Welcome to the new home for my blog–my own domain! I set up this domain while I was attending the Digital Pedagogy Lab 2017 Institute at the University of Mary Washington. I will continue to use this space to think and tinker with ideas about connected learning, and more broadly higher education and libraries.
At DPL, I attended the Networked Learning and Intercultural Collaboration track and was excited to meet Maha Bali, one of the track’s facilitators, with whom I had collaborated in the spring. Maha and I co-directed the Open Access week of learning in the OpenLearning17 cMOOC. Since Maha lives in Egypt and I in the United States, all our collaboration was virtual, using Google Docs and Google Hangouts. I also enjoyed getting to know Kate Bowles, Maha’s co-facilitator for the Networks track, and all of the colleagues who were in this track throughout the week. The week revolved around philosophical discussions about building connections across identities and cultures, authority versus agency and intersectionality. We had many discussions attempting to define and redefine constructs. My notes are cryptic, so it’s impossible to try to capture the thread of the conversation.
I also attended two workshops during the week. The first was a workshop about Respecting Students in Digital Pedagogies by Chris Guillard. He introduced his work on digital redlining and challenged us to consider what we ask our students to give up when we use commercial technologies in the classroom. To paraphrase Chris, don’t enter students into any relationship with technology where they don’t have control over the relationship. Chris had us pick apart a syllabus to locate the places where students’ were being asked to put their privacy at risk. Related to this were discussions about surveillance capitalism and extractive data. Chris also alluded to these ideas in the final keynote he gave with Maha Bali.
The second workshop I attended was on Decolonizing Rigor in the Classroom. Ashleigh Wade presented some ways of providing students with assignments that give options beyond writing and she discussed how writing is often privileged over other forms. Thanks to some hands-on time with a partner, I decided that I would offer an infographic as an option for an assignment in our Roadmap to Research course the next time I teach it, and I will encourage my librarian colleagues to do the same. Students could be given the option of creating a traditional presentation, or an infographic as their assignment. I would also have them evaluate infographics in class as it relates to thinking about how information is presented and citing information accurately.
As is typical of other conferences I’ve attended, the in-between conversations were incredibly valuable–the lunches, the hallway conversations, the chats during the reception. My network is larger and richer for having made these connections during the Institute. I even met some individuals I had connected with online in OpenLearning17, including fellow Faculty Collaborative Steering Committee member Laura Gogia. That was definitely a highlight! There is something really special about having face to face time with someone after having collaborated for months in virtual space. In fact, I noticed lots of hugging and gentle touching at DPL (the hand on the shoulder or arm, the fist bump, etc.). It’s as if we had to touch each other to be sure that the physical connection was real. I have the impression that many of the attendees had connected via Twitter or other online spaces and I think many of us were grateful to finally have that face-to-face connection.
I’d love to tell you that I came away with clear ideas that will shape how I move forward, but I don’t think it’s that kind of learning experience. I hope that the philosophical discussions I participated in will re-emerge as I run into ideas in my day to day work with students and faculty. I hope that I will come to conversations of connected learning and digital pedagogy with a better understanding of the complex issues involved. What do we need to think about when we ask students to connect, particularly through a specific platform? Platforms are political, extractive, and limited. What choice are we really making when we select a platform and for whom are we making that choice? Are we sure we have the right to make such choices for our students? What about the choices they have already made for themselves? Are they aware of what’s involved in those choices? What’s the best way to help them understand what it means to live and work in the open? These are the ideas that resonated most with me.
So in the end, I left with more questions than answers, but I think that’s what was supposed to happen. What happens next, well, time will tell. Watch this space for more tinkering with these ideas.