Datagogies: Using SharePoint to Facilitate Teaching and Learning At this tipping point in literacy-- as we move increasingly from the printed page to the online community, from “hard knowledge containers” such as textbooks to “soft knowledge containers” such as interactive websites (Siemens)--social networks have had a profound and transformative effect on modern culture. Online communities such as Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube have altered how communities are established, how individuals define themselves, how friendships are defined and constructed. Online communities have reshuffled power relations, enabling individuals to influence the shape and direction of modern life, influencing, for example, election campaigns, world markets, and public opinion about seminal matters such as global warning and energy policies. Not surprisingly, perhaps, much has been written in the popular press about the transformative impact of knowledge networks on democratizing knowledge, distributing power, and reshaping social relations. To account for this paradigm shift—this movement toward empowering individuals who join knowledge networks-- Anderson calls our times the "Age of Peer Production." Similarly, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006 was “You”: It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes. […] The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. […] We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy. Hoping to capitalize on the economic benefits of “people power,” financial theorists have outlined ways businesses need to reshape practices: Billions of connected individuals can now actively participate in innovation, wealth creation, and social development in ways we once only dreamed of. And when these masses of people collaborate they collectively can advance the arts, culture, science, education, government, and the economy in surprising but ultimately profitable ways. Companies that engage with these exploding Web-enabled communities are already discovering the true dividends of collective capability and genius. – Don Tapscott, Wikinomics (2006) – Likewise, in educational contexts, literacy theorists are fascinated by the transformative impact of social networks on social relations, the distribution of power, conceptions of intellectual property, and literacy. Naturally, not all theorists are in agreement about the value of commons-based peer production networks. Critics argue that the Internet and texting and so on have crushed memory, undermined our abilities to concentrate, and weakened our resolve to work through extended texts. Various national surveys provide evidence for these critiques. For example, according to the NEA today's high school students read less now than ever before, graduate students are less capable of interpreting difficult texts than their predecessors: • Less than one-third of 13 year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. • Among 17 year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20- year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004. • Reading scores for 12th Grade readers fell significantly from 1992 to 2005 with the sharpest declines among lower level readers. • Reading scores for American adults of almost all education levels have deteriorated, notably among the best educated groups. Source: http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/TRNR.html • 65% of graduating high school seniors and 71% of America’s 8th-graders are currently reading below grade level.* • From 1993 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped by 10 points, a 20 percent rate of decline. ** *Source: NAEP **Source: U.S. Department of Education, NCES, National Assessment of Adult Literacy (2007) Clearly, redefining literacy, learning, and communication comes with some pain--and loss. Regardless of the inherent value of commons-based peer production networks, however, those of us working in educational contexts are facing new challenges--and new opportunities. We are scrambling to better understand the conventions of new writing genres, struggling to understand which new writing tools are best used under which circumstances, and wondering how we can secure the resources to make the new literacy tools available in modern classrooms. In the context of writing programs at colleges and university, WPAs and writing instructors are in a particularly awkward position." On the one hand we play the role of gate keepers, ensuring students can write using Standard English and can account for genre and scholarly conventions. Like English faculty in the past, we understand we must prepare for academic writing after they take introductory composition courses. Yet, on the other hand, we know that business as usual isn't sufficient in terms of preparing students for academic and professional writing. We have no doubt but that in the future students will spend significant time collaborating online. In other words, regardless of concerns for the digital revolution, we understand students need to participate in online collaborative networks, that new media are creating new communication genres, and that we need to teach students about collaborating in varied knowledge networks. While the importance of knowledge networks cannot be understated, we nonetheless do not know what causes individuals to contribute to the gift culture of the Internet, to take the time to assume agency. Our Context: Diversity University We refer to our school as Diversity University because of its ranking by Princeton Review as one of the top twenty most diverse institutions. In 2007, 32% of our students were minorities and freshman came from 37 states and 50 countries. Our title “Diversity University” seems particularly accurate for our First-Year Composition program which, given our University’s admissions standards, is one of the top ten writing programs in terms of size. Lacking an entrance essay or other discriminating information other than the SAT, ACT, AP or TOEFL, we have a very diverse student population. While some students in our classes are very competent others have very little experience with writing and require developmental English, a course that our university cannot offer given state law that requires developmental courses to be taught in the community colleges. Each year the FYC Program offers approximately 500 sections of two entry-level composition courses that instruct 9500 students each year. Our instructors are a diverse lot with different levels of experience (MA grad students to Visiting PhD instructors) and different academic interests (British Literature, Creative Writing, and Technical Communication, to name a few). Many of these instructors will leave our program as soon as they have gained experience teaching. We are curious to determine what inspires teachers in our writing program to enhance our curriculum and polices by assuming roles of power and logging into our online collaborative site, http://collegewriting.us . Accordingly, for the past five years we have worked to inspire approximately 90 writing teachers each year to coauthor a shared pedagogy, a pedagogy created from the ground up, created for and by teachers in real time using commons-based peer production technologies (a term used by Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum to articulate the benefits of peer-production networks). When crowds of teachers use commons-based peer-to-peer technologies to create pedagogical communities, we theorize that a new kind of teaching and learning takes place, a kind of teaching and learning that heretofore has been unimaginable (Moxley; Meehan and Moxley). Over the past few years we have used the term "datagogies" to characterize this new mode of knowledge construction. We suggest this term can help us articulate what happens when “crowds” of teachers, students, and administrators use social software to develop pedagogical communities that value and are fueled by the “wisdom of crowds,” the surprising ability of crowds of people to develop pedagogies that are wiser, more engaging than those developed by individuals, even disciplinary experts. Rather than being theorized by experts, vetted by the peer-review process, and published after a long wait, datagogies are pedagogies that are subject to immediate revision, collaboration—and even deletion. Via the datagogy, users--other teachers and students--can develop pedagogical practices in real time. Datagogies can challenge traditional assumptions about authorship, authority, collaboration, and power. Teaching, learning, and writing can become more dialogical as opposed to presentational. Knowledge can be conditional, subject to the next edit. Datagogies have the potential to dramatically alter collaboration, creativity, and community. As examples of datagogies, we point to a variety of online learning communities, such as Wikipedia, CollegeWriting, Newsvine, Reddit, MetaCritic, or Digg. Notes Presently, having worked for four years to develop a creative, challenging online pedagogical community . From our innovations--and the resistance we have faced along the way--we have learned a lot about developing interfaces that enable and inspire teachers and students to go online and suggest curriculum changes and writing program policy changes. In terms of inspiring teachers to assume agency, to be actively engaged online in our ongoing efforts to develop our curriculum to better meet students’ needs, we have learned the importance of articulating our goals, of highlighting the professional benefits of assuming agency, of taking a long-range view in terms of moving teachers from roles as “downloaders” to roles as “authorsi.” As WPAs, we have come to fully understand how much time it takes to inspire change and to appreciate that leadership requires flexibility and a willingness to imagine different possibilities. We have also become more sensitive to ways face-to-face meetings influence our actions online. i For us a downloader is a teacher who simply goes to one of our collaborative websites and downloads content without contributing to future projects or editing current projects. We distinguish authors from downloaders in that authors contribute in meaningful ways to our curriculum, assuming roles as agents of change.
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