Over the course of this semester, we've talked about pushing boundaries in teaching - boundaries of categories, boundaries of spaces, and personal boundaries (to the point of discomfort). In the course of this exploration, we've interrogated some new(er) forms of mediated communication that are both popular in the public sphere, yet uncommon presences in the academy, and debated their potential as contributors to the classroom.
Teaching is political, and it is processual. We can't divorce content from action, or knowledge from experience, or scholarship from pedagogy. This message emerged in our readings, again in our lesson plans, and once more through our own course blog. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are alike in their uniqueness when compared conventional scholarship because they allow interchange. As sources of information they have certain limited advantages, but as sources of communication - of broadcasting out, and of engaging in two-way exchanges - they are unparalleled by anything in mass media. What new media allow is a novel way for pedagogy to intermingle with praxis. Formats like YouTube allow authors to speak out loud, but also allow the students to speak back, to ask questions, and to disseminate their own content, and gather feedback back.
Teaching is processual, yet much of the "mess" - the questions, debates, and struggles - don't get exposed in a typical classroom. I think that's where this blog becomes useful. As a content repository, it is a lively place: we have a catalogue of teaching examples, lesson plans, links to resources, citations, and scads of productive debate. But there are libraries (and internets) of content available to seekers. What this blog does differently is bear witness to a process. Through the blog, our class asked open-ended questions and engaged in debates that usually happen - and stay - in the seminar room. The blog allowed us to convert our content into engagement, into experience. I imagine our blog will be useful for its lesson plans and individual posts, but I hope it doesn't get overlooked as an archive of the more-active, complicated, contradictory and messy process that shaped it over the semester. Process is an important resource for new students, who are through this site allowed a window to learn how to engage with a feminist classroom.
As for teaching with social media, to some degree I've never taught without it. From my first semester teaching speech, I've pulled from the internet to find examples from cinema, network news, and other college classrooms to show students how to speak to others. Electronic media is a natural fit for this - few digitally-mediated moving images are completely without value for my classroom. I have my students bring in video examples of class concepts; this semester for the first time, students have actually constructed their own examples for this project, and uploaded them to their own YouTube accounts to share. The films we produce in class I KNOW are being downloaded and posted to YouTube after the end of the semester, by students anxious to share their work with friends.
What I haven't done, and what I may start doing, is engaging the discourse surrounding video examples in the classroom. My classroom, which tends toward the technical, is inflected with but not identified by critical engagement with our own process and texts. I see this as a problem but to this point haven't felt experienced or prepared enough to change that - to find a way to teach critical engagement alongside the fundamentals, which are already difficult to cover in a compressed amount of time.
I am envisioning a new paradigm for the course this spring. For my classroom to be a feminist space, I want the WHY question to rise to equal importance as the HOW. The studio space may remain rule-bound in many ways, but the classroom is a space that can be disrupted, where I can step aside to allow room for student-centered critical engagement. We should explore alternate evaluation standards to allow for a more prominent role for peer review. Certainly the mess of our productions becomes part of public record, but the mess of group exchange, much less public discourse about the mediated image and the ideologies communicated, seldom gets airtime. This is where I imagine a greater role for social media - for allowing students to question hegemony and dismantle the authority disseminated by the images around them.