Digital Knowledge: a Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative

As UMW’s President Paino said in his inaugural address, digital fluency is the ability “to consume and produce digital knowledge critically, ethically, and responsibly, as well as creatively adapt to emerging technology.” He talked further about the importance of “reconstituting the liberal arts for the digital age.”

We often see the digital as ephemeral, as virtual, as not real, but it has had an increasingly direct impact on our lives, politics, culture, and education. Putting the word “digital” in front of “knowledge” or in front of “liberal arts” begs a whole host of questions: What work does “digital” do as an adjective? What do we imply or privilege if we use it as a noun (“the digital”)? How do digital technologies change the ways we produce, disseminate and consume knowledge? Does social media indeed have a democratizing effect, as many have suggested? What inequities has it unearthed or enhanced? How are virtual spaces helping to enliven (or disengage us from) physical spaces?

And, importantly, when we say “digital knowledge,” how can we see knowledge as acting also upon the digital? What is the role for educators in helping construct new pathways into, out of, and around the digital? At University of Mary Washington, how does our shared commitment to the liberal arts give us tools for critically evaluating our digital technologies and for asserting agency in digital spaces where that agency might be under threat?

UMW’s Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) is both a platform and also a philosophical approach for exploring these questions — for helping educators and students alike think through their digital identities and their role in the larger community of the Web. DoOO also offers an incubator for experimentation with digital pedagogies and ethical online learning.

A Community of Practice

In Fall 2017, the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies will gather together 6 – 10 UMW faculty and staff members for a series of discussions and practical labs centering around this idea of “Digital Knowledge.” We will meet 7 times throughout the semester for two hours. The first hour will be dedicated to discussing historical, theoretical, and pedagogical foundations for our work together. Some of these will be chosen in advance, but many will be suggested by the group, allowing the trajectory of our conversation to emerge organically based on the expertise and interests of the group. During the second hour, we will work individually and collaboratively to design digital projects for a future course or educational experiences (with support from members of DTLT and the DKC).

A Continuing Cohort

Members of this faculty initiative will be paired with one or more instructional technology specialists in DTLT for continuing support of their project. They will have the opportunity to gather in the Spring to reflect on their work. And we will host a panel in late Spring 2018 as part of our series of Digital Liberal Arts events.  

A sampling of the kinds of readings we’ll discuss during the first several weeks:

Ray Bradbury, “There Will Come Soft Rains”
Audrey Watters, “The Web We Need to Give Students”
David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined (preface and chapter one)
Seymour Papert, Mindstorms (preface and introduction)

UMW Full-time Faculty, Adjuncts, and Staff can click here for additional information and application instructions. (Applications are due by August 11.) But anyone can follow along via the event page, this blog, and the #DoOO hashtag.

Featured Image by Lance Asper on Unsplash