What Can My Field Contribute to Digital Pedagogy?

More than many people, I can get pretty excited when introducing new digital tools in the classroom. Like William Moner, I'm a big fan of Twitter backchannels. I've also experimented with iPad applications, for example, the one published by the New York Public Library on Frankenstein and the enhanced iBook version of William Blake's notebook provided by the British Library. I've also  (If you haven't guessed yet, I am a British Romanticist by trade). Yet I am increasingly becoming convinced that tools are only half of the equation when it comes to digital pedagogy. It's easy to let the tools dictate the teaching or to think that tools can solve all of our problems.

I'm more interested in reflecting on how tools impact the core values of our teaching. What are we trying to teach as an institution and how might that mission change in a world where archives, people, databases, programs, skills -- so much - is becoming more accessible? As the tempest of technological and institutional change churns, it's important to think carefully about the core values of different disciplines: what, in other words, we hold as the central thing we do. People may argue about what that core value is, of course, but it's an important conversation to have. This is espeically true in an age when humanities departments are being asked to communicate their value to administrators, students, and the public. I'm currently co-writing an article on "Digital Literary Pedagogy" with Kimon Kermandas and Amanda Licastro that calls for more pedagogical scholarship in English and literary studies around digital tools and the digital humanities. As I started working as a literary scholar at Washington State University's English Department -- a department that has a strong emphasis on computers, rhetoric, and composition -- I had to seriously think about my work in relation to a field that is similar yet very different from mine. Were my courses in 19th century literature just glorified composition courses? How could I imagine my pedagogy so my own field, literary studies, offered something different from the multimodal composition and rhetoric of information courses offered by my colleagues? I'm searching for something unique that literature does to help pedagogically contextualize what is happening in the digital humanities.

Question: How would you, as a teacher housed within a particular field, imagine your unique approach to digital tools? If we are to move beyond an instrumentalist approach to technology (where we are essentially teaching how to use technology) how does your discipline imagine other ways to incorporate technology in its curriculum? Please post your responses here. Thanks!

Front Page Photo Credit: Drab Makyo via Compfight cc

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