Emory’s Domain of One’s Own presentation at SPSU

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Today at SPSU’s Digital Humanities Working Group, we hosted David Morgen and Dave Fisher of Emory’s University’s Writing Program. In ETCMA we’ve had growing interest in the Domain of One’s Own initiative, originally from University of Mary Washington (led by Jim Groom and Tim Owens) and in its pilot stage at Emory this year.

David and Dave used a mostly visual slideshow (link coming soon) that highlighted the values of the program (approach, curriculum, assessment, design, ethics, mechanics, inquiry, community) and echoed some things I’ve been thinking about this semester:

  • Domain-related classes come from the ground up — they’re proposed by the teacher rather than pushed down from administration.
  • Students don’t have to become experts in design to experience growth as a media designers; work on a Domain-related site need not be held to “commerce site” design demands.
  • Assessment means assessing individual growth and programmatic growth; these two should be considered separately for measurement purposes.
  • Students should be able to “play” with the digital space.
  • Project-based learning and conducting primary research (from short video or social media interviews to more detailed ethnographic work) should originate from curiosity and clearly articulated methods of inquiry.
  • The communities built around digital curation, composition, and engagement become new classrooms that operate under a collaborative dynamic.
  • Digital literacies — including critical and rhetorical reading strategies, attention to design, and a new awareness of (and hopefully, excitement about) audience — are valuable across the boundaries of disciplines and institutions.

David and Dave stressed the idea that “curriculum drives Domain,” which resonates with my constant hope that  digital pedagogues “focus on methods, not tools” (my presentation topic at Emory’s symposium last January). As usual and as a relative late-comer to the affordances of digital pedagogy, this concentration on literacy(ies) and inquiry pushes me back into Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

Indeed problem-posing education, which breaks with the vertical characteristic of banking education, can fulfill its function of freedom only if it can overcome the above contradiction. Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on “authority” are no longer valid; in order to function authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects which in banking education are “owned” by the teacher.

I am excited that we’re moving toward working Domain, in some form, into our curriculum at SPSU next year.

More information on Emory’s Domain project:
There are currently about 40 classes enrolled in the Domain pilot, with approximately 700 students expected to participate this year. Course titles include “Platforms and Apparatuses” and “Digital Media and Culture” (Film & Media Studies), “Reading Literature and the Environment,” “Living Multilingualism,” and “This Disabled American Life” (First Year Composition), “Advanced News Reporting” (Journalism), and more. Domain provides Emory with opportunities to explore digital literacies across the curriculum, to foster faculty collaboration on student projects, and to re-imagine publishing and research options for undergraduates. They hope to initiate cross-institutional collaboration in the near future for universities in the Atlanta metro area that are interested in tinkering with Domain-related projects.

SPSU/KSU Merger Vote: Contact Information

I will begin this post by being clear that, in voicing my opinion on the proposed merger (announced Nov. 1 and scheduled for a vote tomorrow, Nov. 12) of Southern Polytechnic State University and Kennesaw State University, I do not purport to represent anyone other than myself. I am Georgia citizen and scholar who cares about public education.

Last week I sent letters to Gov. Nathan Deal, State Senator Gail Davenport and State Rep. Stacey Evens (who represent my district), and Regent Larry Ellis of the  Board of Regents. I encourage anyone dissatisfied by the procedural components of the proposed merger to contact state representatives to request: 1) a developed rationale for the merger, 2) data to support the rationale, and 3) a delay of the merger vote scheduled for tomorrow at 2pm. This post is intended to serve as a resource for anyone wanting to voice these concerns. I  have included links at the bottom to facilitate locating your representatives.

Here is the text of my letter, which I adapted depending on the addressee:

As a voter in the district that you represent , I request a review and a public explanation of the Board of Regents’ decision to merge Kennesaw State University and SPSU, announced on November 1, 2013. Please move to delay approval of the merger at the Nov. 12, 2013, Board of Regents’ meeting, until more explanation, data, and public response has been gathered to determine whether the merger is in the best interests of the academic communities of both KSU and SPSU.

The announcement and its proximity to the vote for its approval is not a sufficient amount of time for the community at either university to process or respond to the announcement. Further, the Board of Regents’ bylaws state that anyone wishing to speak publicly at a Board meeting must request permission at least 15 days before the meeting. Given that the announcement was posted on Nov. 1 and the vote will be held Nov. 12, the timing of the announcement has potentially prevented public comment on the decision. It has also generated serious concerns about transparency that reflect a corporate attitude towards state educational policies that are not in the best interests of Georgia’s students.

I can’t know whether a prospective merger between the two schools will be in the best interests of the students, staff, and faculty of both communities because I have had neither sufficient explanation for the decision nor the time to respond to it on any substantive ground.

As a Georgia citizen whom you represent, I am respectfully asking you to delay the consolidation vote on Nov. 12 to demonstrate that the Board is open to processing public discussion and to providing the rationale and research that prove the benefits of the merger. Please feel free to contact me at the email address above should you have any questions about SPSU and its vibrant academic culture and student body.

It is best to both email and fax this kind of communication to facilitate it getting into the right hands. Here are some resources for identifying relevant individuals:

  • Here is the contact page for the Board of Regents; 14 Regents represent individual voting districts in Georgia; 4 hold at-large seats. Here is where you can find their contact information.
  • Here is the contact page for Hank Huckaby, Chancellor of the Board of Regents.
  • Here is the contact page for Governor Nathan Deal.
  • Here is where you can find out which State Senator and State Representative speak for you in Georgia.

If you’re wanting more information about the merger, dozens of articles exist online, but here is a short list of useful sources:

Consolidation Shock

The State of Georgia learned on Friday, November 1, that the Board of Regents, the governing body of the University System of Georgia, had decided to merge Southern Polytechnic State University — where I just began work this semester in the English, Technical Communication, and New Media Arts Department —  with the much larger Kennesaw State University in January of 2015.

The new university, according to the Board of Regents’s announcement, will retain KSU’s name and president and is part of a larger BoR initiative to consolidate elements of the Georgia’s higher education ecosystem. According to the announcement, Chancellor Hank Huckaby made the consolidation recommendation to the Board, and the Board will vote (with all indications being that members are already prepared to approve it) in its approval at its monthly meeting scheduled for Nov. 12-13.

The announcement was met with shock by the SPSU community and was announced via email on a Friday when many students and and faculty were off campus. Our President, Lisa Rossbacher, held an impromptu Q/A session an hour later on the front steps of the Student Center, which was live tweeted by The Sting, SPSU’s student newspaper.

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It would be an understatement to say that since Friday my time has been consumed by processing this decision with students, colleagues in my department, and colleagues at KSU. I have kept all of this work out of public channels because I wanted to assess the position of our faculty. However, over the weekend student resistance to the decision grew quickly, with a petition at Change.Org and a “Keep SPSU True” Facebook page and Twitter account (both of those adeptly built and managed by my student Eric Cooney, Jr.). Students are taking to the web to push-back on the decision that many see as a top-down, dollar-driven absorption rather than a consolidation.

At this point, as a faculty member, I am left with three main questions:

  1. Is the merger a good idea for our campus? I can’t tell because I don’t have enough information.
  2. Why don’t I have that information? As part of an academic community, we insist on data, history, and clearly identified rationale that is lacking.
  3. Why have we only been given 12 days (Nov. 1-Nov. 12) to organize a cogent response to the announcement?

Given that the BoR’s bylaws dealing with public appearance at official meetings states that

Individual or group representatives who desire to appear before the Board of Regents to discuss or initiate a subject within the Board’s jurisdiction shall submit their request to the Chancellor to be received at least fifteen days prior to the scheduled meeting of the Board.

we are left thinking that the 12 days between the announcement and the vote are strategic. However, with the petition signed by (currently) 6000 students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members, last night’s student rally, and a growing sense of faculty resistance, I’m hoping that we can (at best) reverse the decision or (at least) require the BoR to provide the research-based rationale behind impending merger and more time for its public discussion.

As many of the people in my PLN know, I was overjoyed to begin my first tenure-track position at SPSU this fall. I remember fondly posting this tweet:

During my first three months at SPSU, I have been continually impressed with the collegiality and interdisciplinary enthusiasm of the faculty and the collaborative and innovative perspective of the students. I’ve worked in schools long enough (15 years) to know that this kind of culture doesn’t happen by accident — it’s cultivated. It’s also worth fighting for.

My apologies to everyone with whom I usually stay in moderately regular contact. This issue and helping to wrap up my students’ project for the last three weeks of the semester, has kept me a little off the grid. However, I look forward to the work that we have ahead at SPSU in resisting the merger and, if it happens, planning for it in a way that best serves our academic community.

The experiments of Sergio Juárez Correa

6792101712_660955393cThough I am constantly reading — skimming, bookmarking on Scoop.It, or otherwise digesting — scholarship on critical and digital pedagogy, some pieces of journalism give me better access to the most important narratives. Joshua Davis’s cover story in last week’s Wired, “How A Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses,” is a great example. It documents the pedagogical experiments of Sergio Juárez Correa, a  fifth-grade math teacher in Matamoros, Mexico, who is combining experiential learning and curiosity-based inquiry in his classes with what sounds like great success.

The article demonstrates organic and invigorating transitions from Juárez Correa’s classroom practices to his reading of Sugata Mitra’s “nook in the wall” computer experiments in India; from  Western education’s century of increased reliance on testing to cognitive science experiments conducted by University of Louisville and MIT. Most relevant to my own research interests, it proves how digital and connected learning networks (Mitra’s experiments led to published research and a TED Talk that Juárez Correa used to drastically revise his pedagogy) can lead to liberatory, progressive educational change even in a classroom without a computer.

Though most of us involved in the research and practice of critical pedagogy know that this kind of practice is not “new” (it just has to seem to new to justify a magazine cover story), the article represents what we rarely see in education: outside attention focused on the right things, the right directions.

From the article:

Kids just across the border in Brownsville, Texas, had laptops, high-speed Internet, and tutoring, while in Matamoros the students had intermittent electricity, few computers, limited Internet, and sometimes not enough to eat.

“But you do have one thing that makes you the equal of any kid in the world,” Juárez Correa said. “Potential.”

He looked around the room. “And from now on,” he told them, “we’re going to use that potential to make you the best students in the world.”

Paloma was silent, waiting to be told what to do. She didn’t realize that over the next nine months, her experience of school would be rewritten, tapping into an array of educational innovations from around the world and vaulting her and some of her classmates to the top of the math and language rankings in Mexico.

“So,” Juárez Correa said, “what do you want to learn?”

Wired published a companion story for anyone interested in providing support to “the burgeoning student-centered style of learning and teaching.”

Photo courtesy of mrsdkebs on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

 

Teaching Philosophy

As part of Wide World Ed’s Open Education MOOC, here is my teaching philosophy. This document is an (only slightly) edited version of the one that I used when I went on the job market last year.

My priorities as an educator originated from my Master’s work in critical pedagogy and its application to composition. Writing involves a number of connected cognitive processes: reading, interpretation, argument, research, organization, and vocabulary. The best composition instruction concentrates on these processes as a methods of engaging  and ways of knowing rather than as “actions that result in an essay.” Organic writing develops in non-linear clusters, the way organisms develop. Throughout my teaching, I have stressed process-oriented composition and organic development. In my classes, we consider more than what a piece of writing should look like when it comes to the reader; instead, we think about how research, collaboration, and revision profoundly alter how we know something.  In doing so, must also attend to  digital literacies  that enhance how individuals learn and communities engage in revision.

Early in my teaching, I abandoned default composition texts to build classes that were more focused on the academic and experiential interests of my students.  At Georgia State University, I used The Autobiography of Malcolm X (by Alex Haley and Malcolm X) as a textbook to study rhetoric because it raises questions about subjectivity, power, and language, and serves as a superb primer on persuasion for college writers. It’s especially well suited to students in an urban environment who are beginning to understand diversity at a new level. Currently I use Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (by Howard Rheingold) as the central text in my Composition 1 class. I want to connect students to the world outside the classroom by engaging their own social and philosophical questions and harnessing that material for their writing

In 2008 I began experimenting with different Learning Management Systems to develop a digital dimension to my pedagogy. While a Brittain Fellow in Georgia Tech’s Literature, Media, and Communication Department, my exposure to multimodal composition and the un-conference model of THATCamp I became excited about how the Web can augment the composition classroom .  As a result, my students use Twitter and WordPress to share their academic work in multiple stages of development. Teaching with digital media allows me to discuss writing in its earliest stages and to challenge students’ tacit assumptions about structure and revision.

My work in founding and editing  Hybrid Pedagogy was an experiment in viewing pedagogy and publishing as symbiotic activities. The academic community that orbits Hybrid Pedagogy has had a profound influence on my approach to teaching students who regularly produce and consume digital and traditional texts. The articles I wrote, solicited, and edited there affected my teaching because they forced me to reflect more deeply on the “why’s” of pedagogical and publishing practices.

The most important priority in my classroom is making learning relevant beyond the campus. Whether engaging debates in the contemporary media or utilizing the digital landscape for communication and research, I hope the work I do with my students positions writing and research as critical learning tools across disciplines. It is important to me that students learn to value curious hunches, that they gain confidence in writing and revising, and and that they become familiar researching and composing with electronic media and within community. Fluency in the use of argument, as both a critical reader and a writer, is a central academic and civic skill, and I remind students of the public and professional value of effective argument in the world beyond the institution.

My teaching style is dialogic and interactive.  Learning is hybrid and communal, and students do not benefit from memorizing rigid conventions and rule quoting. Their thinking matures when they are able to experiment with composing processes and learn a variety of techniques for composing efficient and meaningful arguments.  I enjoy the opportunity that connectivist practices offer the composition classroom, especially in how they force us to consider “audience” in new ways.  When students  edit their peers and themselves in a less formal but more public way using interactive and social media, they make richer connections regarding their own use of text and images.

I am a digital and critical pedagogue and humanist, deeply committed to  composition and research as forms of inquiry. Digital environments maximize the potential for organic writing by exposing the organic layers of a composition, and enabling new forms of peer review. Technology and digital media have become part of my classroom practice because of the avenues they open for thinking and expression. However, beyond my use of technology, I want my students to see academic behaviors as compatible with experiential learning and to see composition as a vibrant expression of their experience as scholars.

Reset

I first began writing a blog in 2009 while I was writing my dissertation. I started it in order to do some non-academic writing about my family, what I was reading, and live music.

In 2011 I shifted to a second blog in order to better facilitate my writing, conference presentations, and faculty development associated with Hybrid Pedagogy.

Now, I’m in my 15th year of teaching and first year in a tenure track position in the English, Technical Communication, and Media Arts Department at Southern Polytechnic State University. I’m picking up and moving my thoughts again, to this blog.

I look forward to using this space to reflect on critical and digital pedagogy, new media literacy, networked knowledge, professional learning networks, contingency in higher education, faculty development, alternatives to academic publishing, and the intersection of literature, rhetoric, and digital humanities. And to connecting and collaborating with all of you, my far-flung, brilliant colleagues.

A couple of days ago, I had a fun exchange on Twitter that’s relevant to this new stage of my academic work. Thanks for the great question, Whitney.