First Monday article: Insidious Pedagogy

First Monday, the peer-reviewed online journal, has just published my article, “Insidious Pedagogy: How Course Management Systems Impact Teaching“. Although the original draft was written a couple of years ago, and has been recently only revised, and the ideas have been mostly here in my blog (as Eduardo Peirano tweeted, “No new info for readers of your blog, though”), I realized that FM has no way to really discuss the article, only have people email me.

I have heard such great commentary via such emails, but that isn’t shared, although one from David Jones did alert me to his fabulous blog post. And I even got an email from our tech Karen Korstad at MiraCosta, noting how Blackboard can be customized to be “opt-in” if desired. These are important additions to the conversation!

So I thought I’d open this post, just so we can chat here.

9 comments to First Monday article: Insidious Pedagogy

  • Hi Lisa,

    Just yesterday I made a presentation to representatives of a private education provider in Melbourne (Australia) about blended learning approaches and the potential for them to use Moodle as a useful tool. Whilst I do some consultancy for the organisation (they use our ePortfolio hosting) my visit this time was to share my experiences with online learning and pedagogical approaches to the use of an LMS in particular. Even the term LMS engenders images of ‘control’ and I prefer Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), but we can get carried away with words as well at times. I admit I have never been a Blackboard fan, but I accept any environment can be useful.

    To me though the ‘opt in’ point in your article is the key and I thank you for it. Yes it is obvious but I have not thought in those terms before. At my meeting, many questions were asked about ‘control’. Should we make all lectures use the same format? What if students post a comment that is factually wrong? My response was to suggest that we focus on the pedagogical outcomes desired, and design accordingly.

    There needs to be a compromise though as well. You made me shudder a little as I do tend to teach – ‘let’s start with labels, html pages and file uploads’. If left at that I have found that yes it can lead to horror pages. Lists of 20 files per topic/week, without context or explanation. As a starting point though I have found it good, if followed up quickly and used as the basis of examining a pedagogical approach (and of course then making changes and innovations).

    Our bosses tend to love us conducting a development workshop with 20 participants, but I find one on one is far more successful with this approach. This then encourages peer support anyway. I have rambled on a bit, but I am glad to have found your blog.
    Regards, Ian Knox

    • Hi, Ian, and welcome!

      I have also seen classes of lists of files (all neatly within folders) with context that only the teacher can understand. I wonder sometimes whether instructors use all the fancy data pulling features to see whether their students are actually accessing any of it!

      The lectures being the same format gives me the creeps. I can think of many different styles of lectures, both on-site and online. One of the first good online classes I ever saw was conducted entirely in the discussion forum (so like a blog, but before blogs) — the instructor’s “lecture” was essentially contained within the discussion prompt, and all was seamlessly integrated on the board. We didn’t have any other “systems” then; it was only WebBoard, and the rest of us were using static web pages for lectures (mine began then, as HTML files).

      The tutorial system is, in many ways, the best for learning. I know, I can hear all the social networking/connectivist types screaming — but in many ways networks are designed to create mini-tutorials.

  • Hi Lisa,

    Congratulations on the article! I’ve only had time to skim it briefly so far but it’s already got me thinking on the implications. When I can carve out more time next week (when I’m back from leave) there’s a lot I want to explore. If and when I end up posting related ideas on my blog I’ll link to this post and will jump into the discussion in the comments area here as well.

    Great job!



  • Great article Lisa, something I’ve been thinking about for some years now too. I’d distill it down to the level of the technologies under the technologies, if you will, the culture of computer programs embedded in and thus dictating their design and functionality. In the end, the culture of computer program(mers) dictates how we think, since we think through our technologies.

    There’s been research on this–children as computer programmers and designers. Papert, Harel, and others have explored done it. Also Andrew Feenberg wrote some interesting ideas about this, as have other critical theorists looking at technology.

    There’s an amazing lack of what I’d call a criticalist’s view of technology, at a time when there should be a lot. I long for it myself. I was one of the very few voices questioning the pedagogy and ID used by most educators of Second Life®. I ended up studying “learning in the wild” of the platform. The unpublished draft is here

    Edupunks, the open education movement, the unschooling/homeschooling movements all share a healthy skepticism of our educational system which is looking more and more industrialized.

    At the same time, I work with faculty who have no choice other than to use BB. The institution has no other choice but to provide an enterprise-wide system.

    • Hi Suzanne! I too, find the Edupunk view refreshing, since it’s based on making the technology do what you want.

      I understand about institutions providing an enterprise-wide system, but faculty should have a choice of what, if any, parts of these they wish to use. I just heard of a case where a professor is being officially reprimanded for using another system! I think that’s awful.

  • Hi Lisa,
    This is a really interesting article and I’ve blogged about it myself if you are interested.

  • Joshua Kim has a link to your “Great Article on Insidious Pedagogy” in his Oct. 9 blog entry on InsideHigherEd:
    I teach at a for-profit that expects classroom teachers to adapt their instruction to the online course, so I’m cheering your emphasis on pedagogy first.

  • Hello Lisa,

    Great article. Even if you wrote the original about 2 years ago, your message is still up-to-date and important to hear.

    Regarding the comments: The Open Journal System that is used by First Monday allows for comments in general. Maybe worth a suggestion to the editors to open them?

  • Great article. I hope to use it to get folks thinking around here (where the state has done a one-size-fits-all contract with Bb.)
    First, figure out your teaching, then find the tools to do it.