Each month, this series will feature an interview with a member of the Digital Pedagogy and Media team. Broadly, our team has expertise in instructional design and pedagogy, multimedia production, and animation and narrative storytelling. We all have interests and expertise that we bring to the team, including the use of digital tools for instructional purposes, negotiating digital identities, studio models for teaching and learning, universal design for learning and inclusive design, digital language pedagogy, digital privacy and self-defense, and more. If you have questions, connections, or would like to partner with a Digital Pedagogy and Media team member on a project, please get in touch!
Introducing…. Amy Slay, Instructional Designer
How did you get here? What types of education and experiences did you need before starting your job?
I’ve come to my current role as an instructional designer via a somewhat indirect path. After completing my BA in Communication and Media Studies in 2011, I moved back to Vienna, Austria (where I’d spent my formative years due to my father’s UN posting in central Europe). I applied to PR/media-related internships at a number of international organizations, and I ended up in an e-learning internship at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). My boss and mentor at the CTBTO was an alum of the MPA program at MIIS, as well as a former graduate assistant in the Digital Learning Commons (DLC). As we worked on the design and rollout of several hybrid courses in support of the organization’s mission, I became increasingly interested in the critical application of digital tools in relation to education and social change. My boss encouraged me to pursue an advanced degree at MIIS after I completed my internship, which led me to enroll in the Institute’s dual MPA and International Education Management (IEM) program. I was drawn to the intersection of the MPA’s broad focus on nonprofit administration and IEM’s concentration on developing international education programs. While I was a student, I worked as a curricular technology graduate assistant in the DLC. I supported faculty, staff, and students using digital tools for professional and academic purposes, developing skills as a peer teacher and facilitator while continuing to pursue my interest in digital learning. When I graduated in 2015, I remained at the Institute in a year long digital learning fellowship, which then transitioned into a full time instructional design role. I’ve been able to take advantage of a wide array of professional development opportunities including an online teaching certificate, co-teaching a course on critical instructional design, and attending various conferences. In my current position, I provide guidance, support, and leadership for digital projects across Middlebury, with a specific focus on designing online and hybrid courses.
What does a typical day/week at work look like for you?
For starters, lots of Zoom meetings. DLINQ is a decentralized office with staff based in Monterey and Vermont; we don’t serve specific campuses but rather the entire Middlebury ecosystem. Pretty much everything I do involves collaboration across distance. More specifically, I meet with faculty who book digital pedagogy consultations with me. I check in with partners on our hybrid course development work. Our online learning design team meets to share project updates, seek/offer guidance on how to move digital learning projects forward, and to engage in professional learning together related to critical and inclusive approaches to design. I provide operational leadership by managing DLINQ’s consultation system and Design Space reservations. I also engage the Middlebury community through research, projects, and programming that develop their digital fluency and critical engagement (more on this in the next question).
Describe a project that you’ve been working on
My colleague Joe Antonioli and I recently launched DLINQ’s Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts (DADDA) initiative. This work arose from our shared interest in digital privacy and personal data security. I’ve been passionate about these topics for some time, and I understand privacy to be an incredibly important social justice and feminist issue. Earlier this year, DLINQ put out our annual Digital Detox newsletter focused on inclusion and bias in digital spaces, in which I wrote that considering privacy from a critical lens opens a door to understanding how systemic injustice and inequality is reproduced and amplified in digital spaces. Building on this work, Joe and I invite the Middlebury community to step through that door by joining us for a facilitated, introductory conversation about personal data privacy and security. It’s not too late to sign-up!
What is one common misconception about your work?
I’ve encountered a lot of misconceptions about 1) what background an instructional designer is supposed to have and 2) what an instructional designer actually is. On both counts, I think the issue stems from the desire to narrowly and discreetly define both learning and how to design learning experiences, foregrounding a single approach or set of best practices as the right/only way.
What about your job gets you excited to come to work every day?
My favorite thing about my highly collaborative job has always been building trusting relationships with colleagues by supporting and learning from each other.
Digital Pedagogy and Media team pedagogical vision statement
We believe that learning communities are built on a foundation that recognizes the humanity of teachers and students, and that learning works best when the diversity of learner backgrounds and experiences are acknowledged, respected, and welcomed; that learners need to be safe, cared for, and confident in order to fully participate in any learning experience. When these needs are met, learners can be invited out of their “comfort zone;” we believe that a playful approach can mediate the space between safety and risk. When learners are supported to build expertise and take ownership over their own learning, we believe that learning is identity-changing. These beliefs guide us toward intentional design of learning spaces that are inclusive, equitable, supportive, authentic, and generative.