This Spring semester, as part of my work as an online teaching fellow, I’ve been asked to lead one of our campus groups of faculty working on a specific topic — what my campus calls “Faculty Learning Communities.” I got to propose a topic, so I proposed “critical digital pedagogy,” putting at our center bell hooks’ work Teaching to Transgress and Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s An Urgency of Teachers.
The call included:
“If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates them through a screen, they require an education that empowers them in that sphere, teaches them that language, and offers new opportunities of human connectivity.”
“Occupy the Digital: Critical Pedagogy and New Media” – Pete Rorabaugh
This Faculty Learning Community will be a collaboration of teachers discussing digital pedagogy as a liberatory practice through self-reflection and public writing. We will center critical pedagogy, using it to discuss and evaluate our online classes and tools, and working to align our teaching philosophies with digital learning. We will do this through collectively reading bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress and Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s collection An Urgency of Teachers, using these writings to reflect on our Spring 2021 courses through writing weekly blog posts. We will experiment with digital tools both with our public writings and between ourselves with an eye toward including some of these tools in our future classes.
The deliverable for this FLC will be our revised teaching philosophies and our networked blogged reflections.
This semester I’m teaching:
UNV 101 – “The Digital Lives of Harry Potter” – freshman seminar (Mondays and Wednesdays – all semester)
IDS 336 – “Comics and Graphic Novels” – upper-division class (Saturday afternoons – 7-week course – that means it meets for 4 hours a week for seven weeks)
IDS 490 – “Senior Seminar” – a research writing workshop that’s the capstone course in our major (Sunday mornings all semester).
I’ve taught all three of these classes before. However, UNV 101 is the only one I’ve taught before as an online course. All three are scheduled as synchronous, with specific course meeting times each week. For all of them, my goal is to foster a digital community. The students in my UNV 101 course will be using Slack and blogging together on a class WordPress site. Students in IDS 336 will be using Slack so we can share and discuss images from our comics. For IDS 490, I plan to ask the students if they want to add Slack or prefer all discussion via Blackboard.
As part of this FLC, I’m also going to be reworking my teaching philosophy. Its current form is:
U.S. Latina and Chicana feminist practice inform my classroom and research pedagogy, one of decolonialism and community building. Based on Gloria Anzaldúa’s conceptualization of mestiza consciousness, this transformative pedagogy proposes ways in which my students and I can enact a practice that tries to undo dualistic thinking, bringing their knowledge and experiences together with the course materials. In examining literature, films, and popular texts through close reading, I encourage my students to question notions of objectivity and to understand that we can and should hold a multitude of positions simultaneously, using this multiple positioning to inform our reading, writing, and thinking. This critical pedagogy practice of constant re- centering privileges students who have had nontraditional opportunities and experiences, encouraging them to create and support community both outside and within the classroom. In constructing courses, my classes reflect this critical pedagogy, focusing on radical kindness and fostering connections between students, enacting my belief in bell hook’s expansion theories of the classroom as a teaching community, creating a space of hope, care, and commitment. It’s also increasingly focused on my students and I collaboratively creating digital spaces where we can express enthusiasm and take pleasure in our community’s intellectual discoveries.
In the past two years I’ve experimented with using technology to bring students together so they can listen to and learn from each other. I also use it to personalize assignments. To do this, I’ve moved away from using rubrics. Instead, I offer successful examples from past courses, or make them myself, and have students write two to four- page proposals for projects, share them, and then meet with me individually or in small groups. We discuss what their goals for their work are, deciding together how a successful outcome will look. To better scaffold writing assignments, rather than using TurnItIn for submissions, my students share Google, Docs with me so they can revise based on my feedback. This way, my comments are not justifying their grade but are given so they can improve their writing and resubmit it. I’ve also been striving for a pedagogy centered on generosity, kindness, and passion. It is central to my teaching that students take pleasure in the course material and their time together. In this, I’m inspired by Dr. Tomás Rivera’s advice that we should only enter our classrooms with love: love of our discipline and love for our students.
I’m planning to keep to a posting schedule this semester, reflecting and writing on Mondays or Tuesdays about the previous week. In the past, I’ve struggled with weekly teaching reflections. I hope that doing this as part of a community will help me stick to writing and reflecting on teaching this semester.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk