Williams Elementary, which opened in 1976, sits in South Austin on the same full block of land that I saw on my first day of school in 1976.
Because Williams hired new, young teachers who brought energy and joy to learning, Williams will always be my favorite school experience. From second through sixth grade, teachers nurtured me, encouraged me to enter the spelling bee (which I won in 5th grade!), offered track and field to boys and girls, held class outside under that big tree. They made me love learning – they told me I was smart, especially Mr. Aielli, one cool dude with the typical 1970s long hair and a real passion for talking directly to each of his students. Mr. Aielli saw a storm on the horizon and hustled all of us outside to stand in a long line so we could feel the moment that the barometric pressure dropped. Feeling, actually feeling, nature’s impact was exhilarating!
A return to Austin meant a return to home – the same is true of returning to the annual MLA Convention where so much learning, community, and networking happens.
I re-joined the MLA when the Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities project came under contract with MLA Books as an experimental “book” that lessens the ephemerality of teaching materials. In an attempt to provide, in essence, a repository for these teaching materials, these artifacts, Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Jentery Sayers, and myself came together to use the best of publishing technology and editorial workflow to demonstrate the efficacy and importance of digital pedagogy materials. After years of banging the drum on behalf of digital pedagogy, I think we did it! Both the project and digital poster session #736, Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, were wildly successful!
Kathleen Fitpatrick has been central in allowing all kinds of experimental MLA sessions and then with this digital pedagogy project — all open in GitHub, then open peer review on MLA Commons, then open for everyone to use when it’s finalized in early 2017 — well, we’re immeasurably grateful that she has been able to help the MLA as an organization grow towards both of these types of key scholarly representations. Yippee!
Digital pedagogy has had a regular presence at recent MLA conventions, including two electronic round tables in 2012, “Digital Pedagogy: An Electronic Roundtable” organized by Katherine D. Harris and “Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom” organized by Brian Croxall and Kathi Inman Berens; sessions sponsored by the CIT on “Games for Teaching Language, Literature, and Writing” in 2013 and “Augmented Reality for Teaching and Learning in the Humanities” in 2014; “Digital Pedagogy: An Unconference Workshop” organized by Brian Croxall and Adeline Koh; and Jesse Stommel’s talk, “Digital Pedagogy: A Genealogy,” at MLA 2015. We will extend the work of these sessions to share models of effective pedagogy by grappling with the overall impact of the digital on pedagogy in humanities as instantiated in particular teaching materials.
At #s736 (#s736 Tweets), approximately 50 attendees arrived to a room with computer stations around the perimeter. As I did at MLA 2011 digital pedagogy poster session, we explained the format and the request to eschew passive attendance. I covered the geneology of digital pedagogy presentations at the MLA conventions of the past as well as the absent definitions of digital pedagogy. Rebecca introduced Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities as a project that fosters conversation instead of exacting boundaries on digital pedagogy. She also reminded attendees to participate in the open peer review of existing keywords and reminded attendees about networks, networks of curators, networks of teaching materials, networks of pedagogy. Matt turned our very brief introduction towards the open editing process of the Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities project in its specific use of GitHub.
We introduced the eight curators and let the audience have at it.
As we circulated through the room, the editors as well as the production staff from the MLA noticed that potential users were asking questions about form and making recommendations about content.
Each curator came back to the editors to note potential silences, holes, and gaps in keywords and artifacts. The recommendations ranged from adding a keyword (privacy or affect) to queries about the gender split for artifacts used in each keyword. Indeed, we discovered that there’s a large gap in the project’s consideration of language (!). The curators went away with a better understanding about the use of their keywords, and the editors began dreaming up alternative user-friendly ways into the entire collection once it’s all amassed.
We ask now that you:
- Go offer comments in the open peer review for those keywords available now: https://digitalpedagogy.commons.mla.org/
- Add your definition of digital pedagogy: http://tinyurl.com/whatisdigped
- Tweet your ideas to #curateteaching
- Keep checking back – we’re playing with the structure of the final version and may need your feedback.
That’s a wrap!
So long and thanks for all the fish, MLA 2016.
(Final photo courtesy of Kathi Inman Berens)