Digital Pedagogy (Group Post)

The Trial and Error of Digital Pedagogy

Group post by Chris Clements, Austin Garren, Jazmin Jurkiewicz, Andrew Knight, Malle Schilling, and Brittany Shaughnessy

What do we mean by digital pedagogy?

Digital pedagogy presents a unique set of issues that one may not think of when first stepping foot in the classroom. Digital pedagogy hosts a myriad of definitions for different people. As with anything, digital pedagogy’s definition is situational–different disciplines could utilize digital pedagogy practices in unique ways. For us, digital pedagogy is where teaching practice and teaching philosophy intersect (Stommel, 2013), and the use of technology enhances the teaching and learning experience in our classrooms. Digital pedagogy can range from the utilization of laptops and phones to interact with a group assignment, or even responding to live polls regarding trivia or course content to engage all learners. It is vital to note the difference between digital pedagogy and online learning. Whereas online learning denotes the environment in which students and instructors interact, digital pedagogy focuses on the tools used to generate interaction and promote learning. It requires instructors to respond in real-time to their students noting engagement, adjusting as needed, and reflecting on what works and why.  

Students are able to shape the online learning experience and pedagogical philosophy by working with the instructor in real time to develop the most engaging and helpful class activities and assignments. Learning on the fly provides students with significant opportunities to give feedback and hopefully participate more in class that is based on their needs and interests. We believe that online pedagogy is constantly evolving to the students just like technology is constantly evolving and changing to the world’s demands. Furthermore, digital pedagogy is flexible and hopefully works toward including all students to have more confidence participating in more unique ways, such as through the chat, anonymous surveys, polls and comfort of being in their home space. If digital pedagogy is made for students to be more involved in class and feel supported, we believe that digital learning can be more interactive lead to greater student growth!

One important aspect that also needs to be considered when thinking about the different types of technology to incorporate into the classroom is the instructor’s style of teaching. Some forms, such as online games, are meant to be fun for both the students and the teacher. However, some teachers prefer to convey a more serious or informational tone in the classroom. For this type of teacher, trying to conduct a game when they are not completely comfortable with that style of teaching may come across as insincere or even simply boring for everyone involved. Similarly, in some classes, games may not be appropriate for the topic being discussed or a competitive aspect may not encourage all students to participate. With the rapid adjustment to online learning, many instructors had no formal introduction to digital tools and their adaptation to digital pedagogy has been done on an individual basis in addition to changing course material and content to fit the new teaching format.

We have discussed the trial and error aspect of digital pedagogy in the sense that teachers may have been thrust into the digital platform of teaching during this Covid-19 pandemic and have to ‘learn on the fly’ what works for both the teachers and the students. Three of us teach public speaking, with forty students in each section. In March, like every other faculty member in the United States, we had to take a public speaking course and move it online. Granted, this was an easier task than most, as the course was already using a hybrid model, but there was a lot of trial and error involved. Before we had started teaching after “second spring break,” we had a meeting that lasted all afternoon, brainstorming how we could keep students engaged when we were having a tough time engaging ourselves. I’m not sure if we ever found a “best practice” last semester, as it was trying to make the best of the worst possible situation. This semester, it looks like each of us have crafted our own digital pedagogy practices, each providing our own voice and teaching style to the online classroom. 

 

References

Stommel, J. (2013). Decoding digital pedagogy pt. 2: (Un)mapping the terrain. Hybrid Pedagogy. https://hybridpedagogy.org/decoding-digital-pedagogy-pt-2-unmapping-the-terrain/ 

Week 10 (Digital Pedagogy)

This week’s reading discussed digital pedagogy and the future of education that includes the digital world.  One of the most interesting aspects to me about the digital classroom is the accessibility aspect. The accessibility allows for students of different age groups and income groups to have access to a higher education. However, is this good for the future of education? Does the education and actual pedagogy suffer when classes and full degrees are moved to only digital platforms? Digital pedagogy is a process that is always changing. As the readings state not all teachers are adept in pedagogy and therefore are not adept in digital pedagogy. Being a newer concept, it is hard to master or even understand the fullness of digital pedagogy. It is a concept that teachers must learn as they go and see what works best for them, the teachers, and what works best for the students.

In my own experience, as a public speaking teacher, I have switched to online teaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have noticed several differences, even though the class is still structurally similar. I feel that it is more difficult to ‘connect’ with my students. It has taken me a semester and a half to figure out how to start connecting as I felt like I did in in-person classes. I mention this because of my earlier comments of how learning digital pedagogy is trial and error. I have used many different strategies to increase classroom engagement for a synchronous digital platform. I do not believe I have mastered it at all, but I do think that I am improving and I think that is what some of this week’s readings are describing, the trial and error aspect of a new king of pedagogy.

The last thing I would like to discuss are a couple of cons that digital learning brings and the ways that digital pedagogy can be utilized to improve these cons. For example, I feel that it is difficult to create a safe environment for all students in a digital class and I feel that adapting your teaching style with this in mind would be and is beneficial. From experience, I think that putting yourself out there and understanding that students will follow your lead is a strategy that can be used to try to turn this con into a pro for your individual class. It is obvious that digital learning is here to stay and for right now is almost the norm. Knowing this, teachers need to understand the positives and negatives of this relatively new teaching platform and incorporate a different kind of pedagogy.

Week 8 (Problem (Case)-Based Pedagogy)

The idea problem-based pedagogy (PBL) is an idea that needs to be practiced more in all rungs of education. PBL has been described as a learning style that utilizes real world problems and solutions as teaching tools. For example if a teacher wanted to teach a student about engineering, a real world problem such as overflowing levees in New Orleans or a weak bridge over the New York Harbor may be introduced as a starting point for the students to examine and try to find an engineering solution for. I do say students, (plural), because I believe, along with others, that PBL is at its best when students are asked to work together in order to solve certain real world problems. PBL is a way to teach, train, and mold minds to interpret, analyze, and solve real world problems.

I do want to add a personal note to this post about PBL. I was a bartender in Blacksburg for 15 years prior to returning to Virginia Tech to earn a degree in Communications. I saw student after student come into the bar and seemingly have no idea of how things work. Students using parent’s credit cards, students not knowing what running a tab meant, and even students not being able to add tips to tabs (or not even knowing what a tip was). These students who were probably as ‘book smart’ as they come could not maneuver through simple real world tasks. This is where I believe PBL can and does add value to education. What good is it if you can memorize the pages of a book or a map or a theory, if you can not start your own bank account, pay rent on time, or understand how to turn on power to your house. PBL adds a dimension to education that can not be learned through just books and theories.

PBL learning can increase the participation of students in classrooms, build skills that are practical for the real world, help students to learn cooperation, and expose students to life outside of the school walls. A major component that is missing with education, from the early years onto college, is the skill of critical thinking. Critical thinking is a crucial asset that needs to be possessed by any student that is seeking employment after college. PBL creates and helps to maintain critical thinking in students no matter what level of education. PBL, when practiced effectively, can add depth to any student’s education. A depth that will only be beneficial in the long run.