Taking a Hack at Digital Pedagogy

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has published “a curated collection of reusable and remixable pedagogical artifacts.” While the collection, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments , is primary written for humanities scholars, I see a lot of relevance to applying the entries on digital pedagogy to my field of engineering.

The first entry that caught my eye was code. I may be biased as an engineer, but I think everyone should know how to code in this digital age and would benefit from learning the basics. Reading the statement from the humanities perspective, it seems as though humanities scholars agree. While I do not think everyone needs to understand coding as a science, as in researching algorithm development and evaluation at the forefront (we’ll leave that to the computer scientists), I think every field could benefit from using coding as a tool. Similar to the core subjects like math, English, and foreign languages, maybe everyone, no matter their major, should take a certain amount of coding in college? After all, coding is really just another foreign language.

The second entry to peak my interest was about ePortfolios. My personal website was actually born out of a course requirement from Preparing Future Professoriate to build a professional portfolio online. As the MLA entry explains, porfolios are a great way to demonstrate “delivered, experienced, and lived curriculum”. Not to mention, an online portfolio is basically a no-rules resume, as in you are not limited to expressing yourself or communicating your experiences with a few words on a piece of paper. I have also found my website (ePortfolio of sorts) to be a helpful destination and repository for thoughts and links to things that I don’t want to forget. The public element of creating a website also challenges students to put effort into the pages and posts. I’m interested in including this aspect of digital pedagogy into future practice.

Finally, maybe not surprisingly, I, as the engineer appreciated the hacking entry. As defined in the MLA statement, hacking is “a kind of relentless curious tinkering in the face of constraint, censorship or lockdown”. Admittedly, I am not great at this somewhat unstructured approach. I’ve found that getting started is the hardest part, which is where I think a little extra push from an instructor could be helpful. Learning-by-doing and accepting mistakes is sometimes a painful process but is extremely important for engineers, and really all majors. I’ve envisioned many ways of implementing hacking into future teaching. The MLA write-up on hacking linked to a lot of great resources. I’ve personally used Instructables before, which is a platform for makers of all types. I could imagine combining digital pedagogy with project-based learning (PBL) by having students create an Instructables post to document their project at the end of a course. I imagine there would be challenges at first as students are nervous and hesitant to get started. However, once the creative process is going, I think hacking in class would be a great success!

TLDR: Coding, ePortfolios, and hacking in the classroom are cool and I look forward to finding ways to implement these aspects of digital pedagogy into future teaching!

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