A common theme emerged from my DigPINS reading and interactions this week: student agency. More specifically, how can we as instructional designers/technologists/teachers, in the words of Jade E. Davis, “dismantle and disempower the seat of power” in the classroom, and in doing so, slip that power out of the teacher’s grasp and into the students’ hands? And because I’m writing this as part of a week on digital pedagogy, what does disrupting traditional power in the classroom look like in an online environment?
I believe no such power sharing is possible without trust. Teachers must trust their students; students must trust their teacher. Technology can help build mutual trust. For example, NameCoach allows teachers and students to record their names and identify their preferred pronouns. Knowing how to say students’ names and using their preferred pronouns moves the class towards trust. Names on a course roster start to be replaced by the complex human beings to whom the names belong. Clarity begins.
But this particular beginning is limited if students remain on the periphery of their learning. Deliberate, difficult, and sustained actions need to be taken to increase students’ agency. Co-design a syllabus, for example. Or start every course design with questions posed by Sean Michael Morris in “Critical Instructional Design”:
I know disrupting traditional power in the classroom is not easy, especially since many of us in this DigPINS with Pedagome endeavor who’re seeking to do the disrupting are not considered faculty but rather staff. Those who are considered faculty do not have tenure. We lack protection. I fear we lack agency too. I fear we’re viewed as customer service providers operating with checklist upon checklist. A colleague likes to describe our team of instructional designers and educational technologists as the Alfred to the faculty’s Batman. I bristle at the label. I am not a prim old man content to wait out another adventure in the shadows.
I seek clarity and new lights to see by, new lights for dispelling old darkness. I swing my lantern to bring students into focus.