Pedagogy

Collected under ‘pedagogy’ are the things that inform how I approach teaching. I use a process based teaching method which is a mix of things using some of the attributes of reflective practice, a combination of studio teaching meets the humanities (or at least media studies), and what I think of as an embedded network literacy.

In practice this means I spend a lot of the face to face teaching talking about learning, and that this is often the explicit content of a class. I do this because the one thing I am sure of is that the media world, careers, and systems that they are entering will be one of change. Media today is the site of paradigmatic change and students need to grock this to be successful and make a difference and to do this they need to understand change and learning in themselves. This is much more empowering than knowing 52 really cool shortcuts in Final Cut Studio. This pedagogy has emerged over 17 years of teaching using new technologies where I have taken very seriously my own practice as an educator. My practice has changed enormously from when I started, largely as a result of critical self reflection as an academic and teacher and this means that a great deal of what I do is tacit rather than explicit knowledge.

Therefore there is no simple statement of my pedagogical method, though as you read the material here I think its tenor, the material offered, and examples provided probably convey a strong sense of what it is like. The teaching is quite informal, I ask a lot of questions, I expect a lot, I treat the students as absolutely capable of being responsible for their learning and make the classes as close to kindergarten as you can in a room you don’t own, have to vacate for the next class, and with students who are around 20 years old.

I believe learning happens in making (I include essay writing as making, at least when it is done properly and not as a formulaic response to something), that being able to contextualise such making in terms of what has been learnt is more important than the artefact in itself, and that education at this level requires learning a variety of strategies of deep questioning rather than knowing answers. Content matters, but is secondary as it is now near to hand so knowing what to ask of content is more important than the brute fact of being exposed to it.

In relation to my use of technology the premise is simple and, at least for me, elegant. It began with hypertext which I experienced (this was 1992 and so prior to the Web) as a disruptive technology. It disrupted my assumptions about humanities practice in many ways and made strange what I had taken for granted. I still use technologies in this way in my academic and pedagogical practice with two consequences.

The first is that this making strange lets us see what, until that moment, are naturalised as givens in academic learning and knowledge making, so can now be seen to be ideological, contextually and historically specific, and so on. That things are the way they are for particular reasons and by implication could be otherwise. The humanities have done an admirable job critiquing gender, identity and so on but they’ve done a crap job applying the same methods to its own practice and our assumptions of scholarly practice, dissemination and knowledge forms.

The second is that in using these tools in the ways that they intend or want to be used, for example to write hypertext ‘hypertextually’, empowers, liberates, and critiques. It provides different ways of working and it is in the exploration of what this ‘difference’ might be that I base a lot of my research and teaching. I have literally no interest in using new technologies to reproduce what I already do. I do not accept essays via email if they are Word files or PDFs (what’s the point?). Nor do I use my university’s Learning Management System to deliver teaching as it is about the management of learning (not education) and most of its modules and procedures are for the replication or mirroring of classroom practice rather than the thinking and making of new things. (In fact much of what is done online is much more teacher centred than what happens in classrooms!) I use these technologies to empower some students who, through these tools, find that their particular cognitive capabilities are now validated academically. It liberates as we explore new forms for the creation and expression of learning and knowledge, and in this experience we move from being consumers to creators and contributors. Finally, it performs a critique of current pedagogy as traditional ways of learning no longer dominate the intellectual landscape of this subject (though these traditional ways, by inertia and default, generally continue to rule in tertiary humanities education). In the specific context of using a system such as Korsakow it is to make different sorts of videos differently.

If the university is to remain a site of critical engagement this has to be more than merely the content of our courses and needs to be become material, embodied, and performed in the what and how of teaching, making, assessment and so in the actual experience of what it is to learn.