Thoughts on the P3 conference and (in)visiblity

By in (un)conferences on September 20, 2010

So, I participated a week ago in the Peer-to-Peer Pedagogy (p3) workshop and (un)conference at Duke on September 10th.  I’ve been holding off on writing something up.  I needed to let my thoughts marinate and then meditate.  The most important conclusion I came to was that this peer-to-peer stuff seems to be keeping the invisible people invisible.

Here is a transcript from the backchannel (the chat that was going on during the presentations).  I am “Jade”:

Two things were said that made me a little uneasy.  The first was the idea of letting people go in to a peer-to-peer situation without guidance.  Some people are better equipped than others to do certain things.  Different levels of education, access, socialization and culture will impact how well people will be able to handle collaborative learning/teaching/grading.  I don’t like the idea of the professor abdicating their role as facilitator and educator when the need arises.  So, I wrote the following:

Jade: Sometimes the babies don’t learn to walk if you don’t stand them up first, right?Sep 10

I was thinking of the experience of my own two children learning to walk.  They saw other people their size walking.  They were interested and frustrated by their immobility.  They would scream and cry.  So, I stood them up.  We turned it in to a game.  I got so excited when they would stand for prolonged periods.  This moved to holding my hand and taking steps on their weak legs.  As they got stronger, I would sit with their father on the opposite side, maybe a two feet away. We’d say “come here” with a big smile on our faces and our arms out stretched.  The baby would take steps.  And slowly, as their confidence grew, we would sit further apart, until, one day, the baby decided he was ready, and he’d stand up by himself, and walk across the room without needing a hand.  I don’t think students are babies, but, I think we learn new things by observation, and experience.  Often, those experiences need to be facilitated.

So, the other thing that was said was in the backchannel.  Here is the exchange:

Grace Hagood: I think (coming from the standpoint of teaching composition) that students are better able to understand not only issues of audience, but also their own agency as authors when they’re involved in producing digital work that they know is going to be available online.Sep 10

Grace Hagood: They’re very tuned into how they present themselves in a public digital context, often.Sep 10

Amanda Phillips: @grace I will probably make the forum more open next time. But does it feel public to them if no one from the outside is responding?Sep 10

Grace Hagood: @amanda I think it feels public as long as the class has access, but no doubt that’s compounded if outside readers are allowed.Sep 10

Amanda Phillips: I mean if you make a forum public, will students treat it as such if no one from the outside is posting? The Internet is a big place and can feel emptySep 10

Nilspete: Public space for students to work on toy assignment will not draw a real community. That is why you need real problems situated in real communitiesSep 10

Jade: @Nils, I think it is good for practice though so students feel comfortable going out to real communities.Sep 10

Nilspete: @jade. Learners do need to understand and develop these skills. But I’d argue, dare to be bold.Sep 10

The conversation continued a bit, and then I posted the following:

Jade: @nils, I agree it is important to be bold but it goes back to the question of making sure communities that have a history of not being included are integrated.Sep 10

There was no response to that from anyone.  I have this new thing.  Well, it isn’t new.  It is something I determined for me and my research interest and methodological leaning will be important.  It is called a”privilege check”.  The space I am coming from, the status I have etc gives me so many more privileges than people I interact with every day in daily life, the classroom, research etc.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  To me, my research will not be meaningful if I don’t check my privilege and try to ensure that everyone I am interacting with has an equal voice.  If they don’t, I need to try to help level the playing field as much as I am able to.  I feel like, especially in a University setting, people should feel they are safe to explore knowledge and expression of knowledge (or learning I guess).  For some people, that might be just the basics; learning that their ideas and thoughts are as valuable as any other idea or thought.

Not everyone feels safe enough to be bold.  Not everyone IS safe enough to be bold.  To ignore that is unrealistic.  It is something that must be discussed when looking towards a peer-to-peer system in a University context.

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