A 5-day workshop with practitioners and scholars from around the country, discussing issues like critical digital literacy, the relationships between education and AI, and privacy in the digital age. Suffice it to say – saying yes to the opportunity to participate in Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL 2018) didn’t take long!  I have had the opportunity previously to collaborate with DLINQ in various ways in the past (including co-creating Intercultural Digital Storytelling Project with Bob Cole and co-teaching a Middlebury College-MIIS course “Intercultural Rhetoric Inquiry Space” with Amy Collier as well as Dana Yeaton.) I was so lucky to have the chance to explore these various issues as part of the Middlebury contingent at DPL this summer, and one of two faculty members who participated. I was so inspired throughout the 5 days, as the topics coalesced with my professional interests in innovative pedagogies, interculturality, and language and social justice.

Three workshops/topics stand out from my experience: experiential education, cultural humility, and digital literacies, each of which I describe below.

Experiential Education

The Technology Playgrounds – Digital Pedagogy & Experiential Education workshop facilitated by Heather Pleasants was inspired by A New Culture of Learning, which focuses on knowing, making, and playing. I was attracted to the topic of the workshop because of my teaching and interests in service-learning and experiential education at both MIIS and CSU Monterey Bay. We first introduced ourselves with our name, discipline(s), a hobby, and a class we teach. We then worked in small groups to design a class and class description on critical digital pedagogy integrating our disciplines and hobbies and digital tools we picked from a cup, with inspirational prompts including “Dream big”, “It’s OK not to know”, and “Let your imagination rule”.

Our group came up with a class called “Reaching for the Prize: Dance & Democracy”, with learning outcomes including Civic Fitness: Learning How to Participate in Democratic Life and Civic Choreography: Organizing for Meaningful Political Participation, using flash mobs at polling places and augmented reality to empower communities to use ballots and vote. The collaborative structure, content, and modeling in this workshop were such a stimulating way to think about curriculum design and co-creation within educational spaces.

Cultural Humility

In the Cultural Humility for Educators workshop facilitated by DPL Fellow Nicky Andrews, we were presented with a range of relevant material for our teaching and collaborations, on topics including culture, bias, social norms, cultural competency, cultural humility, privilege, and identity. It was wonderful to see how seamlessly she presented the information, and it was great to see how much of the material could connect with the collaborative work on interculturality that we are engaged in at MIIS. She encouraged us to think about the assumptions we make about digital spaces and the assumptions our students may make about us, as well as ways to create inclusive learning spaces that center user needs, demonstrate consistent allyship, and minimize harm (for example, integrating resources for our students into institutional websites, noting our preferred pronouns, and including statements of antiracism into course syllabi).

An especially useful tool encourages open dialogue through Interrupting, Questioning, Educating, and Echoing: calling in vs. calling out, asking “What do you mean by that?”, “Do you know the history of that (word, place, etc.)?”, and thanking the person for speaking up. The very full room of DPL participants was inspired by the material and discussion, and I plan to integrate these important approaches into my own teaching and trainings moving forward.

Digital Literacies

In the Digital Literacies 4-day strand facilitated by Jade E. Davis, we had the chance to work with colleagues over time to explore and revisit key topics and issues in digital literacies. She encouraged us to define digital, considering audiences that may have diverse experiences and limitations (e.g., can only write in stone, only have electricity for one hour a day). This first activity pushed us to think about what we may take for granted in our understandings and explanations of the “digital”. During the session I was especially struck by our discussions of terminology for digital fluency and digital literacy, as many of them connect with my disciplines of applied linguistics and linguistic anthropology. Here is a list of some of these terms, which we explored, picked apart, and played with as a group during the multiple days we were together:

  • digital dialects
  • digital code-switching
  • digital accents
  • digital dispositions
  • digital emergence
  • digital oracy
  • multimodality
  • hybridity
  • digicy
  • emergent bilinguals

I was interested in some of the issues these terms raised, including acquisition vs. learning, receptive vs. productive knowledge, structure vs. agency, additive (vs. deficit or subtractive) models, and affordances. Each of these ways of conceptualizing digital literacies provides a different vantage point on what we and our students may learn and teach in educational spaces. Jade encouraged us to explore in some detail the Twitter Terms of Service (ToS), to highlight the centrality of critical literacy as part of digital literacies. I can imagine having students in my courses do a similar activity, for example considering the genre, producers, consumers, and ethics of the document.

On one of the days we combined with another group (Access, Privacy, and Practice facilitated by Bill Fitzgerald and Chris Gilliard), discussing issues like the differences between privacy and security; the roles of consent, safety, agency, and control in digital spaces; how information about us on the web can be provided, extracted, or inferred; and how our LMS’s can be spaces of innovation. Gilliard discussed his important research on digital redlining, which highlights “the growing sense that digital justice isn’t only about who has access but also about what kind of access they have, how it’s regulated, and how good it is”. We also talked about how search results may differ depending on a range of factors.

Through these discussions, I considered how I can incorporate more critical literacy into activities in my Sociolinguistics and Research Methods courses, highlighting for students how they can more critically engage with the research they undertake. Or having students analyze users’ regional varieties based on their discourse on the web. Or examining intercultural communication in digital spaces. Based on these discussions, I also imagined having students follow and contribute to twitter feeds at national conferences like the American Anthropological Association, which could empower them to become part of professional communities of practice through digital means.


The entire DPL 2018 experience was so inspiring. I am continuing to think about all the great things I learned, how to incorporate these approaches into my teaching, and how to continue the conversations with colleagues at MIIS, the College, and beyond. It was wonderful as well to spend time with 7 other colleagues from both campuses.

I’ll end here with a reflection from the Digital Literacies strand on our last day, which sums up some of the issues I’m continuing to think about now:

The first thing I would think about is whom I’m talking about digital literacy with. Myself? Staff colleagues? Another faculty member? Students? My partner? A family member? I might first ask them what types of things they think about when engaging in digital spaces. Do they want to connect with others? Agree with others? Be persuaded? Be entertained? Learn something?

I then begin to think about issues of humility and expertise. Who am I to guide students in promoting digital dispositions? Who are they as experts in digital spaces? The balance of expert/novice takes on new meanings in these cases. Is the fostering of a digital disposition something that can emerge over time? I appreciated the “layers” that were discussed this week, and would highlight these depending on the context. Ethics. Criticality. Engagement. Knowledge. Learning. Tools. Inquiry. Purpose. Goals. Multimodality.

But something I am left considering is what is/are the starting place(s) among these layers, and how do we decide?

Thank you so much DLINQ for this meaningful opportunity!


Featured Image by 童 彤 on Unsplash