Spring Forward: An external review of AC Digital Pedagogy

Hi everyone and welcome to the spring 2017 semester. It is a season of new beginnings within a heightened climate of dissonance and resistance in our cultural and political climate. As we go forward, we want to bring you up to date on our thinking and planning for the semester and beyond.

For starters, Brett and Mo would like to invite conversation on this external review of the “Collaborative Pedagogies for a Digital Age” grant recently conducted by Dr. Rebecca Frost Davis, Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology at St. Edward’s University. The report lays out findings, concerns, and recommendations for the future sustainability and progress of the digital liberal arts, learning, and pedagogy at Austin College. We look forward to multiple opportunities for dialogue, beginning this Friday afternoon when Brett and Mo, along with Randi Tanglen, Charles Curtis, and Barbara Cornelius, will facilitate a discussion of the report with all interested faculty. We’ll gather in the Johnson Center space (Abell 102) from 1:30–2:45.

The Mellon Foundation grant, “Collaborative Pedagogies for a Digital Age,” which launched the Austin College Digital Pedagogy initiative, reaches the end of its formal funding period at the end of this semester. As part of the evaluation and assessment of the initiative, we invited Dr. Frost Davis to conduct an external review of our activities and programs. Rebecca was on campus late last fall to observe classes, meet with faculty, students, and administrators, and gather information. As I indicated, her report will serve as a basis for us to strategically plan for the future of digital learning and pedagogy at Austin College, especially given the decision to discontinue the staff position of the Digital Pedagogy Designer.

Here are a few highlights from Rebecca’s report:


  • AC has successfully built capacity for digital pedagogy and has created faculty community around digital teaching practices
  • Digital teaching practices have had multiple positive effects, including projects that focus on students and active learners and producers of knowledge, from first-year students using Scalar to engineering students prototyping designs through 3D printing
  • Many projects focus on digital communication, presentation, and publication, which supports the Austin College strategic plan pillar, “Liberal Arts in a Digital Era”
  • Opportunities for advancing the work of the grant include the curriculum revision, collaboration with the Johnson Center, the e-portfolio pilot, the focus on undergraduate research, the writing across the curriculum initiative, and the emerging use of new practices such as 3D printing


  • Sustainability of the program is a key concern, especially with the loss of the instructional designer position, but more broadly, can this work continue without key faculty, staff, or administrators?
  • There is not a common understanding of digital pedagogy on campus. Some faculty members perceive digital pedagogy as transformative for their practice, while others view technology as a support tool
  •  Sustainability of grant activities depends on finding a path forward rather than just maintenance of current practices.  The capacity for digital teaching built among faculty needs to find its purpose
  • There is a need for intentionally scaffolding student technology skills within the curriculum (building student capacity).  Currently, the student experience of digital learning depends on individual faculty initiative


  • Focus on digital learning for students. This initiative has focused on faculty; now focus on students through active student learning; students as digital creators rather than digital consumers, students partnering with technology to solve problems.  This approach might tap into the professional preparation culture at Austin College
  • Consider intentionally scaffolding digital learning into the curriculum. The upcoming general education revision (with a very ambitious timeline) offers an opportunity to scaffold student technology skills within the curriculum, which builds student capacity to match faculty capacity.  Integration with general education would ensure that all students benefit rather than just those who take classes from faculty practicing digital pedagogy.  A campus-wide conversation about these ideas may build faculty ownership of digital pedagogy.
  • Develop a common definition for digital pedagogy that is shared across campus based on work done for this initiative as a basis for work going forward.  This definition might be a project for faculty participants. Productive definitions shared by faculty focused on thinking with technology, students as producers of knowledge, networked learning, and crossing the boundaries of the traditional classroom and course
  • Link capacity that has been built to other campus initiatives (e-portfolio, writing, AC Create, etc.); partner rather than compete. Develop an advisory group on digital pedagogy practices with representation across campus. Consider what structures could be created on campus to build on the collective experience and lessons learned of the grant.

There is much more, but perhaps these observations will give you a sense of where we can begin with our discussions. Again, invite you to join us for conversation this Friday, and we welcome your comments and observations here on the blog, at the AC DigPed Facebook page, or however you want to share your ideas.

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