A butterfly trapped behind glass surrounded in metal.
04
Oct
2015

Digital Pedagogy Lab Courses: Learning Online

As I’ve said before, pedagogy is praxis, at the intersection of the philosophy and practice of teaching. Digital pedagogy turns that thinking toward digital platforms and communities. It does not instrumentalize teaching into a set of things we do, and it does not atomize the digital into a series of tools. While I am not averse to teachers and students developing new literacies, I don’t think the answer is mere tutorials, but rather balancing the how of digital tool-use with the whether and why. There is currently a surfeit of professional development opportunities that focus almost entirely on the how of teaching — on best practices at the expense of pedagogy.

When we launched Digital Pedagogy Lab, the on-ground institute and online courses, our hope was to create a space for thinking through pedagogy and teaching as intrinsically, not just instrumentally, valuable. This Summer, Kris Shaffer taught our first online course about the “Flipped Classroom.” I just finished teaching a two-week intensive online course on “Teaching with Twitter.” Our next offering, “Learning Online,” will examine a broader and somewhat more abstract set of concerns. This course, taught by Sean Michael Morris and myself, will be less about teaching and more about learning. The focus will not be on best practices for online teaching, as so many similar courses are aimed, but on thinking about and talking through how we learn online.

In Net Smart, Howard Rheingold writes,

I have found through years of trial and much error that the most enriching, least harmful way for me to live in my own computer-mediated world is to cultivate an occasional but ongoing inner inquiry into whether my own activity of the moment is really as significant as what is happening in the rest of my life at each moment.

Our hope is to do this sort of trial and error together, experimenting with tools and platforms, and talking about how we learn with and inside of them. While the course is aimed at teachers, librarians, instructional designers, etc., our project will be to show up for the course as learners first. We’ll talk about our own learning and make observations about the learning we’ve witnessed among our students, before focusing more directly on how what we know about learning can change our teaching.

In the description of the course, Sean and I write: “In this course, we’ll explore the shape of the room we find ourselves in when we learn and teach online.” More specifically we’ll think about how to interrogate that room and how to keep digital platforms and tools from dictating our pedagogies.

One possible outcome for the course might be a list of digital tools (and the accompanying literacies) that you plan to experiment with in your online or hybrid class. Another possible outcome might be a set of critically-informed decisions about which tools you’re not comfortable using — for pedagogical or ethical reasons. We hope everyone walks away with new ways of thinking about how we approach the work we do with students and fellow teachers in digital spaces.

Over the weeks of the course, we will explore learning as it actually happens online — in networks, socially, rhizomatically, emergently — by engaging ourselves as learners in new digital spaces. Participants will each complete a project of their own design, independently or in groups, and will have the opportunity to teach the class about their discoveries and accomplishments.

While there are no prerequisites, some participants just finished “Teaching with Twitter,” so we recommend folks who didn’t take that course work through this handout in advance.

The “Learning Online” course begins in one week. While it is officially three weeks long, our hope with these courses is that we’ll build a network we can all turn to as we continue to think about issues related to digital pedagogy.

Some reading we’re recommending folks do in advance of the course:

There will be additional reading for the course (and lots that’s optional, if you’re looking for more rabbit holes to fall down). The above pieces set the stage, asking many of the questions that have motivated our turn toward the topic.

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