The Learning Curve: A Digital Pedagogy Internship in Review

Digital Pedagogy is difficult to define. Among other things, it is an idea, a philosophy, a way of thinking, and how instructors think about instructional tools. There is no manual on “how to” Digital Pedagogy. There are no instructions to follow, and it is only an emerging idea and field, which makes it all the more experimental. This semester, FSU Libraries decided to take on a new Digital Pedagogy initiative. This is where I came in, and like instructors and schools that have adopted Digital Pedagogy initiatives, I quickly learned how difficult these new projects can be to implement.

I started my internship with FSU’s Office of Digital Research Scholarship (DRS) in August. It was also my first semester starting life as an Information Science graduate student. Truthfully, there are few times in life where I have entered into a new position with absolutely zero expectations (because I had genuinely no idea what I was getting myself into), but beginning my internship with DRS’ new Digital Pedagogy initiative was one of those times.

If it is not yet clear, yes, Digital Pedagogy is really broad. While I was familiar with both terms separately, “Digital Pedagogy” was new. So, upon receiving the call that I would be working on this new initiative, I immediately began my Google search. I sifted through articles about using technology to enhance education and the philosophies that espoused beliefs about Digital Pedagogy meaning more than simply using technology in classrooms, but using it to expand critical thinking and provide opportunities for growth and development. It was a broad topic, but I was certain that my role in the internship would be more focused, so I entered FSU’s DRS Commons with confidence and just a few nerves.

On Day 1, I met Micah, one of the creators of this new initiative. Sitting in the DRS commons, he told me that my role would be to create a project dealing with Digital Pedagogy. Like Digital Pedagogy, there were no constraints, no rules, or requirements. Needless to say, this ambiguity was mildly alarming to my Type A personality.

Putting aside my sudden impending anxiety, I turned to Lindsey, the Distance Librarian, who was also pioneering the initiative. Lindsey sent me articles and research on Digital Pedagogy, and eventually, this led me down the Rabbit Hole of Research and I discovered Dr. L. Dee Fink’s 2003 paper “A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning.” This guide is designed to help college-level instructors design their courses so that students leave with more than a grade in the course, but knowledge and passion that extends beyond the semester.

It is no secret that many instructors do not consider pedagogy or educational theory when designing their courses, and this guide was created to help instructors think about these areas. Yet, I wondered, how many instructors have read the guide? How many instructors even knew it existed? Thus, the Canvas Module “Designing Courses for Significant Learning” was born.

The note-taking process became extensive

The idea behind the module was that it would be a resource to instructors and the emerging Center for Advancement of Teaching on campus. For weeks, I drafted the module, picked apart the guide to decide which areas to keep and discard, learned how to create items on the Canvas LMS, and put hours of work into making supplementary materials for the module that did not exist in the original guide. After several weeks, the project felt complete. I included pre-tests to help guide learners to navigate the module and created navigation tools so that the material did not have to be read or completed in a linear fashion, as learning itself is rarely linear. I included graphs, videos, and personal writing assignments for users to work alongside the module. In the end, I was certain this would be a great resource and, perhaps, might help bridge the gap of how to bring Educational Theory to Higher Education instructors, using Digital Pedagogy.

(As reference, here are some visuals of things I created. The first I created using Canva as a short reference for instructors to take “on the fly” or to be used as a short reminder to instructors after they work through the module. The second and third are screenshots of something that I assumed would be very easy but ended up being the most frustrating part of creating the module- figuring out how to edit the navigation- without knowing HTML. Thanks to basic HTML YouTube videos and too much time spent playing with the system (far more time than I care to admit), I managed to somewhat break through the LMS-barrier and non-linear course structure actually became a possibility.)

Significant Learning Infographic-2  sigsig

If you are anticipating an impending but or however, here it is. I created the module with guidance from Micah and Lindsey for the Center for Advancement of Teaching and instructors on campus, but left out the obvious piece of the puzzle: meeting with the director of the Center for Advancement of Teaching. So, when this meeting finally happened in November, it should have been no surprise when she told me, regretfully, that the project was not one that aligned with the current work of the Center. In other words, the weeks of work, hair-pulling, and stress of beginning a new graduate program and internship while continuing my full-time job, suddenly felt ultimately and utterly useless. I told her it was fine. It wasn’t, really.

After some deep reflection and head-to-desk moments of frustration, however, I have come to the conclusion that the overall experience was a positive one. I learned much as a first semester Information Science graduate student taking on a library internship. Primarily, I discovered how self-directed libraries can be. Though I had guidance from Micah and Lindsey, the project was ultimately mine to decide, create, and implement. I also learned how, frankly, it does not matter how much momentum and excitement begin a project, these factors do not mean the project will be successful or go exactly as planned.

Like Digital Pedagogy, creating a project from scratch, for an initiative that has not been established in the library, is difficult. There is no how-to guide for problem solving through issues or getting everyone on board with an idea. It takes time, energy, and flexibility. When one idea falls through, rather than dwell on the failures of the past, there is no option but to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. If I had more time with the library, I would venture to do just that, but as the semester is coming to a close, I am ultimately grateful for the opportunities I had to experience the many facets of what it means to be in an Academic Library.

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