Tag Archives: WAC

Moving on

This week I resigned my position as instructional technologist at Queens College. May 27 will be my last day.

My main reason for leaving is my dissertation, or rather my lack of dissertation. I’ve been done with graduate classes for longer than I care to admit, with nothing between me and the degree but the dissertation (as if it were a small thing!). During my time at Queens College – two years as a CUNY Writing Fellow followed by two years as a full-time instructional technologist – I managed to consistently use the job as an excuse not to work on philosophy to the extent that I should. I plan to continue doing web development for the CUNY Academic Commons and elsewhere while I work on my thesis.



As a number of my dear readers are already aware, the path leading to my decision was paved with self-doubt and second guessing. Obviously, there is the stress of going from having a full-time job (and paycheck) to not having one. More surprising, to me at least, have been the nagging misgivings about my relationship with the world of educational technology.

Like a lot of other people I know in the field, I entered edtech on accident. But over the last four years I have found a place in several different kinds of communities built around the intersection of technology and the classroom: communities at Queens College, across CUNY, and beyond. To the extent that leaving day-to-day instructional technology means distancing myself from those communities, I am very sad to do so.

As for the work itself? Here my feelings are more mixed. Certainly the high points of the job have been quite high indeed: working in close collaboration on meaningful projects with great people. But even during the good times I’ve always had a lurking feeling (which has occasionally crossed my lips in mixed company!) that the position itself was an unnatural one. It’s in a broken system – mediocre software, insufficient resources, unthoughtful pedagogy, a stagnant culture surrounding the relevance of digital technology in the university – that the instructional technologist flourishes. Like a doctor or a plumber or a parent, a big part of my job was to get people not to need me anymore.

That’s not to say that edtech is somehow pointless, anymore than it is to suggest that medicine or plumbing repair or parenting are without value. You might even argue that a field that arises out of such genuine need deserves to exist even more in virtue of that very fact. And so it probably is with edtech. Still, a sort of (mild) existential angst has plagued me since I took the job, a feeling that I’ll be glad to leave to my more intrepid colleagues.

I have enormous respect for people doing the extremely important job of on-the-ground edtech. That I will be respecting from a distance leaves me feeling bittersweet. But mostly I’m excited, to watch, as an outsider, how the field evolves in the upcoming years. In the meantime, I’ll be being productive in new ways!


Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum: Is it desirable? Is it possible?

I’ll be attending THATCamp Columbus next month. A few days ago I blogged my session topic on the THATCamp site. I’ve reproduced it below for posterity’s sake.

I spent a few years as a graduate fellow in a Writing Across the Curriculum program, and in my current full-time position as an instructional technologist I continue to collaborate frequently with WAC. In the time I’ve spent in close contact with the WAC program, I’ve come to find great value in some of the principles that lie at its core:

  1. The ability to write is of central importance to nearly all fields of study
  2. The various kinds of writing that are valuable in different disciplines can only be taught by practitioners of those diciplines
  3. There is a close connection between the way one writes and the way one thinks, such that explicit focus on writing techniques can result in increased academic clarity in general
  4. These considerations demonstrate that the position of writing is too integral to academic study for the teaching of writing to be the responsibility of composition programs and English departments alone

WAC programs are then organized in such a way as to provide tangible support for the teaching of writing, in the form of lesson plans, faculty development, pedagogical resources, and so on. And WAC’s mission is explicitly pan-departmental: one of the central tenets of the WAC philosophy is that students will only really learn to write if writing is meaningfully integrated throughout the entire curriculum.

I want to take seriously the idea that the WAC point of view can and should be applied, more or less wholesale, to the teaching of digital literacy.

There are a lot of problems to be worked out. First, I’d like to explore the extent to which the argument behind WAC can be adapted for digital literacy. Different disciplines require different kinds of engagement with the written word; likewise, we should be prepared to enumerate the different ways that the disciplines will require digital fluency (ranging from software know-how to programming skills to content filtering to multimedia composition to comfort with networks). I’d also like to flesh out the kinds of concrete support systems that would be required to make a digital analog to WAC function, be it faculty development or technology-intensive sections or whatever. And there will be the problem of politics: how do you argue to reluctant faculty and administrators that digital literacy education is as important as writing education? Here too I hope that we can look to WAC for strategies.