Digital Pedagogy 2017 Recap

by Julia Polyck-O’Neill

What do Trap music (a regionally-specific subgenre of Southern hip hop that emerged from the Southern United States) and digital pedagogy have in common? Moreover, why is this intersection an important pedagogical consideration within the context of 21st century learning? When ethnographer Joycelyn A. Wilson took the stage as the closing plenary speaker of the 2017 Digital Pedagogy Institute (DPI) at Brock University, her audience was eager to discover how the Virginia Tech researcher and alumni fellow of the Harvard HipHop Archive brings music, social justice, and digital learning together. As it turns out, by combining her passion and knowledge of music (both as a scholar and industry insider) with community engagement and digital humanities in the classroom, Wilson is able to show students and researchers alike how bridging emerging research methods with popular culture and civic engagement allows for under-represented communities to find new relevance in their studies.

Wilson’s was one of three DPI keynote talks which signaled the diversity of scholarly voices and pedagogical themes at the 2017 Institute. The DPI, which ran from August 16th to 17th, brought together twenty-nine unique presentations by scholars and researchers from across Canada and the United States. The conference was hosted this year by Brock University in St Catharines, Ontario.

The event represented the third iteration of the DPI, and was co- organized by Brock University, the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTS) Library, and the University of Guelph. Building on the momentum of previous events in 2015, hosted by UTS and Ryerson University, and 2016, hosted by the University of Guelph, Brock’s iteration continued the focus on the sharing of digital pedagogy best practices. Day 1 of the Institute opened with a plenary talk by Waterloo University History professor Ian Milligan, who spoke about the often-overlooked importance of collaboration – especially with librarians and library support staff. The presentation and lively question period that followed provided beginners and seasoned practitioners of digital pedagogy alike with an important thematic and critical context which continued into the panels that followed. For the first Day 2 keynote, Bonnie Stewart, an educator and social media researcher from the University of Prince Edward Island, provided useful, nuanced arguments in which she considered the importance of networks and the material considerations at play within digital environments in institutions.

Other highlights of the event included hands on workshops which allowed attendees to delve more deeply into digital pedagogy issues, projects, and tools. For example, Brock Faculty of Education instructors Marg Raynor and Jan Walli showed participants how ubiquitous digital tools can be used to address general and specific accessibility issues, including those encountered within the contexts of distance learning programs for underserved learning groups – in their example, Indigenous communities which are located far away from the university campus. Addressing the library’s role in supporting students, Timothy Ireland, Paul Doherty, Laura Bredhal, and Agnes Zientarska-Kayko, all from the University of Waterloo, led a workshop illustrating how practical, real life issues can be explored in digital media spaces within the context of an experiential learning environment. These workshops were rounded out by paper and panel presentations plus a poster session. A catered dinner allowed for prolonged conversations and valuable networking opportunities.

Wilson’s closing talk provided attendees with much inspiration as she reminded the researchers and educators in attendance that digital pedagogy allows for innovation at a number of scales. As with the other keynote speakers, Wilson invited attendees to contemplate the broader implications and applications of pedagogy to the digital age.

Julia Polyck-O’Neill is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Humanities PhD Program at Brock University. She participated in the planning of the Digital Pedagogy Institute 2017.

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