No, I didn’t just experience Ferris Bueller’s week off (trading an e-bike for the red Ferrari). I was at the 2020 #ASEEVC ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Virtual Conference last week and my, what a neat experience that was. Years ago, I dreamed of the day we would be able to hold academic conferences virtually from home to save on the environmental impact and to enable more people to participate. I never imagined it would take a global pandemic to make that dream a (now grim) reality. As a multi track conference, this was more than a pilot test, and I think the experience was good for a first attempt. I hope we learn how to distill the secret sauce of the in-person conferences into hybrid in-person and remote research conferences based on the lessons learned in the time of COVID-19.
In week 3 of #DigPINS, we mapped critical uncertainties related to online learning. Inspired by recent situations in my teaching and research, I decided to map the uncertainty of student mental health against student digital infrastructure, and it was an eye-opening process. Here’s my map:
The most striking feature is the whitespace. I currently sit in the upper right quadrant. I used to think that most people were there. Now, I realize that many students may be just an accident away from a quadrant jump. A shattered laptop screen, a coffee spill on a keyboard, a lawnmower-cut Comcast internet cable, a loss in the family (especially in the time of COVID), a job loss, et cetera, can happen in an instant and transport students to a much different place than the sunny “nominal” quadrant for a short or long duration stay in a place of hurt.
The #DigPINS facilitators and the Hub for Teaching and Learning at UM-Dearborn have made a point of checking in with us in synchronous Zoom calls so I realize that I too can ask students to answer in a single word, and all at once in the Zoom chat: “How are you feeling” and get a one-word or one-emoji response.
What’s more, some students may not be so fortunate as to have their sojourn into quadrants II, III, or IV be quick trips. In search of solutions, I listed a few ideas in the chart, but I know that lifting a student out of a quadrant takes more than I alone can give. I should educate myself on the realities of students’ headspace and digital access and the resources to refer them to on campus. I should design my teaching to include students in all four quadrants.
Lastly, I want to leave you all with a moving quote from the end of one of our readings: “we can’t just read our way into [digital pedagogy]; there is no essential canon. In fact, expert digital pedagogues learn best by forgetting — through continuous encounters with what is novel, tentative, unmastered, and unresolved” from Jesse Stommel‘s Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 2: (Un)Mapping the Terrain.