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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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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“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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“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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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