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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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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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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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“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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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