A guiding belief of both “Reclaiming Innovation” and “Engines of Inquiry“ insists that education is an ongoing process of creative integration. As Bass states, education “ . . . is often about indirection, ambiguity, complexity, and multiplicity.” I very much agree, and am hopeful that this idea will be, as these two texts propose, more realizable in a hybrid environment, and in particular, in three distinct areas of my Great Works in Literature course: personal authorship; collaboration (not only with one’s classmates and instructor, but with a much wider audience); and a variety of innovative sources.
The idea of ownership is nicely discussed by Groom and Lamb, as they propose creating a “domain of one’s own,” a central archive that will help the student to make connections between various personal, academic and professional environments. Education is, hopefully, an arena where the student is encouraged to strengthen his own unique way of thinking about and, ultimately, working in the world. A digital archive is not only potentially a permanent and public record, but a global one. As Bass says, “Nowhere else but in school will students ever produce work for no audience,” or indeed, for such a private audience as the traditional classroom provides. It’s important that students work through the connections between literature, their own lives, and the larger community, and this is especially true now, as courses in literature are being downsized (critics alleging, unfairly, I believe, low relevance to life after graduation). I see the blog format as a viable tool in this exploration, as it is a format easily learned, encourages open expression, and allows students to move at their own pace. As well, with each post, students publicly author a piece of text, and this authorship helps students to take ownership for their words and ideas.
Of course, taking authority is not the same as isolating one’s voice. If education is a process, then one’s voice is part of a continuous dialogue that is open to integration, revision, and reflection. Traditionally, literature has been taught in a lecture format filtered through the instructor. This practice leaves little room for a student’s original interpretation, questioning, and, ultimately, true involvement with the text. True involvement is, in Great Works, an adventure into another world, culture, and time. Baruch’s student body is itself diverse, and so allows for a richness of involvement with the both the text and others’ responses to that text.
The texts comprise, finally, as Bass reminds us, the architecture of the course, and these texts need to be supported with a variety of sources. As Great Works is a general education course, scholarly works are useful, but only to a point. To truly engage my students, I want to motivate them with diverse verbal and non-verbal texts, including the untraditional, even possibly the unorthodox. My hope is that the hybrid environment will help me to be as innovative as I am trying to guide my students to be.