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Fans vs. Practitioners – pete rorabaugh

pete rorabaugh

father | atlantan | cyclist | educator | scholar | union member

Fans vs. Practitioners

By the close of last week’s Domain Incubator, I was full of ideas. I will attempt, over the next couple of posts to break these into smaller chunks.

For one, there is a lexicon to Domain that hangs just over my head like ripe fruit. Indeed, I DO have a little bit of a tech/nerd past: I remember committing to teaching myself GWBASIC when the huge manual came out of our first computer box. It was foreign and mathematical and exciting. I also remember spending spending some time in those early years online (1985-1988) on BBSs — bulletin board services — that acted like giant posting boards for messages about anything.

I come to Domain to explore three things, essentially: connected knowledge, digital literacy, and experiential learning. Sure, we can tack games, multimodal publishing, digital narratives, and host of other things onto that framework, but those three things are the essential pieces for me. And it’s personal. I know that as I more of my professional and academic life migrated into digital environments, I sensed a change (I still do) in how I learn, what interests me, and what constitutes knowledge. I wrote about this in Digital Culture and Shifting Epistemology, one of our first posts up on Hybrid Pedagogy.

A Domain-friendly pedagogy (and it’s important for me to frame it like that because I see plenty of platforms that are fertile for Domain-like projects, whether students and teachers have put the priority on ownership) hinges the difference between whether faculty and students are FANS of connected learning practices or whether they’re PRACTITIONERS. This distinction isn’t always easy to determine. Sometimes I meet students people who haven’t really heard of “connected learning,” yet I discover that they’re deeply imbedded in an online game community, or a collection of knitting or fashion blogs, or some kind of activism that involves digital interaction.

As our (newly named!) department, Digital Writing and Media Arts (formerly ETCMA), begins its first year of a Domain Pilot, I think our success depends on the digital practices of our participating faculty. Sure, we are all fans of (and theorizers and critics of) digital environments, but can we adapt to and develop the practice of connected learning methodology. That means, for me, familiarity with PLNs (see Allison Seaman), Connectivist learning theory (see Siemens from 2004 and Downes just last week), digital civics (see Ethan Zuckerman), multi-literacies (see Anna Smith and Doug Belshaw), and constant classroom experimentation. This tweet, in response to Whitney’s question last year, sums up what I want to be doing in every class:

It’s through interrogating this lens of fan v. practitioner that I think we stand to make the greatest, boldest strides with Domain at SPSU (soon to be KSU). We’re purchasing 200 student domains through Reclaim Hosting and gathering a group of five or six faculty members together to articulate ways in which the Domain Pilot will bring something extra to our pedagogy and to our program’s pedagogical orientation. It should be, as it often is, an experiment, a beautiful mess, a constructive playspace, and a reflective studyhall as we expose our thinking, composing, networking, and design methodologies to more vigorous definitions of community and hybridity.

I’ve been nudged to start collecting these thoughts here by Clay Fenlason, who charged out in front this week with his own shiny new Reclaim blog, Unlearned. Clay and Jim (who answered back on his own blog), are probing the dichotomies of individuality/community and coherence/agency. This is a valuable conversation for me to observe, but I speak a different (though compatible) dialect from these guys. I want to lean on task of preparing faculty for the daring experimental exploits of Domain, but I continue to be grateful for the community that’s springing up around these digital, open, and critically conscious forms of public pedagogy.

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