Steampunk pedagogy

I’m watching rather horrified as faculty try desperately to replicate their classroom experience online, and plan to require students to do things they might not be able to manage, even while keeping grading structures in place.

Steampunk is an art form, one that takes the technologies of the Victorian era and combines them with a contemporary sensibility.

I am sending out the following to my students tomorrow (all students, including those who’ve already completed the first half of their fully online class):

This week we restart in earnest. If you have internet and can access everything in Canvas, just follow the instructions and deadlines and let me know using the Canvas “Message Lisa” or Inbox if you have any questions (and it’s ok to have lots of questions!).

If you got this email but cannot do the work because you lack internet access or a device that can do Canvas, please email me at and we’ll figure out something together. No need to drop the class if you don’t want to.

The thing is, just because a student had good computer access before, it doesn’t mean they do now. Some never did. I had students who were already sleeping in their cars and using their phone to do the class. Some of them are now called in for extended shift duty in hospitals and as first responders.

In addition to extending deadlines, eliminating timed tests, and easing grading practices, I am willing to go backward in time. The first correspondence courses were papers and assignments mailed back and forth. The first online classes were the same, but with email. We can copy web page text (well, any text) into an email. We can accept emailed work, emailed photos of handwritten work. Even those of us who have hundreds of students can handle this for the few who need it.

I realize I will lose the students who don’t want to do this, or try but can’t manage. I don’t want to lose those who want to continue, but don’t have all the 21st century tools. While I don’t see a need to go back to mailing things with so many people owning a cell phone, steampunk pedagogy should be our fallback.