“It’s time to embrace our very human inefficiencies.” Audrey Watters struck a post-digital note as she wrapped her opening keynote on the first day of the Digital Pedagogy Lab 2015 Institute. She reminded the audience that teaching is affective labor, that it requires heart, patience, diligence, and creativity — things which technology fails in its attempts to mimic — and she asked, “What happens to love, to our soul, to our labor as we digitize the world?”
The Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute took place August 10-14 in Madison, WI. More than 75 participants joined three tracks — Praxis, Identity, and Networks — to explore what happens when teaching and learning meets technology. Although educational technology is not new, the Institute asked attendees to step away from their assumptions, to return to “square one” in their approach to digital pedagogy, and to inspect their own role as learners in digital spaces. We expect that many blog posts, articles, and videos will rise up from the work of the week. For now, we’ve collected here the Institute’s keynotes.
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
I want to talk to you today about the history and the future of teaching machines. I want to talk about teaching machines and teaching labor, specifically the belief that machines are necessary because they are efficient, labor-saving. Here at the University of Wisconsin, these questions are all the more imperative: what labor, whose labor is saved, is replaced in this, an age of economic precarity, adjunct-ification, anti-unionism, automation? What is the role of education technology in pedagogy, in scholarly labor, in the labor of learning and of love? And again, whose labor is saved, and whose is replaced? [full text of Audrey’s keynote]
Far too much of education revels in knowing rather than not knowing. Sitting fastidiously in a place of not knowing is one of the hardest, most rigorous, parts of learning. But this is rigor of a different color. Learning is not something we can script in advance. Syllabi should be living documents, co-created with students. Full of possible paths. Not a barrel of predetermined outcomes, carefully crafted to be specific, measurable, loved by our accrediting bodies. Outcomes, and rubrics or assessments we design, should be wild-eyed and tentative. Assessment as an act of agency, a learning activity in and of itself not something delivered ex post facto by an external authority.
Provocation 1: As learners, we can handle a lot more complexity and interactivity than we often give learners credit for. Play is the stuff — the raw material — of learning.
Provocation 2: Evidence-based teaching and “what works” approaches are problematic, and they do not sufficiently recognize the complexity of learning.
Provocation 3: Outcomes. Competencies. Rubrics. Standardization. All of these are at odds with teaching and learning. Learning outcomes should be a call to exploration, aspiration, play, and not-yetness rather than Rube Goldberg-like machinations leading to a prescribed end.