When first asked to reflect on digital pedagogy, I was far from keen on spilling my thoughts onto a blank page for the world to see. In front of the class we always want things to run perfectly. However, upon reflecting that educators and instructors of language, literature, and likewise are the forefront of public Humanities, it’s evident that teachers have no choice but to take a side. I was asked to consider and explain what I find most important in digital pedagogy this week. Here’s what I came up with:
The Russian word po-che-mu-shka1 means somebody who is always asking why, and it’s never a compliment. I was always one of those people asking why and how without end, though, and that habit has affected the way I envision education. Even in the most mundane of subjects, like how to slap some words up on the internet, can make us pause and reflect on the logic, decisions, and even personality of the text. The relative freedom and customizability of the internet has offered us the opportunity to revisit our understandings of literacy and grammar as a part of the progression toward recognition of form as content and vice versa.
This workshop invites participants to engage in a discussion of textual display in a digital format, beginning with the traditional understanding of written works, e.g. prose, poetry, drama, before deconstructing them to their most basic form. Then, in a hands-on activity, participants will reason and confer to deepen their knowledge on various aspects of digital presentation, in both the aesthetic and technical spheres. The workshop will conclude with consideration of present trends in digital text display and further steps on developing the digital persona while communicating online. No technical knowledge is assumed and the short, computer-based activity is optional.
Teaching the Humanities was, dare I say, a largely unchanging process over the centuries, even millennia, since the early philosophers and educators of ancient cultures. We praise the Socratic method, after all, as much because it works as the philosophy represents the way teachers’ engagement with their students forever and ever. The biggest revolution to pedagogy in the Humanities came from without, from the realm of numbers and algorithms, and ever since it has offered a new gauntlet for educators to tackle. A thousand questions about online work and academic integrity, the proliferation of sources and voices that compete for and question identity, and dozens of other complications brought forth by our modern digital age. What then, as they say, is to be done?
There are numerous arguments against embracing the ‘digital’ in digital pedagogy, and I can’t begin to list them all. The intangibility of the work and lack of direct annotation possibilities turn instructors of literature off from digital versions. The clunkiness of online tools or references can complicate language and arts education (if you’re even able to find online content that is more helpful than distracting). And there are legitimate questions about the true relevancy of technological interventions in learning contexts that focus on ideas and theory more than anything else.
But let’s face it, there is no future Humanities (or education or anything) that is immune to technological and ideological changes of the present and future. I do not wish to abolish the Socratic Method in the Humanities classroom but I hope to express, using the workshop as an example of new considerations and issues in the modern-day Humanities classroom and educational process. This pandemic has reminded everyone of the harm, on both incremental and massive scales, of refusing to acknowledge reality and the way things are instead of the way we want them to be. Suit up (at least as much as we can see of you on Zoom), ladies and gentlefolk; the future is now.
- Introduction: 5 minutes
- Reading section, activity, review: 20-25 minutes
- Unreading section, activity, discussion: 20-30 minutes
- Digital section, review, discussion: 10+ minutes
Approximate total time: 60-75+ minutes
1 From the word po-che-mu [“why”] + the fun dimunitive shka - a little “why”, a person literally embodying the attitude of “why?”