Pedagogical Ethics in a Digital Age
What are your ethics for teaching in a digital age?
Not long after Facebook was made available to non-university affiliates, one of us heard a senior scholar give a presentation about using the social media platform to communicate with undergraduate students. In response, the crowd just sort of squinted at the presenter, wondering what in the world he was talking about, and why he was so enthusiastic about engaging students on this... blog? Years later, not only do we now get all the fuss about social networking, it has become an entirely new ethical terrain for people in both their private and professional lives. In fact, in some situations, it’s now rather taboo to communicate with students over Facebook. Once a realm for innovative pedagogy, the site has now, for most people, become a strictly private (yet public) space.
Instructors are innovating teaching methods by communicating with students online, publishing course materials publicly, and asking their students to collectively post and comment on each other’s work. Their practices can open the doors of the university to a wider public and lend authenticity to student projects offered to the “world” rather than the individual professor or TA. By showing how the coursework exists within a larger community and context, the students can imagine how their education is preparing them for a life after graduation.
Of course, the challenges that accompany these innovations touch on similar themes. The college classroom can no longer be imagined solely as an enclosed safe zone where students (and teachers) can struggle in private. And, we know that the private/public binary never really stood up to the complexity of cultural and social life. Especially now, this perception of a duality fails us as we try to develop protocols, however idiosyncratic, for managing our personal and professional interactions.
In this forum, please share your experiences as teachers and students in the digital age.
- For those of you who have taught courses with a high profile on the web, what are your how-to's, no-no's, and lessons learned the hard way? (And it goes without saying, please be cautious about sharing personal stories and be sure to protect the identity of your students in your comments.)
- For those of you taking classes as an undergrad or grad student, what are the ways in which your professors are successfully using technology? How has that changed your conception of learning and your own engagement with the material? What could be done better?
- What cannot yet be done? Where has technology failed to innovate? If you could invent a single tool or technology to be used in the classroom, what would it be? What problem would it solve?
- Is your class website public? What degree of publicity? Do you tweet your syllabus and allow your students' content to be searchable by the likes of Google, or do you keep the url private? Do you use this in combination with another system (i.e. Sakai or Blackboard)?
- What is your rationale for making course content public (or not)?
- What kinds of guidelines do you establish for digital coursework? Are these guidelines different than other kinds of class assignments? Do you emphasize privacy? Do you emphasize the publicness of this work?
- Do your students want their digital projects to be published online? How do they feel about having instructor and peer comments posted publicly, either for the class to see or a general web audience? What about concerns of plagiarism? For collaborative projects, how do you make sure students pull their own weight and do original work in online group projects? Do you use TurnItIn.com?
- Has technology changed your in-class experiences? Has it changed the quality of their work? Has it changed their response to the material?
- What hasn't worked? Have you used a new technology in your classrooms that has not worked, or did not have the effect you had hoped? Why did it happen? How did you handle it?
- How do you communicate with students? Are the majority of your interactions over email or in person? If you have students that you fear may be in personal distress, or who are hostile about grades, or have other sensitive concerns, how do you handle email interactions? Does your institution have specific policies designed to address these concerns and/or help instructors navigate tricky situations?
The HASTAC community has more than 8,000 members. In hive terms, that means we have probably MILLIONS of hours of collective experience in the classroom as teachers and students. We are curious what sort of trends there may be in our personal ethics for digital learning environments. Please join us for what we hope will be an informal, but thoughtful conversation. Our goal is to share specific strategies for managing dilemmas that are unique to digital classrooms as well as to give voice to some of the ethical paradigms that help guide your pedagogy. We look forward to hearing from you!
Mary Caton Lingold, Duke University
Molly Storment, North Carolina State University
Simone Browne, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin
Danielle Dirks, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Occidental College
Jonathan Dueck, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Thompson Writing Program, Duke University
Susan Miller-Cochran, Associate Professor & Director, First-Year Writing Program, NC State
Teaching excellence: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ucentralarkansas/4535060043/
Game on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/venosdale/7051066181/