I don’t know what it is, but this has been the most difficult of the prompts to conceptualize, partially, I suppose, because it’s so free-range but also because we are in the part of the semester when utopian thinking is made more difficult in the face of deadlines, due dates, tenure documents, and the ever-dimming light that is student burnout. I am always, though, thinking of that future course, as well, imagining “other ways of being in the world,” as Jose Munoz asks us to do in a text that is just as much about pedagogy as anything else (even if he doesn’t realize), Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Utopia:
“The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalising rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.”
I think I reflect my deepest desire for my pedagogy, for any class (f2f or online), in my ENGL100 syllabus this semester, where, under “Course Theme,” I say “[t]he philosophy for this course will be that play opens us up to ‘alterity’: in other words, when we play, we don’t just entertain ourselves; we hope, desire, and think about different and better possibilities for our lives.” I try not to get bogged down in the logistics (when things are due; how they will be uploaded; how to name files), though those are important, and this semester of WritingWithMachines has shown me how delicate and intricate such considerations are within online classes, and I now have a lot of strategies to create an ideal class based on how to present information to students, how to curate points of access, how to be productively redundant, etc.
But, I suppose, my dream course would minimize those considerations and create exploration and collaboration for students through various venues, having a more “hangout” or “salon” type atmosphere where students can seek, digest, and debate the information they want. (One of my ideals, relating to this salon style, for f2f classes has been to replace the really obnoxious traditional student desk with couches and coffee tables.) I want a classroom full of play, and a form of play that challenges and reconstructs the classroom – not necessarily a gamified class (which I appreciate, but have always been slightly skeptical about). As my course philosophy quoted above states, I want a space where I am not just transmitting information to students, or even where they are finding information, but a space that facilitates the production of hopes, desires, and dreams in students: that gets them thinking utopian thoughts rather than, simply, thoughts about deadlines, due dates, and how to jump through hoops to get a degree.
As I already begin peeking at other posts on the blog, I also see some of my desires reflected: students co-creating courses (which I do in minimal forms now, but that I’d love to expand), increased student interaction and conversation (this is why I like group work so much, because then I can chat with students outside of the confines of the lecture-style system), and equity (where intersectionality is valued, and where students can begin to look beyond the desire to value themselves merely as economic objects–which is unfortunately what they have so much been asked to do). So, though I haven’t given many concretes here, I thank this process for allowing me to think utopian thoughts for a while and to imagine what a class, digital or physical, that is not so heavily beholden to the depressing minutiae that can sometimes drag done everyone, students and instructors alike.
And with that said…
(No, but seriously, thanks for the great conversations and ideas throughout this semester!)
Links to past posts: