Innovating the Classroom: Content in Online Teaching
Innovating the Classroom: Content in Online Teaching avatar

I appreciate Warnock’s focus, in these chapters, on translating student-centered learning (which is, as he says, central to the discipline and relevant to student lives (28)) into the online space using methods we usually already utilize within the composition classroom, such as the Socratic method. I also am excited that he does, though very briefly, acknowledge what we might call emerging methods (such as video games (35))–since otherwise his methods of content development seem very old school and based in traditional understandings of textuality.

(This is reflected to me in his chapter on syllabus development, which, while useful in places, and claiming to be about rethinking the syllabus of an online class, is essentially the type of syllabus already being produced by composition instructors for f2f classes, at least in our department. I was really into, though, the idea of a syllabus as a “working relationship” (46).)

Moving in these more multimodal directions would be my interest in online teaching–not necessarily using a game like Second Life to mediate class connections (which I’m very skeptical about), but finding ways to bridge the synchronous and asynchronous in spaces that already combine those two methods of content delivery. I want to find some way to create a space that would be fun for everyone, including me, and would minimize work while still being a rigorous environment; this follows along the lines of Warnock’s idea that “[b]y using electronic tools intelligently, you can look past the simple and spend your precious teacher preparation time innovating and thinking of big-picture problems that you want to solve in your courses” (37). This is what I am more interested in doing: innovating and getting me and my students to think big picture, instead of being bogged down in minutiae, which is what I am worried about the most in terms of teaching on online class. Delivery methods like email, for instance, seem better suited for and to encourage that minutiae and small things that are often not incredibly important. (We talk about the importance of email in online teaching, but I imagine an electronic space where we can bypass email altogether – and the terribleness of the Canvas “inbox”).

I do have one point of disagreement with Warnock’s ideas in these chapters. He claims that students are not used to being passive in a Web 2.0 environment, which goes against my experience, though it’s funny because in my ENGL 100 I have students read both sides of this debate – on one hand, Henry Jenkins, who sees new media tools and convergence culture as transforming consumers into agents and giving people the tools to be more active in their engagement with content, and on the other hand people like Clay Shirky and Sherry Turkle, who see new media as ruining our minds and relationships be giving us more passive ways of relating to content and to others. I probably, personally, agree more with Jenkins ultimately, but in classroom contexts Web 2.0 does encourage passivity that has to be actively countered with the type of agency Jenkins suggests. In other words, students don’t see agency immediately, so things have to be done deliberately and not with so much of the optimism Warnock seems to have.