Lisa Brundage, Macaulay Honors College, CUNY
Teresa Ober, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Luke Waltzer, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Games, archives, and assignments require scholars and teachers to consider what end-users should know and what experiences they should have, and also offer many opportunities to reflect upon how knowledge is constructed. Active learning environments draw students and teachers alike into spaces that require trust, attention, reflection, and openness. Decisions should be intentional and purposeful. Commitment to the deep inquiry that these experiences demand invites students to engage with content in generative ways, but also—and very importantly—requires scholars to be in an ongoing, exhilarating, and reflective relationship with the materials they teach and the methods they use. These are not transactional modes of education, but rather approaches that honor the complex ways in which learners can generate knowledge and engage with the disciplines.
The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy has regularly pushed back against the notion that digital technologies are neutral. Our fifteenth issue presents pieces about archives and archive building, games, the pedagogical implications of digital tools, and various elements of digital pedagogy in undergraduate courses. Together they unravel the mystique of digital scholarship and pedagogy while asking practical questions about prior knowledge and assumptions, labor and the dynamics of collaboration, and the challenges of sustainability and corralling institutional support.
Drilling down into tools, environments, and processes, asking how they work and don’t work and where they lead users to and away from— these are all crucial parts of digital scholarship and teaching. The pieces that follow situate the project-based work of interactive technology and pedagogy within the university. They interrogate decisions big and small, weighing how biases may shape how various audiences perceive information. It’s important that this thinking be made explicit to students and to audiences, and these pieces do just that. Such pedagogical work differentiates scholars from entrepreneurs, and open systems from closed ones. It propels teaching away from transactional models of learning, forcing instructors to make the process transparent at every turn. Learning happens not only in the doing of things, but in processing and reflecting upon the why and the how of that doing. The eight pieces that we present in this issue explore different facets of these principles.
In “‘So You Want to Build a Digital Archive?’ A Dialogue on Critical Digital Humanities Graduate Pedagogy,” Bibhushana Poudyal of the University of Texas at El Paso and Laura Gonzales of the University of Florida provide an account of building a digital archive about Nepal, interrogating the role that search engines and algorithms play in how we experience and know the world, and the gaps that they leave. The authors explain the steps and hurdles they needed to negotiate—including platform and materials selection, technical expertise, and user-experience testing—in ways that honor and amplify the local expertise of Kathmandu residents. Their work is an example of digital archiving that espouses a feminist and decolonial agenda and explicitly acknowledges the tensions that underlie all knowledge-creating endeavors.
The need for critically examining how the medium influences the agenda behind digital material is also examined in another piece in this issue. In “Confidence and Critical Thinking Are Differentially Affected by Content Intelligibility and Source Reliability: Implications for Game-Based Learning in Higher Education,” Robert O. Duncan of York College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, presents a study on how the intelligibility of information and reliability of sources influence performance and confidence among participants in a critical-thinking game. The results indicate the more environmentally induced difficulty in reading text, the more critically students engaged with it. The type of information source, however, appeared to be less influential on students’ performance, with little variation between conditions in which participants were or were not told which information was derived from a reliable source. These findings point toward a few practical implications for instruction and game design around information literacy, and help to increase awareness regarding opportunities to teach students how to evaluate the reliability of sources, before critically evaluating and using the information they provide.
While games can be used to promote critical thinking, how digital games are implemented by instructors matters, as well. Cristyne Hébert of the University of Regina and Jennifer Jenson of the University of British Columbia describe nine different strategies for instructors for grade-school students in “Digital Game-Based Pedagogies: Developing Teaching Strategies for Game-Based Learning.” The themes they identify were derived from a content analysis of material collected through observations and interviews conducted during a professional development session for teachers of children in grades 6 to 8. Three general categories of digital game-based strategies are recommended, including those which focus on gameplay, lesson planning and delivery, and how technology is framed within the game. These strategies provide a practical framework for integrating game-based learning into primary and secondary education.
In “Music Making in Scratch: High Floors, Low Ceilings, and Narrow Walls?” William Payne and S. Alex Ruthmann of New York University evaluate how Scratch, a prominent, block-based free programming language used extensively by young learners, both facilitates and frustrates digital music making. They’re hopeful that this approach can become more accessible to the community of learners who engage with computer science through Scratch, but are also concerned that the structural elements of the tool may impede students who want to pursue such a path. They detail these concerns, drawing upon theories of music cognition and coding, and offer concrete suggestions for addressing the shortcomings in the tool that will be of use both to teachers who use Scratch and to software developers building out digital music-making environments.
Taking into account the broader instructional context, particularly for collaborative work, can help educators make a more productive learning experience. “Creating Dynamic Undergraduate Learning Laboratories through Collaboration Between Archives, Libraries, and Digital Humanities,” by Kent Gerber, Charlie Goldberg, and Diana L. Magnuson of Bethel University, presents both a rationale and a procedure for collaborative work between departments and between faculty and students. They detail their process for creating an entry-level Digital Humanities course that taught students both physical and digital archival management, while providing a venue for teachers to grapple with what students needed to learn, and what parts of their own institutional history needed to be prioritized for preservation. They present us with a flexible model for creating fruitful partnerships between departments, centers, and libraries that also centers student learning goals within its structure.
While learning through digital pedagogy may be a collaborative experience, for the learner it must also enable the pursuit of personally meaningful knowledge construction. In “Teaching with Objects: Individuating Media Archaeology in Digital Studies,” University of Mary Washington’s Zach Whalen details an Introduction to Digital Studies course built around student inquiry into the physical artifacts of digital media. The assignment requires students to intensively research and then creatively present on artifacts they select, situating them in economic, ethical, social, and political histories. Drawing heavily from theories of digital archaeology and positioning students as detectives who define and then pursue their own questions about tools, this project immerses students in thinking about, around, and through the material goods of digital culture. It builds upon claims from other digital studies scholars that the field should do more to uncover and confront the social implications of the digital world.
In addition to analyzing what the learner knows and understands about a digital tool, it may also be just as useful to consider as what the learner does not yet know. Filipa Calado of the Graduate Center, CUNY presents a refreshing look at digital tools for reading in “‘Imagining What We Don’t Know’: Technological Ignorance as Condition for Learning.” Examining both Voyant Tools and Women Writers Online, Calado delves into the ways that these tools force readers into unfamiliar ways of interacting with text. By working carefully with these tools, reader-users are capable of stepping into new pedagogical and epistemological territory, regardless of whether or not the user possesses the technical acumen to control a tool’s source code. Her focus on the pleasure of discovery reminds us of the delight that can come from open exploration in the classroom.
We close the issue with “What Do You Do with 11,000 Blogs? Preserving, Archiving, and Maintaining UMW Blogs—A Case Study.” Angie Kemp of the University of Mary Washington, Lee Skallerup Bessette of Georgetown University, and Kris Shaffer from New Knowledge walk through the process of archiving ten years of activity on a large, university-based publishing platform. The piece demonstrates the range of knowledge, skills, and persistent community and scholarly engagement necessary to ethically and effectively manage an open system that operates at an enterprise scale. Collaboration and transparency is key, and this piece will benefit scholars at any institution who are grappling with how to honor, preserve, and protect the exponentially increasing amount of digital work our students and colleagues produce.
Knowledge construction should be a joyful process. The authors who have contributed to this issue have fully integrated that understanding into their approaches to scholarship, teaching, and preservation work through the use of digital technologies. Students and instructors alike stand to benefit from appreciating the joy that goes into learning, regardless of the choices of digital tools and strategies. It is our hope that this appreciation of the process of knowledge construction benefits the readers of this issue, as well. In the spirit of appreciating knowledge as that which is collaboratively built and generative, we hope that readers of JITP may be inspired to pursue new and innovative digital pedagogical approaches in their teaching and scholarship.