This week’s readings are engaging on multiple levels: first, they allow me to make some connections between my pedagogy and dissertation research, and second, they have me consider political issues about online teaching that I would have otherwise overlooked. Some of the concerns raised by the contributors of Hybrid Pedagogy are reminiscent of the literacy debate I’ve come across in my reading of gothic fiction and print culture in the long nineteenth century. Jesse Stommel’s post, “The Twitter Essay,” presents arguments that recur in eighteenth and nineteenth century cultural debates about popular forms of art. This includes Gothic fiction and all the mutations the genre perpetuates in the print market from chapbooks to penny dreadfuls. There was the respectable Gothic one found in Radcliffe’s work and then there were the corrupted adaptations that spilled forth from printing machines and permeated almost every respectable notion of cultural identity. These forms were viewed as particularly damaging when exposed to youth and women. The presence of new technologies, its pervasive use and trickling effect on all levels of society, has had the tendency to incite and recycle the same unresolved issues regarding technology’s corruption on youth, education, and tradition.
Let me return to the debate we’re having about using digital media and technology as teaching aid in the classroom. Writing in digital mediums should not negatively impact students’ ability and comfort level with academic English. However, I find it important to expose and acquaint them with this language during their first year of college because it is the language they must adopt to better navigate the scholarly community they have contracted themselves to become engaged in. Having students write Twitter Essays is a good exercise in writing concise and thematically focused content; however, having students read scholarly articles, I think, is equally important and necessary. Also, how does the Twitter Essay work when we encounter a “digital divide,” that Lee Bassette foregrounds in her essay “It’s about Class: Interrogating the Digital Divide.” Although it makes good sense to have students work with Twitter in the freshman composition classroom, especially when high school students use Twitter more than any other social media platform, what about those students who simply cannot afford to use it, are not as digitally literate as their more privileged classmates, and have have become marginalized in our effort to digitize and democratize teaching and learning?
This is my second semester teaching Intermediate English Composition (Engl 3010) and our readings have made me think of issues I would not have otherwise considered when teaching online. Stommel’s “How to Build an Ethical Online Course” is a problematic read, particularly when Stommel does not recognize some of the institutional hierarchies dedicating an online teacher’s choices. He says,
A good learning management system is a tool that can help with this process; however, we should never let its design decisions — its architecture — dictate our pedagogies. We should also not blindly follow our institution’s choice of learning management system.
Before I began teaching online, I was given some training and during my training, I was made aware of the parameters I must abide by when teaching online. Our institution was undergoing a process of standardization so the design and structure of the course was not to be tampered with to a certain extent. I found this to be limiting because before I taught online, I had course wikis that provided a more flexible space for designing and managing content. Teaching online meant that I had to work within the confines of the learning management system provided by my institution. While I had to make some compromises with my pedagogical approach, overall, the faculty trainers helped me find alternative outlets for personalizing the course according to my pedagogical methodology. Still, standardization is a word that always rings alarm bells in my head (isn’t that the case for most of us?). So my question is, if you’re not as lucky as I am to have trainers and supportive faculty to guide through the process of negotiation that’s needed when teaching online, particularly through an institutionalized learning management system, how do you do it on your own?