When everything goes topsy-turvy thanks to a microscopic menace, it does something strange to our perspective. On the one hand, our view of things zooms way out — the entire world has been affected; entire national economies have been clobbered; whole industries struggle to redefine themselves — all thanks to the devastating human cost of a pandemic. At the same time, our minds also zoom close in — our daily routines have been disrupted; our hygiene practices have changed; our groceries and doorknobs have to be sanitized — all thanks to the insidious spread of a microorganism. Prior to this outbreak, we situated our attention somewhere in the middle, comfortably focusing on our work and its effects on other people. We no longer have that luxury. Now, the routine of our fluctuates, shifting as every “breaking news” report threatens to change the nature of reality.
Much like our perspectives have been split across scales of size, teachers’ attention also splits across time. We provide feedback on past work, using it to influence our plans for future activities, assignments, and assessments. We work deliberately to be present, in the moment, during our classes. We think of how the conversations we have today feed into the overall arc of the course. We consider how the reaction to a previous assignment shows their level of readiness for the next task. Teachers in K-12 put all that in context of whatever annual assessments lie ahead. Math/science teachers worry about preparedness for the next course in sequence. Many teachers, especially those in the humanities, adjust course content or discussion topics based on major current events — and we’ve certainly had no shortage of those recently.
With so many forces tugging at educators, straining attention and adding complexity, where do we find a starting point? We must deliberately slow down for critical evaluation, reflection, even discussion. When we each talk about access, are we talking about the same thing? What do we really mean by the word agency? In what ways can assessment go beyond grading? By working through such questions, we can define our pedagogy and refine our praxis.
And that is where our Intro class begins … with a deep dive into our pedagogical frameworks to gain a better understanding of our values and how those can — or perhaps should — shape our classes, assignments, syllabi, teaching philosophies. We will find ways to, as we so often like to quote bell hooks, “provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”
To better understand those conditions and how we might use them to shape our work, the Intro class will examine our adaptive response to issues surrounding access, equity, community, precarity, agency, and activism. We intend to use questions such as these to guide our investigations:
- How does a person’s available attention (or ability to manage it) influence their ability to access the material, the people, the discussions of a course?
- How do we ensure that a class explicitly and proactively provides equitable learning opportunities for marginalized students?
- What methods do students have available for indicating involvement/interest, of demonstrating membership, of creating cohesion, especially in digital spaces?
- What actions can educators take to ensure student agency persists in spite of institutional platforms and systems?
- How do educators, especially those in precarious positions, act on behalf of those with less access, familiarity with the systems, confidence in their thinking?
Throughout our time together, participants will apply those issues to a project of their choosing. That project could be anything from re-thinking a single assignment sheet to re-designing an entire course sequence. Further, we encourage all participants to revisit their teaching philosophy statements at the end of the week. In addition, each day of the course includes a small project for participants to apply the issues we discuss. Maybe we’ll revise an assignment, craft institutional/departmental policy, modify a digital tool, etc. We will unpack our understandings of the issues we discuss and share how they apply in our specific contexts.
The current work-from-home situation makes time seem more like a fantasy than a guideline. However, we will try to provide a bit of stability for the week by following a general pattern each day. All times listed below are in Mountain Daylight Time (UTC-6).
- 12:01a — Daily post appears on our course Ghost site
- 5:00a — Daily update via email, connecting previous day’s discussions to new activities and providing a daily checklist of recommended activities
- 10:00a — Coffee Shop / Office Hour in Zoom for synchronous conversation about the day’s topic of discussion (Note: These office hours will not be held on Monday or Wednesday due to conference keynote addresses.)
- 3:00p — Show & Tell (live chat) Hour on Twitter to engage a broader audience and share any public blog posts, online creations, or other work created during the day
- 8:00p — Coffee Shop / Office Hour in Zoom for synchronous conversation about the day’s topic of discussion
We’ll also have a daily Discourse thread for ongoing, asynchronous discussion of each topic. Our intention is to create a sense of routine for the week that allows people to engage synchronously and/or asynchronously in a way that works best for them. The facilitators will work to synthesize each day’s discussions and content to present in the subsequent day’s email update to relieve the pressure of trying to follow everything happening everywhere all week. That’s too much. Instead, each participant should dip in and out however works best for them.
For the Intro class, there’s nothing specific that needs to happen in advance of Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020. However, we’ll start occasional messaging using #DPLIntro on Twitter and blog posts. Using that hashtag on other publication platforms will help integrate voices from across the web — including the potential for a blogroll of everyone’s posts about the course. A week or two before the course opens, we’ll suggest a few readings that should get us all thinking broadly about how we view pedagogy and what we expect of educators.
And that seems like a perfect place to start.
On July 27–31, Jakob Gowell and I will facilitate the Intro course for Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020. We’ll work with about 45 participants from across 18 time zones to look at our teaching through various critical lenses, modalities, and perspectives. We aim to help instructors of all stripes better understand how their pedagogy works as an extension of their values — and how those values reinforce or resist dominant, oppressive cultures.