A digital pedagogy
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A digital pedagogy
- What do you mean by a digital pedagogy? I've looked at MOOC sites—Coursera, Udacity, and edX. They're digital and look different than this does, much more like the sites for regular colleges and universities, with information on their programs and courses.
- That's right. The MOOC sites are "digital" in one sense, all online, but they are not digital in another sense. They look like regular academic sites because of that C at the end of MOOC, which stands for course. For several centuries, the course has served as the building block of traditional print-based pedagogy.
- So you're claiming that the MOOC consortia simply extend the traditional educational pedagogies online, while you're doing something different. I can see how their courses and programs look a lot like of more traditional institutions. capturing some digital efficiencies. They use new media to deliver a well-established pedagogical product more flexibly and efficiently, enabling courses to become massive and open.
- Right. We don't offer programs or courses. We don't have schools, divisions, or departments. A Place to Study organizes and delivers educative opportunities differently by making more integral use of the intellectual potentialities of digital communications.
- OK. I guess that means we put out of mind what we are familiar with and try to understand what you are doing through this site and why. I'd be interested sometime if you would explain why you link existing educational arrangements to particular pre-digital technologies, but I guess we should save that for some other time and concentrate on what people do through A Place to Study. But let me ask why do you describe your pedagogy simply as different, rather than as new or novel "Different" is pretty low-keyed.
- Well, humans have been getting themselves educated for quite a few generations, long before some folks offered the first program of courses. What we are doing differs from what's currently conventional, but it may not be new. In explaining what goes on here, I'll liken important parts of it to very old educational forms.
- Hmm, I'm sensing that maybe you are using "digital" in a way that differs from the way most people often think of it. Aren't digital tools extensions of earlier means of communication? We describe it that way. I'm browsing A Place to Study on my notebook and I bet some even use their smartphones on it.
- It seems that way, but I think we need to look at it closely. Let's get in mind the whole digital system, cyberspace—the Internet, all the broadcast and narrowcast spectra, the routers sending everything here and there, all the drives storing and retrieving, the cloud and its warehouses of CPUs, and all the devices—desktops, notebooks, smartphones, game boxes, displays, speakers, TVs, and on. Then get the traditional media of the culture in mind—the books, magazines, newspapers, posters, scores, blueprints, maps; the libraries, bookstores, publishing houses, offices filed with files, archives, museums, and on. What's the point of similarity?
- Well a lot of the same stuff is in both systems, but I think it is probably better to say that people create and use what's communicated in them.
- That's well put, but now the harder question. What's basically different between the two systems?
- Yeah. I could describe endless differences in the way the two work, the affordances and constraints of different parts, but I suspect that would not be general enough for you. Basically, you know, they work differently, but I'm not sure how to put that in words.
- Right. It's difficult. I'd put it this way: both systems allow people to record, store, retrieve, and transmit information in useful ways, but in the traditional system people encode the information in states of matter, ink on a page, in the digital system they encode it in states of energy.
- That certainly gets at the difference. We have to recognize that in cyberspace we work with information encoded in energy through material artifacts—screens, keyboards, chips, disks, wires—but in its active state, as we interact with it, the information is encoded in states of energy. That's what makes those media electronic. Interesting, but I don't see where you're going with this difference.
- Fair enough. We want to figure out the human dimension in existing procedures as distinct from the artifactual dimension of them, if I can put it that way.
- You may, but an example would help!
- Open a book and look at the text. It is written in words, sentences, and paragraphs—those are human dimensions of the text, there because the author choose to write that way. The words are also printed on pages, usually numbered, white-space around the text—those pages and lots of other conventions are artifactual dimensions of the text, part of it because of decisions made in producing the book.
- So your digital pedagogy will build from the human dimensions of existing education, dispensing with the artifactual dimensions of it. How does that lead to Verbs, Concepts, Persons, and a Toolshed?
- Cultural and educational history helps in doing that. And some inquiries in the human sciences. And some introspection, I think. You and I are limited, acculturated in the western tradition, which itself probably brings an artifactual quality to hold to be simply human. But the effort is open to persons acculturated to other traditions.
- I suppose you'll have a good deal of detail on each of verbs, concepts, persons, and the toolshed in developing each, but could you say a little about your rationale for these four together? Does it matter where I start?
- Not really—the order of the list is arbitrary; the items on it less so. If we go back to the very early statement of educational goals in the Western tradition, early Greek literature, a person should become a speaker of words and doer of deeds within the community of peers. We think, really as a starting point out of which something more may emerge, the parts of A Place to Study devoted to verbs, concepts, and persons will provide the core of a digital pedagogy that users and participants can use to form their capacities as speakers of words and doers of deeds.
- Hey, come on. A degree in "Verbs, Concepts, and Persons" won't get anyone very far today. Don't you have to buy into all the specialties, programs, courses, and assessments of contemporary education to be relevant to the needs of present-day students?
- Perhaps ultimately in a distinctively digital way, but A Place to Study is going to go through a long, slow development in the digital commons and if we are doing it right those things will emerge. For now, we are building our site in the space of the liberal arts where the education takes place for its own sake, as people put it, where people ignore those instrumental purposes. That gets us some space to work in and some energy to drive the work.
- I have my doubts, but go on.
- We postulate that what users and participants in A Place to Study will do with verbs, concept, and persons will express the human dimension of self-formation well while simultaneously work effectively with and through the artifactual dimensions of digital technologies.
- Humpf. Let me see if I have this straight. To develop a fully digital pedagogy you need to address the strictly human uses of education, avoiding practices determined by the uses of traditional communications technologies, information coded in matter, while developing practices that take full advantage of digital communications technologies, information coded in energy, and you are going to do that by concentrating attention of verbs, concepts, and matter. If that's it, I'd like to hear how what you are going to do with verbs, concepts, and persons specially suits the digital technologies.