This Week in ODL: Sept 11-15, 2017

Amy Collier Speaks at Council of Independent Colleges National Workshop

On Thursday, September 7, Amy Collier presented a talk to a gathering of educators and ed tech providers at the Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research in Washington, D.C. The talk, titled “Possible Worlds, Possible Futures: Students Galvanized on the Web,” offered a critical perspective on the adoption and use of digital platforms—from learning management systems to curatorial platforms like ArtStor (one of the consortium sponsors)—and called for further inquiry and recognition about the ways that platforms that promote themselves as democratic, open, or “free” spaces may actually rely on data and labor provided by users, namely students.

As Amy noted in her presentation, “The web isn’t a public sphere, unencumbered by by the values held by humans who build it and own it.” In fact, we must remain critical about what for-profit, commercial platforms we invite into educational spheres, and aware that tools and platforms have certain pedagogies and assumptions about education built into them. Amy pointed to the growing need for digital sanctuary in a world where data is increasingly vulnerable, and to the Domain of One’s Own projects, like MiddCreate, that establish digital spaces for students which they themselves own and manage. Amy noted that if, as bell hooks writes, education is a practice of freedom, then educators must become literate about digital tools and their sometimes corporate interests before they enter the classroom.

Sean Michael Morris Publishes Part Two of “Reading the LMS against the Backdrop of Critical Pedagogy”

Speaking of platforms, Sean Michael Morris published the second of two blog posts taking a critical look at the LMS. In this post, Sean continues his discussion about the ways in which the learning management system confuses “teaching with learning, grade advancement with education,” and how the principles of critical pedagogy—namely, the liberation of students from systems that oppress them—and the operations of critical pedagogy, analysis and inquiry, are at odds with the intentions and use of the LMS.

At the same time, Sean admits that “the ubiquity of the LMS must be dealt with,” and offers a few concrete examples of how to approach teaching in the LMS that are in line with a critical pedagogical approach. He writes:

For example, in many online courses the designer or teacher will ask students to complete a “syllabus quiz,” an over-architected assessment of a student’s willingness and ability to uncover the requirements of a class. What if instead, students were invited to talk about their assumptions about the LMS—about discussions, about how assignments are submitted, about grading—and to say openly both what they like and find problematic about the platform? What if students were asked to research the LMS itself, the company that created it, the politics behind it, its pedagogical assumptions? Or, what if a teacher confided in students the ways in which their teaching philosophy aligned or did not align with the pedagogies baked into the LMS?

You can read the rest of Sean’s post here.

The Office of Digital Learning Prepares to Launch a New Site for the School in India

ODL Instructional Designer Sonja Burrows has been working on a new site for the School in India, one of Middlebury’s 40 study abroad schools. While the site’s approach is founded on the pedagogy of other pre-immersion and pre-arrival sites (like the School of Russian and the School in Italy), the School in India site will be unique. It will feature 10 short instructional videos that will teach novice-level learners Hindi pronunciation. Sonja is working with Joe DeFelice in Media Services to film these videos using green screen and animation, and featuring the School in India director, Vinita Tripathi.

The School in India will be the fourth Schools Abroad program that ODL has collaborated with to provide a pre-arrival experience for students preparing to travel overseas. With each new site, we approach collaboration and design from a fresh perspective. “No two schools work the same way,” Sonja notes. “And no two student populations are the same. While there are similarities among students preparing to study abroad, there’s no single formula we can rely on to prepare them. Each design arises out of the conversations we have with School directors, and every site offers slightly different solutions for preparing students for language study.”

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Office of Digital Learning

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