August 26, 2015
Hi Jesse and Sean,
Sorry that I am a bit delayed in writing my thanks + recap note. Just after DigPedLab I took a weeklong holiday in New York City. My original plan was to spend the week paying homage to the Beat Generation by writing brilliant, reflective, philosophical stuff—preferably while sitting in an outdoor cafe. In reality, it was sweltering outdoors so I spent the majority of my time eating cannoli, wandering museums, and being dazzled by an endless stream of people watching. The week was not productive in a word count sense but…I’m fairly certain my soul is better for the rest and inspiration. In addition, I seem to remember a wise person mentioning that often one doesn’t really know what was learned until some (or often lots) of time has passed so perhaps a delay in reflection is exactly what I needed!
But…back to DigPedLab.
First off, thank you so much for putting the event together and allowing me to attend as a Fellow. From the initial Sunday evening meet-up onwards, you both radiated hospitality and I am convinced that your generous spirit set the tone for the week. Your tangible willingness to have open hands, trust the process, and honor a spontaneous spirit in all that may or may not happen encouraged us as participants to do the same. It seemed during the week what mattered most were our own stories as opposed to our institutional affiliations and this focus bonded me in particular with my Networks tribe very quick and deep. The lack of ego and insider/outsider dynamics was so refreshing and because of this unity, I think we constructed something pretty phenomenal.
Though the majority of my time as a student and all of my time as a teacher has been enacted via online methods, I came to DigPedLab having never thought what impact the digital may/may not have on the pedagogical. The opening chat where Jesse poured glasses of water back and forth and then inverted the second cup and sent the water streaming onto the floor was the first of many “aha!” moments as I realized what a profound impact not just the content but the entire structure, posture, setting, etc. has on a learning experience. It’s daunting to realize everything from typeface to body posture to ambient lighting contributes to pedagogy and yet it’s also dazzling to realize the privilege of being invited into an experience where everyone and everything matters. If I had to distill a single takeaway from DPL it would be this: digital pedagogy is alive and enacted rather than a static construct and from that, digital pedagogy is best as an inclusive dialogue.
This realization has caused something inside me to shift fundamentally on Day 1 and the remaining four days helped nurture the change. Now, whenever Sarah (who I am so so so happy to have shared the experience with) and I are together in a new situation we do a quiet analysis of the pedagogy of the moment, scoping out the room, format, etc. identifying what’s helping and hindering—whether the messages the speaker is saying actually matches the message the space is broadcasting.
This shift feels a bit like how perspectives expand for the better after travel to a new place or after making a new friend. This new way of looking at the world has also shifted the lens through which I am engaging in my doctoral research study. Previously I was very interested in the “how-to-do-it-best” of studio pedagogy mediated via an online space. Now, I find I’m much more interested in exploring the intersection of space and experience and the whys of studio pedagogy in online space. The shift in vision/scope is a bit inconvenient to my ego (as it has de-centered me from the place of the all-knowing researcher) but I think it’s ultimately more sustainable and I’m glad to engage the world with these new eyes.
As far as practical feedback on DPL, it feels generic and unhelpful but everything truly was pretty awesome from my perspective! I enjoyed the high interactivity format and the way each keynote presented a challenge for deeper engagement. I liked the active back channel and the ways all tracks quickly became interwoven. And I loved the experimental, open spirit that seemed to pervade everything from meals to focused track sessions to the keynotes and even the unconference. There’s lots of grim in the world of education but this week reminded me there is even more good and hopeful creativity in community. As we are all committed to working in open ways and engaging in active dialogue in public places, I have no doubt there will be much positive change.
My only criticism is that each day was a bit too long for me. Though I know we were encouraged to leave if we needed some empty space…I was afraid I’d miss something! I think long days for the first two are good (as they get everyone bonded) and then maybe slightly shorter days for the remaining so that there is more time for absorbing ideas. Oh, and I wish DigPedLab temporary tattoos would have been part of the swag as the logo is legit awesome and I’d gladly wear it! : )
Overall, thanks again for the opportunity. Looking back, DigPedLab has become a cairn in my academic journey. I am so thankful for all the ways it has already changed me and am excited to see the ways the experience and the community will continue to do so.