The digital is the collective

A quick update as we process the experience of teaching via Google Hangout to a classroom of 60+ students: it cannot happen without a great team that works together. I think one of the things that has drawn me into the digital world is its enormously collaborative ethos. It is the very practice of a democratic community of users that keeps me here, and commits me to this path.

The technology does not run itself, nor does it run us – but on my own, I would be limited in how I could use it. If you look around at the multiple embodiments of the digital humanities and digital pedagogies or digital history — they are all much more public and collaborative than instruction and scholarship used to be. It’s open to student engagement and participation in ways traditional university instruction isn’t, and in its collaborative, flexible and yes, democratic platforms, allows the path of learning and exploration in each class to respond to the needs of the class, rather than the rigid demands of a curriculum distributed at the beginning of the quarter.

Just as doing small discussion sections on Google Hangouts last summer, with everyone online, doing a large lecture with one instructor online yesterday has opened my eyes to what we can do in the future, and what it means to teach effectively in the 21st century. In the words of one of the students in the class, with whom I spoke about her final project via Skype after I got back to a very balmy LA, and whom I asked about today’s class: “You know Prof, Technology – WOW”.

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