The rise of stuff like hybrid pedagogy, open source content, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) is changing the relationships between teachers, students, and the technologies they share. Pedagogy is no longer solely the domain of instructors; we must open the dialogue to students. This article starts a new strand on Hybrid Pedagogy in which we begin to disrupt the student / teacher binary by bringing students more fully into the conversation about their own learning.

I’m not sure how to talk to teachers about teaching.

I’m not a pedagogue. I’m not yet a college graduate, for that matter. I am on Twitter (@TeoBishop), and when I saw that Hybrid Pedagogy was hosting a #digped chat with Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold), the author of Net Smart, a book which explores how we might use new media more mindfully, I was enthusiastic to participate. I’m also a student at Marylhurst University, and a regular blogger and social media user, so I figured I would have something to contribute to the conversation.

But, the perspective of a student didn’t seem to belong in a conversation about learning teaching in a digital environment. Teachers were trade-talking with other teachers, comparing methods and philosophies, and it all had a very practical tone to it. Once the pedagogical jargon started appearing alongside the #digped hashtag, with mentions of group Heraclitean pedagogy and self/peer assessment, I backed away from the conversation.

This leads me to wonder: What is the place for a student in a discussion about learning in the digital landscape?

I am not trained in teaching, but I do have experience in building and sustaining community online, and facilitating dialogue using new media and digital technologies. I write on my blog not as an authority, but as another inquisitive voice in the crowd; and as such, my readers don’t expect me to be an expert. Perhaps this is something that makes my experience with them different from a teacher’s experience with students. I’m in a position where I can do my best work, and inspire the most dialogue, by openly not having the answers. Do teachers have that luxury?

I’m also not bound by any standards, outside of what I set for myself, nor do I follow a set curriculum. I have a general theme, but I allow myself the freedom to follow inspiration wherever it takes me, sometimes picking up on the inner currents within the threaded comments and expanding that into an entirely new conversation. My readers don’t come to be taught; they come to be inspired, or challenged, or invited to share their own knowledge on a given subject. My blog isn’t quite a classroom, and the learning that happens there is of a different sort. But there is a level of engagement in the comment threads that I’ve never experienced in any of the more formal online classes I’ve taken.

I invite my readers into dialogue. I let them teach me what they know about the things that we both love. I ask questions at the end of my posts about their personal experiences, relying on their lives as source material. Something very similar is being asked of me now as I undergo my first Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) class at Marylhurst, a program which allows me to demonstrate that the knowledge I obtained outside the academy is worthy of college credit. In both cases, it takes courage to assert that one’s life is a legitimate classroom.

I wouldn’t presume to be an expert at teaching, or blogging, or anything for that matter. Upon closer inspection, one might find that I am, indeed, an expert at something; but the act of presenting as expert does little to engender the cooperation of others. We are each trying to assemble this string of characters in ways that can be understood by strangers we may never meet in-person. We are each of us, text; all of the flesh hidden behind all of the words. And in every reader, there is a writer, simply waiting her turn.

We bring to our social networks, our threaded message boards, and our favorite blogs a wealth of lived experiences, and we hold up those experiences to the light of our screens. We try to see clearly the way that our perspectives are similar to those other bits of text we see, and how they might be completely unique.

Our lives are our source material; our histories, a text worthy of exploring in community.

A teacher and a student, when presented as text on the screen, look exactly the same. They are just text. The internet is the Great Equalizer not only because it provides the world with a seemingly unlimited amount of information, but because it reduces us all to font, to pixels, to bits of sound and noise that only begin to approach our full complexity.

So I ask you, readers; teachers:

How are we the same, and how are we different? Do you feel that students, experts in our own right in the use of digital technologies, should have a place in the discussion about how these technologies could, or should, be incorporated into a learning environment?

Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and follow-up questions in the comments.

Join us for the next #digped chat to continue the discussion of these questions.

[Photo by Éole]