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Response to the 2/15 reading assignment

This week seems to require a two-prong post, here is my response the readings, and my proposal (which most of you have already seen) will follow.

Since participating as a facilitator in the online/hybrid instruction faculty seminar during the intersession, I have been champing at the bit to teach an online course at CUNY. There are many reasons for this, so I would like to take this time to outline my motivations. First, I have been using online learning systems (Blackboard/Web-Ct/Moodle/Wordpress) since my first year of undergraduate education, which was 10 years ago. I have been building course sites as an instructor for four years. All of my courses have been in some way hybrid, even though none of the courses I have taught have been considered hybrid in the course catalogue. My acceptance and integration of CMS/LMSs is due largely to the fact that I found these systems to be effective as a student. The provocations and conversations held online far exceeded any intellectual engagement I had with my fellow students in our face-to-face encounters outside of class (specifically during my tenure as an undergraduate ). The ability to process, formulate an argument, gather evidence, and point directly to that evidence before responding to a question raised in a class is normally relegated to only formal “high stakes” writing. With the inclusion of online forums every student enrolled has the space to develop their responses before communicating with their classmates and teacher. These are the skills that form the foundation of my learning objectives as a teacher of college level English and writing. Enabling students to practice these skills in a “low stakes” forum helps build their comfort level with academic writing while building a sense of community. I agree with the assertions of Joe, Phil, and others on cac.ophony that this space also breaks through the judgments held in physical space and encourages (if moderated appropriately) students to take responsibility and ownership for their digital personae.

However, I am often met with opposition and resistance from fellow faculty and administrators, not students, when discussing my dedication to using digital tools in the classroom.  I really appreciate this quote from our professor “This may well be a case where higher education is going to have to get on board or get out of the way or get left behind. We’re looking, very soon, at a world where our traditions are going to be irrelevant, even useless. As that change happens, reluctant (or recalcitrant) faculty and administrators are going to be left without a choice–and possibly without a job, without a role, as students can pick and choose where and how they want to get their educations” (Joe 12/11/06). I think it is far past the point where we need to discuss “if” we should use these tools, and start focusing on how to improve them in a way that benefits many pedagogical approaches and learning styles. In the same way having discussions about e-readers with fellow humanists tend to drive me completely insane, the discussions of electronic literature and CMS/LMSs within academia need to “get on board” and embrace the potential these technologies hold. I do not just want to use these tools, I want to have a hand in creating these tools so that I know there are reliable, scholarly versions available that have pedagogically sound design for use in humanities courses. Just as I thoroughly consider and research which print edition of a text (any genre, including textbook) I suggest for use in my classroom based on the principles of textual criticism, I would like a form of digital textual criticism to emerge from the conversations happening on blogs and twitter and in DH groups (like DHI) and courses such as ITP.

This is why, to return to my original assertion, I would like to teach an online course at CUNY. I want a concrete comparison of how the current CMS tools function in a fa environment with the student population of CUNY. I realize these thoughts are mostly rants at this point, but I do hope they spark a serious discussion….

Posted in Weekly Readings.

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