Over the weekend of November 21-23, the Hybrid Pedagogy editorial board gathered in Washington D.C. for an intensive working retreat. During that time, we collaborated on the following article — 10 authors and reviewers working together in a single document over three hours to brainstorm, draft, and revise the piece. What we offer here is both an experiment in peer review and also a treatise on peer review.


Love as Pedagogy

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ I Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV

Love, patience, kindness, humility, truth — we don’t often talk about these things in the academy. Even those of us who eschew discussion of “efficiency” and “effectiveness” in favor of “empowerment” often stop short of genuine affection. But education, at its core, is an act of love — it seeks to empower as its very nature. And this care fuels our desire to help each other become full agents in our own right.

When we truly love, we humanize rather than normalize. Much of what the academy does — both in teaching and in scholarship — is about norms. Even our new wine ends up in old skins, as the norms of academic discourse dominate the dissemination of our work in journals, monographs, textbooks. But love does not “insist on its own way.” In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks advocates for “an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom” (207). Empowering another human to be a mindful agent in their own learning requires a great deal of patience, kindness, and determination. These things only coexist with conscientious effort. This is the work that we all do as we exist simultaneously as authors, editors, and students.

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On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the second of three articles that inspired that talk. The first, Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition, appeared on November 18; the second, A Misapplication of MOOCs: Critical Pedagogy Writ Massive, appeared on November 19.


“I am hopeful, not out of mere stubbornness, but out of an existential, concrete imperative.” ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Hope

In a recent UW-Madison event focused on building community in MOOCs, Al Filreis offered a keynote, “The Non-automated Humanities MOOC,” in which he remarked, “Don’t talk about MOOCs as courses. That’s a slippery slope to creating a thing that doesn’t hybridize but colonizes.” To see the MOOC as a course, as that which reinforces ossified hierarchical relationships in learning environments, is to carry forward a banking model of pedagogy that does nothing to empower students or teachers. As Sean says, “The openness the MOOC presages is one where agency trumps position, where a student can become a teacher, a teacher a student, and the whole endeavor of education becomes a collaboration.”

The pedagogical value in openness is that it can create dialogue, and can deconstruct the teacher-student binary, by increasing access and bringing together at once disparate learning spaces. Openness can function as a form of resistance both within and outside the walls of institutions. But open education is no panacea. Hierarchies must be dismantled — and that dismantling made into part of the process of education — if its potentials are to be realized.

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On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the second of three articles that inspired that talk. The first, Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition, appeared on November 18.


“The public squares are filled once more.” ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

If 2012 was the Year of the MOOC, then 2013 was the year the MOOC died. The public imagination around the massive open online course has faded, become niche, and now it is the playground of political and social theorists, a dedicated (and mostly academic) audience, and learning hobbyists. The conversation has gone to its corners, and the biggest impact that MOOCs have had on education is to catapult edupreneurs like Sal Khan and Daphne Koller into a national spotlight that includes appearances on NPR and CNN. Lackadaisically, other universities are joining the MOOC movement, perhaps hoping for some windfall of either a larger student body or just some good local press, or perhaps simply as a great “why not?”; but the MOOC moment has passed.

So why do I keep writing about MOOCs? Because the MOOC remains largely unconsidered. In July 2012, when Jesse Stommel and I launched our MOOC inspection of MOOCs (MOOC MOOC), it was not to investigate the practical applications of either connectivist vision or an iteration of the use of learning management systems; we entered the fray because MOOCs excited (molecularly) education. There was value in even the desperate attempts, the banal efforts, the comical forays because of the conversation they initiated. But that conversation has become no more than a cloistered murmur now.

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Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition

Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition

On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the first of three articles that inspired that talk.


“There is no such thing as a neutral educational process.”  ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Pedagogy is not ideologically neutral.” This line has been for me almost a mantra over the last several years. I’ve said variations of it on Twitter, on the About Us page of Hybrid Pedagogy, on the site for the Hybrid Pedagogy Inc. non-profit, and in our recent CFP focused on Critical Digital Pedagogy. I’ve circled around this phrase, because I feel increasingly certain that the word “pedagogy” has been misread — that the project of education has been misdirected — that educators and students alike have found themselves more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community, outcomes over epiphanies. Education (and, to an even greater extent, edtech) has misrepresented itself as objective, quantifiable, apolitical.

Higher education teaching is particularly uncritical and under-theorized. Most college educators (at both traditional and non-traditional institutions) do little direct pedagogical work to prepare themselves as teachers. A commitment to teaching often goes unrewarded, and pedagogical writing (in most fields) is not counted as “research.”

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“Screens so hi-def you might as well be there, cost effective videophonic conferencing, internal Froxx CD-ROM, electronic couture, all-in-one consoles (…) Half of all metro Bostonians now work from home via some digital link. 50% of all public education disseminated through accredited encoded pulses, absorbable at home on couches (…) saying this is bad is like saying traffic is bad, or health-care surtaxes, or the hazards of annular fusion: nobody but ludditic granola-crunching freaks would call bad what no one can imagine being without.” ~ David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

As I stare at my computer screen in the comfort of my homeworker lair, I can’t help but feel awestruck by the prophetic quality of DFW’s words. In his famously unwieldy masterpiece Infinite Jest, he concocts a vision of postmodern western society that has few equals in literature, sociology or any other artistic or scholarly domain you can think of. The book itself is, in its structure, style and in the type of reading it invites, not only a compelling representation of a certain type of human condition, but an artefact which literally becomes the facts and truths it concerns itself with. The greatest trick DFW ever pulled was making a novel which is also an object, a Rubik’s Cube, a handheld device that shows as much as it tells, and invites the reader to play and mess with it like a sandbox videogame. I am not ashamed to confess that my experience with Infinite Jest was as chaotic and piecemeal as the book itself. I skimmed through pages when I felt things were dragging on and I permanently earmarked sections or underlined paragraphs which I reread obsessively, without worrying in the least about the lack of narrative resolution or linearity. Despite my messing with it, my appreciation and love for the book is undiminished. I believe that Jesse Stommel’s notion of interactive criticism applies to the sort of two-way textual engagement I am describing here. As Jesse eloquently puts it, sometimes reading is not an accomplishment over the text, but a dialogue – something we do to the text and something the text does to us.

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This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


I’m a feminist teacher of writing and literature of over 25 years and, amazingly, I still love it. I love the transformative nature of critical feminist pedagogy, the dialogic classes where meaning is created together, and I am always learning from and with students. Having cultivated my teaching style around fostering close relationships and community in the classroom, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be expected to teach a 100-student class like Women in Literature, and in a hybrid setting no less. At my core, I believed that such a setting was, by its very nature, antifeminist. How could such a classroom support the breakdown of hierarchy and foster a space where everyone is invested in and responsible for the content, process, and learning? Where I could serve as a facilitator rather than lecturer? Where every student’s presence is recognized and our evolving knowledge is incorporated in the direction of the course?  My modus operandi is to nurture trust among students but also to trust in them. How could this be accomplished when confronted with an endless column of faceless names and numbers, numbers that students themselves have become accustomed to being? Was there really such a thing as feminist learning (and teaching) online?

Like most university educators in the United States, I have had to adapt, like it or not. Administrators view online and large classes as cost effective while teachers are constrained by ever-increasing demands at the same time that funding remains stagnant. We are limited by having to follow a top-down, capitalist model requiring proof of our “efficiency” (accommodating large class sizes, often in online settings) and “effectiveness” (high student evaluations) in meeting the needs of public higher education. This leads inevitably to risking the quality of, and to the commodification of learning. So why did I accept the large, hybrid Women in Literature course assignment? I could say I was being a good citizen by helping the department meet the institutional directive of more FTEs — taking one for/with the team, which was partially accurate. Having tenure meant I did not have to say yes. Admittedly, I wanted to better position myself for the enticing possibility of teaching awards that carry salary increases, but ultimately, I did want to stretch my teaching skills. Given the trends, teachers like me have to find a way to incorporate their pedagogical ideals in these new educational environments, or miss out on the possibilities to revitalize their teaching and pedagogy. I had to believe I could pull off feminist teaching in this new and unfamiliar environment, especially since it looked like it was here to stay.

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Maggie’s Digital Content Farm

Maggie’s Digital Content Farm

This piece was contributed as part of Hybrid Pedagogy‘s Digital Writing Month.


Over the course of the last 6 months or so, I’ve felt a real shift in what it means (for me) to write — to work, to be — online. And let’s be clear: this affects me offline too.

I’m hardly the first or the only person to notice that the great promises of the Web — freedom! knowledge! access! egalitarianism! creativity! revolution! — are more than a little empty. I’m hardly the first or the only person to notice that the online communities in which we participate increasingly feel less friendly, less welcoming, more superficial, more controlling, more restrictive.

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The World as Classroom: Calling All Scholars

The World as Classroom: Calling All Scholars

Like many people across the world this spring, I sat and watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. As a non-scientist, I was not only awestruck by what I learned, I was heartened by this program’s appearance on network television. Beginning with Carl Sagan thirty years ago, scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson have made public communication central to the scientific life. They call themselves science communicators. At a time when a large portion of the American public does not trust the scientific community when it discusses evolution or global warming, scientists have taken it upon themselves to find and gain the public’s interest and trust.

We need similar projects. We need humanities communicators. The role of the humanities may not have the urgency of global warming to push it into the public eye, but the necessity of deep understanding of the humanities has its own set of urgent issues. How are our fellow humans going to understand the loss of net neutrality, and how it connects to every other time in history corporations have gained an advantage over us? How are our children going to understand themselves and others when our disciplines are pitted against STEM rather than trumpeted alongside them? How are our fellow citizens to become mindful of and understand the bewildering change brought about by digital technology and the internet? At the same time when we as humanists are talking in specialist periodicals about how important our studies are, who is going out and telling the rest of the world? It is our duty to educate society about the importance and necessity of the humanities. To do so, we must engage with humanity.

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Risk, Reward, and Digital Writing

Risk, Reward, and Digital Writing

Autocorrect is tyranny. It is interruption of thought, of speech, of creation, a condition for — and sometimes a prohibition against — my voice being heard. When I type “phone-less” and autocorrect changes it to “phenols”, when my sister-in-law’s name, Asya, is regularly corrected to “As yet”, even the simplest communication becomes humorous at best, hazardous at worst. Because I use text message to discuss matters of pedagogy, philosophy, religion, relationship, and the running of this journal, my thoughts are often flowing faster than my fingers; and when I have to slow down to correct the correction algorithm on my phone or my computer, time and thought can be lost.

And in the process of learning to outthink autocorrect, I have relearned typing, grammar, punctuation. I write in anticipation of being corrected, like a small child speaking to a stern parent.

Algorithms control the way we write, the way we interact with one another, the way we find each other in the digital, and whether or not what we say ever gets heard how and by whom we intended. Writing and interacting to outwit the algorithm has become a digital literacy all its own, a new savoir-faire. Resisting the algorithm, on the other hand, is a minute rebellion, a disassembly, even in the smallest way, of the systems that control our words and relationships.

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Amplifying Indigenous Voices

Amplifying Indigenous Voices

It is not too hard to recognize that educational institutions, to a large degree, determine the process of engagement with learning and engagement with the learners. It should come as no surprise that unrepresented students might be tentative about actively participating in this process when their previous experiences with other schools or other social institutions might not have been positive. What underrepresented students are often asked to do, whether it is recognized or not, is leave their true identities — their true voices — at the door. “Anytime teachers develop a pedagogy, they are concurrently constructing a political vision. The two acts are inseparable” (Kincheloe, 2008, p. 9). As institutions and teachers, the way we set up our classrooms either makes space for students or ignores their identities.

Jesse Stommel says teachers need to be cognizant of the physical space(s) and the virtual spaces(s) the teacher and the students will occupy and also create pathways between what happens in the various physical spaces and what happens on the web, either with each other or by ourselves. To that I would add that teachers need to create pathways among students’ “voices” (students’ cultures, backgrounds. and experiences) to enhance the learning environment even further. Hybrid learning should not only involve combining the physical classroom with the web and other environments outside the classroom, but also combine western viewpoints, experiences, and ways of learning with those students who are often asked to leave these attributes at the door.

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I am an innovator. And yet, I still struggle with what exactly that means.

Say you’re driving down a west coast highway in your economy car, listening to music, admiring the landscape around you. You look up and see that there are old electrical (or maybe they’re telephone) lines up on the mountain to your left. Do you ever wonder who put those up there? How much manpower did it take to move a structure like that up a mountain? Are you noticing how many there are? And this says nothing of the highway carved out of the base of that mountain, or the metal, wood, and plastics that make up the railings, signs, and other parts of the highway that make up the invisible highway interface on which you now drive. Each of those pieces that make up your driving experience must be made from something, mined, or created from somewhere, fabricated and constructed by someone.

Last year, sitting with a community designed around learning and pedagogy in Atlanta, Georgia, I learned about maker spaces — a gathering of interested people with a variety of skills, getting together to exchange ideas, abilities, and learn from one another. This year, I accepted a fellowship called the Student Innovation Fellowship (SIF), which is a sort of maker space for innovation on my university campus. When I attempt to explain what I do as a SIF (yes, we make plenty of Star Wars jokes), it takes me a moment to decide what to say. Sometimes I describe it as a think tank, and sometimes I say that we advise faculty and students on technology use, but really, it’s a maker space where I get to explore what it means to innovate. I have certainly learned that a maker space is an innovation in itself: When we use skill and knowledge as a currency (ex. I will teach you HTML if you teach me how to change my oil), we open up whole new worlds of complexly linking systems about which we often don’t already know. This, to me, is the wonder of infrastructure: that idea that the material world is made up of so many many moving parts that one human could not possibly understand every bit of it, even in a lifetime of trying. Read More

 “Ra-Ra Ah-Ah-Ah, Ga-Ga-Ooh-La-La, I want your bad romance.” – Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

Do I really see myself teaching Lady Gaga next semester? Or should I stick to teaching Mozart? Should the speakers ooze legato violin melodies or wildly shake with pounding screams and saturated bass? The option paralyzes me. After all, my training is overwhelmingly in classical music. That’s the repertoire, the language that I can precisely understand and communicate. What do I know about Lady Gaga? Yet students who are not music majors love her, and want to learn more about her. Even more so, a faculty member in the social sciences (read: classes with large enrollments, hear, hear) insists that we design and teach a learning community entirely focused on popular music from the last decade or so.

It’s a hefty choice; yet, we are all forced to make these choices when we develop a class. So, do I teach “The Magic Flute” to the fervently devoted few or do I team up with this colleague — whom I don’t know very well — to teach songs like “Paparazzi”, “Bad Romance”, “The Perfect Storm”, and “Blurred Lines”, to the non-musically trained many? Do I take the safe path, teaching a universal topic that I can do reasonably well, or do I teach a subject which may or may not be relevant five years from now? Am I ready to build a course practically from scratch while negotiating a new, messy, yet-to-be defined protocol with my colleague from another discipline? Am I willing to risk it all and teach a group of students who neither love classical music nor revere me?

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Pedagogy, Prophecy, and Disruption

Pedagogy, Prophecy, and Disruption

This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


Without consideration of its past, present, or future, critical digital pedagogy may become irrelevant before it begins in earnest. The forces of neoliberalism that critical pedagogues hoped to expose and remove have become extremely adept at moving into digital spaces. Online institutions run by for-profit companies attract students from vulnerable populations —  the very populations that critical pedagogues aspire to help. For-profit institutions are often a mixed bag, at best, for these students, but more public and nonprofit institutions model their online offerings to compete with for-profit models. While some professors and academics have resisted changes, the classes they’ve protected were upper-division seminars rather than developmental or basic courses. Educational experiences that create common ground rather than career or academic tracks have migrated into spaces for efficiency, thus reducing traditional liberal arts and sciences to more closely resemble for-profit colleges’ career-focused format.

The rise of the for-profit online classroom is well documented, and the expansion of for-profit education, in part, is the result of various decisions made by higher education institutions. While elite institutions were mostly preserved, public schools, especially community colleges, were hurt by the expansion of online education. Spaces for critical, engaged learning in communities gave way to large digital spaces driven by profit motivations. Some of these institutions are starting to falter, and the space for these failures allow for a critical digital pedagogy to enter online spaces. However, critical digital pedagogues need to consider how they can make critical pedagogy resonate with the public, and use critical theory to examine digital tools and new methods.

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This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


Poetry is a way of knowing, like numbers, like facts, like photographs and video.

As an independent academic operating outside the university, I move among the roles of publisher, editor, poet, curator, activist, critic, teacher, administrator, designer, producer. I belong to creative communities and circles — not institutions—and have the freedom not only to move among roles, but also to invent and inhabit new creative contexts, inviting others to collaborate. I don’t get paid for most of the work I do, but flexibility, meaning, and freedom are also forms of compensation, as well as privilege. One of these creative communities, Verse Wisconsin (VW)is a hybrid print-online poetry magazine that I co-edited, published, designed, and was the webmaster of for five years with another Madison poet, Sarah Busse. Our final issue came out last April, providing opportunity for reflection: What have we learned? What can we share with creatives, inside and outside universities, who are building their own artistic republics and neighborhoods? What happens out here in the community (as “Public Humanities” likes to call the vandals at its gates) that doesn’t occur inside the university or other large arts institutions?

I offer the perspective of a failed — and I mean that in the best way — tiny arts organization: a print-online publisher of poetry and verse drama, spoken word and visual poetry, seeking performance-based, activist alternatives to publication; a pedagogy & editorial praxis informed by performance-poetry; and a Midwestern poetics/aesthetics informed by the present, not just the past. More barn razing than raising; more meth than myth; goth and gothic; aware of current political/economic/cultural realities; always, but also increasingly, urban and non-white; the human in the humanities besieged not just by external forces, but also by its own non-responsiveness to the immediate human, to local problems, concerns, resources and changing circumstances.

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A class discussion where the teacher pre-determines the outcome is just a lecture in disguise, dressed up to feel student-centered while still being instructor-directed. When a class involves discussion, we owe it to our students to not know what’s going to happen, lest we start dictating what we want them to think. To truly engage another in a conversation, we respond to the ideas that develop organically; a person who talks without listening delivers a speech, not a discussion. The moment we attempt to set the conclusion of a discussion before it starts, we cheat our students out of an opportunity for honest engagement, and we fool ourselves into thinking we let our students learn things for themselves.

I sensed I had a problem with discussions last semester, when I taught two consecutive classes that were identical on paper: same course, same content, same classroom. Only the time and the students were different. It took many weeks before I realized how foolish that view was; despite the “on paper” claims, the two classes were not at all alike. What could possibly be more defining of a class than the students involved and the time we spend with them? Yet my efforts to plan and run my classes kept frustrating me — I struggled to keep the classes aligned so that I could remember where we were and what we needed to do next.

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Critical Pedagogy: Intentions and Realities

Critical Pedagogy: Intentions and Realities

This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


It is one thing to read about critical pedagogy in the abstract, but I believe there is much more to learn from contextual understandings of how the philosophy of critical pedagogy works in practice. When I first started reading about critical pedagogy I found the scholarship interesting but too abstract. I understood that it was intentionally non-prescriptive, but it also seemed impractical to me. Elizabeth Ellsworth’s article was enlightening in her criticism of critical pedagogues for “consistently strip[ping] discussions of classroom practices of historical context and political position” (300), a view also held by Catherine Cornbleth, who suggests that a better approach to a critical curriculum would be to include both the macro issues (traditionally tackled by critical pedagogy scholars) and the micro-contextual issues of the lived experience of teachers.

I teach at the American University in Cairo (AUC) as a part-time teacher educator with no K-12 teaching experience (I am a full-time faculty developer, i.e. my day job is to support AUC faculty, and I’d had experience as a TA for undergraduates, and as a teacher of adults before). I teach educational technology to in-service school teachers who are either close to my age or much older. This means my students often have much more teaching experience than I do! Most of the experiences described below are from teaching a course on ethical, legal, social and human issues in educational technology. Teaching this course before Egypt’s January 2011 revolution, some students had been more cautious about critiquing the Egyptian public school system; they have since felt more comfortable doing so. But their willingness to critique me does not come naturally to them, given the strong culture of respecting authority in Egypt.

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From Ph.D. to Poverty

From Ph.D. to Poverty

Another Ph.D. just applied for unemployment. I haven’t received any benefits because my claims are under review while the Employment Security Department determines reasonable assurance of reemployment. Per my contract with one college (I work for four institutions): “This memo is not a contract for employment and may be rescinded should the class(es) be cancelled or for any other reason.” Standard non-contract language of institutions nationwide, and not oblique: there is no reasonable assurance of employment for adjuncts.

My personal low and itinerant “profession” stems from a labor crisis in higher ed that’s attracted the attention of unions and Congress, but nonetheless persists, and perpetuates a unique poverty that affects the majority of academic laborers. And because we look forward to new email memos from colleges offering non-contractual, temporary appointments, we lesson plan, design LMS content, and draft syllabi without pay. These working conditions are disruptive, cyclical, and intentional.

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Many of us are drawn in by the allure of digital technology, tempting us to structure our daily personal and work routines increasingly on asynchronous communication. Making choices to act asynchronously, often by default and in ways that will limit the scope of such choices for future generations, feeds an environment that is structured for the development and well-being of technology rather than the development and well-being of humans. This is what I imagine it means to be infatuated by technology.

Technology is born from the world around us — long ago, at some rather extended point, humans developed spoken language, the closest thing we have to what can be called synchronous communication. Also long ago, humans looked at the world around them and recorded with marks on stone tablets the cycles and patterns of the moon, the stars, and the seasons in the sun. The technology used for recording these cycles and patterns was about as asynchronous as it can get — the recordings used minimally varied and simplistic symbols, they deteriorated easily, and they were not very transportable over distance. Since then, humans have been developing communication technologies that were either faster or that could travel over distances easier — oral mnemonic devices, papyrus, paper, the printing press, radio, tv, electronic text, and now all types of smart-media. (See Innis for one example of many who have written about this)

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Syllabi that reflect the mundane, bureaucratic requirements of the University are at risk of setting an equally banal classroom atmosphere. While administrative personnel may argue otherwise, the syllabus is not simply a contract between teacher and student. Rather, a syllabus should be a manifesto that serves as a founding document detailing the rights of the students and the pedagogy of the classroom.

Over time, the syllabus has become perfunctory. University policies and classroom expectations are the first impressions that we make in our classrooms. Using such a prescriptive approach to classroom culture, however, damages the social, cultural, and educative potential of formal schooling. To undo this harm, we must redefine the form and repurpose the syllabus as a space of cultural exchange. Only then can the artifact begin to enhance teaching-and-learning relationships within the classroom.

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Toward a Luddite Pedagogy

Toward a Luddite Pedagogy

An especially objectionable feature of the edtech discourse is its use of the word “Luddite” as a term of abuse. Uttering “You’re a Luddite” to the edtech sceptic is an act of verbal expectoration that is supposed to end the conversation, dismissing the sceptic as someone suffering from an intellectually crippling phobia.

The time has come to take a stand against this thoughtless use of “Luddite” in the pejorative. The historical record needs to be set straight, and it needs to be set straight as a prelude to defending a Luddite approach to education.

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My experiences as a graduate student of writing studies and online education have repeatedly left me inspired by the various “–isms” (e.g., constructionismconnectivism) that put the student front and center, valued as a unique individual with the ability to rail against and contribute to established authorities. But I also worry that these ideologies tend to deemphasize the instructor to an extreme, especially when we talk about teaching online.  

Advocates of online learning often join the student-centered rallying cries, showing that online courses can facilitate personalized and active learning and focusing on ways the instructor can create community in the “classroom” (some of my favorites include Palloff & Pratt and Warnock). At the same time, at both writing studies and education conferences it’s not uncommon to hear comments like, “once you have it set up, the course really runs itself.”

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On Silence

On Silence

The following article is republished from Hack Education with permission. Normally, we only post republications on the Page Two section of our site. However, we’re publishing this in the main section of the journal, because the issues Audrey Watters opens here should never be relegated to any back pages; rather, they should always be brought into the broadest daylight possible. Earlier this year Audrey and a handful of educators collaborated on a guide for teachers to use in starting conversations like this one. They write, “As educators we believe that we have a responsibility to use our classrooms to help young people grapple with and address the messiness of the world around them.” These are issues germane to the practice of critical pedagogy, and we do not see them as outside the purview of education. We cannot practice teaching outside of the society we live in, sheltered even from its most damaging and damaged confrontations.


I cracked open my copy of Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals this morning to reread “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

The essay contains one of the quotations for which Audre Lorde is best known: “Your silence will not protect you.” That sentence, even pulled out of context, is powerful — a reminder, a rejoinder, to speak.

But in the context of the entire essay — a beautiful essay on breast cancer, mortality, fear, race, visibility, and vulnerability — Lorde offers so much more than a highly quotable sentence on the responsibility or risk of silence or speech.

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You are already a digital humanist, whether or not you know it. Digital humanities has exploded in popularity over the last decade, as evidenced by the creation of many different types of grants to help digital humanities research (The Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment of the Humanities, the creation of digital humanities specific grants at the American Council of Learned Societies), and the impressive growth of digital humanities-related panels at the Modern Language Association and American Historical Association annual meetings. Feeling the effects of this expansion, many institutions are starting to privilege the digital humanities as a strategic priority. Yours is probably no exception.

But while digital humanities may seem like an intimidating, exponentially growing field with varying ideas of “insiders” and “outsiders,” you and your students are all already digital humanists, because you all use technology in your daily lives. At its best, the digital humanities is about engaging more critically with the intersections between technology and how we act, think and learn. Without knowing it, you’re probably already using many of the techniques of digital humanists in your life and in your classroom.

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This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


Danger and safety are both integral to education, particularly if one ascribes to critical pedagogy, which is, in many respects, about balancing the two elements. On one hand, it invites students and teachers alike to break free from safe thinking: to consider what they have been taught; to rethink the narratives, systems and hierarchies that have shaped their lives; and to make room for new and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. To do this effectively one must be willing to leave the security of assuredness and embrace the fact that learning can be a difficult and even painful process that shakes your foundations, changes you, and transforms the way you see the world.

However, critical pedagogy is also about recognizing and challenging the violence that is engendered in the social and political systems that surround us. It advocates for ongoing self-reflection and communication in education in order to cultivate safe spaces for critical engagement, dialogue, and even intimacy. It asks us to respect each other’s personhood, to work towards addressing the assumptions and prejudices that make learning environments unsafe and uninhabitable for so many, and to be mindful of the power we have to inflict damage on others. As a teacher I struggle to balance these two elements in my curriculum and my classroom. I find myself wondering: how can I create a safe space for dangerous ideas, and a dangerous space for safe thinking?

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A weak light filters in through frosted windows and splashes across a table-sized world map as a gallery of onlookers poke each other and whisper in hushed tones. Two figures stand over the map and point to borders and replicas of military units, vocally processing the pros and cons of allowing one nation water rights in exchange for economic and military support. As the two negotiators come closer to striking a deal, many in the gallery look visibly relieved while other become nervous and restless, turning toward their own compatriots to discuss behind a cupped hand how this new deal will impact their prosperity.

No, this is not a scene taken from a G18 summit or some high stakes tête-à-tête from a Tom Clancy novel, although as adults we are all a bit predisposed toward thinking this type of capability is something unique to our well-developed brains. This scene is just a regular Tuesday, or any other day of the week for that matter, in the 4th grade classroom of John Hunter as his students attempt to achieve the unachievable in the “World Peace Game.

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This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


It is easy for those of us invested in critical pedagogy to see need for major change in education in the U.S. It is also easy for us to write highly ideological manifesti that make sweeping philosophical statements about how things should be. One question I often hear from those getting their feet wet in critical pedagogy is where do I start? Many agree with the ideology and the goals of critical pedagogy and other movements seeking major change, but we cannot simply drop those changes into our current institutional structures. Never mind the fact that we have colleagues and students to win over before we can implement these changes with a chance at success.

But some of the issues raised by critical pedagogy are major ethical issues. It’s not that we can do something more efficiently or effectively, it’s that we see what we’re doing on the whole as being actually wrong. As a critical pedagogue, I can go along with something less effective much more easily than with something that goes against my newly pricked conscience. So when I disagree fundamentally with the direction something is headed, but am powerless to change it singlehandedly, what do I do? Do I forget about it and wash my hands of the situation? Do I leave in disgust? Do I bide my time until I can really do something? (And hope it doesn’t get worse in the mean time!) Do I try to make incremental changes, appeasing my conscience with the knowledge that I am improving things, albeit slowly?

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This article is a response submitted for our series about critical digital pedagogy. See the original CFP for details.


Educational standards limit the consciousness towards which critical pedagogy aims. Yet, those committed to developing critical digital pedagogies need to pay attention to standards anyway. Specifically, critical digital pedagogues at all levels of education must familiarize themselves with standards regarding Information and Communications Technology (ICT) literacy; K-12 educators because these standards may dominate your teaching circumstances, and post-K-12 because these standards will have dominated the learning circumstances of your students. Promoted by organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), and the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), standards for ICT literacy represent a key component of cultural and political oppression with which all of our students must become critically conscious.

Let me slow down a bit, lest I fall prey to a common complaint about critical pedagogy in any form. I am not suggesting organizations like the ISTE, P21, or CCSSI (and the governments that listen to them) are promoting ICT literacy standards designed to systematically oppress students (and teachers) required to adhere to them; this is not a call to gather your pitchforks and torches. Rather, I am suggesting these organizations and governments are promoting ICT literacy standards that are limited, and therefore limiting. In their current state, these standards generate a culture of silence about some of the possibilities of ICT literacy in and for education, and the capabilities of teachers and students engaged with technologies in the classroom.

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When I discovered a rather nondescript blurb on Craigslist about needing an immediate replacement for a “technology specialist,” I didn’t know exactly what I’d find. Much to my joy, however, I soon found myself working once a week at a private elementary school, tasked with various tech-related responsibilities, including teaching second-fifth grade “tech classes.” The tech classes would be 30-45 minutes each, once a week per grade. And that was it; the entirety of my assignment explained to me in terms of minutes. No context. No examples from previous tech specialists. No curriculum and no grading. Nothing.

In short: I was as free as a teacher could be.

Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel attest that, “So often in our discussions of online education and teaching with technology, we jump to a discussion of how or when to use technology without pausing to think about whether or why,” and in a very real way I was asked to do precisely that. The implicit expectation in my newfound task was that I would teach students how to use technology, not why, or even if they should.

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On Tuesday, June 3, Hybrid Pedagogy released an announcement and CFP related to the first long-form project to be undertaken by Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing. Two weeks later, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to underwrite the creation of an open-source, interactive, digital music theory textbook. Kris Shaffer and Robin Wharton are collaborating to guide Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing. Kris has discussed some of his ideas in two Hybrid Pedagogy pieces, The Critical Textbook and Open Source Scholarship. This is the second of a three-part series of 1000-word essays in which Robin offers her thoughts about books, humanities pedagogy, and the future of academic publishing.


I ended Part 1 with the questions: Why are reading and writing books central to the work of humanism? And what kinds of books, and what sort of editorial processes can be most useful for humanists as well as the humanities? Because I teach writing-intensive courses in an English department, some obvious answers present themselves. Books are proper and traditional objects of study in literature courses, and students should be trained to understand and reproduce dominant forms to participate in contemporary rhetorical processes.

I’m less-than-satisfied with these easy answers, however. That stems in part from my own rather vexed disciplinary affiliation. While I’m fortunate to be a full-time “lecturer in English,” starting this Fall, I’ve often found it useful to think of myself as a scholar working in the humanities. Further, although some students who attend my classes are English majors, many of them major in other disciplines, and for all of them, it’s essential to help them connect learning in my classes with what’s happening in their other courses and communities beyond the academy. Especially in first-year composition, an introduction to literary studies is also often an introduction to the humanities.

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During the summer of 2013, I scratched my seven-year itch. I broke up with Facebook.

I first met the social media space in 2006, when the platform was in many ways an energetic youth bent on embracing all of life’s pleasures. Our relationship, like so many others, was full of vibrancy in the beginning. We shared our hopes and dreams, pictures of silly and significant events, and even shared music to chronicle our strengths and shadows. As our partnership matured, and Facebook began trying on new looks like the newsfeed, different privacy options, and even chat and mail, the once dazzling space dulled. We used to so clearly communicate, uninhibited by outside influence. And that quickly changed. As if almost overnight, Facebook began acting out, hiding important posts on the newsfeed and only showing what Facebook thought was most relevant or important. I began distancing myself in 2010. I could feel the shift in the site’s behaviors and habits, and I wasn’t sure then what that change meant for me or our relationship. In the final few years, I still occasionally flirted with Facebook, but I kept a distance; and in 2013, I finally left Facebook for good.

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Howard Rheingold brought this piece to our attention after Jesse and Sean published “Is it Okay to Be a Luddite” on Instructure’s Keep Learning blog. Originally published in 1998 as the start to a five-part series, Howard considers here many of the same questions we ask in our own article. Most significantly, his questions and ours intersect where we say “To fear a technological future is to deny a technological past and present” and he states “It is possible to think critically about technology without running off to the woods”.

So we offer this article, and our own, as a consideration of what it means to approach technology with mindfulness, skepticism, and also exuberance. Our intention is to let these two articles brush against one another to see what conversations they raise across decades.


“…A crucial turning point comes when one is able to acknowledge that modern technics, much more than politics as conventionally understood, now legislates the conditions of human existence. New technologies are institutionalized structures within an existing constitution that gives shape to a new polity, the technopolis in which we do increasingly live. For the most part, this constitution still evolves with little public scrutiny or debate. Shielded by the conviction that technology is neutral and tool-like, a whole new order is built — piecemeal, step by step, with the parts and pieces linked together in novel ways, without the slightest public awareness or opportunity to dispute the character of the changes underway. It is somnambulism (rather than determinism) that characterizes technological politics — on the left, right, and center equally.” 

~ Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology

Are we awake to the world we’re building, or are we, as an old Sufi saying goes, merely asleep in life’s waiting room?

The petroleum economy, nuclear power, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, lasers, organ transplants, telephone and television and personal computer networks — today’s technologies have put staggering amounts of power into the hands of billions of people. More power is on its way in the next several decades, as present scientific knowledge drives future technological capability. Do we know what to do with the powers over matter, mind, and life that tomorrow’s technologies will grant us?

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Is It Okay to Be a Luddite?

Is It Okay to Be a Luddite?

This piece was originally published on Instructure’s Keep Learning blog. When it posted, we received a message from Howard Rheingold (NetSmart) linking us to a post last revised in May 1998. In that piece, he considers many of the same questions we ask here. Most significantly, his questions and ours intersect where we say “To fear a technological future is to deny a technological past and present” and he states “It is possible to think critically about technology without running off to the woods”.

So we offer this article, and Howard’s, as a consideration of what it means to approach technology with mindfulness, skepticism, and also exuberance. Our intention is to let these two articles brush against one another to see what conversations they raise across decades.


I feel a pinch as I approach the screen once more. A twinge, just the littlest bite of remorse. Sometimes, it’s sizeable, the feeling I have that I want the digital to be more, the Internet to be tangible, the vacant gaping spaces between my colleagues and myself to be smaller, more a hands-breadth than the length of a whale. And sometimes it is this, a mosquito in the ear. Either way, I return to the screen wishing for relationships that are bigger than pixels, and words that are indelible.

I rail against technology at dinner parties. I curse it to my friends in Google Hangouts. And they call me a luddite.

The title of this post is inspired by an essay by Thomas Pynchon. He wrote presciently in 1984, “Since 1959, we have come to live among flows of data more vast than anything the world has seen.” According to Pynchon, “Luddites flourished In Britain from about 1811 to 1816. They were bands of men, organized, masked, anonymous, whose object was to destroy machinery used mostly in the textile industry.” The 21st Century has produced a whole new kind of altogether less revolutionary luddite. These are the folks who refuse to go on Facebook, who have tried Twitter but would never use it regularly. They keep pen and paper handy and nod with suspicion at the great green elephant of Evernote. For these people, the Internet has not brought on a new world of connectedness and community, it has reduced us to two dimensions, static portraits of faces meant to be lively with expression. The Internet hurts their eyes. And they secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) scorn it’s denizens, reducing their work to blips.

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For many, the classroom is an alienating place. There are environmental factors that play into this (and monetary factors that play into these environmental ones). There are stigmas, expectations, and traditions that may interfere with learning. In attending and visiting various college campuses around the country I frequently see the same colorless, characterless spaces, each one artificially illuminated by fluorescent light. In fact, I dare you to type “schools look like” into Google and see how the program autocompletes the thought. Or fill it in yourself. If you have spent enough time near the institution, it is likely you and the search algorithm will pick up on the same cultural trend: schools look like prisons. And by observing the current boom in 21st century classroom design companies, I know that the market (and incidentally, Foucault) agrees with me.

More troubling, however, are the less visible cultural biases that manifest in these traditional classroom spaces. When left unmodified, the “default settings” and practices of today’s classrooms may be further marginalizing diverse student populations. One scholar, Mildred Jordan, observes a variety of “negative affects that a mainstream American educational experience can have on African American and other minority students.” In fact, Jordan goes as far as to suggest that, “the behavior of Black students is often seen as being disruptive rather than an expression of their own cultural styles.” While this assertion is troublesome enough, I want to argue further that the traditional classroom doesn’t even capture the needs of the mainstream student well. The Gallup survey states that student engagement at the high school level is as low as 4 in 10 students. With classroom disengagement rates soaring, it appears that no class, race, or culture has discovered immunity (albeit disproportionately affecting marginalized populations). According to a recently released report, even the teachers are becoming increasingly disengaged with the classroom, lacking the “energy, insights, and resilience that effective teaching” requires. And it’s the students who pay the price.

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On Tuesday, June 3, Hybrid Pedagogy released an announcement and CFP related to the first long-form project to be undertaken by Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing. In the coming weeks, look for another announcement regarding a second project we have in the works. Kris Shaffer and Robin Wharton are collaborating to guide Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing. Kris has discussed some of his ideas in two Hybrid Pedagogy pieces, The Critical Textbook and Open Source Scholarship. This is the first of a three-part series of 1000-word essays in which Robin offers her thoughts about books, humanities pedagogy, and the future of academic publishing.

I am late to the conversation about Adam Kirsch’s recent sortie into the digital humanities, hack v. yack debate. In fact, I am reluctant even to attach this piece, however tangentially, to that discussion, in part because many others have written such excellent responses to and critiques of Kirsch’s argument. Yet, I must admit with its throwaway rhetorical question, “Was it necessary for a humanist in the past five hundred years to know how to set type and publish a book?,” his essay provided a focus for some of my thinking about the past, present, and future of the book, and the work Kris Shaffer and I have undertaken to launch a new experiment in long(er)-form publishing for Hybrid Pedagogy. Where before, I was armed and armored, but roaming the countryside aimlessly, with Kirsch’s question as a lens I could at least see the windmill on the horizon.

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Though one might imagine that suggestions emerging from a preschool storytime may not seem to be a likely source of wisdom for an adult audience, I find that we often forget the importance of basic literacy skills as we age. No longer considered necessary or on par with our educational expertise, foundational literacy skills are scoffed at or abandoned for what we believe to be more advanced thinking. Yet, the evidence speaks for itself: at a recent preschool storytime, a gaggle of preschoolers vivaciously discussed the merits of Judy Allen’s Are You a Butterfly? One child exclaimed, “I love butterflies!,” to which another child replied, “I hate butterflies!” A third child chided, “You can’t use the word hate!” Isn’t this more or less the essence of literary criticism, save a larger vocabulary and more citations? I digress.

I have been in a variety of public and private schools for the past 20 years, so far. It was during my 21st year within the educational system that a foray into the nonprofit world brought me back to square one: preschool literacy. As an English 1 & 2 Instructor during my MA program in 2012-2013, I discovered that teaching is similar to leading an improv group: in both instances, you show up for your gig, torn between the desire to “direct” and the urge to allow conversations to unfurl organically. Sometimes, you witness beautiful moments. At other times, chaos ensues. As a young instructor in an old institution, I was worried I was performing from some predetermined teaching script acquired during my time there. In my current position in an alternative academic setting, I discovered a mode of comparison and upon reflection, found some teaching practices I could bring back to the college classroom.

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Hybrid pedagogy does not just describe an easy mixing of on-ground and online learning, but is about bringing the sorts of learning that happen in a physical place and the sorts of learning that happen in a virtual place into a more engaged and dynamic conversation. ~ Jesse Stommel

With growth in student population, budget constrictions, and increased enrollment, more and more instructors are facing the challenges of classroom management and engaging students in a large format environment. The traditional and often most-efficient teaching method is the lecture, but Gehring notes this delivery can be “impersonal, anonymous, and permits passivity,” all contrary to optimal student learning. While not discounting the benefits of face-to-face interaction, in an effort to ensure participation, many instructors implement policies requiring students be physically present in the classroom. Some quickly see the futility of these efforts, realizing that expecting students to adhere to mandatory attendance policies is becoming less and less justifiable.

Pete Rorabaugh argues that our daily lives are increasingly “mediated through technology” and a heightened presence of flexibility and choice resulting from not being tied to time or place. We are free to choose whether and when to communicate in person, by phone, email, video, social media, text, etc. Many of us have the opportunity to work from home or participate in meetings by voice or video. We can imagine a future where students have similar true agency in developing individual knowledge, yet before that becomes reality, small steps can be introduced.

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The MOOC Problem

The MOOC Problem

The purpose of education is in large part linked to its standing as a social science. Philosophers dating back to Socrates have linked education to a purpose beyond the individual, one where accrual of facts and training in skills is not the outcome or objective for the individual nor society; rather, a deeper relationship with thought and reason is necessary for the development of each person and in turn their community. This is at the heart of much great philosophy:  luminaries such as Locke, Milton, Rousseau, Hume and others saw education as a continuation of society through means greater than memory recall and skilled competencies. The education discipline is built upon this theory and is at the heart of its mission: through pedagogy and methodology education can foster the growth of our culture through each person.

This is not the methodology from which most outside interests view education. Rather than endeavoring to improve the practice, their stated goal is to solve education, noting that education is in crisis and its survival requires tautological changes to the status quo. This is the rallying cry most recently seen around the movement of massive open online courses (MOOCs), where a cavalcade of venture capitalists, politicians, computer scientists and media pundits have chosen to define education through analytics and instrumentation, the MOOC representing an opportunity to democratize education on a global level while at the same time undercutting the cost behemoth of a contemporary higher education. This argument reads like a win-win, but in reality the MOOC as a learning system has underperformed traditional models and shows no large-scale cost benefit to education providers. At this point, the MOOC as an instrument is a failure.  However, the MOOC as a landscape-altering educational phenomenon is a fascinating success, in large part due to shifting the definition of education away from its historical roots to a skills-based, instrumentally-defined exercise.

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Hospitality in the classroom and digital pedagogical practices encourage participatory pedagogy and collective action. This model of learning and teaching emphasizes the shared responsibility between all members to contribute to and actively further the intellectual exchange and critical inquiry of the course; indeed, this model of learning can frame how we understand subjectivity itself. Google docs, for example, can be thought of as merely a technological innovation that enables collaborative notetaking. But the programming structure of Google docs closely resembles Clay Shirky’s articulation in Here Comes Everybody of how collective action invokes subjectivity by tying one person’s identity to the identity of the group and making a decision of a group binding on all individual members (51). A collaboratively constructed Google document creates a site of authoring — and self-authoring — that materially represents the multiplicity of subjectivity. Unlike “group work” (where students simply divide the workload of a project into discrete, individual tasks), the collaborative production of participatory pedagogy derives from a shared responsibility, vision, decision-making, and creation that cannot be divided.

As a critical digital pedagogue, I owe a great debt to Jacques Derrida. Derridean concepts of ethical hospitality, freeplay, jouissance, and différance have always felt intimately human to me. The vulnerability to rupture, the burdens and liberations of undecidability, the spirit of generosity in multiplicity . . . the conditions underpinning Derridean theory are brimming with deeply humanistic inquiry. These same conditions can instruct educators not only how to facilitate participatory pedagogy and collective action in our classrooms, but also about knowledge production as communal intellectual rigor and joy.

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The Critical Textbook

The Critical Textbook

Nothing enshrines an idea quite like printing it in a textbook. In fact, the textbook is the ultimate canon: a fixed tome of knowledge, shared across institutional boundaries, with the authority to dictate pedagogical decisions and arbitrate student success.

The textbook affects more than just students, of course. Today’s scholars were yesterday’s students, and the ideas and assumptions that ruled their professional development in the tender, impressionable student years can easily permeate their thinking as scholars. Some of these ideas are groundbreaking and can springboard students into brilliant scholarly lives. However, many of those ideas and assumptions are half-baked or uncritically promulgated, and — left unchecked — can stunt the growth of our collective wisdom.

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 “‘Digital scholarship’ is its own animal, a chimera that defies the conventions of print scholarship.”
~ Roopika Risam, “Rethinking Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities”

It is not enough to write monographs. It is not enough to publish. Today, scholars must understand what happens when our research is distributed, and we must write, not for rarified audiences, but for unexpected ones. New-form scholarly publishing requires new-form scholarly (digital) writing. Digital academic publishing may on the surface appear as a lateral move from print to screen, but in fact it brings with it new questions about copyright, data analysis, multimodality, curation, archiving, and how scholarly work finds an audience. The promise of digital publishing is one that begins with the entrance of the written, and one that concludes with distribution, reuse, revision, remixing — and finally, redistribution.

Digital publishing is a field worthy of rigorous research and deep discourse. In a post-print environment, for example, social media — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, or Tumblr — have supplanted the static page as the primary metaphors for how we talk about the dissemination of information. Digitized words have code and algorithms behind them, and are not arrested upon the page; rather they are restive there.

Traditional academic publishing is aimed at a scholarly process that is private and gradual, deliberate and uninterrupted by the memes and news of the day. Digital publishing is public work, packaged and poised for ready distribution. Post-print publishing keeps its focus on moving objects: digital artifacts and networked conversations that can be plumbed at the level of the code behind them, tracked in their progress through the web, or catalogued next to works beside which they would not normally sit. It happens as quickly and as prominently as rumor and gossip, but is rigorous in its play and tenable in its rapidity.

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I have colleagues who invoke “Best Practices” the way that evangelical Christians quote the Bible: God has spoken. During these conversations, I am tempted to say in a serious voice, “Best Practices dictate that teaching writing should include loud music in a public place and synchronized dancing. In short, a flash mob.” I mean, if Best Practices are really going to be the end-all of pedagogy, I want them to be cool.

I had a revelation about Best Practices during a discussion with my students about a similar concept: universal design solutions. We were reading Cradle to Cradle, a book which challenges industry to become more sustainable through ecologically smart design and which raises questions about what architects call universal design solutions. Braungart and McDonough weren’t talking about students. They were talking about household products like detergent. Here’s how a universal design solution works: in order to market the same detergent across the country, the industry designs it to work effectively anywhere, regardless of water quality, no matter what is being washed. That means if I’m washing out my tea mug at a sink with soft water, I use the same detergent as someone 500 miles away washing a greasy pan in hard water. The ecologically devastating result is that I dump harsh chemicals, which were never necessary in the first place, into the waste stream and eventually the water supply, harming aquatic life for no good reason.

Braungart and McDonough summed it up this way: “To achieve their universal design solutions, manufacturers design for the worst-case scenario: they design a product for the worst possible circumstance, so that it will always operate with the same efficacy.” (30) One of my students summed it up this way: “If you care about ecology, universal design solutions suck.”

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This article is the seventh in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


 “…Literature can be our teacher as well as our object of investigation”
—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

To say that being the only African American woman professor at a small, liberal arts college in the rural United States is a series of racial microaggressions (and macroaggressions) waiting to happen is something of an understatement. And still, you are hopeful that the aspirational institution that sent for you will be able to support you on its campus. Initially, you may ignore being regularly mistaken by your colleagues for the other (only) Black woman on campus, or be willing to patiently explain that the institution’s expectation that you mentor every Black student is not only unreasonable, but not conducive to successful tenure. By the time you encounter the catch-22 of seeming uncongenial, in part, because you carefully consider the social spaces you inhabit and very few of your colleagues seem to notice the confederate flags that casually drape the windows of cars parked in front of too many local watering holes, you begin to feel less hopeful.

In that American outpost, teaching became my refuge. With very little interference, I began to create courses which integrated canonical material from my subject areas of African American Literature, African Diaspora Literature and Black Studies with urban fiction, Hip Hop music and other forms of less traditional Black literary expression. These types of courses on a stodgy, rural, liberal arts campus encouraged a faithful student following, and that following felt like protection against the racist and sexist campus community outside the classroom. But it was not real protection; it couldn’t be. Through the experience of teaching Black urban literature, I soon came to realize that continued innovation cannot thrive in hostile spaces and that students’ goodwill cannot substitute for professional collegiality. For as bell hooks argues in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom “‘engaged pedagogy’ … means that teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students.” (15)

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A Soliloquy on Contingency

A Soliloquy on Contingency

I don’t share the sheer outrage that some adjunct professors are directing at the tenured ranks. I really do believe that the majority of tenured faculty — I obviously can’t speak for all of them — want every professor to be offered the benefits that were once the norm for university professors: stable employment, resources, research leave, health care, etc. I do believe this. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes bristle when I am forced to gape at the wide divide that separates me from those very, very few of my peers who have been fortunate enough to get on the tenure track.

To make a living wage, I have to work something between three and five jobs (the number changes slightly from year to year depending on how frequently I’m told mere days before my class starts that it has been cancelled). As a result, I cannot devote the requisite amount of time to research that would make me even remotely competitive for a tenure-line position. If I were to “sacrifice” some of my income to do that research, I wouldn’t make enough money to pay my bills; moreover, given the hyper-competitive nature of the academic job market, there is no guarantee that my sacrifice would ever result in forward professional movement.

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This article is the sixth in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details. This is a follow-up article to “Bonds of Difference: Illusions of Inclusion.”


As teachers who consider the whole world a virtual classroom and community, many of us sometimes mistakenly assume that if we create space for representing the “voice” of the marginalized, all will be fine. But as long as the classroom or community is founded on the principles of learning/teaching from one particular context, marginal voices from beyond that context will continue to go unheard, or be heard and misunderstood, or understood but remain stereotyped and marginalized. It only takes a moment’s reflection to realize that we cannot assume the local is global without contextual considerations.

We [the minorities] and you [the dominant] do not talk the same language. When we talk to you we use your language: the language of your experience and of your theories. We try to use it to communicate our world of experience. But since your language and your theories are inadequate in expressing our experiences, we only succeed in communicating our experience of exclusion. We cannot talk to you in our language because you do not understand it. (p. 575 in Lugones & Spelman, 1983)

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Innovate: French innover, from Old French, from Latin innovāre, innovāt-, to renew : in-, intensive pref.; in- + novāre, to make new (from novus, new). ~ adapted from OED online

I have a confession: I am afraid of the Internet. When I think about innovation in terms of my own pedagogical skill, I immediately think about the Internet, and I get scared all over again. It makes sense though: the first thing I ever heard in regard to online interactivity was that some evil hacker could steal my identity, my money, or my youthful innocence. When I began work toward my PhD in rhetoric and composition a little over two years ago, if someone had told me then that I would become interested in technology, I would have snorted in disbelief. I could never have predicted how much I would grow to value my own fears, or change the tools associated with my teaching despite my fears. Regardless of what you may read here, I still harbor anxieties every time I pick up a new Internet skill. The nerves will likely never leave me, but now I embrace them as I puzzle through concepts like surveillance, privacy, and even the meaning of ‘innovation’ in my own theoretical work.

Learning even just a little bit about tech tools, from apps to programs, to social medias, has opened up more doors for me than I could ever have imagined. I have changed my entire rhetoric and composition focus, and I am now a go-to person for tool use at my current school. The funny part is this: I don’t feel like I know all that much more about online technologies. The difference is that I stopped saying ‘no’ to learning about emerging media and how it could enhance my own teaching, and started saying, “well… let’s learn a little bit about media here and there.”

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This article is the fifth in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


A bull that went blind during the monsoon forgets that the world is not always green. — Nepalese proverb

Thanks largely to the advent of MOOCs, more scholars around the world are engaged in conversations about cross-border higher education today than ever before. As teachers who are interested in the prospects and pitfalls of emerging academic technologies and pedagogies for learning and teaching across national, social, and cultural contexts, we have been sharing our experiences in different venues. While the hype about the private higher education industry’s push for massive open online courses as the future of cross-border education rages on, we find ourselves much more interested in smaller-scale conversations about teaching and learning in all their confusing complexities in different contexts. Essentially, we are brought together primarily by our different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives; it is within the interest in difference that we share ideas, interests, and concerns.

One of us, Maha, is a faculty developer and teacher educator at the American University in Cairo who got her PhD from Sheffield, UK; the other, Shyam, is an assistant professor of writing now in New York, a man who hailed originally from the hinterlands of western Nepal (via the routes of education and professional careers in east India, Kathmandu in Nepal, and Kentucky in the US). Because we value (and indeed benefit from) our different identities, ideas, experiences, and perspectives based on our respective backgrounds, we come together in that valuation of difference. However, we are also aware that we are connected by our shared appreciation of difference as it is defined in Western or Westernized academic communities that we are part of.

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The Political Power of Play

The Political Power of Play

This peer-reviewed article was simultaneously prepared as a keynote address for Re:Humanities 2014, a peer-reviewed undergraduate digital humanities conference held by the TriCollege Digital Humanities Initiative (Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore). The slides for the keynote are here.

We are accustomed to thinking about play as frivolous. We think of play as something that young children do; play is not serious, it doesn’t encourage deep, intellectual thought, it must be set aside as one grows older for quiet, reserved contemplation. Play is fun and pleasurable, the supposed opposite of rigorous education. Yet, Fred Rogers (better known as Mr. Rogers), is well known for his claim: “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.” People who work in the arena of higher education have extended this sentiment to grown-up children: Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel argue that play constitutes a new form of critical inquiry; Cathy Davidson suggests, in Now You See It, that game mechanics should be used to reformulate some of the most critical learning goals in education; game designer and evangelist Jane McGonigal notes that “reality is broken” and that games are the solution to many of our problems — that if we played games as if our lives depended on them (especially collaborative games), we would learn that challenges never stop, and that it is worth risking absolute failure for an epic win. Accordingly, increasing numbers of educators are tuning into the idea of play as something serious and rigorous. A Serious Play Conference is held annually by key game developers as well as educators; while Michigan State University offers a Masters of Arts in “Serious Games.”

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Education cannot just be filling an empty brain, but must be as Paulo Freire says in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” Learning in prison is about the future that is at stake and the society at large. Prison rehabilitation should be based on process not content — should be focused on learning to make good moral decisions in a variety of situations and not a single dogmatic code of right behavior in our society. 

A pedagogy of prison rehabilitation is a life-or-death pedagogy. If even one inmate becomes a responsible, contributing member of society, there is a potential reduction of hundreds of new crimes and their potential victims. To the offender this means a life of integrity, new and positive relationships, a sense of peace and belonging, and a new self-efficacy. If the offender does not change, then it could be death on the streets, death in addiction or overdose, or a long slow death by the revolving door in and out of prison.

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Humanizing the Interface

Humanizing the Interface

Oppression is inherently spatial. Governments use biopolitical mechanisms such as urban zoning and prisons to keep undesirable populations fixed in place; institutions use office location to distinguish permanent from contingent faculty; houses of worship physically separate believers from infidels. These structures all classify exclusion as a topography dividing “us” from “them.” Resistance is also spatial: Rooms of one’s own and brave new worlds constitute alternate landscapes that restage the relation of the person to society. These oppositional spaces protect us from the onslaught of the myriad forms of social coding that define us as objects rather than selves.

The Graphical User Interface (or GUI for short) is a high-stakes battlefield in this struggle between the oppressed and the powers-that-be. The general term for the proliferating technologies that communicate with their human users through images rather than text, the GUI expands the concept of digital literacy to include those excluded from traditional forms of technological aptitude. Smartphones and tablets depend upon rebuses (image-words) rather than lexicons to generate meaning. Hegemony and alterity converge on their topography, which offers people the same playing field regardless of literacy level. The GUI opens a space within which dwell ever-increasing numbers of individuals from diverse classes, educational backgrounds, races, nationalities, genders, and political, sexual, or religious orientations. It forges a common identity grounded in nothing other than its shared love of this user-friendly technology. This hybrid technology opens the same world up to the excluded and powerful alike. And this world is pocket-sized: virtually anyone can own it, carry it, use it. As a pedagogical device, the GUI erodes distinctions between those privy to elite education and those without access to basic learning.

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This article is the fourth in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


I was in my car, pulling into the driveway after picking up some takeout. The radio was tuned to NPR, but I wasn’t paying that close of attention. I was exhausted after a long day of teaching and meetings.

The next day’s lesson was ready to go.

I wanted to clear my mind of school. I wanted to go home, see my family, and relax for the evening.

But, as I was reaching for the keys, I heard breaking news about the new way Facebook users would be able to classify their gender on their profile. I was then confronted with a choice. We have all been there. Do I ignore the information being offered to me so that I can continue on my way, or do I take the time to listen, knowing that I might hear something that compels me to rethink the plans for my next class?

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Writing the adjunct experience is its own genre now, having emerged from the duress of countless contingent laborers who are tired of marginalization. We are academe’s scapegoat. What I want now is the chance to help others in my position by talking about solutions, not problems. We have heard and read ample adjunct narratives. Let’s talk about something other than the predictable statistics, and contribute our voices to action that seeks progressive change and empowerment.

Like many adjuncts across America, I am a qualified and collegial asset to my university, and I want to move beyond the political apathy and/or aggression that fuel this crisis. Let’s all contribute to a conversation that is thoughtful and ethical. There must be a moral imperative to discuss the truths of our profession and abide by a standard of ethos and equality. And there should be a way to extend this branch to adjuncts and other marginalized university employees with a formalized concern for working conditions.

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This article is the third in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


“To the naked eye, I may seem normal just like another student or individual; however, behind the mask, I am constantly reminded that I am different from everybody else. I am not sure when I will be able to overcome these fears and doubts because I sometimes feel like I cannot be myself in school or back home. To the naked eye, I am known as Alexander; however, behind the mask, I am known as a hard-of-hearing queer Latino. Would there be a day that individuals like me ever feel comfortable? I am not sure, maybe in a near future, or maybe not because it all depends on how accepting our education and culture can be.”

We write together to share our experiences of difference, and to explore the question of how our schools and classrooms might become spaces where we can share ourselves in honesty and safety, where we can grow and learn together. We are Alexander Hernandez, a college student at a small liberal arts institution, and Deborah Seltzer-Kelly, a professor of educational philosophy at that college. This essay brings together selections from our ongoing conversations on this topic, moving between excerpts of papers Alex wrote for a class in educational philosophy taught by Debbie, and passages we wrote together specifically for this project.

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An Affinity for Asynchronous Learning

An Affinity for Asynchronous Learning

There is something that bothers us about conversations about replacing face-to-face teaching with online learning: they often fall into a trap of assuming that incorporating synchronous interaction is the optimal way to make learning more personable, that it approximates the face-to-face setting closest, and is therefore preferable and better. More often than not, synchronous interaction here implies some form of two-way audiovisual interaction, even though there are text-only forms of synchronous interaction (e.g., Twitter live chat). There are also asynchronous forms of audiovisual interaction (e.g., voicemail, recorded lectures).

But we feel the enthusiasm for audiovisual synchronicity often comes without sufficient discernment, and without deliberative consideration of how asynchronous learning can be not only viable but productive.

We’ve had experiences both teaching and learning online in a variety of formats, as well as supporting others who are still learning to teach online, and this article reflects our experiences and how they affect our thinking about digital pedagogy more broadly. We both have a strong preference for asynchronous learning.

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“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities — and found no statues of Committees.” ~ G K Chesterston

About two years ago circumstances reduced my full time job in a UK university to four days a week. I was aware of two possible dangers: firstly, my four days a week job would actually turn out to be a full-time job with less pay. Secondly, I was concerned that this non-work day would be academically unproductive and get absorbed by domestic responsibilities, jobs around the house, or general unproductivity. From the outset I endeavored to work on my own projects, unencumbered by the restraints of working for a large organization and, conversely, unsupported by other colleagues and the extensive resources my (then) employer had to offer.

Of course great men and great women (however defined) rarely work in isolation, but G K Chesteron’s quip is a reminder that it is individuals who are commemorated. I don’t make any claims to greatness, but I believed I could create, innovate, build and achieve without the consent and approval of others. The main thrust of my project was the building of the website YazikOpen.org.uk a directory of open access research articles for the learning and teaching of languages. I was accountable only to myself for questions such as:

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Toward an Interactive Criticism: House of Leaves as Haptic Interface

And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!
~ Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

When I first read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, I barely got through 50 pages before I stopped doing what most would call “reading” and began to do what most would call “browsing.” While I was indeed playing across the book’s surfaces, flipping rapidly back and forth from one page to another, I wouldn’t describe my experience as a superficial one. This was a browsing that felt more like a frantic burrowing. I didn’t absorb every word, not more than a mere fraction of them, but I was building something substantial nonetheless. My first encounter with the text was a series of glancing blows, a play between the words, the spaces between them, and the shapes the words and spaces make together on the page. Reading the book that first time was more like venturing into the site of an archaeological dig. To this day, when I pick up House of Leaves, I feel like I’m still moving dirt, burying one thing as I uncover another. In this way, the book is about the acts of reading and interpretation, about the various ways we organize data and our own experiences of that data. House of Leaves is about matter and affect — about how we move stuff and how that stuff moves us.

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This article is the second in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


I am stuck with the following story — not only with it, but by it. My decision to articulate it is always marked by haltings and hesitations, whether I’m inscribing it here or speaking it to friends and/or colleagues. It is, for me at least, a story of my failure to account for alterity in the classroom, and I do not wish its telling to be read as an attempt to confess and absolve myself, nor as a compelling anecdote nonchalantly recounted over coffee: a hard-boiled tale from my time in the pedagogical trenches. I would humbly offer it as a story that haunts me, one that materializes intermittently as a call to remember the latent violence beneath (my) pedagogical authority.

But it is also a story about the unintended resonances and consequences of a teacher’s words. Who am I, then, to try and govern the scene of its utterance? I can only tell this tale in order to let it go, and so I will — but, as one who remains responsible for it, only after some brief meditations on bell hooks, Jacques Derrida, and the medium in which it is here articulated.

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“The problem is to begin with a conception of power relations that grants that resistance is always possible but not always successful.” ~ David Sholle, “Resistance: Pinning Down a Wandering Concept in Cultural Studies Discourse” 

Why resist?

Figurines of Bambi (on left, facing right) and Godzilla (on right, facing left) appear at a standoff, ready to attack one another

The capability inherent in digital humanities for resistance is part of what makes digital humanities “humanistic“ — rather than, say, techno-utopian or neoliberal — it’s what connects the digital humanities to the humanities. Alan Liu and Stephen Ramsay have both argued for the necessity of theorizing “resistance” and its place in the work of digital humanists. Ramsay gets to the heart of what “resistance” might look like in this context when, in his eloquent “defense“ of the humanities in general, he describes the humanities as a discursive space in which we answer the pressing question, “How do we become individuals who move through the world with awareness, empathy, and thoughtfulness, and who know how to act upon those dispositions?” What if, “we can resist” were at least a partial answer to Ramsay’s question? If this is what resistance can do for us, for the project of being or becoming human, then I think we can see pretty clearly why it matters, why digital humanists should be investing time and resources in activities of resistance.

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On Being a Double Agent

On Being a Double Agent

When I was in graduate school working on my Ph.D. in English, I spent quite a few hours in the TA office, an expansive room in the basement of the English building, filled with cubicle partitions that barely demarcated the space allocated to each of the 20 desks. Each desk space was shared by two TAs, and the crowded condition led to lots of chatting, camaraderie, and general discussion, often on the topic of how our teaching was going. Most of us taught Freshman Composition, and the comp program was well-designed to generate growth in student writing. One of its strengths was the freedom it gave instructors to design their own assignments, and that group of TAs developed some amazing writing prompts and research projects.

Yet, a common trend in the TA office chatter was what to do in class on a given day. Unlike many of the TAs who were around 23 to 27 years old, straight out of undergraduate programs or master’s programs, I was older and had spent seven years teaching English in junior high and high school. To obtain my teaching license after earning a bachelor’s in English, I had taken pedagogy courses and national exams. During those seven years in a public school classroom, I had attended an almost interminable list of professional development workshops, and I worked closely with other educators to “hone my craft” of teaching. Listening to the discussions around me, I realized that I had some skills from those experiences that others were lacking.

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Finding My Voice as a Minority Teacher

Finding My Voice as a Minority Teacher

This article is the first in a series about pedagogical alterity. See the original CFP for more details.


As a high-school teacher, I kept quiet about my sexuality because I didn’t want to draw attention to it. Instead, I created a deafening silence, a vacuum that tugged on everything around it and demanded attention by its absence. I was silent because I thought my sexuality shouldn’t matter. I was also silent because I live in a state that has no protection against termination of employment due to sexual orientation. It’s not called “discrimination” here; it’s an employer’s prerogative. Because a few administrators at the school where I taught were Good Ol’ Boys, I was afraid. I was afraid that, as a new teacher, my sexuality would become an issue, a liability, or a pretense for joblessness. I was afraid the school’s small surrounding community, transitioning from rural to suburban and demographically divided by which church everyone went to, would question my fitness as one who works with children to get them to think bigger thoughts and question the status quo. I imagined protests to the principal. I imagined parents saying awful things about the person teaching their children. I don’t think I feared a lynching, exactly. But the county’s history of acceptance and inclusion has lingering tarnish.

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Cracking Open the Curriculum

Cracking Open the Curriculum

“‘I hate it when you talk like this . . .’

‘I merely observe that this is a quantum Universe and, as such, what happens is neither random nor determined. There are potentialities and any third factor–humans are such a factor–will affect the outcome.’

‘And free will?’

‘Is your capacity to affect the outcome.’”

~ Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods

I challenge you to look boldly at today’s curriculum. Hold it in your hands, as every educator should, and peer into it. Just below the surface lies a labyrinth of possibilities. Its architecture is Deleuzean in concept, manifest folds upon folds. Curriculum is nebulous, expansive, recursive. As educators, we must do more than expect critical engagement from our students — we must model it in our efforts to change, modify, and adopt new learning practices. An educational system emerging from the demands of an industrial nation begins to crack in the light of post-industrialism. New literacies arise; epistemologies change. We must enter the labyrinth despite the minotaur.

In the deepest recesses of academia, we find ourselves still heavily influenced by the pervading capitalist culture informing our learning communities. This is damaging. Economic gain and critical pedagogy are too frequently at odds. The academy has become, among other things, a place to produce certified experts each designated to complete their commercial task(s). When in this model, then, does the student get to consider the system itself? We cannot afford to leave it unexamined. Consider this: we work, shop, eat, and live in a society where much of our produce has lost a significant portion of its nutrient value through generations of poor crop management, yet we gloss over these details in historical narratives that recast these losses as advancements in efficiency and industrial progress. I, for one, feel alienated from the primal necessities of life, hidden somewhere behind the well-stocked supermarket shelves. Upon reflection, however, I realize that many of these commodities have visited much more of the world than I have. Without well-developed critical thinking skills, our students will come to depend on — and reproduce — this historical narrative just as the current economy depends on and reproduces these crops.

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Confessions of a Subversive Student

Confessions of a Subversive Student

My relationship with education has always been a kind of dissonant harmony. I have always loved learning, yet I have always felt like a rogue in the regimented institutions of homogenization. Today, the dissonance continues as I find myself at times upholding and perpetuating systems of conformity in education, while simultaneously trying to disrupt and subvert those systems in order to shake loose their inhumanities and ultimately help them evolve past obsolete structural paradigms. Reconciliation is slow-going and messy. The pendulum must swing a wide arc before settling in its consonant center.

In my fifth grade class, we had a mock monetary system in which we earned fake dollars for good grades and behavior. The “money” was to be spent at “sales” during which our teacher provided trinkets and candy, etc. that we could purchase. This fake economy — supposedly designed to teach us about the “real” economy — was a regulated, glorified reward system for obedience and the completion of worksheets. I used the fake currency to set up my own black market. I hired some classmates, and we expanded our business to other classes that didn’t even use the currency except in my shadow economy. I got in trouble for this.

That same year, my teacher asked me if she could try to publish a political cartoon about endangered species that I made for a class assignment (“sure,” I told her). Perhaps she wasn’t serious, but it made me consider the possibility that the things I did in school might have merit in the “real world.” The prospect of publishing a cartoon connected my education to the “real world” much more significantly than the fake money did.

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Last year, my then-employer, Charleston Southern University (CSU), instituted a new social media policy. Though I believe it was largely unintended, that policy (which is still available on CSU’s website) placed unreasonable limits on academic freedom, including in the classroom. It also contradicted existing policies in the Faculty Handbook. However, the faculty were able to get the Board of Trustees to replace that bad policy with a new policy that I drafted myself. Though I am no longer affiliated with CSU, they now have a solid social media policy that safeguards academic freedom.

Academic freedom and social media policies have both been in the spotlight of late, particularly in the cases of Patti Adler’s course, “Deviance in U.S. Society” at the University of Colorado–Boulder and the adoption of a new, restrictive social media policy by the Kansas Board of Regents. In light of these specific events, and my experiences going through a social media policy change at CSU, I offer what I hope are helpful suggestions to faculty seeking to preserve or regain academic freedom at institutions with bad social media policies or no social media policies.

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In April, faculty and staff from fifteen universities in the Atlanta region (and beyond) will attend the Domain of One’s Own Atlanta Regional Incubator hosted by Emory University’s Writing Program. Jim Groom, Tim Owens, and Martha Burtis of the University of Mary Washington and Audrey Watters of Hack Education will provide keynote addresses. Co-organizers David Morgen (Emory University) and Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University) offer this theoretical context for the Domain pilots at their respective campuses and their reasoning behind building a regional, cross-institutional pedagogical network to explore digital literacies.

In a recent conversation about Twitter in my (Pete’s) ENGL 1102 class, one of my students observed that the way we were using Twitter in class was not “what Twitter is for.” It was a revelation and led to our probing the idea of digital tools and how they’re built for specific purposes. Observing that Twitter encourages short pieces of text, links, and self-promotion, the class came to the consensus that Twitter “was meant for” celebrities, advertising, and self-obsessed status updates. “Twitter is about what you ‘do,’ and not so much about what you think,” one student asserted. True or not, it was a meaningful capture of the resistance that I encounter when I introduce a class to social media in general and Twitter in particular. Everyone is familiar with memes, hoaxes, and selfies on social media; in many ways, that’s how some of us are trained to see social media. Yet, from the culture of coding we learn that any tool can be hacked and repurposed. User agency modifies the tool, changing what it can be for and unlocking its potential.

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The ability or inability of a group or culture to progress is in direct relationship to the proliferation of aphorism within it. General statements of fact and abbreviations of great wisdom are misleading in that they censure further inquiry and discussion. The brilliance of our predecessors was never meant to be carved into stone monuments, but as a point from which our own meditations should depart. When we rest on their laurels we languor, we enjoy a tenure of torpor. We cannot attend old leadership any more than we can wait for new leaders. We must take the lead.

I talk to leaders every day. Because every day I am in contact with teachers who have an array of backgrounds, an array of pedagogical stances, an array of fears and beliefs. I hear teachers write about their students — encouraging them, disparaging them, condoning and cursing them — and I hear teachers write about their profession, usually from a perspective of discontent, of everything being not-quite-right. Teachers are spooked by their institutions, they’re intimidated by men and intimidated by women, no one is paid enough, and the list of crises in education seems impossibly long. Tenure and money are not solutions, online education is fraught, every single person deserves better treatment than they receive. Sisyphus had it easy.

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Educational theory and practice have begun to appear more frequently in the popular press. Terms such as collaborative learning, project-based learning, metacognition, inquiry-based learning, and so on, might be new to some audiences, but they have a relatively long and well-documented history for many educators. The most widely-known and promising pedagogical approach is constructivism grounded on the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. Given how it has transformed my own understanding of pedagogy, teaching, and learning, constructionism seems ripe for a similar resurgence — like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Taylorization and standardized testing. Constructionism brings creativity, tinkering, exploring, building, and presentation to the forefront of the learning process.

Over the last decade my teaching has undergone a dramatic transformation as I played with many methods for getting my students to learn not only through doing, but also through creating. Initially this interest was sparked by a belief that targeting the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised) would lead to mastery in all the other cognitive domains. Later it was bolstered by an interest in creating more collaborative learning opportunities for my students.

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The Photobook Club and Generative Pedagogy

My interest here is that of the odd marriage between online and offline in relation to an informal and voluntary project.

For the past 4 years I have been involved in open education in one guise or another, having first helped develop (with Jonathan Worth) the connected classroom that is #phonar (Photography and Narrative) and subsequently #picbod (Picturing the Body) which I am now taking in a new direction at Coventry University. During this time I established the Photobook Club, a project which seeks to promote and enable discussion and learning around the physical photobook format. The project began with open, online explorations into the most “influential” photobooks of the 20th century but soon morphed into a two headed beast: On the one hand the project continued to discuss the photobook through social media and WYSiWYG platforms, while on another, I ran and supported others in running physical, generative (Kelly 2008) events themed around the photobook.

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On January 27th, Cathy N. Davidson launches “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education,” a MOOC connected to dozens of other courses and events distributed across the web. Over six weeks, Hybrid Pedagogy will host a discussion group, codenamed MOOC MOOC Dark Underbelly, a rowdy exploration of topics unearthed by the course and its offspring, a place to examine the deeper (and sometimes darker) issues implicated in these discussions. Our node will include related articles, curated content from participants, weekly #moocmooc chats, and more. Watch @hybridped and @moocmooc for details. In this article, Cathy offers 10 things she’s learned from making her meta-MOOC.


1. It’s a little bit “Wayne’s World,” a little bit “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and a little bit amateur hour (and that’s a good thing).

Starting last May 2013, my HASTAC colleague Kaysi Holman and I began making a meta-MOOC, “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.”  It comes with a long, whimsical subtitle intended to disrupt traditional ideas of the purpose and function of higher education:  “Or, How We can Unlearn our Old Patterns to Relearn for a More Engaged, Successful, Fruitful, Productive, Humane, Happy, Beautiful, and Socially-Conscious Life.” We made it for Coursera with which my university, Duke, is a partner. The Duke News team shot the opening promo video with two real cameras and real lights, but, for the rest of the six week course, Kaysi and I filmed with and delivered into a low-tech webcam neither of us had ever shot with before, a la Wayne and Garth.

Amateur videography is not really what I signed on for but it turned out to be interesting. I learned a lot about the art of scripting an entire course in 8-15 minute segments, designing and reading from cue cards (harder than it looks, as numerous hilarious Saturday Night Live segments attest), and storyboarding text and images. Kaysi, who has a law degree, not only read the fine print (confusing and in one case contradictory) on the agreements and helped with the IRB, she also learned many new skills: ScreenFlow editing, uni- and bi-directional mic’ing, and lighting to try to compensate, futilely, for the unflattering zombie green of office fluorescents, to name just a few. She edited, interjected explanatory texts and images, and designed landing pages. I’m not sure what we would have done without Lynda.com.

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I may have created a racist. I am an adjunct instructor at a large, public university in a rural area of the country. Given the media attention surrounding the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, now those outside academia know the general powerlessness and insecurity of that position. I am also a youngish, short, woman of color from a lower socio-economic background. One colleague once remarked about my appearance that I was “a young, small girl with a sweet face.” At the intersection of gender, ethnicity/race, class and even physical appearance, I generally am at the “less power” end of the spectrum. So, imagine my surprise when I received an email from a white, male, probably middle-class student who is at least half a foot taller than me expressing anger and hostility. The email from a student I’ll call John read that he must speak up against a decision I had made that left him feeling powerless. Why was John so angry? What was it about my actions that left him feeling so powerless?

To provide a little context, I teach an upper division course, taken generally by juniors and seniors. John is in his senior year, and from what I understand, in his final semester at the large, public university. According to John, he has been working long hours at a job and also doing a lot of interviews to secure a job once he graduates. He is enrolled in other courses, but only has my class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. John, however, hardly attends my class. In fact, I remember him approaching me after class once to introduce himself and apologize for missing class. “I will try not to miss any more class,” he stated. I don’t think I ever saw him again until a few days ago. He came to my office to plead his case on why he deserved an extension on an assignment.

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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the ninth from a series publishing throughout Fall 2013 and Winter 2014.


I am a mother. I am also a PhD in philosophy. And, finally, I am a contingent college professor at two universities. I am an example of how being a mother in that environment significantly affects a woman’s academic career. In addition to the struggles faced by the average contingent faculty member, contingent teaching is for many women the only viable employment option in the academic world. Indeed, motherhood alone may be a significant reason why women end up in the non-tenure track as parenthood unequally affects female academics. Many have found the academic setting is entirely inhospitable to mothers. Fellow academic Miriam Peskowitz, for example, argues women who are mothers often carousel in and out of work and, for that reason, motherhood may funnel qualified female PhDs into the exploitative world of contingent academic positions.

One myth associated with those of us in the non-tenured world is that there must be something wrong with us, something “defective” — either we are too lazy, unmotivated, unambitious or just not qualified for one of the “many” tenure track jobs offered each year. In an effort to help personally dispel that myth, I would like to mention that I have published a book, written both academic and non-academic articles, do at least four book reviews a year, present papers at conferences, develop new courses, teach four courses a year, volunteer at my university — all while raising my two sons without the use of outside childcare. Hiding behind this “defective” myth, institutional power structures take the scrutiny off of why the academic system maintains so many part-timers and the way it might be culpable for that exploitive reality. In addition, most colleges and universities only benefit from the fact that many of the students before me have never heard of “adjunct professors.” Our visible invisibility means universities sit in the comfortable position of never having to justify to parents the ever-increasing cost of a college tuition coupled with the reality that many of their children’s professors may be making as little as $16,000 a year.

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Recently, we completed the final manuscript for a guidebook to support multimodal composition in writing- and project-intensive courses. We wrote the book because we realized that each of our 15 years of experience teaching and researching multimodality were useful to other instructors and writers. Shortly after copyediting the final draft of the book, we traveled to Georgia Tech where we gave the opening plenary for the symposium, Multimodal Assessment: Navigating the Digital Turn. In that talk, we shared why we thought multimodality was important.


After five long years in which we truly now appreciate the rich theoretical and collaborative work that goes into textbook production, we have completed Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. We took on this project largely because we’ve been doing this kind of work with our students since we first started in our PhD programs at Michigan Technological University well over a decade ago. While we still teach very similarly to the ways we were trained, we were never able to find a book to support our pedagogical leanings. Those leanings were shaped by the fact that while at MTU (in 2000), the writing program underwent a major transition where faculty reimagined the first-year writing course to one that taught written, oral and visual communication. Through this course called Revisions, we were all introduced to a model of composition instruction that focused on multimodality and that helped students learn to craft texts in a variety of modes and genres to best meet their diverse rhetorical needs. For those not familiar, the multimodal turn in composition has been a gradual movement over the past twenty years from a composition pedagogy focused exclusively on the written word to a pedagogy that includes a range of semiotic modes, including (but not limited to) oral, written, and visual communication. [For more details, see the Annotated Bibliography of Multimodal Theories and Practices we have generated.]

Further, as the faculty who developed the Revisions course explained in our curricular materials, “an underlying strategy of the class is NOT to separate oral, written and visual communication, but rather to help students come to an understanding” that purposeful selection of mode and medium “always involves making rhetorical decisions” and requires “thoughtful and aware modification for particular audiences and circumstances”. In other words, our job was not to teach the discrete conventions of each mode, but to help students consider which modes were most appropriate in a given circumstance, how they might be integrated, and how they might be leveraged to achieve the desired impact on a target audience.

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Intimacy lacks a satisfying definition. It is, according to the New American Oxford Dictionary, “a close familiarity of friendship; a private atmosphere; or an intimate act (especially sex).” To be intimate with someone means you’re closely acquainted. These are not satisfying descriptions, as they fail to touch at all on the emotional ferocity and pleasure that the proximity to someone we esteem brings. There is nothing more soothing than an intimate conversation — the kind that lasts until three in the morning, leaving you glowing with warm satisfaction. It leaves you aching for more. These are often the best ways of learning, about someone else or about yourself. These conversations have the capability to transform ideas. They are moments for teaching, and for learning. Intimacy between friends or lovers is seen as a good thing.

There is a further point to be considered, and that is the matter of intimacy in another setting — a classroom. Intimacy in an adult classroom, is a rather sticky subject: is it allowed, and to what extent? In transformatory education, we must explore what Paulo Freire calls “the distance between the teacher and the taught.” The liminal space of possibility and uncertainty. Why must we mess up pedagogy with intimacy? Because when working between order and chaos we can produce either with a simple action.

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An Open Letter to My Students

An Open Letter to My Students

The following is a letter to my first- and second-year music theory and aural skills students at The University of Colorado–Boulder. This is my second semester at CU, and the music students and I are still getting to know each other. For some, this will be their first semester with me; others are still getting used to my pedagogical quirks. To help frame the semester, I will have them read and discuss this open letter.

My most profound educational experience was not a lecture, or a test, and certainly not a homework assignment from a workbook. My most profound educational experience was playing second horn for a brass sectional for our conservatory orchestra. We were playing Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, a piece full of difficult passages for the brass players. Our principal horn was away for an audition on that day, and our horn professor, Dale Clevenger (principal horn of the Chicago Symphony), played in his place. I sat right next to him, seeing and hearing what he was doing first-hand, and trying to match or complement him as I played. Even though he only talked to me for a fraction of the time, that single two-hour rehearsal was easily worth a year of lessons, or dozens of concerts. And no amount of lectures or readings could have accomplished what was accomplished by playing a hard piece alongside the greatest horn player in the world, trying to match his sound as I heard it.

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This article closes out a series that reflects at a meta-level about the work of the journal itself. Here, we offer a Hybrid Pedagogy mix-tape with a few special guests.

It is the season of lists. Shopping listsTop 100 lists. Lists of who’s been naughty and who’s been niceLists about what mattered in 2013. Even lists about what 2014 might bring. December 2013 marks Hybrid Pedagogy’s two-year anniversary, and so we thought the time was ripe to jump in with a few short lists of our own.

The journal has grown exponentially over those two years; and our readership has remained as broad and diverse as those who have written for us. Since January 2012, Hybrid Pedagogy has published 172 articles by 51 authors, and we’ve had approximately 100,000 unique visitors and a total of 300,000 pageviews. Readership went from 8,800 views in October 2012 to 27,000 views in October 2013.

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Does our academic work exist if nobody sees it? I watch far too many colleagues spend countless hours building, teaching, researching, and writing with little to show for it. Or, at least, little that gets seen, given their effort. And the conventional academic publishing industry certainly isn’t helping anyone do work that reaches a significant and diverse audience.

While we’re graduate students, academics are given a nearly endless parade of mixed messages: It’s all about who you know. Apply for every grant and job in sight. Focus with blinders on an extremely narrow discipline. Do work that has a broad impact. Be a good teacher. Teaching will never get you tenure. Network like crazy. Take down your social media profiles when you’re on the job market. Be collegial. Don’t collaborate; only publish monographs. Write cover letter after cover letter after cover letter about yourself. Don’t shamelessly self-promote. Think about nothing but your work.

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“…revolutionary leaders cannot be falsely generous, nor can they manipulate. Whereas the oppressor elites flourish by trampling the people underfoot, the revolutionary leaders can flourish only in communion with the people.” Paulo Friere

I am the editor of a peer reviewed online journal, and I care little for peer review. I care little for any evaluative, assessment practice. Grades have always been meaningless to me. People who speak about “acceptable” prose versus “unacceptable” prose turn my head like a dog’s, hearing the far-off yip of a mutt who doesn’t know better. Yet, Hybrid Pedagogy employs relentlessly a peer review process with the articles we publish. My resistance to assessment and the journal’s insistence on excellence are reconciled in a pedagogy of publishing that seeks to give any author voice, especially marginalized ones who have been shut out of more traditional academic peer review processes.

Hybrid Pedagogy is an experiment in publishing that could be seen as a digital humanities venture, or a playful approach to new form scholarly publishing; and indeed I’ve talked with Jesse, the journal’s innovator, about our trafficking in those terms. But there’s something else at work within Hybrid Pedagogy. “It was clear to us, from the start,” Jesse has said, “that what we were creating was not a traditional academic publication. What we wanted to build was a network, a community for engaging a discussion of digital pedagogy, critical pedagogy, open education, and online learning.” And to do this, we worked to develop a novel approach, a pedagogy for discussing pedagogy. Building the journal as a forum necessarily meant working with authors in a more than “thumbs-up or thumbs-down” manner.

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Ghost Towns of the Public Good

Ghost Towns of the Public Good

Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the eighth from a series publishing throughout 2013.

I never really got tenure as a concept, and after almost ten years of e-learning I finally found a job which didn’t feature a ticking clock time bomb as its soundtrack. Sadly, in this sound of silence, came a new friend, a broken camel’s back and I’d broken-become-beladen with an LMSanthropy which was destined to push me away. Perhaps I have commitment issues, perhaps I’d spent so long searching for a brand that I’d grown tired of red-hot metal LinkedIn endorsements. I’ve never had so many valued skills, but found less demand for them. Part Bitcoin, part bit part. Be your own bubble.

Pop! I’d seen glorious projects I’d made die, in one instance the biggest open education search engine in the world — something you’d assume would be celebrated and honoured — slowly grind itself into obsoletion. You’d sneak out of the academy, flirt with organisations that felt so fresh, and find the same thing. You’d see stuff you built for free be replaced with a Kickstarter funded project because they had the funds, and they knew how to kick you in the teeth and when you’re down. Often, even after leaving one institution, I’d find myself returning to fix things because I’d not been replaced. A sense of parental care drove me to maintain things I used to get paid to do. Time, though, made me a horrible father: sometimes I would sit round and watch things die, or just leave and hope something would save them. Sometimes you had to let code fly the nest. Sometimes you took a stand. Sometimes you’d finish building before flirting with the next project.

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My job often brings me to schools where I talk with teachers and students about technology and innovative pedagogies. Some time ago, approximately at the beginning of my career as an educational researcher in England, I made a visit that left a lasting impression on me. With a colleague, I went to observe how a secondary school was using its physical spaces to promote collaborative work, inquiry-based activities and other “innovative” pedagogies. The whole thing had been described to us as an example of a progressive alternative to traditional classroom-based instruction.

What we saw was genuinely interesting — the highlight of the visit was the new flexible space that had all but replaced the old library. Students still had access to books, but were also allowed to use a range of connected devices (even their own) to carry out other tasks, and the space could be reconfigured through partitions to create small group work areas. We asked how the space was actually being used by students and teachers, and the response we received was slightly unexpected. All students had access to the space during time slots allocated to individual study. However, the more exciting, collaborative activities — those that were cross-curricular in nature and often based on student-led projects — were reserved to a small number of struggling students from various age groups.

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This is the sixth article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. Click here to read the original CFP.

Every educator, from kindergarten to graduate school, should contribute to the important and significant work of teaching students to use online sources and social networks for educational and professional goals. To ignore the technology, or assume that our students already know it because they use it every day, is to participate in educational malpractice.

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I teach Freshman Composition and Freshman Literature at an urban open-entry state institution. My students’ primary use of the internet is on smartphones and tablets. Few of them have internet at home, and most of them cannot afford a computer.

In order to assist my students in transitioning their use of the internet from primarily social and entertainment use to academic use, I have made it a priority in my classes for at least five years now. Most students are relieved when I inform them that they’re not only allowed to use their devices in my classroom, but they are encouraged to use them. (This requires a clear policy for use included in the syllabus.)

I have found that the best way to lasso the educational potential of the internet is to teach my students how to use it in practical ways on a daily basis. I like to start the semester with a short lecture about study tools they can use in all their classes (QuizletStudyblueEvernoteGoogle Docs), and then slowly build up their knowledge by adapting a THATCamp activity called a “Dork Short” (a 2-minute mini-lecture) about a single specific tool that I or one of my extra-credit seeking students offer at the start of class each day. Not only does this activity increase their knowledge about what is out there, but it also builds a need in my students to learn about digital curation. They want to know how to store this information because it’s valuable to them. I have found that building a hunger in my students for a specific digital skill increases their attention span, retention, and use of the internet for educational purposes (i.e. “Do you want to keep that great website you just heard about? Great! Here’s a free tool called Evernote. You want to start to build a digital library of sources so you can use them in your papers? Wonderful! Let’s learn about Zotero!”)

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Life of an Adjunct

Life of an Adjunct

Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the seventh from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

It’s my day off from my full-time retail job so this means it’s a teaching day. I’ve walked the dog and gone for my run. I am now doing laundry. I am working through a stack of student papers. I am trying to balance my checkbook and figure out how to pay my bills with too little money, too many jobs and not enough time. I am scared for my future as I think about the sad fate of Margaret Mary Vojtko. I didn’t know about Margaret Mary until I was riveted by Daniel Kovalik’s powerful op-ed Death of an Adjunct in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I am surprised by the immediate and vast outpouring of comments, some from friends, neighbors and colleagues who already know why this story is a zeitgeist moment and many who clearly are shocked at hearing the dismal reality for the first time.

For those who do not know, here’s the quick and dirty: The erosion of full-time faculty positions at American colleges and universities has been silent and steady for thirty years. Currently, adjunct professors teach approximately 70% of all college classes and generally make less in a year than one student pays in tuition during that time. In contrast, janitors on both the campuses where I work are unionized full-time employees with salaries, health benefits, paid sick and vacation time, access to unemployment benefits and a retirement plan. Margaret Mary, a 25-year teaching veteran, enjoyed none of these simple decencies.

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This is the fifth article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. Click here to read the original CFP.

Last year, I experienced two months that were very challenging for me as a person and as an academic. One of my sons, who was seven, became very ill and missed a lot of school. When he returned, he was in a wheelchair, and he was very unsure of himself. He didn’t know if he had enough stamina to make it through the day, and he worried that his teachers and his fellow students would be upset with him. No matter how much I tried to convince him that it would be OK, he was too nervous to return, alone, to his classroom.

So, I told him I would shadow him in class for a few days to help make the transition smoother.

It’s been a long time since I was in the second grade, and as I sat through his day, I was very impressed with the level of preparation and organization the teachers exhibited. Some things were the same: the teachers were engaging and exciting, there was a lot of activity, and the kids were overwhelmingly nice, but there were also a few things that were completely new — like the use of technology.

Logo for the Promethean board

The Promethean board was the most obvious piece of technology in the room, followed closely by a few Apple computers and an iPad. However, when it came to using this technology, I was somewhat concerned by what I saw.

It wasn’t that the teachers weren’t good. They were amazing, actually, but I was concerned that I didn’t see them using most of the technology they had at their fingertips to make what they had even better and more engaging.
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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the sixth from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

Unfair labor practices are commonplace in American higher education, public and private. Hardly anyone denies the problem of adjunctificaton and contingency, and, more epidemic, laborers on the fringe in any trade or profession recognize this deficit; yet we continue to work for less, essentially exploiting our worth, thus the possibility of a solution is vexed. And the issue is not unique to adjuncts, but many other university laborers, including students who are uniformly paid minimum wage for providing essential services. But how can a problem so transparent and pervasive fail to generate actionable change? Why can’t I get equal pay for equal labor? And why is silence the norm? These are self-posed questions that warrant wider consideration.

Multiple labor hierarchies exist campus wide, all arguably fundamental to the operation of the university, and the adjunct problem begs reformation right now. I do not believe all adjuncts are qualified for tenure, and some tenured professors likely don’t deserve it either. But many adjuncts who are every bit as qualified as those with tenure don’t get equal pay for equal labor because we are powerless in a system that is indifferent to faculty working conditions. This was certainly the case for Margaret Mary Vojtko. Let’s stop to remember Vojtko through Elie Wiesel’s statement: “I believe that a person who is indifferent to the suffering of others is complicit in the crime.” And this means, of course, that in our silence we are equally complicit in this problem.

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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the fifth from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

I should have, as many, many people remind me, nothing to complain about. I am a full-time instructor at the same institution as my husband (who is on the tenure-track). I have steady pay, benefits, my own private office and computer, and relative job security. I am at an institution that doesn’t exclude non-tenure-track faculty from receiving institutional money for research or travel, and I am welcome to sit on a number of departmental committees that directly impact my position. To complain about how relatively low my pay is with no system of promotion, my heavier teaching load, or the fact that I’m teaching outside of my area of expertise, is to invite the ire of my friends and colleagues: You should be grateful that you have a job at all; You have no idea how lucky you are.

But all of those complaints bely a deeper dissatisfaction with my current position off the tenure-track: that I am still marked as other, as less-than, devalued, and made to feel like I don’t belong. When the professors in the department are addressed by their professional rank and title, and I, in turn, am referred to by my first name during meetings, it’s clear that my PhD, my ten-plus years teaching experience, my long list of publications, all mean nothing; all that matters is what I am not, and that is a Professor.

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How I long for a time when text ended at the page. When it didn’t follow. Me. Through the streets and the hallways and under the blankets of my bed. ~ Anonymous

The digital has breached the screen. Text fails to tell whole stories. We can no longer accept the division between our lived experiences and the texts we produce. Instead, the two now copulate — unfamiliar but desperate lovers — to create versions of stories that are both entirely not lived and only ever real.

Storytelling has changed. Stories are no longer told to audiences, but by audiences. And this goes way beyond collaboration. It’s dissemination. It’s the question, “How can I hear my own voice unless it bounces off of yours?” It’s a massive game of “telephone” played every day by every connected person in the world, reinterpreted and remixed, shared appropriately and inappropriately, NSFW and rated-T-for-teen, with every passage from one mouth to the next ear changing the message in sometimes imperceptible ways. This is Miley Cyrus’s world now. We are all in her book. If we find that appalling, we shouldn’t. Because as much as we are her audience, so too we are her authors. We make what we hear, we say what we’re told, and we improvise endings, outcomes, characters, and love affairs in the time we have between red light and green.

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On Friday, October 4th, 2013, Hybrid Pedagogy hosted a synchronous #digped conversation on Twitter focused on Pedagogy, Neoliberalism, and Academic Labor. Because contingent labor is a topic that appears to be gaining momentum, I decided to interview Dr. Lynee Gaillet and Dr. Letizia Guglielmo about their upcoming books and their thoughts about the problem of contingency in higher education. The questions below are inspired by #digped participants. In the spirit of promoting community and collaboration, I collected questions posed during the #digped discussion and formatted them as starting points to the various discussions below.

Valerie Robin and Hybrid Pedagogy: Dr. Gaillet and Dr. Guglielmo, I want to hear about your upcoming publication: Could you tell us a little about the book(s) you are working on?

Lynee Gaillet and Letizia Guglielmo: We are working on two books connected to contingent faculty and scholarly work that we see as complementing one another. The first, titled Academic Publication off the Tenure Track: Contingent Faculty, Scholarly Work, and Cultural Currency in the Academy, is a practical guide that offers strategies for engaging in professional development within a changing academic landscape. Our survey of “how-to-publish” manuals and “advice-to-young-scholars” publications revealed, for the most part, suggestions for tenure-track faculty members or graduate students writing within traditional genres — journal articles, books, conference papers, dissertations, etc. One unfilled niche in the scholarship led us to rethink the ways our profession hires/mentors/advises academics who don’t hold tenure-track positions in traditional departments. Our first book addresses the current protean nature of faculty positions and offers concrete advice for maintaining a research and publishing agenda, even without department (financial or professional) support.

The second text is a collection of essays written largely by contingent faculty whose voices are missing from discussions on academic publication. The title of this one is Scholarly Publication in a Changing Academic Landscape,  The authors share personal stories and strategies for engaging in professional development and scholarly publication with limited resources and support. Chapter topics include gender and contingency, intellectual property, connecting assessment and scholarship, online publication, scholarly teaching, professional development with the National Writing Project, local conferences, and innovative models of collaboration. Eileen Schell is writing the introduction for that volume.

VR: In response to our #digped discussion entitled, “Pedagogy, Neoliberalism and Academic Labor,” I’ll begin with a broad question: How does the current academic labor situation impact teaching and learning?

LG and LG: Teaching loads are increasing at the same time middle-management administrative positions are on the rise. Furthermore, these contingent positions are created in most cases to fulfill immediate teaching demands only, with little support for professional development, scholarly engagement, or innovative or experimental pedagogy. As a result of burgeoning enrollment, class size is increasing, and the need for teachers in general education courses remains a reality semester after semester; however, these positions rarely come with job security or lead to advancement. Scholarship tells us that the best teachers engage in professional development, and reflect upon and share best teaching practices. Since contingent teachers often aren’t seen as faculty members, they are overlooked in faculty decisions that often impact them significantly, resulting in low morale and outsider status in the eyes of administrators, faculty, and students.

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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the fourth from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

ABSTRACT: This study aims to assess the professional perspectives of Ioana Literat (hereafter referred to as ‘the subject’), a fourth-year PhD student at a major US research university. The sample (N=1) was analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods, including statistical analysis, in-depth interviews with the subject, content analysis of emails and social media activity, and dream interpretation. In spite of unresolved anxieties, the data indicates a positive trend in the subject’s development, while pointing to the larger challenges of pursuing a PhD in an era of contingent academic labor. 

A young scholar’s doctoral education is a quintessential period for both personal and professional development. While pursuing a PhD can be an immensely rewarding experience, it also presents frequent occasions for soul-searching to those that dare to tread down this path. In addition, recent developments in the academic labor market have exacerbated doctoral students’ concerns regarding their employment prospects and, consequently, their self-worth and, ultimately, everything else in their lives. However, the impact of the PhD experience on students’ self-esteem and career perspectives has, surprisingly, received too little attention in the literature so far. The present study uses the convenience sample of Ioana Literat in an attempt to fill this lacuna, and to contribute to the knowledge regarding young scholars’ paths to personal and professional success.

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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the third from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

One rarely hears the word “perks” or “advantages” applied to adjunct work — and with good reason. But despite the often deplorable working conditions of adjuncts, there can be moments of opportunity. In this piece, I write about six potential benefits of adjunct work, which may be useful for individuals hoping to move into full-time teaching positions or doctoral programs.

Before I go further, I want to offer a disclaimer: I do not condone the way academia treats contingent labor. Having worked as an adjunct, I understand how exploitative, unfair, and (let’s be honest) downright shitty the working conditions can be. Moreover, despite the fact that I’m no longer primarily employed as an adjunct (though I continue to teach online classes to supplement my graduate student income), the hardships of those who do does not escape me. I have many close friends and colleagues (not to mention a spouse) who work as adjuncts, and the trials they face weigh heavily on me. While I focus in this piece on how to make the most out of adjunct life, I understand that my situation afforded me opportunities others may not have.

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My favorite pedagogical tool is the essential question. Briefly, these attempt to focus student attention on the broader implications and deeper meanings behind content. I had been using them in my own quaint way before reading Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe, and that reading both confirmed my intuition and pushed my use of this strategy to a higher level.

According to Wiggins and McTighe, essential questions aim to

stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions — including thoughtful student questions — not just pat answers. They are broad, full of transfer possibilities. The exploration of such questions enables us to uncover the real riches of a topic otherwise obscured by glib pronouncements in texts or routine teacher-talk. (106)

The authors suggest that “deep and transferable understandings depend upon framing work around such questions” and that “uncoverage is a priority, not a frill or an option if time is left over after learning other ‘stuff’” (106). I train teachers to teach, and I have found that most in-service teachers want tips and tricks, and fun ways to solve common problems in the classroom. However, my courses don’t deal in tips and tricks, so many teacher-trainees react somewhat negatively to my deeper inquiries. Essential questions help me effectively navigate this impasse.

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Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the second from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

If you’re an adjunct, I have a small but important task for you:

Ask your students what “adjunct professor” means to them. You might hear something like, It means you don’t have a Ph.D., or You don’t have tenure yet. (Yet…if only.) Don’t be bitter or cynical, and don’t barrage them with statistics, stories of unfair working conditions, and vitriol against “the administration.” Try to be as calm and diplomatic as you can, and simply listen. Some might understand and empathize, or some may simply brush it off. If you’re a multi-campus adjunct (or “road scholar,” as we’re sometimes called), students may understand that their class and campus aren’t the only things demanding your attention. Carve out some time in class, and ask your students what “adjunct” can or does mean. Maybe they’ll like the break from talking about another scarlet A or going over their next writing assignment.

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A Lecturer’s Almanac

A Lecturer’s Almanac

Hybrid Pedagogy recently announced a call for articles that address the problem of contingency in higher education. The goal is to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. The following article is the first from a series that will continue throughout Fall 2013.

MARCH


The hall of the department is a 1960s-era Bunker, molded of concrete and rebar, with tall, narrow windows to repel even the most determined activist. I watch my feet as I climb the lino-clad stairs so I don’t stumble in my skinny high-heels, bought specifically to match this suit. The suit is black, with pale pinstripes, more fashionable than the interview suit.

I’d always sworn I would never buy one of those.

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Tales of a MOOC Dropout

Tales of a MOOC Dropout

In September 2013, Hybrid Pedagogy published an e-book of graduate student essays focused on student experiences in MOOCs — from EdX, Udacity, and other xMOOCs, to improvisational MOOCs created by the students themselves using open web resources. The full collection, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning, was published via GitHub. The following article from Cindy Londeore is one of the essays from that volume. You can read more about the e-book in George Veletsiano’s introduction, “How Do Learners Experience Open Online Learning?

Dropout. It’s such a nasty word. The high school dropout rate is held up by reformers to bolster their argument that the American public school system is failing. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have an expected 90% dropout rate which is not considered a problem. This juxtaposition begs the question; when is dropping out not a big deal?
Individuals who join a MOOC are described as being part of course enrollments. However, this is confusing and fallacious, as the term “enrollments” in a traditional in-person course implies a level of commitment not necessarily present in students who enroll in a MOOC. Initial enrollment in a MOOC is more akin to all the students who read a description of the course in the school catalog, and consider taking it. MOOC students who submit the first assignment may be a better comparison to initial enrollments in a physical class. Indeed, if the numbers of students who scored more than zero on the first week’s materials is used as a starting point, the dropout rate falls to 75%. By the end of the course the numbers are consistent with an in-person course. Only 10% of the students who attempted the final exam failed to earn a certificate. Students who enroll in traditional classes have made a commitment to attempt the work outlined in the syllabus. Students who enroll in a MOOC have done little more than express a passing interest in the topic and may feel no need to ever revisit the course.

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Teachers don’t teach; instructors don’t really instruct. The lecture-based course fell out of favor years ago, and we know today to bring front and center the role students play in their own learning. “Education,” says Paulo Freire, “becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” When critical and independent thinking are the most valuable products of learning, we must ask and make space for students to work and create on their own. It isn’t enough for them to take notes and then recite; learners must invent — not just the products of their knowledge, but also their own learning.
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Beyond Rigor

Beyond Rigor

Intellectually rigorous work lives, thrives, and teems proudly outside conventional notions of academic rigor. Although institutions of higher education only recognize rigor when it mimics mastery of content, when it creates a hierarchy of expertise, when it maps clearly to pre-determined outcomes, there are works of exception — multimodal, collaborative, and playful — that push the boundaries of disciplinary allegiances, and don’t always wear their brains on their sleeves, so to speak.

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Education can benefit from the global network of connections we call the Internet, since the issue of access is less of a concern in the digital space than in brick and mortar institutions. We should ask, however, if the possibilities for a global-level pedagogy are being seized. By pedagogy we mean a philosophy of teaching that is based on its praxis. As Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel explain, “Teaching is a practice. Good teaching is an engaged, reflective, and generous practice. Pedagogy is not just talking and thinking about teaching. Pedagogy is the place where philosophy and practice meet (aka ‘praxis’).” We are using the Internet to send and receive educational information, but are we able to work collaboratively at a global scale? Are we using the collaborative nature of the Internet to its potential for bridging distant parts of society? There is a call for an international pedagogy for online education.

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How to Build an Ethical Online Course

How to Build an Ethical Online Course

The best online and hybrid courses are made from scraps strewn about and gathered together from across the web. We build a course by examining the bits, considering how they’re connected, and creating pathways for learners to make their own connections.

The design-process is what distinguishes online teaching most from traditional on-ground teaching. When we teach an on-ground class, the room in which we teach has been built for us in advance. Usually, it’s in a school, on a campus, has chairs, desks, tables, windows, walls, a door. Sometimes there’s a computer, a projector, a screen. Hopefully, the desks and chairs are moveable and there are chalkboards on multiple walls. When we enter these rooms, we still make (or, rather, should make) intentional design decisions. How will the chairs be arranged? What direction will we face? Will the blinds be open or closed? Where will the teacher’s desk be? Will the room have a front? Will we re-arrange from day to day or maintain a consistent configuration?

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This is the fourth article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. Click here to find out more.

When people hear that I was once a high school English teacher and am now a college professor, they often ask, “how is college teaching different?” They expect I’ll say something about classroom discipline, or academic skills, or intellectual rigor, but I don’t. In fact, my answer is always the same: for me, teaching high school and teaching college are not that different. The pedagogical habits I developed as a secondary teacher have carried over into the university classroom and made me a better professor.

The parallels between university and secondary teaching are often obscured by an elitist hierarchy and downward blame for student skill deficits, both of which reinforce an institutional divide that can discourage dialogue about teaching and learning (on the “blame game,” see also “It’s Not the High School Teacher’s Fault”). Those who teach in higher education are already circumscribed by the perception — shared among the public and some of their peers — that teaching matters less in the university. Further, “teaching” at the college level is often narrowly defined to mean “the two traditional standbys: lecturing and leading discussions,” with an emphasis placed on content delivered via “information dump.” Meanwhile, in the discourse of higher ed reform and in many campus professional development workshops, technology is promoted as the most important pedagogical tool any college teacher can possess.

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During the summer of 2013, George Veletsianos approached the editors of Hybrid Pedagogy about publishing a collection of graduate student essays. The collection focused on these students’ experiences in a variety of MOOCs — from EdX, Udacity, and other xMOOCs, to improvisational MOOCs created by the students themselves using open resources on the web. Sean Michael Morris and Chris Friend assisted with the editing process, and the book was designed using GitHub by Kris Shaffer with help from Barry Peddycord IIIJesse Stommel, and Robin Wharton.

Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning is an e-book in which student authors describe and reflect upon their open online learning experiences. Current conversations around educational innovations in general, and MOOCs in particular, lack student voices. This book enables learners to share their stories, thus contributing to our understanding of open online learning.
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This is the third article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. Click here to find out more.

When we think about K-12 and higher education, educators think of them as two separate entities. Within K-12, we divide it further; primary, junior, intermediate, and senior. These artificial silos create barriers to sharing professionally about the biggest questions in education: how do students learn and what is learning? How do we recognize learning when we see it? Through a series of multiple choice tests or through the creation of a product? Is our job still to stuff into our students’ heads as much content as possible, or is it to help students learn how to plan and then create? The education system at all levels is being radically changed by social media, and the artificial barriers we’ve constructed over time are shifting, perhaps eventually to disappear.
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In Being and Time, Martin Heidegger writes with surprising brevity, “Temporality temporalizes as a future which makes present in the process of having been.” While we may speak and write of a distinct past, present, and future, when we stop and think about how we experience time, a glimmer of possibility, an opening appears. As we look to tomorrow, we hold expectations of what will happen based on what is occurring around us right now and also based on what has happened to us before. Heidegger’s insight is the singularity in our experience of time.

I am most interested in sponsoring thoughtful and inclusive conversations to help me answer a simple question: Do online and collaborative technologies transform how we teach and how students learn? I want to use the clearing this question opens to challenge claims that we should be preparing students for a “21st Century” or for jobs in an “uncertain economy.” Even if these aims of education were legitimate, they are founded on some troubling assumptions, namely that education is under the sway of technology. Returning to Heidegger’s temporality, it is human beings whose everyday experience of time shapes how we encounter and understand technologies. The clearing the question provides allows us to see that we have a great deal of say over the charting of our educational future and the role technologies play.
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On October 14th, the Canvas Network will launch a new massive open online course inspired by the popular television series The Walking DeadInstructure has teamed with faculty from the University of California Irvine, and AMC, the producers of the show, to create the MOOC. I took the opportunity to speak with Melissa Loble, the Associate Dean of Distance Learning at UCI, about what it was like to create a MOOC based on the ideas raised by a television show, and the relationship between popular culture and online education.

Sean Michael Morris: Let’s start with the obvious question: Why a MOOC centered on “The Walking Dead”? What was the inspiration?
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Many have argued that the digital humanities is about building stuff and sharing stuff – that the digital humanities reframes the work we do in the humanities as less consumptive and more curatorial, less solitary and more collaborative. I maintain, though, that the humanities have always been intensely interactive, an engaged dance between the text on a page and the ideas in our brains. The humanities have also always been intensely social, a vibrant ecosystem of shared, reworked, and retold stories. The margins of books as a vast network of playgrounds.

The digital brings different playgrounds and new kinds of interaction, and we must incessantly ask questions of it, disturbing the edge upon which we find ourselves so precariously perched. And what the digital asks of us is that every assumption we have be turned on its head. The digital humanities asks us to pervert our reading practices — to read backwards, as well as forwards, to stubbornly not read, and to rethink how we approach learning in the digital age.

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While on a cross-country trip a few years ago, I stopped at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and had a revelation. It was a few days before the nearby Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was to begin, and the parking lot was filled with motorcycles. Some of the bikes were occupied by their riders, still clad in leather, helmets on handlebars, and minds intently focused on the interpretive brochures in their hands. Other bikes stood empty as their owners wandered through the visitor center and the grounds reading exhibits and interpretive signs. Apparently these bikers were interested in U.S. history. In my nearly 30 years of designing educational experiences for locations such as this, it had never occurred to me to ask bikers about their interests or what kinds of interpretive experiences would capture their attention and inspire them to visit. Because of my unacknowledged stereotypes I just hadn’t placed bikers and interpretation together.
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When MOOCs went viral in 2012, traditional small colleges reached an identity crossroads, a midlife crisis where idealism and wisdom collide. Although the main concerns of future viability have been present for years — the fate of the humanities, the rise in student debt, and the sluggish economy, among others — MOOCs have summoned a sense of urgency. “Get online, or get an identity,” as Patrick J. Deneen recently expressed, illustrates the high stakes for institutions deciding whether to assimilate or differentiate. Along with the rapid adoption at large, elite institutions and flagship state schools is the growing myth that MOOCs will threaten traditional liberal arts colleges and smaller institutions. Despite the massive amount of capital invested in CourseraedX, and Udacity and the hype about global branding, according to Inside Higher Education the original MOOC platform included engaged learning activities found at most small liberal arts colleges. MOOCs, it appears, were not created to run the old guard out of town; rather, they can bring the best traditional liberal arts instruction in direct dialogue with fresh ideas from students across the globe. Recently Wellesley College announced its first course offerings with edX, making it the first liberal arts college to offer MOOCs. Will other small institutions be able to adapt?
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Lee Skallerup Bessette and Jesse Stommel note the real need for bravery in higher education, paying special attention to the idea that “when [educators] experiment with our pedagogies, we confront an establishment that can be hostile to anything new — an establishment that often punishes rather than rewards innovation — that increasingly enforces the standardization of curriculums and classroom practice.” As educators, we are meant to encourage our students to do more than take tests and listen to lectures; we are responsible for prompting them to think critically about the world around them, to actively participate in that world, and to make a difference. To do so requires bravery and resistance. But in the traditional world of higher learning, where can we find bravery? Are we so ensconced in the status quo of the Institution that we can’t see our way into acts of resistance?
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A Plea for Pedagogy

A Plea for Pedagogy

It goes without saying that technology is changing education. Children’s brains are being rewired, universities are being threatened with extinction, and we will be in serious trouble if we ignore the transformative power of new technologies. We live in an information/knowledge economy where we are constantly connected to networks of information, our experiences become more and more mediated. It seems that technology changes everything, including education.

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This is the second article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. We will be accepting submissions for the related CFP throughout Summer 2013. Click here to find out more.

Just over a year ago, my “learning” exploded. I was developing a hybrid Canadian online delivery program for Chinese high school students. I was encouraged to push the boundaries of K-12 online and blended learning by investigating the most cutting edge online opportunities anywhere. After reviewing my options, I discovered MOOCs and realized they had the potential to push K-12 learning “out of the box.”
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Hashtag Classroom

Hashtag Classroom

Hashtags are taxonomic and pedagogical tools (with citation standards to boot). The Twitter hashtag was born in 2007. Invented by Chris Messina (then with the consulting firm Citizen Agency, now an open web advocate for Google), the first tweet with a hashtag read as follows: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”’. As Messina himself explains in a discussion group on the question and answer website Quora, he was trying to find a simple way for people to engage in group discussion. One that would work whether you were tweeting from your mobile phone or your bells-and-whistles iMac. And one that would be as easy to follow as ignore. Popular hashtags include ‘#fail’, which is usually used humorously to point out either your own mistake or that of someone else, and #nom a hashtag based on the sound Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster makes when he eats cookies, marking a moment of culinary delight.
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This article is an attempt to address a possible gap in Connectivist thinking, and its expression in cMOOCs. It’s to do with the experience of technology novices, and unconfident learners in cMOOC environments. It comes from a phenomenon, and experience I identified in a recent MOOC I participated in and the experience is best described like this:
To learn in a cMOOC you need to connect.
To connect in a cMOOC you need to learn.

Introduction
I’m not a Constructivist, Behaviourist, Cognitivist, or Connectivist. This is not a call for a return to an older theory. I’m a pragmatist, like many educators. I flirt outrageously with every theory that will have me. I’m ideologically promiscuous. I go with what works, and I am ruthless in weeding out what doesn’t. I do this because there is no “one size fits all” theory. Because there is no “one size fits all” student. And because students, participants, and learners are the final metric that measures any theory, and experience is the proving ground for theory. Faith to a theory, ideological monogamy, gets in the way of the evidence.
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“Building community doesn’t mean that learning happens.”
~ from an audience comment at InstructureCon 2013

Learning in a MOOC
Instruction does not equate to learning. This is the fundamental fly in the ointment of instructional design, and the epistemological failing of learning management systems and most MOOC platforms. Learning, unfortunately, is something no instruction has ever quite put its finger on, and something that no methodology or approach can guarantee. Instead, pedagogical praxis creates roads along which learning may take place (along with plenty of other experiences); and assessment is merely a system of checkpoints along the way to evaluate how well the road, the vehicle, and the driver are cooperating. In other words, assessment doesn’t measure learning. Assessment measures the design of the instruction.
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On my first day of work, my supervisor and the assistant director walked me over to what would be my office for the next two years: it was a hidden office, an office that could easily be mistaken for something else. It had no windows, and later a librarian would confide that a long time ago my office had been used for storage. However, I later came to appreciate the “coziness” of my office: students would come and go, sometimes unseen to the others in my office. It seemed to be the perfect place for the Graduate Writing Specialist (GWS), considering the work I did.

As the GWS, I was a part of my school’s Writing Center, which provided writing consultants for undergraduate and graduate students across all disciplines. But I was more than just a writing consultant. I was one of three staff members in the office, and it was my job to do research, organize writing events, put together programming, and reach out to faculty and other offices on campus to tell them about how we could help their students. In a nutshell, I concerned myself with the struggles and the concerns of graduate student writers.
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This is the first article in a series focused on creating a dialogue among K-12 and post-secondary pedagogies and pedagogues. We will be accepting submissions for the related CFP throughout Summer 2013. Click here to find out more.

On my luckier days, I am gifted a few invisible moments at pick-up time before my son or one of his preschool classmates calls my name. It’s my time to see them as they are without me — a rare opportunity for a parent. Today is a lucky day, and I covertly watch a good friend’s daughter balancing in the low branches of a tree. She hesitates for a moment, one last look at the leaves above and the ground below. Her knees bent, lips set in a determined line. Then a slight bounce and she’s in the air, arms high, eyes wide, a miniature Amelia Earhart. But even Earhart struggled. The ground is there before she’s ready, her surprised feet don’t stick the landing and her knees and palms meet the woodchips roughly. There’s a short silence before her tears well in time with the pink scrapes on her knees.
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“Learners are classified based on their patterns of interaction with video lectures and assessments, the primary features of most MOOCs to date.” — Rene F. Kizilcec, et al.

It’s the first thing in the name. MOOCs are primarily massive. They reach huge numbers of students. “Graduating even 5 percent of 100,000 students in a MOOC provides many instructors with substantially greater reach than an entire lifetime of teaching in a conventional classroom.” Educause’s “What Campus Leaders Need to Know about MOOCs” starts with scale: “MOOCs (massive open online courses) are courses delivered over the web to potentially thousands of students at a time.”

With this massive scale comes great responsibility. Discussions of teaching at “mass” scale can set the tone and context of a conversation about pedagogy, a conversation with faculty, CIO’s, CEO’s, but also potentially, a conversation which limits the voice of students. Especially at a time when Diane Dagefoerde of Ohio State University can say “We have a couple of MOOCs going on right now… I’m sure we all do, right?” in an Educause Top Ten Issues in Higher Education IT webinar, we all need to be careful how this conversation begins. The quote that starts this article is drawn from a paper co-written by three Stanford faculty, and argues that a reasonable classification of learners in MOOCs can be drawn from interactions with video lectures and assessments (multiple-choice quizzes and unmoderated forums).
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For those who follow the MOOC debate, every day is Armageddon: The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, “The Year of the MOOC,” “Higher Ed in 2018,” “The Major Players in the MOOC Universe,” The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined, “Massive online education: Daphne Koller at TEDGlobal 2012, “Of Machine Guns and MOOCs: 21st Century Engineering Disasters,” “An Open Letter to a Founder of Coursera,” ad infinitum. Because the debate is kairotic, and both parties are deeply committed to their visions, funders, livelihoods, and learning communities, there appears to be no saturation point.

Neither the idea of the traditional university nor the MOOC vision of universal access to education is new. Both promise to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in some fashion, and both operate on a hierarchical business model where students are consumers, tiered faculty are human resources, and administrators solicit and redistribute the funds that govern growth and organization. Though they share organizational features, and therefore some of the same top-down management flaws, each presents unique problems and paradigms. The global exponential scale of MOOCs, however, poses a threat to the majority of traditional higher-education institutions unlike what we’ve seen with previous experiments in universal, open education.

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While the interview was conducted with Dr. James Schirmer, James Schirmer is not how I think of him or his work. My introduction to Schirmer’s work and presence was through his presentation and through chats on Twitter, and in his in absentia presentation, @betajames figured more prominently than James Schirmer. Since his public, performative, and discoursing face was labeled as @betajames, and @betajames is how I interacted with him, that is how I chose to refer to him in the interview.

I love Moodle. I hate Moodle when I grade. Without administrative access, Moodle is more frustrating than rewarding, so I often hack my own solutions. That said, I love learning from others and how they have rolled their own DIY LMS solutions. Among many colleagues, LMSs are an emotionally charged topic — talking about them is exciting and aggravating. So, early on a Saturday morning at a professional conference in Vegas, I looked forward to hearing colleagues address some of the problems and tensions surrounding LMSs in their session: “The DIY LMS: Reaching New Publics with Homegrown Learning Management Systems.”
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From all the jails the Boys and Girls
Ecstatically leap—
Beloved only Afternoon
That Prison doesn’t keep

They storm the Earth and stun the Air,
A Mob of solid Bliss—
Alas—that Frowns should lie in wait
For such a Foe as this—

— Emily Dickinson

Sometimes all you need is a Petri dish to grow an epidemic.

The point of any pedagogy is not the length of the course, size of the classroom, the headcount, or the completion or attrition rates. Pedagogy is unfazed by numbers; it is never outweighed by scale. Good pedagogy can be enacted in a room with one or two students, or in an online environment with thousands. This is because pedagogy is responsive, able to grow to the space it must inhabit, and its goal is a shift in thinking, which is spreadable by a single learner or by ten or by tens of hundreds.
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“Certainly anybody who has taught at the postsecondary level has had students who regard school as an inconvenience and lead soap-opera lives, but fortunately those students are not the norm. However, for Mr. Wahl they are the norm. How he could even try to teach so many academic bottom feeders is beyond me.” —Frank P. Vazzano

When we talk about students in public venues, anywhere from crowded rooms to publications to Twitter, what we say can have a deep affect on how our students see themselves. Linda Adler-Kassner discusses a concept called ‘framing’ in her 2000 book The Activist WPA. (‘Framing’ is arguably inspired from Kenneth Burke’s development of framing and language-use.) The basic idea is that we frame concepts. Frames are like picture frames which give our concepts boundaries and discrete confines. There have been several language, education and rhetorical scholars that use the concept of framing, but despite numerous documents arguing for conscious language use as it involves student-teacher interaction, many scholars are still missing the boat when it comes to the importance of the connection between language and engagement.
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“For children can accomplish the renewal of existence in a hundred unfailing ways.”
– Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library

“Turn your data into a story, into a game, into art.”
– Mark Sample, “The Poetics of Non-Consumptive Reading

I initially encountered Walter Benjamin’s essay, “Unpacking My Library,” during my first semester of graduate school. Ten years later, as my oldest daughter started kindergarten, and I prepared to teach my first upper-division seminar on Chaucer, I found myself returning again and again to Benjamin’s discussion of children and collecting. Charting a course from theory to praxis as both a parent and a teacher over the past several months has, for me, demanded the decomposition of many received binaries: personal/professional, K-12/”higher” education, consumptive/productive reading, student/scholar, pedagogy/scholarship.
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Push, Pull, Fork: GitHub for Academics

Push, Pull, Fork: GitHub for Academics

In his article, “Open-source Scholarship”, Kris Shaffer argues that the open-source software model has lessons to offer the academic community. Here, Kris demonstrates how a scholar can put open-source philosophy into practice using a specific tool developed by and for the community: GitHub.

One of the chief goals of liberal education is the creation and curation of human knowledge. As I discussed in my previous article, this necessarily involves critiquing and building on the work of others, and doing so publicly and accessibly. How can we as a community of scholars facilitate this work? How can a scholar or pedagogue make an article, an assignment, a syllabus, a book, a database, or a website available for others in a manner that makes it easy for another to rework and redeploy? Putting a PDF on a website is not enough, even for materials of moderate complexity. We need tools that make it relatively easy to put the ideology of liberal education into practice, from the simple class assignment to the multimedia textbook. One such tool is GitHub.
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Open-source Scholarship

Open-source Scholarship

Scholarship is, by its nature, open source.

Let me explain.

The open-source (or “free” or “libre”) software movement centers around a single ideal: community ownership of software. Open-source software may or may not be free-as-in-beer (no cost), but it is always free-as-in-speech. Not only do users have the right to use the software, but users, developers, and re-developers have the rights to access, manipulate, break, rebuild the original code to fix bugs, add features, or create new projects. Open-source software is licensed in a semi-restrictive way. Limitations are placed on the use of the software that preserve the rights of the community (such as the requirement that all derivative versions use the same license). The author gives up the sole right to sell, distribute, and create derivative works in order to preserve those rights for the community, of which the author is, of course, a member.
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As some are raised a Catholic or an atheist or a vegetarian, I was raised an academic. The university always had about it a mystique, a cloud of mystery and veneration. Lauded in my household were the values of objectivity, critical thinking, close reading. As early as the fourth grade, my mother took me to her college Shakespeare classes, introduced me to her professors, and indulged me with lunch at the student union. I attended classes with her throughout her undergraduate study; and for years after, I’d walk through campus simply to absorb the essence of the place. Today, I am as much in love with the endeavor of higher education as I am disappointed by its outcomes.

The reformation of higher education is under way. Whether we agree or not, the vast credentialing system of universities and colleges, the importance placed upon expertise, the value of the degree and the Ph.D., the political economies that oppress those that form the backbone of the system, the administration of learning, the rights of students, and even the act of learning itself are all under scrutiny. It is a scrutiny that’s been in play for years, and has been exacerbated most recently by the advent of the MOOC (massive open online course), the corporatization of education, and the exportation of pedagogy to technologists and private entrepreneurs. Sadly, little is coming forward from this inquisition of education that’s hopeful. Academics and administrators are afraid for their careers, and students and learners of all ages are looking openly at other options (other options that enterprising speculators are at the ready to provide).
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There are better forums for discussion than online discussion forums. The discussion forum is a ubiquitous component of every learning management system and online learning platform from Blackboard to Moodle to Coursera. Forums have become, in many ways, synonymous with discussion in the online class, as though one relatively standardized interface can stand in for the many and varied modes of interaction we might have in a physical classroom.

The rhetoric of a physical classroom — its pedagogical topography — can certainly dictate how we teach within it: where the seats are, which direction they face, whether they’re bolted down, what kind of writing surfaces are on the walls, how many walls have writing surfaces, whether there are windows, doors that lock, etc. The same is true of the virtual classroom: is it password protected, what kind of landing page do we arrive on when we enter the course, how many pages allow interaction, can students easily upload and share content. Each of these predetermined variables allows (and sometimes demands) a certain pedagogy. The physical classroom, though, can usually be rearranged (to some extent) on the fly. Most online learning platforms make customization slow or difficult enough to deter responsiveness or impulsivity. The pedagogies of most online classes, then, are fixed in advance.
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As teachers, we sometimes get tired of hearing our own voices. That’s why we show movies, bring in guest speakers, and encourage discussion. Plus, we want to bring in other views in order to provide alternative perspectives. Otherwise, we’re just recreating ourselves in our students. Worse than that, a lack of diverse voices in the classroom can lead to boredom and indifference — so let’s have some fun, and maybe even some inspiration. 

That was my theory. So I put it to the test — by adding a theatrical element to the English courses I taught at Truman State University. After all, as Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel note in their April 9, 2012 Hybrid Pedagogy article “On Pedagogical Manipulation,” “When we enter a classroom, we’re stepping onto a stage . . . we all play roles: the teacher, the student, the devil’s advocate, the reporter, the questioner, the dictator, the grader, the teacher’s pet. It’s in the careful modulation of these roles that we can actively control a learning environment.”
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Victorian hubris opined, “All that can be invented has been invented,” and so we entered the 20th century emboldened with a Titanic which was unsinkable, and a hydrogen-packed Hindenburg. The invention eureka moment is chance, perseverance, sweat — but also danger. Gone is the slow iteration of change; upon us, the sudden rupture-rapture of the new. No one expects thousands will die in the North Atlantic; no one expects academics to throw themselves on gangways as luddite voices of restraint. If teaching is what we do, do we not owe those seeking to learn a reassurance they are at least on a seaworthy ship? How much of the good ship MOOC is built on the same blueprints as many noble vessels whose buoyancy has long since proved questionable? Somewhere Leonardo di Caprio stands on the bow of Google Reader.

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The ChallengeIncorporate an open source community service project into every class.

What happens to a student paper or project after the individual turns it in or presents it in class? Where does it go? What, ultimately, is at stake for the student when s/he sits down to apply his or her thoughts to paper? What mediums do these thoughts and ideas travel through and whom they reach? What impact does their effort make beyond the classroom?

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Learning in the Collective

Learning in the Collective

In A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant ChangeDouglas Thomas and John Seely Brown write, “Embracing Change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a set of new possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It means making the most of living in a world of motion” (43). The changing landscape of education in the digital age asks us to reconsider what, how, and where we learn. On May 3 at 1pm EST, Hybrid Pedagogy will host #digped discussion about peer-to-peer learning and how we can shift from thinking about educational institutions toward thinking about learning collectives. The following is drawn from Chapter 4 of Thomas and Brown’s book. While our Twitter discussion will center around this section, we also encourage you to read the first three chapters in PDF formatbuy the entire book, and explore other resources the authors have made available online.

The new culture of learning is based on three principles: (1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. (2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. (3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.

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“It’s early days for online education,” declared a recent article in the technology blog  Techcrunch, with its typical giddiness about the changes that technology is poised to bring to schooling. But the narrative that education and technology have only recently intersected ignores decades of products and practices. It ignores decades of experiences and expertise. And while some things ed-tech might seem quite shiny, it’s worth asking — with a nod to the past and a good deal of skepticism about the promises for the future — “what’s new?”
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Here’s a little secret: when I started teaching people how to teach online, I had no clue what I was doing.

It was 1998. I was a graduate student, without extensive computer skills or even teaching experience. I’d been a high school English teacher for a few years, and I’d taught GED classes, but my online facilitation background was limited to helping students figure out how to search song lyrics on Altavista.

Then I took a part-time job for my university coordinating a fledgling online M.Ed program. This was new stuff, then, with few best practices available to build on. The college had bought a bright and shiny “online learning platform” and it was my role to facilitate seminars teaching faculty how to use it.  Just as soon as I figured it out myself.

I started out all wrong.
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It’s evening. An Irish pub in Louisville, Colorado. Fish and chips. Beer. A game of soccer on the TV. I’m sitting down with one of my faculty to revisit the department’s Developmental English course (ENG 090). My goal: bring the course fully online, eliminate the text book, and make it a deeper learning and community building experience for all who enroll. The trick is, almost no one enrolls in ENG 090 because they want to. They enroll because they failed a test. How do you take a student from “You failed. Take this class.” to “Writing is fun!” And how do you do that online?

My meeting started with that question, and the course itself grew out of more questions. We spent our time asking how a thing could be done — “How can we eliminate a text book?” “How can we make assignments that are meaningful, student-centered, and relevant?” “How can we make this course equally accessible to native English speakers and second language learners?” — and very rarely, if ever, saying that something could not be done. We opened our minds to the ways that we could open the LMS. We decided on quizzes that were iterative, formative and not summative. We chose to create a voice for the course that was friendly and work that united students in collaboration rather than making them compete against the machine or us.
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This is the first of a four-part colloquy of articles. Each piece has been contributed by authors who have intimate experience with the struggles, failures, and successes of online learning programs. One new article will publish each day following this: “The Failure of an Online Program” by Sean Michael Morris on Wednesday; “The Early Days of Videotaped Lectures” by Audrey Watters on Thursday; and “How Not to Teach Online: A Story in Two Parts” by Bonnie Stewart on Friday.

Online learning in its current iterations will fail.

The failure of online education programs is not logistical, nor political, nor economic: it’s cultural, rooted in our perspectives and biases about how learning happens and how the internet works (these things too often seen in opposition). For learning to change drastically — a trajectory suggested but not yet realized by the rise of MOOCs — teaching must change drastically. And in order for that to happen, we must conceive of the activity of teaching, as an occupation and preoccupation, in entirely new and unexpected ways. We must unseat ourselves, unnerve ourselves. Online learning is uncomfortable, and so educators must become uncomfortable in their positions as teachers and pedagogues. And the administration of online programs must follow suit.

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Higher education needs more bravery. Digital pedagogy, or any experimental critical pedagogy, is necessarily dangerous, often with real risks for both instructors and students, much of which can be valuable for learning. But when we experiment with our pedagogies, we confront an establishment that can be hostile to anything new — an establishment that often punishes rather than rewards innovation — that increasingly enforces the standardization of curriculums and classroom practice. With approximately three-quarters of all classes being taught by contingent faculty, any deviation can trigger a non-renewal, leaving the critical pedagogue on the outside looking in.
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Will MOOCs Work for Writing?

Will MOOCs Work for Writing?

When faced with a complex, fluid, and potentially uncontrollable situation, I’ve often heard people say, “It’s like herding cats.” I can think of no more complex, variable, and fluid task than writing. Its nuances and complexities seem to defy consistency; what works as “good writing” in one circumstance can be disastrous in another. Indeed, the push toward multimodality in student writing means even the products can vary: essays one minute, blogs the next, videos after that. We also strive to develop stylistic variation: the strongest students develop a personal voice that makes their work distinctive. Everything about writing activities makes them seem like one-offs: what works in each instance is different than the next solution. The complex challenges of teaching students to work within that degree of variability makes me despair.

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With technological innovations come opportunities for students to compose, communicate, share, collaborate, and express themselves in contemporary ways as well as opportunities for teachers to harness potential academic possibilities. Vlogging, or video blogging, is one way to introduce dynamic content and technologically enhanced pedagogical techniques to students in a variety of disciplines, specifically composition. From student-created vlogs that focus on reflection, collaboration, and community building to teacher-created vlogs that focus on interactive lessons and that introduce a spirit of play to the classroom, vlogs can be significant and practical learning tools; specifically in the composition classroom, vlogs can teach students the power of visual text and can allow them an informal way of exploring the composing process.

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Play is making a comeback. There have been TED Talks, peer-reviewed articles in pediatrics journals, pieces in The Atlantic, and an entire industry now devoted to the “right” kind of play for our kids’ development. So why devote another 2000+ words to play and pedagogy, especially because it has already been done well by the creators of this very site?

Part I
I’ve learned a great deal from watching my two kids, currently aged just four and almost six. I’ve watched them perform free imaginative play, interactive narrative play, and rules-driven play. Currently the conflict in my household is between the elder sister, who is obsessed with making sure everyone follows the rules, and her younger brother, who is still more interested in exploring and experimenting, happily making it up as he goes along.
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On Friday, March 8, Pete Rorabaugh interviewed Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Change in Higher Education (2010). Kamenetz’s writing investigates systemic problems associated with funding, institutional inflexibility, and explores homegrown alternatives. DIY U was one of the first books published in the U.S. to discuss the incipient cMOOC community and also touches on the work of Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington. In the wake of a year’s worth of media-MOOC-craziness, Pete asked about Kamenetz’s reflections since the publication of DIY U, specifically related to innovations within and alternatives to the structure of higher education.

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We are not ready to teach online. In a recent conversation with a friend, I found myself puzzled, and a bit troubled, when he expressed confusion about digital pedagogy. He said something to the extent of, “What’s the difference between digital pedagogy and teaching online? Aren’t all online teachers digital pedagogues?” Being a contemplative guy, I didn’t just tip over his drink and walk away. Instead, I pondered the source of his question. Digital pedagogy is largely misunderstood in higher education. The advent of online learning and instructional design brought the classroom onto the web, and with it all manner of teaching: good and bad, coherent and incoherent, networked and disconnected. Whatever pedagogy any given teacher employed in his classroom became digitized. If I teach history by reading from my twenty-year-old notes, or if I lead workshops in creative writing, or if I teach literature through movies, I bring that online and — boom! — I’m a digital pedagogue. Right?
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Digital pedagogy is not a dancing monkey. It won’t do tricks on command. It won’t come obediently when called. Nobody can show us how to do it or make it happen like magic on our computer screens. There isn’t a 90-minute how-to webinar, and we can’t outsource it.

We become experts in digital pedagogy in the same way we become American literature scholars, medievalists, or doctors of sociology. We become digital pedagogues by spending many years devoting our life to researching, practicing, writing about, presenting on, and teaching digital pedagogies. In other words, we live, work, and build networks within the field. But this isn’t exactly right, because digital pedagogy is less a field and more an active present participle, a way of engaging the world, not a world to itself, a way of approaching the not-at-all-discrete acts of teaching and learning. To become an expert in digital pedagogy, then, we need research, experience, and openness to each new learning activity, technology, or collaboration. Digital pedagogy is a discipline, but only in the most porous, dynamic, and playful senses of the word.
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Recently, my colleague and Hybrid Pedagogy co-conspirator, Pete Rorabaugh, and I spoke at the Emory Symposium on Digital Publication, Undergraduate Research, and Writing. Over the course of two days of discussion, it became clear that, in order to realize the full potential of digital publication initiatives like the Domain of One’s Own project at the University of Mary Washington, we need to work with our students to create an institutional environment where they are seen as owners and producers–not just users and consumers–of intellectual property. Unfortunately, institutions attempting to chart a safe course through treacherous regulatory seas too often take an approach that positions faculty and students as passengers along for the ride, rather than co-pilots or fellow travelers capable of plotting a course of their own.
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On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, Josh Boldt joined Pete Rorabaugh on Twitter for an hour-long discussion of his work. Boldt, a lecturer in English at the University of Georgia and founder of the Adjunct Project, has made quite a name for himself in the last year. From attending the New Faculty Majority Summit in January 2012 to being an invited speaker at MLA’s Presidential Forum “Avenues of Access: Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Members and American Higher Education” in Boston last month, Boldt spent 2012 at the nexus of a central problem in higher education — reliance on and conditions for adjunct faculty.

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This is the third installment in a three-part series on Editorial Pedagogy, a critical and three-dimensional approach to teaching, editing, and service. The first installment introduces the practice from a theoretical framework; the second describes its application to the multimodal writing classroom. 

It may seem tautological to say that an editorial pedagogy works well in editing and publishing classes. But, as I defined this pedagogy through an example of a writing-based classroom, in which I mentor students, students mentor each other, and students mentor me through writing for publication, in this installment, I want to clarify how an editorial pedagogy works equally well when working with students (or journal staff members, or publishers, or technical writers, or…) whose “jobs” are to make texts as perfect as possible in a given situation.
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On December 14, 2012, a group of 12 assembled in Palo Alto for a raucous discussion of online education. Hybrid Pedagogy contributors Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel gathered together with folks from a diverse array of disciplines and backgrounds, representing STEM fields, the humanities, schools of education, corporations, non-profits, ivies, community colleges, and small liberal arts colleges. Among us were adjuncts, CEOs, a graduate student, several digital humanists, and two outspoken educational technology journalists. As a group, we’d chaired online programs, designed MOOCs, dropped out of MOOCs, and the term “MOOC” was even coined in one of our living rooms. The goal of the summit was to open a broader conversation about online learning and the future of higher education. See the story in The Chronicle. This co-authored document, which calls for hacking and open discussion, was the result. 
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On Friday, January 11, 2013, Pete Rorabaugh asked Alec Couros to join hium for an hour-long Twinterview. It was the weekend before the launch of #ETMOOC, his brainchild, and Pete wanted to get some context and history for his digital work before he began another connectivist adventure. Their conversation roamed from Alec’s first experiences in the cMOOC (even pre-MOOC) community, academic influences on his “open thinking” philosophy, reflections on publication and tenure, and his motivation to organize #ETMOOC.

Every fall when I ask my first year students, “Why did you choose the College of Environmental Science and Forestry?” at least one will answer, “I want to save the world.” By the time they are sophomores, my students have taken rigorous science courses that focus on environmental issues. When they do group projects in the research/composition course I teach, I’m impressed with their topics, the depth of their knowledge, and their passion.

What seems wrong is that their presentations are only to each other. Sure, they invite their friends, but at a small college where everyone takes a whole bunch of the same courses, that’s not a very satisfying audience. The students teach me and have changed me — dramatically — but I shouldn’t be the only person to benefit from their knowledge and fresh ideas.
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A User’s Guide to Forking Education

A User’s Guide to Forking Education

At exactly this moment, online education is poised (and threatening) to replicate the conditions, courses, structures, and hierarchical relations of brick-and-mortar industrial-era education. Cathy N. Davidson argued exactly this at her presentation, “Access Demands a Paradigm Shift,” at the 2013 Modern Language Association conference. The mistake being made, I think, is a simple and even understandable one, but damning and destructive nonetheless. Those of us responsible for education (both its formation and care) are hugging too tightly to what we’ve helped build, its pillars, policies, economies, and institutions. None of these, though, map promisingly into digital space. If we continue to tread our current path, we’ll be left with a Frankenstein’s monster of what we now know of education. This is the imminent destruction of our educational system of which so many speak: taking an institution inspired by the efficiency of post-industrial machines and redrawing it inside the machines of the digital age. Education rendered into a dull 2-dimensional carbon copy, scanned, faxed, encoded and then made human-readable, an utter lack of intellectual bravery.
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The Hybrid Scholar

The Hybrid Scholar

Negotiated hybridity — of the physical and digital, of the professional and social, of the individual and communal — is our natural state. Only since we launched Hybrid Pedagogy (at last year’s MLA conference one year ago) have I come to understand the professional binaries many of us keep knowingly unhinging.

My first grad degree came from a College of Education, my doctorate from an English department. Rather than decide that my Ph.D. should focus on literature or rhetoric/composition, I chose both and applied rhetoric to American novels. For the last two years, the classroom — and all of its digital and participatory potential — has become the site of my research. It comes from an academic and professional life spent as an outlier, critical onlooker, and idea splicer. A confronter of closed binaries.
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Sherry Turkle famously argues technology has begun to overtake our attention and time, which has led to increased physical isolation and shallow online interaction. She contends, in a community-starved world, we need to disconnect from our smartphones and other Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabling devices in order to create greater balance: “We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true … If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely”. Detractors such as David Banks, Nathan Jurgenson and others counter that Turkle’s assessment of alienation creates a digital dualism. As David Banks at Cyborgology suggests, it may be more appropriate instead to consider our techniquehow we use technology.

Surely, online interactions can be shallow, but it’s no certainty. I’ve spent over a decade in different online spaces—primarily as a member of various web fora where sub-communities exist—and I cannot say that what I’ve witnessed and experienced was anything less than a human desire to connect with others. Sometimes these online spaces offered, for those who felt lonely or isolated by their interests in their physical environments, a place to belong. In other words, for many people I’ve encountered, these are not places for leading a shallow existence.
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Too often, rather than inviting First-Year Composition (FYC) students into the disruptive experience of being a writer, we try to shield them inside the safety of the walled garden of neatly ordered paths that is the traditional, instructor-driven composition classroom. Even while some of us have refocused on the process, rather than products, of writing, we continue to hamstring students with scaffolded compositional tasks and writing “prompts,” assuming that by allowing students to choose between various (artificially-created, instructor-mapped) paths, we are endowing them with an autonomy so empowering that they will arrive at the end of their journey through our garden as self-identified writers.

But this is a squalid kind of psuedo-autonomy. How many writers take baby-steps into writing — first mastering sentences before moving on to paragraphs before moving on to five-paragraph essays? And how many writers start with a writing prompt (generated by someone else)? In contrast to authentic writing, “[t]he student essay,” Mark Sample writes, “is a twitch in a void. A compressed outpouring of energy (if we’re lucky) that means nothing to no one.” If we are to help students realize writing as something more than just a set of irksome classes or a task to get done in order to get on with the serious business of learning and living, we must rethink what we mean by autonomy in the writing classroom and what we really mean when we say we want students to identify themselves as writers.

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Online Learning: a Manifesto

Online Learning: a Manifesto

Online learning is not the whipping boy of higher education. As a classroom teacher first and foremost, I have no interest in proselytizing for online learning, but to roundly condemn it is absurd. Online learning is too big and variable a target. It would be like roundly condemning the internet or all objects made from paper.

Much of the rhetoric currently being used against MOOCs is the same rhetoric that has been used against online learning since the 90s (and against distance education since the mid-1800s). There are important questions to be asked, such as how do MOOCs change the business models of higher education, or how do we maintain online the intimate and tailored experiences some of us create in the classroom, but these are not new questions. What I find exciting about the rise of the MOOC is that it brings with it a new level of investment in discussions of online learning. This isn’t to say that MOOCs are necessarily good or bad (they are, in fact, a lot of different things, depending on the MOOC), but to get lost entirely in the stories being told about MOOCs is to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.

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In the previous installment to this series, I wrote about the theoretical foundations on which my professional philosophy, an editorial pedagogy, is built on the recursive and reciprocal relationships between my editorial praxis with Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy and my classroom praxis as a digital writing studies teacher. In this installment, I discuss how an editorial pedagogy plays out in writing classes and what that looks like in relation to the genre ecologies in which digital writing happens. 

A key feature of a teaching philosophy is that it has to be applicable to all of the classes you claim to (be able to) teach. And a professional philosophy has to apply to all the research and service work you do as well. When I first started talking about an editorial pedagogy, I mostly used it in reference to my writing-intensive classes and job-market workshops where students were writing a lot of job materials. But I realized that my syllabi draw on an editorial pedagogy in two different ways, depending on whether I’m teaching writing or publishing classes (the publishing classes I refer to in the third installment of this series aren’t writing for publication classes, but editorially focused classes). These sets of classes reach users on different ends of a communicative spectrum: authors want to write better, publishers want to produce better publications. When we’re talking about professional-level publications, authors need publishers and vice versa. And it’s this level of professionalization that I want for both sets of students, as seen in the introduction to my grading criteria for a recent writing class:

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A MOOC is not a thing. A MOOC is a strategy. What we say about MOOCs cannot possibly contain their drama, banality, incessance, and proliferation. The MOOC is a variant beast — placental, emergent, alienating, enveloping, sometimes thriving, sometimes dead, sometimes reborn.

There is nothing about a MOOC that can be contained. Try as they might, MOOC-makers like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity cannot keep their MOOCs to themselves, because when we join a MOOC, it is not to learn new content, new skills, new knowledge, it is to learn new learning. Entering a MOOC is entering Wonderland – where modes of learning are turned sideways and on their heads — and we walk away MOOCified.

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This article is the first in a three-part series. Two subsequent articles by Cheryl Ball will demonstrate the application of editorial pedagogy to the relationships between students / teachers and authors / editors respectively.

Sometimes, my esteemed colleague, Jim Kalmbach, understands my academic identity better than I do. His most recent revelation for me was this: “I see you transforming yourself in ways you don’t understand yet. It is true that your definition of DH will be richer than most people if for no other reason than it will include comp. You should stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I am a digital humanist.’” He’s right. My academic identity most easily fits into a digital humanities notion of technology-infused writing, publishing, and pedagogy. And in the month since I got Jim’s most recent identity-cometojesus-email, I’ve been able to reconcile these sometimes-competing disciplinary identities to form a holistic approach to my teaching, research, and service. In revising my teaching philosophy recently, I realized that my pedagogical approach wasn’t limited to classroom-based teaching, the typical scope of such statements. Instead, my philosophy — aneditorial pedagogy – is fundamentally linked to my academic identity and performance as an editor, scholar, teacher, mentor, and administrator in digital writing studies. Or, more specifically, a juggling act of digital writing studies and digital publishing under the big tent of digital humanities.

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“We no longer have to separate our material technologies so radically as we once did from our ‘cognitive strategies’. People-with-bodies participate in activities and practices, such as jointly authoring a multimedia Web document, in which we and our appliances are partners in action; in which who we are and how we act is as much a function of what’s at-hand as of what’s in-head.”  ~ J.L. Lemke, “Metamedia Literacy: Transforming Meanings and Media

First, a Story
One of my favorite childhood memories is of me helping my dad in the garden. A hardworking individual who dealt with a lot of stress, dad was always at peace among his veggies and flowers. The garden was a place where he could spend time with plants that needed (but did not demand) his attention; among his many plants, dad could be creative, whimsical, relaxed; absolved from the everyday stresses of work, family, and life.

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“The intellectual is still only an incompletely transformed writer.” ~ Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero

There could be many epigraphs hailing a discussion of digital writing, many pithy observations about its nature, becoming, qualities, mysteries, dilemmas. From Oscar Wilde: “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.” Virginia Woolf: “We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print.” Gertrude Stein: “They thought they were welcome and it did not make any difference.” All these from writers who were writing long before digital writing was good breakfast conversation. Yes, epigraphs are easy.

First sentences, on the other hand, are hard. Here are a few:

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I was roused from my teaching this week by the cacophony of tweets and blog posts on the merits and pitfalls of tweeting another scholar’s ideas (the most cited ones authored or collected by Roopika RisamTressie McMillan CottomKathleen Fitzpatrick and Adeline Koh), culminating in “The Academic Twitterazzi” on Inside Higher Ed. The conversation is rushing through multiple channels, expressed with frustration in Mark Sample’s response to being quoted, also by Inside Higher Ed., when he was actually citing Risam’s original blog post. “Imagine the chilling effect upon graduate students,” Sample writes in the comments, “when their first forays into academic blogging are also their first experiences with having their ideas stolen from them.” The discussion convinced me that it’s time to contextualize a personal story of mine within the larger debate of digital ethics, transparency, and inter-institutional academic collaboration. Ultimately, it comes down to a question also relevant to our teaching: as scholars, are we invested in our ideas, our “curriculum,” to the extent that we want them to grow beyond our own ability to define them?

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Have you ever overheard this conversation, or something similar, in the departmental copy room? One teacher says, “How many pages of a book can I copy and still call it fair use? Another teacher replies, “I think it’s ten percent (or ten pages).” I overhear these conversations all the time. As a recovering corporate intellectual property attorney I am perhaps especially attuned to them. One always correct potential answer to the question is, “Well, that depends.”

Recent judicial attempts to establish some notwithstanding, bright lines just don’t exist in the legal terrain of fair use (as it’s called in the U.S.) or fair dealing (as it’s called in many other jurisdictions). Copyright law does have some very clear rules. For example, everything first published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain. Or, since 1976 in the US, copyright has attached automatically to works the moment they are “fixed,” regardless of the author’s intent or preference.

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This sentence is a learning object. Wayne Hodgins, the “father of learning objects,” first came up with the idea for them while watching his son play with LEGOs. The basic notion is that we can create units of learning so fundamentally simple and reusable that they can be applied in different ways to different objectives and lessons, no matter the context. Hodgins’s dream was of “a world where all ‘content’ exists at just the right and lowest possible size.” Like a single sentence. Like a single question on an exam. Like a photograph, a moment in a video, a discussion prompt. As online learning has grown, learning objects have become something of the Holy Grail of instructional design… Or the windmills at which it tilts.

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I once heard an interesting story about my former collegiate marching-band instructor, Dr. Richard Greenwood. According to legend, Greenwood once held up the score to an extensive piece the band was working on, pointed to it, and said, to the surprise of those around him holding instruments, “This is not the music we are playing. This is not the song we are performing. This is only a map. It’s a guide to get us where the composer wants us to go.” He then went on to discuss the merits of interpretation, flexibility, and improvisation within a framework.

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MOOCs: Changing Modes of Pedagogy [original Google Doc]

As Bonnie Stewart explains, massive open courses are not a new concept. In the 1970s, Michel Foucault taught courses for free, open to everyone who was interested. Indeed, the concept of free education extends back to Socrates, who reportedly refused payment for his instruction. Nonetheless, the acronym MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, was generated in the context of a course called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” taught by Stephen Downes. Let’s examine that acronym:

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Audrey Watters Wrestles with MOOCs

Audrey Watters Wrestles with MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), as they are situated both inside and outside of traditional higher education institutions, naturally raise questions about those institutions. My recent article, “Occupy the Digital: Critical Pedagogy and New Media,” began to uncover some of those questions. In that article, I assert “that academic work must be useful beyond its tower and that digital culture offers new opportunities to achieve that goal.” Perhaps MOOCs are a way to take academic work beyond its traditional boundaries. Or perhaps MOOCs are so extra-institutional that they will work no real changes on higher education.

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Teaching is a moral act. Our choice of course content is a moral decision, but so is the relationship we cultivate with students. Both physical and digital learning spaces require us to practice a politics of teaching, whether we’re conscious of it or not. However, traditional relationships between students and teachers come freighted with a model of interaction that often impedes learning. They are hierarchical. Progressive teaching, informed by a critical attention to pedagogy, resets the variables and insists on the classroom as a site of moral agency.

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It’s time to confront our bias against open sources and redefine how our students research in digital environments. We should both allow them to use the research sites that are most handy, i.e., those openly available on the internet, and teach them how to effectively mine, evaluate, synthesize, and use the information contained within those sites.

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Coursera is silly. Educational technology news has been all a-flutter over the last few months about the work that Coursera is doing to bring higher education into the open. But I tell you what: I signed up for one of their classes — a course on Science Fiction and Fantasy from the University of Michigan — only to discover something really startling. Really: startling.

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MOOCs are a red herring. The MOOC didn’t appear last week, out of a void, vacuum-packed. The MOOC has been around for years, biding its time. Still, the recent furor about MOOCs, which some have called “hysteria,” opens important questions about higher education, digital pedagogy, and online learning. The MOOCs themselves aren’t what’s really at stake. In spite of the confused murmurs in the media, MOOCs won’t actually chomp everything in their path. And they aren’t an easy solution to higher education’s financial crisis. In fact, a MOOC isn’t a thing at all, just a methodological approach, with no inherent value except insofar as it’s used.

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Pedagogy is inherently collaborative. Our work as teachers doesn’t (or shouldn’t) happen in a vacuum. In “Hybridity, pt. 3: What Does Hybrid Pedagogy Do?,” Pete and Jesse write, “Teaching is a practice. Good teaching is an engaged, reflective, and generous practice. Pedagogy is not just talking and thinking about teaching. Pedagogy is the place where philosophy and practice meet (aka “praxis”). It’s vibrant and embodied, meditative and productive.” There is an important distinction here between teaching and pedagogy, between work that is productive and work that is productive and also reflective.

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I live and work in one of America’s poorest regions, Appalachia — specifically eastern Kentucky. Businesses and municipalities don’t have a strong web presence (if any at all), Google Maps is essentially useless for getting anywhere, and the social network is still, largely, the local Churches and quilting bees. Howard Rheingold, in his book Net Smart, writes about how it is possible now to ask a question and get an answer on your phone anywhere. I hasten to add, as long as it’s nothere, where even cell phone coverage is spotty at best.

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The act of writing is organic and generative. Ironically, this biological approach to writing is strengthened by digital environments that allow students and teachers to cultivate better compositions. Composing is a demonstration of thinking, and in any hybrid classroom, students should be able to a) see this thinking modeled and b) practice it themselves. Digital environments maximize the potential for organic writing in three distinct ways: they rebuild “audience,” expose the organic layers of a composition, and invite outside participation in key stages along the way.

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There’s nothing wrong with Blackboard, except in the way that there’s something wrong with all of it.

At InstructureCon 2012, we noticed a lot of hate being directed at Blackboard, a bit of indifference about Moodle, and cheer after cheer offered up for Canvas, the learning management system (LMS) created by Instructure. That there was enthusiasm for Canvas at a Canvas-based event wasn’t unexpected; however, the conference spurred us to dive deeper into this LMS to see what it’s really about, and whether it’s as flexible and progressive a tool for education as Instructure says it is.

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This is the third in a series of articles that investigates hybridity as it relates to our positions as teachers and scholars, but also as learners, composers, and community members. We also consider the impetus for the naming of this journal and propose various directions the conversations might take us. Click here for part one, “Virtuality and Empiricism,” and here for part two, “What is Hybrid Pedagogy?”

Teaching is a practice. Good teaching is an engaged, reflective, and generous practice. Pedagogy is not just talking and thinking about teaching. Pedagogy is the place where philosophy and practice meet (aka “praxis”). It’s vibrant and embodied, meditative and productive. Good pedagogy takes both teaching and learning as its subjects.

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In preparing for the Teaching Naked #digped Twitter discussion on Friday, June 8, I reviewed what felt like a massive number of possible topics, discussable literature, and the broad face of educational technology. Out there on the Internet, something is happening that feels a lot like evolution, but which can also feel like survival of the fittest. One idea gives rise unto uncounted more ideas; one tool for organizing spawns a dozen new ways to communicate, and simultaneously a need for new organizational tools. It’s positively autocatalytic.

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The rise of stuff like hybrid pedagogy, open source content, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) is changing the relationships between teachers, students, and the technologies they share. Pedagogy is no longer solely the domain of instructors; we must open the dialogue to students. This article starts a new strand on Hybrid Pedagogy in which we begin to disrupt the student / teacher binary by bringing students more fully into the conversation about their own learning.

I’m not sure how to talk to teachers about teaching.

I’m not a pedagogue. I’m not yet a college graduate, for that matter. I am on Twitter (@TeoBishop), and when I saw that Hybrid Pedagogy was hosting a #digped chat with Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold), the author of Net Smart, a book which explores how we might use new media more mindfully, I was enthusiastic to participate. I’m also a student at Marylhurst University, and a regular blogger and social media user, so I figured I would have something to contribute to the conversation.

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This sentence — this one right here — is the first sentence I’ve written in two months that wasn’t co-authored in a Google Doc. It’s the first sentence, outside of e-mails and tweets and notes I’ve written to myself, that has my name (and only my name) on both its front and back ends — the first sentence I can look at and say with certainty, “I wrote that entire thing without help and without anyone else watching it get written.”

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Audience has been a critical concern during our first five months at work on Hybrid Pedagogy. We realize the need to consciously expand our audience — to consider institutions and colleagues outside of the U.S., those working in fully online classrooms, learners and facilitators of MOOCs, and in K-12 systems. Most recently we’ve begun considering higher ed instructors in their first year or two of service, what I will call pre- and early-service teachers.

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Infiltrating the Walled Garden

Infiltrating the Walled Garden

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are walled gardens. They provide substantial control over the environment in which learning activities take place, and at first glance this appears to be a good thing. For this reason they are often relatively appealing to faculty members beginning to make the transition from fully traditional classroom instruction. The level of control is familiar… but it is also misleading when taken in the context of the full learning process (see “Hack the LMS: Getting Progressive” for more on this).

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Memes are the New Canon

Memes are the New Canon

Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “The American Scholar”:

The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters, – a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

Because the Internet is everything, it has always lacked coherence for me. More available than things in their entirety are blurbs about things, captions, dialogues about things; or more removed, dialogues about blurbs about things. I’m a nontraditional educator who was educated traditionally, so I tend to think about things in their entirety, and the relationships of coherence created between those things. I canonize, holding up certain works of literature as both cornerstones and harbingers of academic dialogue. The works of Shakespeare and Dickens converse with the works of Woolf and Hemingway and give them meaning. But a quote from Shakespeare tossed into the muddle of all the quotes from all the books in English loses its lucidity and relevance. And this is exactly what the internet does.

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In digital space, everything we do is networked. Real thinking doesn’t (and can’t) happen in a vacuum. Our teaching practices and scholarship don’t just burst forth miraculously from our skulls. The digital academic community is driven by citation, generosity, connection, and collaboration. The work we do as hybrid and critical pedagogues, digital humanists, and alternative academic publishers depends on our sharing ideas as part of a much larger project or conversation.

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An all-too standard lament these days is that teachers have been slow to adapt to students’ new modes of learning. This disjunction persists because so many of us have been trained in traditional pedagogical systems that privilege narrow foci and a top-down model of disseminating knowledge. We stand in front of a classroom and lecture, while they assimilate information by immersing themselves in a dynamic, constantly changing technological space. We ground our pedagogy in textbooks and preset lesson plans; they fly freely through the living, hybrid textual space engendered by texts, blogs, open-source databases, tweets, and hashtags. We are static; they are mobile. We are the past of education; they are its future. As teachers, we must broaden our pedagogical horizons to accommodate our student 2.0’s open-ended ways of collecting and processing information.

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How to Storify. Why to Storify.

How to Storify. Why to Storify.

We’ve threatened to publish reviews and how-to-guides for digital tools since we started Hybrid Pedagogy, but we haven’t really gotten around to it. Every time we sit down to do this work, we get caught up in philosophizing about bigger issues related to educational technology — caught up in a desire to theorize the room before we fully enter the room. It’s important, though, for us to turn our minds (and typing fingers) toward both process and practice, hence our concordance of digital tools, and now this article about Storify.

Intended to serve as a stop-motion camera for the torrent of information we get from social media, Storify allows the user to arrange pieces of conversations to construct a narrative. When we first began teaching with Twitter, we wanted to contain conversations that would eventually evaporate. Twitter allows us to go back through someone’s stream to see everything, but the simple organization that a hashtag brings to an organic conversation has about a two-week window. If we start a back-channel conversation in a lecture one day, Twitter requires that we look at it, learn from it, and let it go soon after. Storify emerged on the scene last year to cull these kinds of social media contributions (not just on Twitter) and freeze them.

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Pedagogy as Publishing

Pedagogy as Publishing

Publishing and teaching can both terrify new academics, often to the point of paralysis. Their mutual support for one another is often frustrated by institutional demands. For example, the traditional workload split for full-time faculty at R1 institutions in the US is: 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. This division and its usual inflexibility highlights the ways that teaching and scholarly production are kept separate and distinct as forms. Yet, by looking at how publishing is teaching and teaching is publishing, we can lessen the anxiety around these activities and begin to notice how they are, in fact, co-constitutive practices. More than that, we can start to think about the open ends of these aspects of our work. The word “publishing” often implies some sort of finality, research that is finished or complete. This misses something vital about academic work.

This article on Hybrid Pedagogy, “Pedagogy as Publishing” by Charlotte Frost, is both implicitly and explicitly linked to ”Publishing as Pedagogy” by Jesse Stommel on PhD2Published. As publishing venues, both Hybrid Pedagogy and PhD2Published, work to build scholarly community by creating open and ongoing conversation. These twinned articles, which were written together in a Google Doc, combine to introduce communities, points of convergence, and to create a collaborative dialogue on publishing and pedagogy from two complementary perspectives.

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Encouraging learning is an act of subtle manipulation. When we enter a classroom, we’re stepping onto a stage. This is true no matter how student-centered our classroom is, because our students are also stepping onto a stage (or into an audience). Even in the most open learning environments, we all play roles: the teacher, the student, the devil’s advocate, the reporter, the questioner, the dictator, the grader, the teacher’s pet. It’s in the careful modulation of these roles that we can actively control a learning environment. [Jesse writes this last sentence fully aware that his co-author and much of his audience will balk at the word “control.”] This issue of control is a delicate one, because the work we do in classrooms (as both teachers and students) depends on a very deliberate attention to how we manage the space and how we express ourselves within it. The work we do in classrooms depends on us finding a careful balance between asserting control and ceding it.

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Revealing the strange and wondrous power of digital publishing, the following unsolicited piece was written in response to an article published earlier today, submitted by the author (from CO), reviewed by both managing editors (in GA and OR), revised by the author (back in CO), and published, all in under 12 hours.

When I read the title of the most recent article here at Hybrid Pedagogy – “On Pedagogical Manipulation” — and gazed with a slight tremor at the image crowning the article, I wondered first if this would be a complaint against academic administration, or an expose on some as yet unearthed classroom conspiracy. Instead, I found myself engaged in Jesse’s and Pete’s discussion of the performativity of instruction.

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Twitter Theory and the Public Scholar

Twitter Theory and the Public Scholar

In celebration of Twitter’s 6th birthday this week, we offer an examination of Twitter’s application to pedagogical and scholarly communities.

I was very excited when I conceived of the original title of this essay: “Theorizing Twitter.” How disappointed I was to learn that someone had beaten me to it. Navneet Alang, a Ph.D. student in English at York University, Toronto, wrote “Theorizing Twitter: Narratives and Identity” on his blog in 2008. He did it really well, making some great observations on how Twitter users compile a simultaneously fixed and virtual identity on the web. In his investigation of Twitter’s facility in turning short posts into personal narrative, Alang writes: “In this sense of writing oneself, there’s something to the disjointed, microscopic nature of Twitter, the fact that it is only a collection of tiny snippets, that allows its users to piece together stories over time about themselves and those they follow.” In both micro- (personal) and macro- (community) senses, Twitter creates interesting opportunities for virtual identity construction.

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I’ve been following some of the very different, but complementary conversations about hybrid pedagogy emerging from this journal, as well as from the postdoctoral seminar at Georgia Tech. Most recently, two ideas have really intrigued me. The first comes from Jesse Stommel, as he attempts to define “hybrid pedagogy” by contrasting it with the blended classroom.

When people talk about “blended learning,” they are usually referring to the place where learning happens, a combination of the classroom and online. The word “hybrid” has deeper resonances, suggesting not just that the place of learning is changed but that a hybrid pedagogy fundamentally rethinks our conception of place.

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This is the third in a series of articles that works to get feedback on the program I’m directing and helping to develop at Marylhurst University in Portland, OR. Marylhurst is a small liberal arts university focused on non-traditional students and adult learners. I teach (in the classroom and online) for the English Literature & Writing department, which has concentrations in LiteratureCreative Writing, and Text:Image. The new online degree program, which opens January 2013, integrates literary studies and the digital humanities with a focus on service and experiential learning. 

With the feedback on my first and second article in this series, we’ve crafted the following brief description of the program:

Marylhurst University offers a high quality English and Digital Humanities Online degree that integrates literary studies with the digital humanities, a hybrid approach to online instruction, and an emphasis on service and experiential learning. Courses in this small, selective program (capped at 100 students) are taught by a predominantly full-time faculty from the on-campus department.

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Hybridity, pt. 2: What is Hybrid Pedagogy?

Hybridity, pt. 2: What is Hybrid Pedagogy?

This is the second in a series of articles that investigates hybridity as it relates to our positions as teachers and scholars, but also as learners, composers, and community members. We also consider the impetus for the naming of this journal and propose various directions the conversations might take us.

In a broad sense, my own scholarly work is about the (sometimes wondrous, sometimes horrifying) relationship between bodies and technology. As our flesh is made intangible in the digital age, we find ourselves increasingly interested in bodies, dead and otherwise–in cadavers, crime scenes, bodily mutilation, and torture–in shows like Six Feet Under and The Walking Dead, films like Saw, video games like Gears of War, and novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This is, by no means, a newfound fascination, but reflects a far more universal fear: a fear Shakespeare explores in Hamlet, beginning with the ominous words “Who’s there?”; a fear Mary Shelley explores in Frankenstein, wondering about identity and physicality from the first phrase, “I am by birth”; and a fear Herman Melville explores in “The Tartarus of Maids,” where he describes “blank-looking girls” working in a paper factory, slaves to a new-fangled machine.  Each author wonders what constitutes a self, of what sort of matter are we made, what it is to be a body, to be human. Each wonders where our (technological and political) machines end and we begin.

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On my first day as a student-teacher in a public high school (1999), my mentor teacher left me in the room at 8:20 a.m. to take a call in the front office. As students began filing into school for the day and eventually into her room, the minutes dragged on. It was 8:30. The bell rang. More minutes. Eventually, at 8:35, one of the students in the Senior Literature class said: “Are you our sub?” I was wearing a tie, but I was not the sub. I hadn’t taught a day in my life.

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This is the second in a series of articles that works to get feedback on the program I’m directing and helping to develop at Marylhurst University in Portland, OR. Marylhurst is a small liberal arts university focused on non-traditional students and adult learners. I teach (in the classroom and online) for the English Literature & Writing department, which has concentrations in LiteratureCreative Writing, and Text:Image. The new online degree program, which opens January 2013, integrates literary studies and the digital humanities with a focus on service and experiential learning.

I’ve been thinking about my audience for this series of posts. Initially, I had thought to bring digital humanities, literary studies, and educational technology experts into conversation, allowing my ideas for the program to be considered and influenced by a much larger network. I’m realizing, though, that there’s another group of experts from whom I particularly want feedback and suggestions: students. Ideally, this would include input from prospective students for the program, but since the program is only just barely beginning to germinate, what I’d like to do here is ask both students and teachers in existing programs to think about how the English degree is being transformed by digital technologies and about how online learning can be re-imagined through the use of new (and increasingly social) media.

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This is the first in a series of articles. Click here for part two on design principles. Click here for part three on the degree requirements.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to get feedback on the program I’m directing and helping to develop at Marylhurst University in Portland, OR. Marylhurst is a small liberal arts university focused on non-traditional students and adult learners. I teach (both in the classroom and online) for the English Literature & Writing department, which currently has concentrations in Literature, Creative Writing, and Text:Image. The new online degree program, which opens January 2013, integrates literary studies and the digital humanities with a focus on service and experiential learning.

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One of the most innovative educational ideas of the last century, we propose, came from Paulo Friere, the Brazilian educational theorist and populist. In his critique of “the banking model of education” in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire writes,

“Those who use the banking approach, knowingly or unknowingly (for there are innumerable well-intentioned bank-clerk teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize), fail to perceive that the deposits themselves contain contradictions about reality.”

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Document Sharing and Markup

Document Sharing and Markup

Text becomes our voice in digital space. In the land-based classroom, we speak. In the online classroom, we compose. What we write, the way that we write, and our interactions with the writing of others determines who we are in the online or hybrid classroom. Critical pedagogy, the tradition of progressive, socially and politically conscious teaching, asserts that our voice is an expression of our power. As such, the way we write establishes an authority about which we should be conscious.

Several free web tools open possibilities for quick, collective textual exchange that allow dynamic interaction.

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This is the first in a series of articles that investigates hybridity as it relates to our positions as teachers and scholars, but also as learners, composers, and community members. We also consider the impetus for the naming of this journal and propose various directions the conversations might take us. Click here for part two, “What is Hybrid Pedagogy?” Click here for part three, “What Does Hybrid Pedagogy Do?”

A critical mind usually avoids binaries. We know that more than two political parties can exist, that gender is constructed, and that emphatic absolutes kill conversation. We live in a world of negotiated hybridity on a variety of levels. Everything about the word calls up a vision of science and the future: hybrid cars, hybrid humans, hybrid flower seeds. Rarely do we consider the applications of a term that floats around us and permeates our daily experiences. Hybridity, as this journal proclaims, is foundational to teaching and learning. What does this kind of hybridity imply?

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In this article for the Guardian, George Monbiot calls academic publishing “economic parasitism” and academic publishers “monopolists,” which brings up a broader discussion about the purpose and promise of peer review. The academic publishing peer review process is an institution, and as an institution, it has a set of tenets or laws that undergird its existence. While investigating the institution itself is a useful endeavor (see Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s excellent work in Planned Obsolescence), perhaps a new alternative to academic publishing is better off to cast itself as far as possible from this (overly stable and politically-charged) institution.

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Technological Panic

Technological Panic

The computer and the LMS for an online or hybrid class are merely a medium. Still, so many instructors and students in technologically-enhanced classes spend the majority of their time grappling (and coming to terms) not with the ideas of the class but with the delivery device. We struggle to log in, to format our work correctly, to find information in an endless parade of contextual menus, and to bring some semblance of ourselves into the interactions we have in forums and chat tools.

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The Twitter Essay

The Twitter Essay

Consider the tangible violence technology has wrought upon grammar. We rely on automated grammar and spell-check tools in word-processing software (so much that they’ve become a crutch). E-mail shorthand fails to live up to the grammatical standards of typed or handwritten letters. And many believe our language is being perverted by the shortcuts (and concision nearly to the point of indifference) we’ve become accustomed to writing and reading in text messages and tweets.

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On the simplest level, a learning management system is any organizational pattern that assists teaching and learning. A grade book can also serve this function; so can a journal or a 3-ring-binder. The LMS (or CMS, for course management system) exists as a method for delivering content to students in a given class. What the classroom is to the traditional course, the LMS is to the online or hybrid course. The point of an LMS is to create learning opportunities for students outside the traditional classroom and on a different schedule. It enables synchronous (at the same time) and asynchronous (not at the same time) interaction between members of a class. It overcomes obstacles that traditional college campuses have: proximity to student populations, limited classroom space, and limited scheduling capabilities. In short, the LMS and the online class solve logistical problems for institutions and for students.

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The Tangle of Assessment

The Tangle of Assessment

Grading and assessment are curious beasts, activities many instructors love to hate but ones that nonetheless undergird the institutions where we work.

Peter Elbow begins his essay “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment” with the mission to “attempt to sort out different acts we call assessment” (187). It’s interesting to note his specific phrasing here. He doesn’t say that he intends to “sort out assessment” but rather that he intends to “sort out different acts we call assessment.” From the first sentence of his essay, Elbow makes clear that assessment is a complicated and potentially fractious subject, one that he treads lightly. He continues, “I have been working on this tangle not just because it is interesting and important in itself but because assessment tends so much to drive and control teaching. Much of what we do in the classroom is determined by the assessment structures we work under” (187). The choices we make about assessment, often at the outset of a course (in the syllabus), guide much of what happens within the course. Assessment is a “tangle” for Elbow, both because it is difficult to navigate with any true objectivity and because ideas about assessment influence so much of what happens at institutions and in classrooms.

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Early web commenters referred to the Internet as a primitive, lawless place like the “Wild West.” Plenty still needs to change to make certain parts of the web more civil and useful, but some aspect of the “Wild West” spirit is applicable to a discussion of student-directed learning. Too much civilization and society makes us compartmentalized and complacent. The West was a challenging place for European immigrants because it required an expansive sense of responsibility. You could no longer be just an apothecary or a cobbler. You had to provide for your own food and shelter from the resources around you; you had to decide just “what to do” with all this freedom.

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All participation is not equal. Digital media prompt us for comments, but in an academic setting we should harness this cultural habit to teach the difference between expressing opinion and authentic engagement. Professors often feel unfulfilled by poorly designed peer review exercises with their students. They complain: “The students don’t offer anything helpful. They just write things like ‘I like this part,’ or ‘this doesn’t make any sense,’ or ‘good paper!’” In peer review and in online interaction, we should teach and model for students the best methods of intellectual engagement.

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In his article “A Seismic Shift in Epistemology” (2008), Chris Dede draws a distinction between classical perceptions of knowledge and the approach to knowledge underpinning Web 2.0 activity. Our culture is shifting, Dede argues, not just from valuing the opinions of experts to the participatory culture of YouTube or Facebook, but from understanding knowledge as fixed and linear to a concentration on how knowledge is socially constructed. Dede writes that “the contrasts between Classical knowledge and Web 2.0 knowledge are continua rather than dichotomies . . . Still, an emerging shift to new types and ways of ‘knowing’ is apparent and has important implications for learning and education.”

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The Student 2.0

The Student 2.0

Students are evolving. The student 2.0 is an altogether different animal from the student 1.0. And our classrooms are ecosystems, an environment all their own, where we each must decide how to engage this new species of student. We teeter at a slowly disintegrating threshold, one foot in a physical world and the other in a virtual one. Our students are no longer just bodies in desks; they are no longer vessels. They have become compilations, amalgams, a concatenation of web sites. They are the people in front of us, but also their avatars in World of Warcraft and the profiles they create on FaceBook. They speak with mouths, but also with fingers tapping briskly at the keys of their smart phones. When they want to “reach out and touch someone,” they use Skype and Twitter. They have become more than just ears and eyes and brains to feed. Now, they feed us, and themselves, and each other, with an endless parade of texted and tweeted characters. Shouldn’t we, as teachers 2.0, work with not against the flow of these seemingly errant 1s and 0s? Shouldn’t student-centered learning address itself, as fully as possible, to this new breed of student? Shouldn’t we understand our students as more than just inert flesh?

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