Digital Pedagogy Lab has always been an event focused on community, on gathering, on welcoming. Sherri Spelic writes in her book Care at the Core, "Human beings are built to learn through a variety of means both passive and active, by observing and doing, by visualizing and imitating, by teaching and being taught, in schools and beyond schools" (123). Over the past six years, we at the Lab have tried to embrace this perspective through a pedagogical practice that teaches while being taught, visualizes while imitating, observes while doing. And this is done in community with those who arrive at the Lab (a continually expanding, changing community), in circles and in conversations, in groups and in explorations.
The Lab has never placed an emphasis on expertise as much as on voice. We are interested in an expansion of ideas, a challenging of assumptions, far more than on the edification of well-researched theses. The Lab is a place for lived experience, for narrative and story. When Sherri asks, in the way bell hooks also has, "who gets to shape and tell [a] story and insure that it reaches its intended audience?" (124), the Lab tries to answer that question by centering the speaker, the teller whose story it is. And in that way, the faculty of the Lab, the courses offered there, are a means and not an end. What knowledge comes from attending Digital Pedagogy Lab is knowledge that emerges—by participating, by speaking, and by listening.
This year, Digital Pedagogy Lab has had to move its work online. I write that sentence carefully. As with so much of the "pivot" to online teaching that has affected millions of learners and educators worldwide, putting the Lab online was less a choice than it was an urgent response. And: it is less that we are moving the event online, and more that the work we do there will now be done digitally, primarily asynchronously, and at a distance. In many ways, Digital Pedagogy Lab is primed to become an online event—after all, our focus is so much on digital pedagogy—yet the move is nonetheless challenging.
- How do we bring the intimate feeling of community into an online space?
- How do we create a responsive, immediate experience while interacting asynchronously?
- How do we offer a digital version of the "summer camp" feel so many participants have loved about the Lab over the years?
But most importantly: how do we make an online space where voices can be centered, where stories can be told, where learning can happen in an environment of hospitality and kindness, and where expertise stands to the side in favor of conversations and explorations?
This is the challenge. A challenge that cannot be met with webinars, recorded lectures and slideshows, endless video conference conversations, or other imitations of class time. But also a challenge which has not yet been met by traditional online learning and teaching, by conventional instructional design, or content delivery that stands in for teaching.
Over the next few months, we will work together to design this year's Lab. I will do what I can to lead the way, but I will need help from all of you. We will need imagination and ideas, courage and creativity, a bit of bravado and a hint of humility. We will need to use tools we recognize (discussion forums, blogs, Google Docs, Zoom) in unrecognizable ways. Our approach to teaching at the Lab has never been more critical.
This "Faculty Lounge" space is our workshop, our Lab, if you will. As an author on this blog, you can post your ideas here for everyone to share in. So, even as I start us off, I invite you to offer your imaginative approaches to the challenges presented by a fully online DPL. You are also invited to join or start conversations in the Faculty Lounge discussion forum. We will all need lots of good ideas!
Each course will have a separate blog site for you to post materials and communication for participants. Each course will also have dedicated (private) discussion forum space for your use. And, you will have access to Zoom for synchronous activities when they are called for (much more on Zoom to come...).
To get started, look through the topics under the "Getting Started with Ghost" section of this site. There are lots of useful posts there to help you get acquainted with Ghost. Also, play around in the discussion forum and get to know Discourse. Imagine interesting ways you can use both a blog site like this and a discussion forum.
I am so grateful to all of you who have committed to reinventing the Lab for an online audience, and to exploring more deeply than ever what critical digital pedagogy looks like in practice. I hope that we can work together here to create a community amongst ourselves, one which will seed a broader community when the curtain goes up in July.