perceived novelty of a generative, digital novel. For the following semester all four of us shared our frustrations, questions, and perplexities, which later drove our inquiry into the nature of the novel in its digital future. Many of those started as definitional questions around the confines of a novel while some others were reactionary, addressing why many are fearful of literature’s migration to digital platforms. As it turns out, much of the criticism we read to spur thought on our questions addressed the materiality of the codex in conjunction with literature’s responses to digital technologies. We each read from a corpus of essays I chose and students augmented. With each week of reading we all wrote responses to the ideas we encountered, compiling and rearranging them as our collaborative essay developed. Each section of the essay had a “parent” author that worked to consolidate, develop, and edit more heavily than others in the group. This third of four parts explores how moving the novel from the codex to the digital file displayed over the Internet significantly alters the paratextual features of the novel.

Part 3 — Paratexts in Writing Generative Literature

Literature, like any other cultural expression, reflects the culture that produces it. The text is of that moment and that place. Our current time and place is a digitized, mediated, global space that has so frequently transgressed the boundaries of individual genres, media, of nations and even individual identity itself. Transmedia storytelling oversteps divides between novel and video game, for instance. Academics and cultural critics like Jonathan Alexander and Brooke Gladstone take up the graphic novel as form for informing or teaching the public. Social media practices (not to mention NSA information gathering practices) relocate or blur the line dividing individual and group identity. The computer’s ability to process and produce any number of media (verbal, aural, video, visual) as our functional and defining tool of the era is our model for life. And so, border transgression has become the norm and our culture more bravely steps into the no man’s land between previously upheld categories.

In her essay “Beyond the Book: François Bon and the Digital Transition,” Alison James states that the Internet is not a single medium itself but rather something that “operates a number of crucial displacements in our modes of writing and reading and ultimately alters literary and social practices” (37). Overall, the Web operates in much the same way as the generative literature process, where numerous authors operate these “crucial displacements” in working with or against each other. This moment of transition where the traits of digital and print writing coexist and their evolution and future is still unknown makes for a nervous and awkward time. As James claims, “the coexistence of online writing and the printed book generates multiple tensions…that are symptomatic of a transitional moment in culture” (40). While James is referring specifically to François Bon’s work in this quote, it holds important value for the general scope of literature and new media as well as specifically with our work on the generative, gamified novel that is the central focus of the Generative Literature Project.

Thus far, the Generative Literature Project includes a ‘text’, comprised of the character profiles of the Theopolis College alumni, and the ‘paratext’ created by the surplus of information involving marginal characters. These marginal characters were developed to be contextually related to a chosen alumnus and used to provide insight about the suspects in the Theopolis College realm. In addition to the marginal characters’ profiles are artifacts: chosen symbolic remnants of the relationship between the paratextual character and the textual character. These paratextual artifacts, ranging from items such as old correspondence to relics from previous activities, expand the knowledge of the text to include personal elements, and play a key role in the detective or mystery genre and in creating compelling main characters.

The Generative Literature Project story and the paratextual artifacts used to inflate its personal elements blend the social and the literary. The artifacts reflect the relationship between the alumni and marginal characters, text and paratext, while also providing a navigational tool for the reader in understanding the Generative Literature Project’s central narrative itself, and ultimately, uncovering the murderer. The social intercourse of these characters is the narrative. Building and unraveling these character interactions between the textual and paratextual is the writing and reading process of the Generative Literature Project.

The originators of the Generative Literature Project imagined it as a series of concentric circles with The President of the University, Kadence MackArthur, in the center, the circle of ten distinguished alumni as the inner circle, and the associates, family, friends, and acquaintances of each alumnus forming the large, outer circle. Each student in the class worked on one character for the outer circle and as a class we compiled the alumnus, O Jorgenson. Most of the work of the project was thus developing the periphery of the story. The story is in the peripheral knowledge to be unearthed via the marginal characters. The text, though, is the major plot—Which alumnus/a killed President MackArthur?—while the relationships between that suspect and his or her circle of associates, family, friends, and acquaintances forms the paratext. The paratextual elements serve as navigation for the reader as they progress through the interactive experience, and learn about each alumnus in hopes of discovering the perpetrator.

Relying on paratext to tell a story is not a new take on novel writing; however, doing so to this scale may well become a defining trait of collaborative, generative literature.
In recounting the third primary function of paratext (the first being an interpretative aid to the text and second being advertisements of the text), Dorothee Birke and Birte Christ state, “paratextual elements also have a navigational function in that they guide the reader’s reception in a more mechanical sense, both when approaching the text and when orienting themselves within the text” (316). At its base, paratext enhances, elaborates upon, and aids navigation of the text itself. Text and paratext interact with each other as much as the reader interacts with both text and paratext, respectively. The Generative Literature Project takes up the narrative potential of paratext rather than being satisfied with its navigational role. In fact, there is so much paratext that one can only imagine the final text will form a difficult labyrinth in comparison to more textually centric stories. While paratext may mean to direct or control the reading process, adding too much paratext overwhelms the reading process, turning it into a searching or browsing process. With so much paratext, there is an increased chance of misleading readers by saturating them with directions that could devolve into diversions.

The transition from analog to digital has introduced a plethora of different paratextual elements that are added to modern collections of text. Often it is by replicating the paratextual markers that media remediate new media. Early films included an intermission, replicating a paratextual marker of live performance. Other films included opening sequences of book pages flipping to the beginning of a story. When we transitioned from book to DVD, for instance, we had to know how to navigate the digital text. Birke suggests that even a DVD menu is meant to help “readers”:  “For viewers using this function, it structures the encounter with the text in a way that is reminiscent of the division into chapters in printed books” (72). In addition, DVDs are packaged to appear similar to paper books (71) with various paratext meant for commercial value donning the outer covers and spine of the packaging. Birke comments that “the display may be understood as part of a larger strategy to signal the cultural significance of the artifact” and emphasizing its likeness to literary material in order to aid in reception. These subtle paratextual cues help direct the transition from print codex to digital file, but the Generative Literature Project takes these same functions and uses them in narratively motivated ways.

With the The Generative Literature Project, we are essentially authoring a book (with many other people) in such a way that we won’t be aware of all of the paratext until it is made.  For example, whether we choose to omit or include character Twitter handles — providing another social media outlet for expanding participation and conversation in our generative project — could have a significant effect. Creating a profile for a character, at any time in the process, is simultaneously a paratextual and textual choice now. This fact calls into question whether in interactive, generative literature there is any longer a meaningful distinction between text and paratext. Is the whole text a compilation of paratext? Where is the line drawn at which the story and the text really end, and the paratext begins? Attempting to answer this question only deflects us into a mirror question: Who is authoring this collection of text and paratext? Who decides which is which?

With so many contributors to this compilation of characters and events, the question of authorship in generative literature is difficult to answer. It could be argued that each contributor is an author, or that the creators and orchestrators behind the idea that will later compile the information and intricately connect them into a coherent paratextual novel are the authors. Even the programmers responsible for pulling the project from theory to technological reality or the reader themselves could be considered the author due to the interactivity and choice-based style of reading that will come forth from this endeavor. These blurred borders between creator, author, designer and reader are at play, working for or against each other in the paratextual elements. It’s the navigational choice, the process of working through a generative literature piece based on technology and new media, which affords nearly everyone involved the opportunity to participate as an author.

While this third of four installments included an analysis of paratextual implications in moving from the codex novel to the digital novel, the fourth and final part will consider how the generative nature of the Generative Literature Project impacts the genre of the project: the murder mystery. In this final installment in the series, Elise Takehana, Jonathan Jena, Natasha Rocci, and Matthew Ramsden also touch on the high-low debate surrounding certain literary expression.


This article is the fourth in a series of reports on the Generative Literature Project, sponsored by Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing.

Hybrid Pedagogy uses an open collaborative peer review process. This piece was reviewed by Robin Wharton and Chris Friend.

[Photo, “Childhood”, by Madhavi Kuram licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]

Working in/at Public

Working in/at Public

Digital Pedagogy Lab held its first institute from August 10-14, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. Hybrid Pedagogy sponsored two Fellows to the Institute: Robin DeRosa and Stephen Barnard. The article below is a contribution from Robin DeRosa in response to the Institute and the complexities that Critical Digital Pedagogy raises.


I’m on the plane flying home to New Hampshire from Digital Pedagogy Lab. There’s wifi you can buy on the plane, but I’m going old-school and invoking a time when being 30,000 feet in the air meant you could work in digital isolation. Honestly, it’s not going well. I already miss the #digped hashtag, and the frenetic and hailing way it pulled me away from my own perspectives into richly distracting and challenging new ideas. It’s always tough when we try to reduce the complex of networked communication into the thesis-driven form of an article or summary blog post. But I want to try to offer some thoughts about where we (and it’s a sweeping “we”: on-site participants at the institute; those who Periscoped in or attended Virtually Connecting sessions; hashtag tweeps; friends and colleagues; and readers of this article) might go — where we might need to go — in order to extend the reach and impact of the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute and our own understanding of critical digital pedagogy.

I want to start by talking about one of the keynote addresses from the institute, by Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab. Actually, she wasn’t formally a keynote speaker; it was more like she popped in and talked off-the-cuff with our track for an hour. But sometimes a keynote is born in retrospect, and by the time she finished, it was clear to me that I’d just heard something around which my entire institute experience would cohere.

The story of the professor who sent out one tweet that crossed over a line — and how that tweet turned a tidal wave of ire against her and against the professoriat in general — is one that will be familiar to many of you already. Because of this and other high profile cases in the news, we’re aware of the risks that we take when we, as academics, venture to speak out on hot-button issues. What was lost on me until I heard Goldrick-Rab tell her own story start-to-finish, though, was that she is not fundamentally an activist for free speech or tenure protections. She is an activist for public school. I think the load of vitriol that conservative networks dumped on her through the course of the year has less to do with her twitterrata than it does with her research and policy agendas, which clearly aim to open higher education to a broader public. In this way an irony emerges, as her “public” engagement is what seems to sabotage her work for the public good. Read More

Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing is our experiment in longer-form work related to critical digital pedagogy. For the past year and a half, Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing has been providing editorial and technical support to the Generative Literature Project, which is producing a crowdsourced, gamified digital novel about a murder. Hybrid Pedagogy is publishing a series of weekly updates and reflections about the project, collaboratively authored by several of the student and instructor participants. In this installment, Matt Jacobi and Mia Zamora reflect on the process of creating a character profile for Mike Sterling to support the class’s collaborative mission of bringing to life the character of Dr. Rachel Behar (link to profile on GenLit project site).

Mike Sterling, by all accounts, is a mild-mannered small business owner who lives and works in Theopolis, Maryland, not far from the esteemed college of the same name. Mike runs a small bookstore, which he inherited from his late aunt, specializing in old and rare books. He has a golden retriever named Duck whom he tries to take on runs in the mornings, but he usually ends up sitting on a bench in the park and throwing things to the dog for half an hour before going to open up the shop. The thing about Mike, and Duck, and Theopolis, is that they’re all fictional. Mike, and a cast of other characters who are part of the Theopolis College community, are all products of student work in Mia Zamora’s Writing Electronic Literature course at Kean University, as part of the Generative Literature Project.

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“It’s time to embrace our very human inefficiencies.” Audrey Watters struck a post-digital note as she wrapped her opening keynote on the first day of the Digital Pedagogy Lab 2015 Institute. She reminded the audience that teaching is affective labor, that it requires heart, patience, diligence, and creativity — things which technology fails in its attempts to mimic — and she asked, “What happens to love, to our soul, to our labor as we digitize the world?”

The Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute took place August 10-14 in Madison, WI. More than 75 participants joined three tracks — Praxis, Identity, and Networks — to explore what happens when teaching and learning meets technology. Although educational technology is not new, the Institute asked attendees to step away from their assumptions, to return to “square one” in their approach to digital pedagogy, and to inspect their own role as learners in digital spaces. We expect that many blog posts, articles, and videos will rise up from the work of the week. For now, we’ve collected here the Institute’s keynotes.

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After including the GenLit Project in my Experimental Writing course during the Fall 2014 semester, three senior undergraduates remained mesmerized by the perceived novelty of a generative, digital novel. For the following semester all four of us shared our frustrations, questions, and perplexities, which later drove our inquiry into the nature of the novel in its digital future. Many of those started as definitional questions around the confines of a novel while some others were reactionary, addressing why many are fearful of literature’s migration to digital platforms. As it turns out, much of the criticism we read to spur thought on our questions addressed materiality of the codex in conjunction with literature’s responses to digital technologies. We each read from a corpus of essays I chose and students augmented. With each week of reading we all wrote responses to the ideas we encountered, compiling and rearranging them as our collaborative essay developed. Each section of the essay had a “parent” author that worked to consolidate, develop, and edit more heavily than others in the group. This second installment of four catalogs four major traits of digital narratives we found in play with the Generative Literature Project. Beyond building a catalogue of traits, we compare the Generative Literature Project to other new media texts and look ahead to what this project may look like and how future readers might perceive it.

Traits of the Digital Narrative

The codex form is far from a stable state, but is instead a part of the evolution of humans externalizing their thought. The book is part of humanity’s “becoming,” but we’ve reached a stage where technological revolution, information, and the digital have overflown the book’s border. We don’t imagine the total encyclopedic book anymore, but are becoming more open to the idea of a linked, international prosumer who reads/writes on the Internet. The ready connection and cohabitation of words, image, and sound on the computer too no doubt engendered our increased awareness of the limited expressive capacity of linguistic signs printed on a codex page. Geoffrey Brusatto argues that digital media has altered how the reader interacts with the text. Now the digital reader handles information non-linearly and actively searches for specific information (295). The reader defines his or her own path in the reading and so is less of a passive consumer. This takes the reader (assumed to function by moving linearly through a text) and turns him or her into a user who navigates more like one travels through a dictionary.  In fact, Ellen Lupton states that users want to feel “productive” rather than “contemplative” (295). This is an interesting binary. Are action and thinking then opposites? Perhaps we do both, and maybe a reading experience can exist on a sliding scale. Espen Aarseth has a sliding scale for narrative versus ludic features. Maybe we need to chart the novel based on reader action versus reader thought.

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From Monday, August 10, through Friday, August 14, 2015, Hybrid Pedagogy will host Digital Pedagogy Lab — a five-day practical institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. To celebrate, this episode of HybridPod explores the idea of “digital pedagogy” and asks what it actually is.

Advances in digital technology have become commonplace to the point of being routine. We regularly hear of new developments in hardware, software, or system designs that influence how things get done in modern life. More significantly, though it sometimes seems no less frequently, we hear about major changes in entire industries brought about by the influence of digital technology. For instance, according to Tom Goodwin, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media: Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. (You may have read those comments as they initially circulated on Facebook.) Encyclopedia Britannica, long seen as the standard source for general-knowledge reference material, published its last print edition in 2012, but its content has been available online since 1994. Print-based phonebooks are still produced in many places…but when’s the last time you used one? For that matter, you probably know a few people who no longer have a landline phone (I’m one of those people). In each of these cases, the shape and nature of an industry has been redefined because digital technologies rendered the old way of doing things obsolete.

When something “goes digital”, the way we work with that thing fundamentally shifts. With analogue photograph, an image was recorded on film, and the results couldn’t be seen until that film was developed. One-hour photo processing was a big deal. But with digital photography, an image is captured by computer circuitry, converted to zeroes and ones, and saved to a file. Film developing is mostly a historical relic. With analogue writing, text was recorded on paper, with ink or graphite bonding to the surface. The writing was done by hand or by typewriter, and once something was written, it had to be physically manipulated — think white-out, scissors, or erasers — to be changed. But with digital writing, text is captured by computer keys (or speech recognition), converted to zeroes and ones, and saved to a file. Correction tape and carbon paper are mostly historical relics, to say nothing of scribes. With analogue teaching, classes were… classes were… Hey, wait a second. Have we moved from analogue to digital teaching?

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Exploring Innovation

Exploring Innovation

The 21st-century faculty member is faced with a challenging task.  Content must be relevant, experiential, and engaging for the 21st-century learner.  As such, this places an onus on classroom creativity and innovation.  Hybrid pedagogy has become an avenue for multifaceted instructional strategies and interactive instructional design theoretically enhancing the best of both the physical and virtual classroom spaces.  As administrators clamor for relevance in an evolving education landscape, the concept of a learning space that combines the on-ground and online classroom is appealing.  As an Instructional Designer for Online Projects, and an Assistant Professor, I have a stake in two camps. I am at once an “IT expert” (or that is what I keep hearing, whether or not it is true) and a faculty member. Within each role I have the opportunity to address a variety of audiences, primarily on the subject of teaching and learning.

At a recent meeting I posed a variety of questions to faculty as we strive for classroom innovation. The presentation to faculty was simple. It began with an overview of our technology resources including Moodle (our LMS), the One Button recording studios, a new licensing agreement with Microsoft where our institution can use Skype for Business and Microsoft Video, etc. The presentation then shifted from a here is what we have available “tone” to that of concern. I listed for attendees a variety of questions I often receive from faculty members when I do individual consults centered on moving a course or program online. Faculty, in a variety of contexts, will often ask these questions:

  • Can Moodle handle 2-3 hour recorded lectures? (As an aside, no, the 2-3 request is not a typo and occurs frequently)
  • How do I scan graded papers into Moodle?
  • How do I replicate class discussion?
  • How do I manage seat time/attendance?
  • How do I integrate ____ technology?

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When one is overwhelmed, as everyone must be from time to time, by a sense that School is too firmly implanted ever to change, it is helpful to contemplate the political changes across the globe that were until recently considered quite impossible.” ~ Seymour Papert, The Children’s Machine

In truth, it hardly bears saying any longer: school must change. To pretend otherwise is to ride a wild unicorn into the rainbow sunset of a world where standardized assessments lead to a fuller mind, where grades are — instead of dismissive of inherent learning skills — representative of who learners are and what they bring to their own efforts, and where the increasingly autonomous LMS is a benign wizard with the ability to make each and every learner more fulfilled, more successful, and more empowered. That, however, is not the Education we occupy. In our Education, it is yet possible to turn a blind eye to the pervasive nature of the digital in our own and learners’ lives. It is yet possible to create online courses that are little more than Powerpoint slide decks. And it is yet possible to assign for students measures of success that have no bearing whatever on their capacity to learn on their own, to invest in their interests through connected networks of friends and peers. Our Education resists change, even while our culture has the digital in every corner. Read More

Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing is our experiment in longer-form work related to critical, digital pedagogy. For the past year and a half, Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing has been providing editorial and technical support to the Generative Literature Project, which is producing a crowdsourced, gamified digital novel about a murder. Once a week for the next several weeks, Hybrid Pedagogy will publish updates and reflections about the project collaboratively authored by several of the student and instructor participants. In this third installment, Mia Zamora and Matthew Jacobi reflect on how they learned about, reacted to, and grew from this project.

Photo from Mia Zamora
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This piece is being published to coincide in real time with Adeline Koh’s keynote at Illiads 2015

On a walk last week, my husband asked me what I was going to talk about for the keynote that I’m giving today. I responded that I wasn’t sure yet, but I was considering whether I could fit an activity or two in so that I wouldn’t be droning on at my audience for an hour. His response: “I wouldn’t do that. They are inviting you to show off your expertise. Doing activities would be a cop-out.”

In some ways, my husband was correct: keynotes have an expected format, and that format is to lecture to — or at — one’s audience, to showcase one’s supposed brilliance. Yet everyone who has given serious thought to the mechanics of traditional face-to-face pedagogy knows that the lecture format can be highly problematic. Lectures are non-interactive, meaning that there is little way for lecturers to know whether they are getting across what they intended. Indeed, lectures have sometimes been called the “spray and pray” method: you scatter the seeds of your own knowledge in the hopes that they will actually take root in the audience. Jared Stein notes that this is a “lossy” form of education, using computing terminology to call attention to the great loss of information that occurs during transmission from speaker to learner. Lectures, he says can implicitly “encourage students’ passive acceptance of concepts, or worse, fail to change pre-existing misunderstandings by not directly challenging biases or interpretations.” Indeed, according to a recent study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, passive forms of instruction result in failure rates 55 percent higher than those of active forms of instruction. All this indicates that activities are not cop-outs but actually a good presentation strategy and good pedagogy.

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The serpentine struggle to make a living wage as an adjunct in academe is far from over, and higher education is losing world-class instructors and original contributions to research in the wake. The ivory tower is crumbling under the weight of contingency, and students are suffering the consequences of corporatized higher ed. Increasingly, the commodification of higher ed demoralizes students. With skyrocketing tuition, additional fees, and instructional cuts that impact the quality of education, more and more students question the market value of their degrees, too. Is a four-year degree worth a lifetime of debt and lottery odds of job placement?

Former student Don DuPay tells me candidly:

As each term starts and I join the long line of students waiting for services like funding information, I start to feel like I am enrolled in Walmart U. ‘Take a number! Next! Please wait behind the line for your turn.’ Yes, I feel like a commodity. Then when classes start I realize I am taught by the ‘other’ commodity, the underpaid adjuncts who do all the work. I get an education, yes, but sometimes I feel like I’m waiting in line for a burger. And fries.

DuPay paints a clear picture of what higher ed has become: “Walmart U” funded by federal and private student loans that turn many students into default debtors to the tune of $1.2 trillion in national student loan debt. And Don’s experience is not unique; rather, it’s the new norm. In fact, he knows he will die a debtor. It doesn’t have to be this way, and if more of us demand quality and affordable higher ed, they’ll supply it. So demand it.

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After including the GenLit Project in my Experimental Writing course during the Fall 2014 semester, three senior undergraduates remained mesmerized by the perceived novelty of a generative, digital novel. For the following semester all four of us shared our frustrations, questions, and perplexities, which later drove our inquiry into the nature of the novel in its digital future. Many of those started as definitional questions around the confines of a novel while some others were reactionary, addressing why many are fearful of literature’s migration to digital platforms. As it turns out, much of the criticism we read to spur thought on our questions addressed materiality of the codex in conjunction with literature’s responses to digital technologies. We each read from a corpus of essays I chose and students augmented. With each week of reading we all wrote responses to the ideas we encountered, compiling and rearranging them as our collaborative essay developed. Each section of the essay had a “parent” author that worked to consolidate, develop, and edit more heavily than others in the group. To open our four-part essay, we share our reflections on the theories that supported our thinking.

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This piece first appeared on Educating Modern Learners.


I want to talk about Ferguson. We need to keep talking about Ferguson because if these past 12-24 months have taught us anything (if we have been paying attention) it is that this isn’t going away. If not Ferguson, then about Sandra Bland. If not Sandra Bland, then about Samuel Dubose. If not Samuel Dubose, then Charleston. If not Charleston, then McKinney, Texas. Or Eric Garner. Or Tamir Rice. Or Trayvon Martin.

I could go on. To list all of the racially-motivated killings and other acts of aggression would fill this space, and do nothing except further numb us against this daily reality. And if it didn’t, it would make many of us extremely uncomfortable, confronted with our own privilege and our own complicity.

As educators and school leaders, we can no longer hide behind the privilege of “not knowing.”

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I am a big fan of those educators who have learned that you can use these tools, together with critical thinking, as a means of empowering students to take on their own learning. ~ Howard Rheingold

What Makes an Effective Teacher?

A lot has changed in K-12 education over the last five years: new state standards, new standardized tests, new requirements on teacher evaluations, and more integration of technology. A major challenge to discussing these changes is that everyone seems to have an opinion about what needs to happen in order to improve K-12 education. These well-meaning opinions come from parents, policy makers, educators, students, etc., but, more often than not, they miss the point.

I am honored to teach high school English. As an English teacher, my classes offer students an opportunity to engage big ideas and essential questions that they may not encounter in other courses. For example, within the discipline of English Studies, because of the texts that we read and write, I have a natural opportunity to tackle with students John Dewey’s points about “the democratic ideal.” Dewey emphasizes that the democratic ideal — arguably the point of education — is for a student to “refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own,” and by doing so, dismantle “barriers of class, race,” etc. It is important that this tenet of critical pedagogy stays at the forefront for teachers, but unfortunately the time needed to reflect on such things is often pushed aside for what in the moment seems more pressing, like grading papers and responding to parent emails.

Yet, If K-12 teachers make a decision to approach teaching from a perspective of critical pedagogy, as a heuristic to working out their teaching philosophy, Dewey’s words will remain a powerful influence amidst the daily grind of teaching. Critical pedagogy necessarily introduces students to nuance and complicates dichotomous thinking. In addition, with access to digital technologies that can find and curate different perspectives at the click of a button, it is especially important for students to learn to critically engage multiple points of view. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create an environment where the exchange of ideas is productive. I would argue that this is where seeing teaching as an art is crucial. This is messy work…the work of effective critical pedagogues.

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Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing is our experiment in longer-form work related to critical, digital pedagogy. For the past year and a half, Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing has been providing editorial and technical support to the Generative Literature Project, which is producing a crowdsourced, gamified digital novel about a murder. Once a week for the next several weeks, Hybrid Pedagogy will publish updates and reflections about the project collaboratively authored by several of the student and instructor participants. In this first installment, Mia Zamora and Matthew Jacobi provide an introduction to the project and discuss how it is “generative” as that term has been understood with literary studies.

There is much buzz (and perhaps, confusion) about the notion of “generative literature.”  It is indeed a specific form of literature which challenges some aspects of classical literature.  Frequently associated with the power of the machine (read computer), generative literature is often understood as the production of continuously changing literary texts by means of some set of rules and/or the use of algorithms. From Sanchtv, CC BY-NC-ND Our computers are most certainly capable of generating unexpected ambiguous lexia. There is no doubt today that machines have the capability of producing provocative text (think twitterbots, stir fry mash-ups, digital mad libs). Philip Galanter defined generative art as “any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to, or resulting in, a completed work of art.”

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Teaching Digital Wisdom

Teaching Digital Wisdom

Eliciting both passion and bloviating, the topic of appropriate technology use in the college classroom is sure to spark lively conversation among college instructors. While more and more institutions are requiring at least some use of course management tools like Blackboard and Moodle, instructors still can decide whether to incorporate technology and digital pedagogy into their classrooms. Some choose to give traditional lectures and allow their students full use of laptops and the Internet (see David von Schlichten). Others allow no laptops or cell phones in the classroom (see Hinda Mandell).

Because I study technology and new media, colleagues will often ask about my classroom practices. Their initial questions, though, are exactly that: about practice rather than philosophy, about what rather than why. This serves as my public contribution to the technology-in-the-classroom conversation, though hopefully a contribution supported by more evidence than a typical professorial water cooler conversation (or, I suppose, “coffee pot conversation” may be more accurate in practice). I aim to suggest a pedagogical approach to technology and the classroom that does not stop at whether or how students may access digital devices in my classroom, but seeks also to address why it is important that students critically engage these very questions.
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The Twitter format lends itself to excitement, leaping out, connecting with people over content, not into content, and offers opportunities for people to make what they want of out of journal article reading. It’s one of the reasons the activity has always appealed to me; it fits my desire to DO things with articles, and it makes them seem like they should be accessible, like what would be in a book club on the weekend. It breaks down the distinction between being a learner and scholar for sure. (Laura to Simon, in the #TJC15 Twinterview)

For a lot of reasons, the types of learning and knowledge valued in our world are diversifying. Networked participatory scholarship, which is increasingly carried out on social media platforms such as Twitter, provides opportunities for alternative forms of academic expression: those that do not necessarily fit traditional academic criteria but fulfil professional and personal needs of faculty, students, and researchers anyway. The Twitter Journal Club (#TJC15), an open, unstructured, academic reading group found on Twitter, provides meaningful learning experiences while embracing the holistic and messy nature of learning. Within this space, we — Laura (the group’s creator) and Simon (a frequent participant-observer) — have found room to breathe as well as opportunities to care, in terms of emotional and intellectual engrossment, relational and personal interest, and kindness and mutual respect. As such, we find this alternative, digital approach to academic reading one that engages its participants in uniquely creative, playful, and human ways of learning even as it augments and challenges traditional academic practice.
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Perspective in Motion

Perspective in Motion

What do we mean when we use the phrase, “in the real world”? As many of us are in a state of transition between school and work, styles of work, or a balance of both, are we living a less real life if we don’t work for a corporation? Indeed, the different ways humans interface with the world is hybrid. The column below is an inquiry into the meanings of culturally problematic phrases like “the real world,” and “proper use of time,” and the ways these interplay. It will ask questions concerning digital humanities, critical pedagogy, and agency. It is an exploration, a discussion, and a journey. Join us.


I realized today why I love podcasts. Listening to an episode of RadioLab called ‘Living Room’ as I made breakfast, I learned about a woman who became obsessed with watching her curtainless neighbors across the way. I was captivated. I was captivated because I am so very curious about the lives of others – the way people spend their time, the things they value, their unique experiences, the people they chose to love, the jobs they have, and the ways they feel – all of it different from my own life. It’s how I know I belong in academia. While exploring my own shifting mind, a career in Humanities allows me to study the perspectives of others, all the while expressing my own ideas so that others too might get a shift in perspective. It is because of this that I began this column by asking three very different people, “How does your training (vocational, traditional, etc.) inform the way you spend and/or value your time?”

In the introduction to the series attempting to answer the question above, I express my disdain about the phrase ‘the real world’ and the divide between the ‘in here’ of academia and the ‘out there,’ outside the ivory tower. I see a shift in the way the Western World views communication and valorizes experience, and I admit that though “I apologize often, I’m not sorry at all. I chose to live the life of an academic. I have been in a cubicle, wearing a power suit, finding ways to make my job more stimulating lest I should run out the security doors of the building screaming. As a result, I have developed a deep curiosity for the lives, jobs, and value systems of others.” And so I set out to investigate the perspectives of an underwater construction worker, a new public school teacher, and a university lecturer who has also lived as a ballerina, and a lawyer. What I got were three worldviews that were so different from one another, the process of writing this column has changed me.

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This post originally appeared on HASTAC on June 18, 2015.


I’m often asked why I start with pedagogy, given the larger institutional reforms and social ambitions that HASTAC and the new Futures Initiative program advocate. If your goal is equality in a world where inequality is structural and violent and pervasive, you can at least start with your classroom as a place in which to model a better way. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and oppressed by the unfairness of the world, be an activist in the realm where you have control. You can change to a pedagogy of liberation today. These four ways are all simple to implement. And if you make sure to add “meta-cognition” — you discuss with your students what it means to change power relations when you have the opportunity — you also instill learning and life lessons that persist far beyond your classroom.

Remember:  your students have had at least twelve years of practice/indoctrination in mastering the formal education methods where hierarchy and control displace all the complex, experience-based, interactive learning methods (i.e. the kind we all use in our lives outside of formal education when we really want to learn how to do something). Because they have been rewarded for credential-centered and teacher-centered learning in school, some will think you are trying to get out of work or pulling a fast one by having them do the thinking and taking responsibility for their own learning. So I typically note that these are extensively researched theories, practices, and methods designed to help students learn not for the test or the grade but for the best possible retention and application of complex ideas that they will use in this class, in other classes, and in their lives beyond school.

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Librarian as Outsider

Librarian as Outsider

Academic librarians are worried about power. And powerlessness. They are particularly concerned with the way power dynamics shape their identities as educators and inform their pedagogical capacity.

Recent library scholarship has introduced a number of compelling arguments for pedagogical alternatives to what Freire calls the “banking concept of education,” which conceives of students as passive “receptacles,” teachers as “depositors,” and knowledge as capital. If James Elmborg’s seminal 2006 article Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice is any indication (it’s been cited more than 250 times as I write this), the banking concept of education doesn’t work for information literacy instruction. Elmborg begins his article with a problem and ends it with a challenge: “the real task for libraries in treating information literacy seriously lies not in defining it or describing it, but in developing a critical practice of librarianship — a theoretically informed praxis.” This is a daunting task, particularly considering the logistical reality of information literacy instruction, which typically happens in ‘one-shot’ library sessions. While a “problem-posing” approach is difficult to achieve in the context of the one-shot, a critical approach is not just an alternative but an imperative.

Here’s why.

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I am not a scholar, at least not in the traditional sense.

Almost 5 years ago, I wrote How Highered Makes Most Things Meaningless. It also appeared on Inside Higher Ed. It remains one of the most-read pieces on my old blog. And even though I don’t post there anymore, my old Blogger site still receives over 2,000 hits a month. Five years later, I’m still left wondering whether the work I do online counts. It matters, but does it count?

Recently, William Thomas, Chair of the Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities and Professor of History, offered a typology for digital scholarship. He breaks it down to three types: Interactive Scholarly Work, Digital Projects / Thematic Research Collections, and Digital Narratives. What strikes me in these categories’ descriptions is that they are all still deeply embedded in traditional forms of scholarship and scholarly expectations: theory, rigor, methodology, evidence, citation.

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On June 29, 2015 at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, Audrey Watters spoke on a panel called “Is it Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?”. The transcript of her speech can be found here. Below is the longer speech she prepared for the occasion, which she offered to Hybrid Pedagogy to publish.


Last year, Gary Stager joked that we should submit a proposal to ISTE for a panel titled “Is It Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?” No surprise, it was rejected. But this year, he submitted again, and the very same proposal was accepted.

So here we are today, making the case for why this whole education technology thing has gone alarmingly off the rails and it’s time to scrap the entire effort.

ISTE is, of course, the perfect place to deliver this talk.

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Upholding the Hidden

Upholding the Hidden

Our choice of words is never value-free. Language runs deep in us — setting the perspective of our daily lives and prevailing attitudes. In educational environments, “a lot of what upholds our standards of industrialization is the way we speak.” As a socially negotiated product, language includes the acts of connotation and implication, whether intended or not.

In establishing learning spaces, educators have the opportunity to communicate to learners a mindset of intention, autonomy, and control. Moving into, around, and back and forth between learning environments built by physical space and learning environments built by hidden ones and zeros requires transitioning — much a matter for language and its influence on inner thought.

For learners, the essence for commanding and construing a personal learning environment is the ability to anchor shared activity to personal choices and context. If educators want to take education beyond simply rebelling against a centralized past, the challenge then comes in helping learners realize the need for the ability to construe their own environment, and then helping learners acquire these skills. In each program, system, process, platform, device, technology, element, or medium that learners employ to tailor surroundings to suit individual learning goals, there lie hidden obligations that need to be made explicit in order for learners to become autonomous and intentional. As Marshall McLuhan once stated, “the hidden aspects of the media are the things that should be taught…when these factors remain ignored and invisible, they have an absolute power over the user. If you understand the nature of these forms, you can neutralize some of their adverse effects and foster some of their benevolent effects.”

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We are two critical pedagogues who are also faculty developers, trying to create space for conversations interrogating dominant approaches to faculty development.

Faculty developers support the growth and continuing development and evolution of faculty in their roles as educators. But, what we (Maha and Lee) are addressing in this column installment is the nature of how faculty development is delivered, if “delivery” is even the right term at all. Can we encourage critical pedagogy within the current system(s) of faculty development within the institutional structure as it often exists? What are the underlying values behind how faculty development is often approached?

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This July we are launching Digital Pedagogy Lab Courses, a series of professional development opportunities for educators, librarians, technologists, and instructional designers.


Our project has had many starts. We have started it over and over again during long walks, late night discussions, pacing in parking lots, sudden text-message chats. As with teaching and learning, Hybrid Pedagogy itself is iterative. At the core of every iteration, though, is the commitment to educational outreach, to helping teachers and learners navigate, employ, resist, and understand their work in physical and digital classrooms.

The journal was born from questions that rise up when we consider what happens to critical pedagogy in digital, or digitally-influenced, environments — where does agency arise; where does learning happen; how does the digital change or reinforce traditional student and teacher roles and power dynamics; how is our humanity subject to or amplified by the digital; what becomes of scholarship; what does access mean, and how does it affect learning; what do we (or can we) do with the wild innovative possibility of the Web within the architecture of academic institutions.

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Few things annoy me more than burning time on bureaucratic paperwork. Frankly, as an educator, my time and attention should be centered on students and learning — and that includes  modifying and selecting readings and resources. Finding fresh critical pedagogical articles that connect pop culture and critical thinking, for example, is not only more interesting to me professionally than revising course outcomes to match accreditation evaluation rubrics, but such articles are more useful and engaging for my students. Plus, such articles can support critical thinking skills and connecting these skills with media in students’ lives. While some administrators might disagree, few educators would. Making this  “idealistic” hope happen is a challenge. One possible path to this solution: reconceive how we as individuals approach Open Educational Resources (OERs) and our use of educational technologies. UNSECO defined OERs in 2002 as “technology-enabled, open provision of educational resources for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes.”

Thus OERs are centered on being created by and for, as well as being adapted by, learning community members regardless of where the learning community happens. If we align with Critical Pedagogy (CP), OERs can help us do more than apply our passion and engagement to create or curate anti-racist, liberatory, and conscious texts for our classes. If we couple CP’s  goals with OERs and treat OERs as convivial tools, we can also help reduce textbooks’ financial burden, support communities-outside-our-classes learning, and potentially amplify voices that might otherwise remain unheard.

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In January, 2014, we participated in the MOOC Rhizomatic Learning: The community is the curriculum (#rhizo14) facilitated by Dave Cormier. A group of us decided to research participant experiences in this course, but not by repeating existing scholarly research on cMOOCs, which to our minds has two serious shortcomings. First, most MOOC research has not brought the connectivist experience to life for readers who have not experienced the rhizomatic swarm of open, online, connected learning. And second, most MOOC research is not participatory, is not told from inside the process. We want to write from the inside, for as Tanya Sasser says, “we have the tools and the opportunity to write our own story, rather than suffering someone else to write it for us.” So following the rare example of Bentley, et al, we decided to conduct a collaborative autoethnography (CAE), which began mid-February, 2014, as an open Google Doc to which 31 #rhizo14 participants eventually added their post-MOOC narratives (officially, the MOOC had ended; practically speaking, the Facebook group and Twitter hashtag were still thriving, and still do to some extent today, especially as many of us have joined the 2015 iteration of the course, #rhizo15).

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We have an immense amount of power, if we reach out and harness it. This is not just some new age abstraction. To be specific: anyone can create a website, a video, a tweet. People like me, from a working poor family, can go on YouTube and watch a lecture given by the authority of most any field for free. We have access to public spaces where we can define our own identity.

One part of this narrative is about me as a writer, figuring out that I wouldn’t settle for selling out and giving up my ideals. The other part is about how my experiences as a contingent faculty member informed my decision to start a project, which I hoped would spark critical participation in my community and set a good example for former students, as well as help teach people — some of whom I had never met — how to find their voice.

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The Pedagogy of Trolls

The Pedagogy of Trolls

Andrew Shaw’s “The College Experience: A Modern-Day Paddy West?” demonstrates the value of asking undergraduates to prepare and publish assignments. As an historian of the early modern world, Shaw was able to make a meaningful contribution to an on-going discussion of #FutureEd that was taking place on the HASTAC website as well as other venues. Reflecting on her experiences of engaging in a global discussion, undergraduate Suzanne Hakim comments that never in her academic career has she “been able to connect and share thoughts and opinions with my peers and multiple professors on an intellectual level.” The experience of publishing was refreshing because she was treated with respect as a colleague with independent thoughts.

Asking students to participate in scholarly dialogues gives them the ability to participate in scholarly conversation, to manage different viewpoints and different ways to express them, and to participate in thorough and respectful debate about important issues.

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Insoumis.

Insoumis.

In Submission. 22nd May 2015

In January 2014 I signed up to study on Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning Course, known often by those in a know by its hashtag #rhizo14.

This course, acted as a catalyst in helping me develop a voice, in enabling me to make certain connections…

What had started as rather irregular writing became very regular writing.

What had stopped me writing in the past had been not only a lack of desire but an instinctive opposition to simply reproducing forms…

I think back to that teacher at university, who had encouraged me in my attempts to write differently, while kindly explaining to me that the way that I wrote didn’t necessarily correspond to ‘what was expected…’

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Why isn’t school more fun?

Fred Rogers, famous in America for creating Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Why do we assume, though, that adults don’t also learn from play? In this episode, I assert that “serious learning” happens through play at any age, and that a playful approach to classes, professions, and identity has benefits that too often get ignored in academia.

Unfortunately, school is often anything but playful. Between compulsory attendance, state-mandated testing, and the regimented routine of bell schedules, students are often expected to conform and comply, rather than to improvise and experiment. It seems there should be a way to incorporate play into education, making school something that students enjoy, look forward to, and find productive.

Adeline Koh writes that “play is serious business,” and this episode explores that assertion and tests the ways in which it can be applied to today’s educational environments.


Chris Friend is managing editor for Hybrid Pedagogy.

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Homework is a Social Justice Issue

Homework is a Social Justice Issue

This article was originally published in Educating Modern Learners.


When a teacher assigns homework, she makes some big assumptions about students’ home lives. Do they have the requisite supplies? A quiet place to study? Supportive parents or guardians who will motivate them to work? Knowledgable guardians who can assist with challenging problems?

But even these questions have significant assumptions underlying them. Do students have a stable family life? Or does the return home in the afternoon bring an increase of stress and anxiety about their family’s well-being? Single parents working multiple jobs, for example, may put the “parenting” of young children onto the shoulders of their older siblings. The increased responsibility likely increases the stress experienced by the older child, while simultaneously reducing time for academic study outside of school.

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At the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference (#et4online) held in Dallas Texas (April 22-24), I worked with Rebecca J. Hogue to create a pilot program, known as #et4buddy, that allowed me to attend the conference virtually from Egypt and still participate in the informal and social parts of the conference. The #et4buddy pilot program took advantage of mobile technology and cloud-based video conferencing services to provide opportunities for virtual participants to interact with onsite participants through a variety of videos, livestreamed and recorded with Google Hangouts on Air.

Entering the Conference with a Purpose — Rebecca’s Onsite Experience

I (Rebecca) initially signed up to go to Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference (#et4online) in Dallas, Texas, because Maha was planning on being there. I figured if she was traveling all the way from Egypt to attend, I could make the effort and travel from Santa Clara, California. I had attended #et4online last year. It was a marker into my past — the last academic conference I attended before being diagnosed with breast cancer. What followed after diagnosis was four long months of chemotherapy and three surgeries. This year’s #et4online was a milestone in my recovery: It was the first time I traveled on my own since diagnosis. It was a chance to reclaim my identity as an academic.

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A few years ago, Sean Michael Morris and I wrote, “Meaningful relationships are as important in a class of three as they are in a class of 10,000.” In the rest of that article, we wonder at questions of scale: how to scale up, when to scale down, and what it might mean to scale sideways. My question here: is it possible to scale up and down simultaneously — to create more and more intimate learning experiences for larger and larger groups of learners?

I’m currently co-teaching Shakespeare in Community, a Massive Open Online Course from University of Wisconsin-Madison. The goal of the course is to bring thousands of learners into conversation. While I’ve taught MOOCs since 2012 on several platforms, this is the first time I’ve developed a Coursera MOOC. Coursera is a platform well-oiled for content-delivery. In fact, when I sat down with Daphne Koller, the founder and president of Coursera, she used the word “content” several dozen times. I asked about “conversation”, “dialogue”, and “community”. Her responses showed that these are, for Coursera, an afterthought. And after playing around inside the guts of the tool, it remains clear to me that these are, indeed, an afterthought. All the proof I need is that it’s about ten times easier to upload a video, and track the watching of that video, than it is to administer the discussion forum. But Coursera does content-delivery incredibly well. My content feels stroked and adored by the platform. It feels genuinely loved. As learning management systems go, I am happy to go on record saying that Coursera is one of the best.

However, I remain certain that learning is not something that ought to be managed. The better we become at managing learning, the more damage we do to learning. This is the cruel irony of the learning management system. The better designed it is for doing its core function, the worse off the learning that happens inside of it. As a technology, the learning management system is genuinely Orwellian. I like best the learning management system when it is still a baby, before it has fully grown up, before it has earned its stripes. But every learning management system is almost immediately on its way toward extinction. They die quick deaths at the point they forget that learning is an encounter, not a spreadsheet. The gradebook, and the demands it places on every single other feature, ultimately kills the learning management system. (Thus, I wouldn’t blame the technological systems so much as I’d blame the institutional and political climates that drive them.)

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Keeping Time

Keeping Time

What do we mean when we use the phrase, “in the real world”? As many of us are in a state of transition between school and work, styles of work, or a balance of both, are we living a less real life if we don’t work for a corporation? Indeed, the different ways humans interface with the world is hybrid. The column below is an inquiry into the meanings of culturally problematic phrases like “the real world,” and “proper use of time,” and the ways these interplay. It will ask questions concerning digital humanities, critical pedagogy, and agency. It is an exploration, a discussion, and a journey. Join us.


If you’ve been reading this column since it was born in January, you know that it has so far been a series asking for a variety of voices to answer the following question: “How does your training (vocational, traditional, etc.) inform the way you spend and/or value your time?” Time, for me, is a complex set of largely socially constructed ideals that we all adhere to — though differently in different cultures. And so I sought out three very different people in three very different walks of life. Here’s number three.

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On Friday, May 1, at 12PM EDT we will talk about digital tools and praxis, and how they intersect in our professions. We’ll consider questions of adoption, criticality, and hype — questions which will move us toward Digital Pedagogy Lab, which Hybrid Pedagogy is co-sponsoring in August, 2015.


Technology is trending in the education industry. Schools, Colleges, and Universities already strapped for cash still find space in their shrinking budgets to invest in innovative tools. These institutions do so because they have been told that these tools will democratize learning, amplify access, eliminate disparity, and revolutionize the classroom. It take much more than an app to realize these goals. Education technology, at its core, is not about tools, but about teaching.

Educators have been experimenting with new technologies for a long time and debating their utility since Socrates first critiqued the use of written language circa 370 BC. The potential of teaching with technology has filled educators with both excitement and concern for over two millennia, and yet it remains a vital conversation even today.

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Learning is Not a Mechanism

Learning is Not a Mechanism

This article was originally published on Educating Modern Learners on January 26, 2015.


“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility.” ~ bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress

Digital pedagogy is not equivalent to teachers using digital tools. Rather, digital pedagogy demands that we think critically about our tools, demands that we reflect actively upon our own practice. So, digital pedagogy means not just drinking the Kool-Aid, but putting the Kool-Aid under a microscope. When I lead workshops for teachers interested in developing digital skills, I say right up front that I have little interest in teaching teachers or learners how to use the technologies they’ll use in classrooms for the next three years. I am much more interested in working with teachers and learners to develop the literacies that will help them use and evaluate the educational tools they’ll be using in ten or twenty years. Often, this means knowing when and how to put tools down, as much as it means knowing when and how to take them up.

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Pedagogy of Care—Gone Massive

Pedagogy of Care—Gone Massive

Sometimes, the most valuable thing we can offer our students is genuine care for them, their well-being, their happiness. Not just their grades. Not just their learning. But their whole selves.

This article is inspired by a discussion with a friend who suggested that medical ethics should not be about “do no harm” but rather about caring. As one who comes from a family of doctors, I often hear about how medical people sometimes focus on the body and forget to look at the whole person. The same reductionism can be found in education. bell hooks critiques this, calling for educators to engage with students’ whole selves, with their souls. Inspired by her, Jesse Stommel and I recently wrote that in seeking to empower students, “teachers must…show the kind of care for the work that only comes when we make ourselves at least somewhat vulnerable.”

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Adeline Koh will be teaching the Identity track for Digital Pedagogy Lab in August 2015. To find out more about her track and to enroll, visit Digital Pedagogy Lab’s main page.


I am often asked about the digital humanities and how it can update, make relevant, and provide funding for many a beleaguered humanities department. Some faculty at underfunded institutions imagine DH is going to revitalize their discipline — it’s going to magically interest undergraduates, give faculty research funding, and exponentially increase enrollment.

Well, the reality is this: what has until recently been commonly understood as real “Digital Humanities” is already belated and is not going to save humanities departments from ever bigger budget cuts and potential dissolution.

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LibGuides: Pedagogy to Oppress?

LibGuides: Pedagogy to Oppress?

You have to be a pretty tenacious researcher to find any criticism about LibGuides, the practical and convenient tool that librarians use to create online guides to research. My search for “LibGuides and critique or criticism” taught me a great deal about how to interpret literature, while keying in “LibGuides and problems” merely returned information about the occasional scheduled downtime. It was not until I limited my search to wordpress.com and then traced a bunch of links and pingbacks that I could even start to gather a sense of the conversation round the topic. Yet, ironically, it is exactly this twisting, infuriating and (occasionally) joyful process of research that is stifled by the way that most librarians structure and organize their LibGuides. Web-based research guides have helped to bridge the gap that the growth of online resources has put between the library and its patrons. However, their typical focus on librarian-defined notions of value and authority conceals an industrial-era adherence to library-centric, behaviourist learning theories and provides a textbook example of Paulo Freire’s banking model of education. In short, while librarians have started to think about the nature of critical pedagogy in the classroom, a failure to subject instructional materials to the same processes of reflective, critical thinking serves to dehumanize both our students and the nature of research and inquiry.

What is a LibGuide?

If you have never seen a LibGuide before, a quick browse of the LibGuides Community site will turn up a typical example of how librarians employ this proprietary software. Most simply, librarians use LibGuides as a guide to relevant or recommended sources and sites that students can use to search for information on a topic. Mirroring typical research assignment prompts that may ask for 5-10 scholarly articles, guides are typically created for courses or for general topics such as criminology or art history and organized by source format, for example, databases or images. Today, 78,000 librarians from nearly 5000 libraries have produced over 400,000 LibGuides. Providing an easy way for even the most non-tech savvy librarian to produce or highlight content on library websites that are often heavily locked down, or poorly designed and cluttered, LibGuides have now expanded beyond their original research guide design, and are marketed as a core instructional tool for academic, public, school and special libraries. Simple and practical, LibGuides are deservedly popular. However, by failing to consider LibGuides within the context of broader pedagogical practices, librarians run the risk of misrepresenting both the nature and the scope of research and inquiry.

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Bonnie Stewart will be teaching the Networks track for Digital Pedagogy Lab in August 2015. To find out more about her track and to enroll, visit Digital Pedagogy Lab’s main page.


The idea of publics is central to scholarship. Scholarly pursuits are financed in part through public purses, and scholarship — in its idealized form, at least — contributes back to publics. Research. Knowledge. The public good. These are the returns through which scholarship justifies its place in society.

Yet scholarship has never been particularly open to the public. It operates, in increasingly-rationalized incarnations, as a carefully-managed ecosystem of gatekeeping measures: the prestige hierarchies of academic credentials and the academic publishing system comprise a powerful inside-baseball discourse. Contemporary scholars have tended to be far more accountable to the system itself than to actual publics, except in rare cases where the scope or consequence of the work — as in the cases of McLuhan or Milgram — has been rendered public by media.

Until now.

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Call for Editors

Call for Editors

Note: the Call for Editors is now closed.


The place of the editor is not above the writer, but beside. Editors are not meant to correct but to suggest, not to admonish but to inspire, not to coerce but to collaborate.

To write is to enter a unique space of potential. To enter that writerly space as an editor requires that we recognize the fragility of the ecosystem of those words on the page. The first draft is a learning environment, a classroom for writer and reviewer alike — and all drafts are first drafts. No words nor any writer should ever be sacrificed upon the pointed pen of an editor protecting his reputation. The editor’s work is to preserve and refine, to shine and polish, not to sanitize, circumcise, or amputate. No words nor any writer should be left outside the gates. The editor need not guard the gate, for there are no gates worth guarding. The miscreant has a voice. The dropout has a voice. The insolent silent one in the back of the room, too, has a voice. The adjunct is a teacher when she writes. The undergrad, the grad student, the alt-ac and the post-ac — all teachers when they speak. The artist is a teacher; the poet, the musician, the anarchist, too.

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This article is a response submitted for our series on the Scholarly and the Digital. See the original CFP for details.


On a beautiful June morning, I hurried through the streets of Bloomsbury to the University of London. These streets carry a great deal of imaginative and emotional resonance for me, layers of time and story. I think of Virginia Woolf and her luminous conjuring of a London morning in Mrs. Dalloway. Maybe she hurried like this to give a lecture, a lecture not unlike the one that formed the kernel of A Room of One’s Own. That book makes a space for the play of ideas; when I teach it I suggest to my students they might strive for the same kind of openness, the same kind of playfulness, the same kind of light handling of heavy questions I see Woolf performing there.

The hurrying was more out of nerviness than out of a concern for time. I was heading to the annual board meeting for the organization that had just made me the new editor of its scholarly journal The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945. Part of my charge in accepting the job would be to transition the journal from print to digital, and at this meeting I was to present my proposal for doing so. This transition was deemed necessary due to cost; producing a print journal for an organization of several hundred members and fewer library subscriptions was not sustainable. This probably sounds familiar to anyone who belongs to a professional organization, subscribes to a scholarly journal — or doesn’t, opting out because the costs are prohibitively high, hiked over a number of years by groups and presses that serve a necessary purpose but find it harder and harder to do the work for their members and subscribers due to the roiling economic state of scholarly publishing.

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On Friday, April 3, Bonnie Stewart will join our #digped conversation (which Sean introduces below) to discuss digital networks, a subject connected directly to the track she’ll teach at Digital Pedagogy Lab, which Hybrid Pedagogy is co-sponsoring in August, 2015.


I am @slamteacher. My friends call me Slam. It’s a moniker I came up with after running my Slam Teaching blog many years ago, a project that was as unexpectedly successful as it was brief. The blog’s title came out of the idea that teaching, like slam poetry, could be delivered in ways that were exciting, spontaneous, responsive, empathic, and generative. But most of my meager 2,251 Twitter followers don’t know that. They don’t call me Slam. They just know me as @slamteacher — a bio, an avatar, a handle, an assortment of only sometimes disparate 140-character tweets.

In her blog post, “Networks of Care and Vulnerability,” Bonnie Stewart says that, “Participation enrols us in a media machine that is always and already out of our control; an attention economy that increasingly takes complex identities and reduces them to sound bites and black & white alignments.” My own experience of Twitter affirms this: the personality that I craft online is also the personality that is crafted for me, by the responses I receive, by the nature of my followers and who I follow, by the conversations I choose or do not choose to be a part of. My presence becomes expected in certain circumstances, a surprise in others, and unwelcome in still others. And because the community to which I adhere my moniker is one upon which I exert the same kind of influence, my participation involves, like fiction, a willing suspension of disbelief.

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Embracing Subjectivity

Embracing Subjectivity

Embracing our subjectivity as teachers can be tricky; I’ve written several times about how complex it is when teachers make the choice to be non-neutral. I’ve admitted it could be seen as indoctrinating. But believe me: pretending to be objective or neutral only hides our subjectivity, it does not actually remove it. For example, it takes sensitivity and caution to not make male students feel silenced during discussions of gender, but it’s also impossible for a woman to pretend to be neutral in this context. This explicit non-neutrality is a characteristic of critical pedagogy. As Davies and Barnett suggest, the “critique” inherent in critical pedagogy is focused on uncovering what might be hidden behind claims or arguments, which is different from more traditional notions of critical thinking that focus on identifying weaknesses in arguments in some objective way. Critical pedagogy and critical approaches to curriculum are creative and subjective processes, inherently influenced by the teacher’s (and learner’s) lenses of looking at the world. This is so different from traditional notions of critical thinking, which is why I think it sometimes takes a while to express it and discuss it with others.

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What do we mean when we use the phrase, “in the real world”? As many of us are in a state of transition between school and work, styles of work, or a balance of both, are we living a less real life if we don’t work for a corporation? Indeed, the different ways humans interface with the world is hybrid. The column below is an inquiry into the meanings of culturally problematic phrases like “the real world,” and “proper use of time,” and the ways these interplay. It will ask questions concerning digital humanities, critical pedagogy, and agency. It is an exploration, a discussion, and a journey. Join us.


In January, I sought the aid of other voices in answering the question, “How does your training (vocational, traditional, etc.) inform the way you spend and/or value your time?” When I asked, I knew that I would receive wonderful, rounded responses, but I continue to get unexpected insights that have me thinking differently every time I read through them.

Caroline Stauss, a new K-12 instructor who decided to wait until later in life to begin her career as a teacher, reveals some discontent she feels in her community. In responding to the question above, Caroline goes deep about the outcome of the more difficult experiences of this phase of her journey. She leads us through a narrative situated within scenarios many of us may find familiar, and which may sound rather foreign to others. Like me, Caroline understands the institutionalization of education that I mention in my introduction to these responses, but reacts to it in a much different way than I do. And here is where I find the meat of what I am attempting to do with my questioning: if we think about unions and what the types of communities unions can build up, as well as the ones it can break down, we are thinking as learners all along the way. Take a look what community does for Caroline:

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The traditional take on assessment positions the teacher (or the state) as the one with all the answers and asks students to prove that they can figure out what the testers want them to know. Think of AP exams, SATs/ACTs/GREs, and loads of other acronym-derived test names, notably including statewide benchmark testing made widespread in America by No Child Left Behind legislation from 2001. In short, there’s significant inertia behind standardized assessment that critical pedagogy needs to address in order to reform traditional education.

In this episode, we’ll return to Kris Shaffer and Asao Inoue to pick up the assessment-focused parts of their conversations that didn’t make it on the air, and we’ll hear from Lee Skallerup Bessette to consider institutional assessment, empathy, and student needs. We’ll look at assessment in music classes and writing classes, classrooms of composition and classrooms of compassion. We’ll find ways of assessing students that prioritize their abilities and new experiences over their ability to do exactly what everyone else has done before them. We’ll ask how we can give students greater authority in the assessment process, and we’ll even address the idea of standards within the context of Critical Digital Pedagogy.

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“[W]hat is broken and twisted is also beautiful, and a bearer of knowledge. The Deformed Humanities is an origami crane—a piece of paper contorted into an object of startling insight and beauty.” Mark Sample

Folding: Theory

The Digital Humanities are actively being invented in this very moment. They have not taken shape as a concrete thing, but evolve as an ongoing and collaborative process still taking shape. This can be seen in how the Digital Humanities are being negotiated as a debate between building and breaking. What’s being built: word clouds, wikis, blogs, maps, games, comics, prezis, films, crowdsourced articles, MOOCs, curated social media stories, and greater access.  What’s being broken: traditional pedagogy, poems, images, borders, and potentially even the law.

While this has been the dominant narrative, I want to propose a counter narrative where transformation and invention occur not through the building or breaking binary, but rather as a result of folding, unfolding, and refolding. This origami metaphor, I think, aligns with Freirian Praxis as a process of “engaging in a cycle of theory, application, evaluation, reflection, and then back to theory.”

The need to develop this counter narrative was apparent after co-teaching an upper level English course. The course had two distinct instructor personas — a luddite and a cyborg — and we were on the path to creating another iteration of the dissonant building and breaking narrative. My assignments allowed students to build digital and multimodal artifacts. The other instructor urged students to break down texts from critically informed perspectives. However, by folding these two personal pedagogical approaches together, we were able to collaboratively realize Freirean praxis as a cycle of theory-practice-theory.

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Twitter and the Locus of Research

Twitter and the Locus of Research

Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a CFP focused on The Scholarly & the Digital. This piece is a response to that call and an invitation. While we have begun to review submissions, this is a rolling call, so visit the CFP for more details if you are interested in reflecting further on any of the conversations started here.

It isn’t that a single tweet constitutes scholarship, although in rare cases one might, but rather that Twitter and participatory media more broadly disperses the locus of scholarship, making the work less about scholarly products (the bits) and more about community presence and engagement (the scrawl).

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Traditional college students of today are completely mediated. They can tweet, text, and post to Instagram all day long; they swim through a sea of media, and are savvy with an array of technologies; they use phones that are smarter than the computers of just a few years ago. Students are continuously, and rapidly, improving on basic computer skills and often work with the computer intuitively to perform tasks and to solve problems when they get stuck. When students come together in a computer classroom, they bring with them a great variety of experiences and skills. Some students can navigate any task brilliantly at lightning speed, some get the same results at slower speeds, and some need more instruction for developing skills they may not have had the opportunity to practice previously. In my experience, this variety opens up spaces filled with possibilities for learning.

Finding out more about where students are when they enter the classroom, meeting them there, and then working with them to move beyond basic forms of communication and consumption into thinking more deeply about hyper-media, social media, the media industry, technology, and other cultural topics can now be endeavors for instructors in the computer classroom. Critical pedagogy emphasizes participation, engagement, and collaboration so that students become active producers and critics, and are not simply passive consumers ingesting course content. Bringing this philosophy into the computer classroom further opens the space for critical and thoughtful conversation about culture to happen naturally, and in which critique is often extended beyond surface commentary. This combination of physical space, technology, and engaged pedagogy can also foster another effect of working in the computer classroom, and that is the organic way in which community-building happens.

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