The Coat of Many Disruptions

You know that feeling, the first week of the semester, when you realize that you have the most amazing and brilliant group of people ever assembled in one space, and that this course, finally, will be the holy grail of course design? Then, usually by week three, you get the first round of essays or presentations and that feeling dampens a bit. 

I have that euphoric feeling after reading everyone’s posts (without the inevitable letdown because I will never have to grade your papers—which clearly would be brilliant anyway).  I can’t think of a better way to end my day than by reading your thoughtful, provoking, and insightful thoughts on the two articles we assigned. I really enjoyed them.

Some common threads that strike me, and I will add, refine, and edit these thoughts after sitting with them for a while, are the exciting possibilities that come with experimenting, questioning, and trying new tools. Moreover, many of your posts and comments emphasize the importance of creating discursive and disruptive moments in the classroom. Others remind us that we need to temper this compulsion to innovate with pedagogical and institutional realities. We do not teach in an ideal environment and there are constraints and responsibilities to consider.

The following questions seem to haunt many of the posts: what are we giving up by hybridizing our courses, what unknown effect will these concessions yield, and how can we innovate and disrupt without completely losing the thread of content?

Many posts also admit a certain anxiety about technology and the rapid changes and advents of new tools. How do we keep up? Yet those of you who voice this anxiety tend to argue rather eloquently for the importance of openness and a willingness to learn over technological skill acquisition. This feels a bit scary to write, but I think it is totally okay not to know things. Technological things. I think it is fine, even admirable (albeit terrifying), to use digital tools in the classroom that you are not completely comfortable with. Indeed, on a related point, several of you comment on the places in the texts where Groom and Lamb and Bass discuss how technology changes the role of teacher and learner, and transforms the very idea of a classroom from a contained space to an open one.

These questions, these anxieties, and—most importantly—these inspiring, scholarly, idealistic, and pragmatic thoughts are, I think, the best way to start the project of thinking through hybridization and online teaching. There’s a ton of work to be done, yes, and some of it will fail, some of it will make you feel inept, and some of it will confuse the hell out of your students. Hybridization will definitely change your role as a teacher, your course structure and content, and what your students get out of it.  And that’s awfully exciting.