Often at family gatherings, social events, and dinner parties, when asked to define “pedagogy,” I usually offer something generic, like, “um, well, it refers to both the art and the practice of teaching.” I am excited for the opportunity to further develop my working definition of pedagogy as a GEDI in Contemporary Pedagogy as a doctoral student at Virginia Tech.
Although I have a general explanation for how I conceive of my own pedagogy, within my discipline, Rhetoric and Writing, and particularly in terms of teaching first-year writing courses, my outlook on teaching is largely guided by the WPA outcomes. The WPA outcomes, adopted in 2000 by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, and amended in 2008, contains an entire section of learning outcomes pertaining to networked learning, or learning and writing in the highly-connected age of the internet. In terms of “Composing in Electronic Environments,” the council writes, “As has become clear over the last twenty years, writing in the 21st century involves the use of digital technologies for several purposes, from drafting to peer reviewing to editing.” In light of the prevalence of digital devices and the internet, the WPA outcomes contain the following outcomes that after the first-year composition class students should be able to complete including:
-“Use electronic environments for drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and sharing texts”
-“Locate, evaluate, organize, and use research material collected from electronic sources, including scholarly library databases; other official databases; and informal electronic networks and internet sources”
-“Understand and exploit the differences in the rhetorical strategies and in the affordances available for both print and electronic composing processes and texts”
In light of these outcomes, as faculty and instructors, we are encouraged to help students learn:
-“How to engage in the electronic research and composing processes common in their fields”
And . . .
-“How to disseminate texts in both print and electronic forms in their fields”
These outcomes and faculty guidelines are nothing short of a very, very tall order. As a new educator, they often feel overwhelming. However, my own tactics to address the outcome of writing in digital environments as well as being cognizant of networked learning have in past courses revolved around two techniques: encouraging students to use peer review via google drive and to compose their own reflections and to write publicly within the digital sphere in their own blogs. In reading for GEDI this week, I was excited to see scholars praise blogs as an effective way to engage students in the networked environment. For example, Tim Hitchcock, in “Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it,” writes the following passage:
“One of my favorite blogging experiences involves embedding blogs in undergraduate assessment. By forcing students to write ‘publicly,’ their writing rapidly improves. From being characterized by the worst kind of bad academic prose – all passive voice pomposity – undergraduate writing in blogs is frequently transformed in to something more engaging, simply written, and to the point. From writing for the eyes of an academic or two, students are forced to imagine (or actually confront) a real audience. Blogging has the same effect on more professional academic writers – many of whom assume that if the content is good, the writing somehow doesn’t matter.”
While I was intrigued about the potential of blogs, I am by no means complacent about my own abilities to train students to think about networked learning and to write in digital environments. I am most excited about furthering my pedagogy in terms of helping students think critically about the internet, especially after reading Gardner Campbell’s piece entitled, “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning.” From Campbell’s work, I was particularly interested in the discussion of how little, in general, students understand about their own web-based presence, and how issues of privacy, surveillance, and intellectual ownership play out on internet platforms. This reading, combined with our class discussion on the parasitic nature of Learning Management Systems already has my head reeling, thinking about how I can integrate “internet intelligence” as a topic / course theme into my first-year writing classes.
Further, Campbell suggests that networked learning can even be a form of experiential learning, a form which admittedly, I traditionally associate with my own interdisciplinary background, which often included kayaking, soil sampling, and well-digging, as well as recording ballads, interviewing musicians, and other highly-experiential forms of learning. Thanks to Campbell, I know think of experiential learning in terms of networked learning and computing, particularly in the following passage:
“Offering students the possibility of experiential learning in personal, interactive, networked computing — in all its gloriously messy varieties — provides the richest opportunity yet for integrative thinking within and beyond ‘schooling.’ If higher education can embrace the complexity of networked learning and can value the condition of emergence that networked learning empowers, there may still be time to encourage networked learning as a structure and a disposition, a design and a habit of being” (Gardner Campbell, “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning” Jan. 2016)
Through this week’s exploration of pedagogy and networked learning, I am both encouraged by some of my early efforts to engage with the networked world, and inspired to extend this pedagogy into new dimensions.