FemTechNet Critical Race & Ethnic Studies Pedagogy Workbook

I’m just back from the annual Cultural Studies Association conference in Riverside, CA, and I’m excited to share the announcement I made at the panel, “FemTechNet: Transforming what and who counts in digital education”, where I spoke alongside Alexandra Juhasz (Pitzer College), Elizabeth Losh (UCSD), and Ivette Bayo Urban (U Washington). My presentation (for the most part) was about the current project that the FTN Ethnic Studies Committee is currently undertaking to create a pedagogy workbook. The entire presentation/announcement is below the image. To navigate directly to the digital book, click on the cover image below.

Screenshot of splash page for FTN Pedagogy workbook,

Building a Collaborative FemTechNet Race and Ethnic Studies Pedagogy Workbook

I am one of the new co-chairs of The Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee of FemTechNet, which is composed of a handful of graduate students, post-docs, librarians, and alt-ac professionals. As a committee of primarily junior women of color scholars we keenly feel the pressures of women of color in academia. We understand that for junior scholars the labor of developing one’s pedagogy is extensive. And for these teacher-scholars, experimentation in the classroom can be a risk, even though our institutions encourage and exhort us to practice digital pedagogy, to teach online, to be innovative teachers. The experience of participating in FemTechNet is incredibly valuable and something we believe in deeply, but we know from experience that participating in FemTechNet can be rather time consuming. To make it worse, our home institutions often don’t understand what FemTechNet is or what it requires of us, while offering little support to develop pedagogical skills (especially at small resource poor colleges and state schools). These skills are important as we need to prove that we are exemplary when applying for jobs, or when being evaluated for tenure and promotion. To help scholar-teachers develop these valuable abilities we are leveraging the collective intelligence and experience of the FemTechNet network to produce a practical resource for those who endeavor to share and support others, and those who seek to learn and improve their own skills.

Acknowledging the challenges of teaching these sensitive and contentious topics of race and gender in a time of political contention, economic retrenchment, and increasing institutional precarity for departments of ethnic, gender, and humanisitic studies, this workbook is an ongoing project to build resources for faculty members who are often overburdened at their home institutions, but are willing to take on the difficult task of teaching about gender and racial inequity in our information culture. The book is live, but it is also very much a work in progress.

We would like to highlight (and continue to build) the diversity of FemTechNet through curating and highlighting the existing transnational and multi-ethnic projects already on the site and point towards gaps and possibilities. Considering technology through a race-based and ethnic studies lens highlights the importance of community-based learning and service in feminist digital pedagogies. This is a collaborative, living document that is curated by the Ethnic Studies Committee. It will grow as more instructors teach at the intersections of gender, race, and technology and share their materials.

Submissions are ongoing and we encourage you to share your own Femtechnet content, syllabi, videos, references, and pedagogical resources. Of course, submissions need not be limited to DOCC courses, and we welcome all contributions. Please submit materials to: femtechnetcres@gmail.com. We’re asking that submissions include contact information, biographies, term taught, and institution or context, as everything will link back to the original author to promote responsible citational practices. All submissions will be cited with links back to the original author.

Helpful Links:

Digital Pedagogy and Transformative Digital Humanities

The following are notes from a brief talk I was invited to give recently at UCSB for their annual Research Slam, #SyncDH.

Some context:

Coming back to my grad school institution, I reflected on my own experience as a student there, and I planned this talk to help those grad students with little to no pedagogical training. For example, in my time at UCSB, I had two days of TA training, and then anything I learned by osmosis from observing faculty or TAing for them. I was very fortunate to have worked some amazing teachers, but teaching, as I have learned the hard way, is not something I was born doing well. I takes a lot of work, a lot of risk, and occasional failures.

For this talk, I reflected on some experience I’ve gained over the past year as the Digital Scholar for the Digital Liberal Arts Program at Whittier College, where I hold an alt-ac position supporting digital pedagogy and research at a small liberal arts college and Title V minority serving institution in South Los Angeles. I should say that I’ve worked with faculty in a range of different departments across our liberal arts curriculum on designing large semester-long projects and small one-off digital activities, so these are some observations gained from that experience thus far.

The presentation itself was about 10 minutes long, so I simply prepared some bullet points for the talk which are shared below along with the slides.

What is digital pedagogy?

Brian Croxall and Adeline Koh, organizers of the #MLA13 Digital Pedagogy Unconference, explain it broadly as “the use of electronic elements to enhance or to change to experience of education.” (citation)

The most important aspect is “pedagogy”. Jesse Stommel of Hybrid Pedagogy states: “Pedagogy is not synonymous with teaching or talking about teaching, nor is it entirely abstracted from the acts of teaching and learning. Pedagogy is praxis, the place where philosophy and practice meet.” (citation)

It’s not just about using technology or digital tools. We’re not looking for new tools to do the same old job. Instead, it’s important to reflect on those tools, why we bring them into our classes, and what they add to the process of learning. Likewise, I would suggest we consider what it is about the digital that we want to infuse in our classes: networked connectivity, modularity, collaboration, etc.

Ideally, there are a few ways that digital pedagogy can improve our teaching:

  • Interactivity – social and active learning
  • Brings together theory and practice (Freire and bell hooks)
  • Reflexive and critical
  • Encourages experimentation, creativity, play, problem solving
  • Helps students develop information literacy

Why might you want to take up digital pedagogy in your own classes? 

  • Improve student participation, interest, and ownership of work
    • Give them choices and make them responsible to one another
    • Encourage undergraduate research and student/faculty collaborations
  • Students are given the opportunity for/to:
    • Collaboration – collective intelligence
    • Communication – learn effective skills to produce content, revise, and share
    • Problem solving
    • Project management skills
      • Delegating duties
      • Problem solving
    • Learning Information literacy
      • Work with your librarians! They know stuff and are so helpful!
        • Copyright
        • Creative commons
        • Open access
        • Fair use
        • Public Domain
    • Community engagement (but discuss with offices of service learning on your campus so you design classes that are beneficial to students and the communities or community orgs)
    • Gain awareness of contemporary issues, work toward social justice

When we get to the end there, and examine the potential for digital pedagogy, it starts to look an awful lot like critical or radical feminist pedagogy. This is education that is democratic and non-hierarchical, in classroom that are perforated, bringing contemporary issues, non-students and instructors, etc. into the classroom.

How do you do it?

  1. You can start small. You don’t have to design fully online classes or convert entire courses into flipped ones! Toe-in-the water assignments or in-class activities. If you’re used to using Moodle of Gauchospace, here, try adding a discussion board, or a gallery, or a small wiki assignment.
    • Live-tweet a film screening
    • Create a timelineCollectively map historical locations
    • Make a video essay
    • Design an infographic
    • Build a blog or website
    • Edit Wikipedia
    • Produce a digital book in Scalar
  2. Learn the tools and skills you ask your students to learn. Create your own example (video, digital book, etc.), and then you can teach and troubleshoot with your students.
  3. Scaffold Everything: break up assignments and build your way up to a larger projects. Guide students to be critical readers of media and help them to gain skills needed for their assignments and for the future: writing, editing, citation, hyperlinking, annotating
  4. Evaluation – Assessment should be secondary to learning. Design rubrics to fit your class and its learning goals! Tweak existing rubrics, or design them collaboratively with students to meet the specific goals of the course. Have students assess their peers and each other.
  5. Take risks and allow for failure – Know that there is always a learning curve and that as a class you are experimenting and learning together. Learn from those mistakes and issues and revise the activity for next time.
  6. Share your successes and failures, and ask for advice and assistance – there’s a large community of people working and developing their own teaching who share and build together. Add your voice to the conversation, and learn from the work of others! Use twitter, search blogs, scour GradHacker and ProfHacker on the Chronicle.

I always come back to my own institutional context, a teaching college where 60% of the student body is students of color, many first-generation, working-class students. Always keep your students in mind. How can we best prepare them for the future? What skills do they already bring to your class? They’re not just media consumers. They’re already using social media, producing content, circulating and sharing media – but we can help steer them to do this same activity critically, responsibly, and with purpose.

**For a more extensive discussion of digital pedagogy I’d recommend checking out the work ofLisa Spiro, whose blog posts and presentations have been infinitely useful. Her presentation “Digital Pedagogy in Practice” is especially helpful.