Tag Archives: teaching

Digital Literacy

Today I read a blog on Inside Higher Ed questioning where digital literacy comes from and what most academics are doing to expand this literacy – a legitimate question in a world where more and more encounters with sources, materials, and other academics are happening online.

As an academic in this climate I am well aware of my online presence and am constantly seeking out new methods of communicating my findings via this medium, while also engaging with as many people as I can in my field. But this article left me thinking of an audience that I have not yet engaged with – my students.

Honestly I am not entirely sure where to begin. My Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and blog are accessible to all and so I assumed if any students were interested in seeking me out, they very well could. However, what I realized reading this blog was that I was placing all the onus on my students. In part this happened because I didn’t want to appear overbearing, demanding even more of their attention outside the classroom in ways other than the traditional paper writing/reading/homework role.

While I am a young academic, I am still their English instructor, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was intruding into the personal sphere. Most of my students are either first or second year students and social media for them is just that – social.

However, a few months ago I attended a professional development workshop where the presenter for a panel was a friend and colleague of mine in the math department. He outlined the positive feedback he has had after creating a Facebook page for his students and showed screen shots of conversations his students were having with each other and with him online that encouraged and created a learning environment that seemed to sustain itself well outside the classroom, and even beyond the semester boundaries.

Then another friend and colleague in the English department showed me how he interacts with his students on Twitter, using the network to inform his students of upcoming assignments, office hours, and extended opportunities to have conversations about the literature that transcended the requirements of classwork.

Obviously I was missing a great opportunity to engage my students on a whole different level. While I understand most of my students are not English majors, and my courses are general education requirements for obtaining a BA in various fields, I have on multiple occasions gotten very positive feedback on texts that were well outside their comfort level. They were inquisitive and wanted to know more about literature they will perhaps never again come across simply because they are going into a different field. For example, last semester after going over parts of the Canterbury Tales I brought in some digitized photos of the Ellesmere and almost a dozen students stayed after class because they wanted to see them.

So after reading the blog today on digital literacy I began questioning whether I do enough to promote it. Yes, I take my students to the library and show them how to properly research sources online, but could I be doing more? As I navigate the digital world of academia would it benefit or burden my students if I brought them along? Would the manuscript pictures I post on Twitter, that are often silly, open the door for conversation on the pieces, or make them roll their eyes at me?

I have been grappling with the idea of starting a Facebook page for my students next semester and the logistics involved in managing and maintaining it where it would be simultaneously instructive and entertaining. A forum for questions, debate, conversation in an easy going environment. Perhaps if literature breached their everyday lives they would be more open to it?

I think these are all valid questions, and I won’t have any answers until I start. And so begin my new inquiries into pedagogy. Suggestions are always welcome.

Last Night


So, I think I was given the smallest classroom on campus for my Wednesday night class. When I walked in I realized there were not enough desks, and even the people who are actually enrolled in the class and on my roster are having to sit on the floor. And this isn’t something which can be solved by having more desks put in – there is no room for more desks. The people on the floor were huddled pretty much in a corner. On top of that I had 23 people who were trying to add my class, and they were crowding in by the door with a line streaming outside, and of course everyone on my roster had shown up, so I had no empty spots.

If you know me, you know I am entirely too nice, and wanted to add everyone, however, I don’t know how I could explain that to my department chair. So I did a lottery style drawing where I added about 11 people with the idea that some will drop, or some will not have met their prerequisites and won’t be able to have their adds processed. Basically, in a room built for 25 to 30 people, I will have 46 (if they all stay).

It was unbelievably hot and musty in the room, and at any given point I was only moments away from fanning myself with a syllabus. We figured out how to use the little AC contraption, however, it is a wall mounted unit, and when you turn it on the noise is enough to drown out the construction work next door that is there to build new classrooms since the student population has long outgrown the number of buildings. Meanwhile the departments are taking turns in the makeshift classrooms while this is going on. Can you guess which department gets them this semester?

On the bright side, all of my students seemed very enthusiastic. As far as student interest goes, this is the best semester yet. This morning I put in an request for a room change to better accommodate everyone. Even among makeshift classrooms on the part of campus known as The Village, there are better ones. No, I didn’t mention that I added way more people than perhaps I should have. No one needs to know this officially. I can justify the room change perfectly well just using the people enrolled without drawing attention to that fact. Especially since with the overflow my entire lecture was me shouting about Keats and poetic terminology in order for everyone to hear who was pouring out the door, and to compensate for the air unit directly behind me. I have no idea how much of that they got, but a lot of them were taking notes and high lighting things (even the people on the floor), so all is well.

Ironically my Tuesday night classroom is *huge* and even with all the people in the class, and the 10 people I added (there was no overflow of people, so I happily added everyone), I still have empty seats.

Depending on how tonight goes, I may end up with a total of somewhere near 140 students this semester. Last semester I had 117, so it is almost like taking on another class, except not. And if I don’t get another classroom on Wednesdays I think I am going to lose my voice in a matter of weeks.

P.S. The picture for this post is representative of what I looked like after I got home last night.