Review by Danielle N. Gilman
In her Foreword to Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, Politics (Hybrid Pedagogy Inc., 2021), Robin DeRosa describes the edited collection as a “tool” that has been created “at the intersection of where humanities meets humanity” (ix, vi). DeRosa, who serves as the Director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University, rightly emphasizes that Hybrid Teaching is “less an assessment of how things are or should be, and [is] more of an invitation to the messy, ongoing, collective question of how education can/does/should shape who we are and who we will be” (ix). This description is an apposite account of the wide-ranging text—or, really, as DeRosa rightly claims, educational tool—that editor Chris Friend has curated for readers from essays published on the Hybrid Pedagogy website. Hybrid Teaching is a book interested in conversations, in exchanges of knowledge, and in reorientations. Friend challenges readers in his Introduction, for example, to see hybrid education, e-learning, and distance education not simply as “the combination of students and technology,” but as “opportunities to build community and care for one another” (xi). In the collection’s three main sections—Pedagogy, People, Politics—and twenty-seven distinct chapters, there are myriad opportunities to share and learn from the “diverse and democratic approaches to teaching, learning, and research” present in both the individual chapters and overarching narratives (xii).
One such opportunity exists in Sean Michael Morris’s provocatively titled essay, “Technology is not Pedagogy,” from Part One. Morris describes the tension between two competing narratives related to digital learning and digital pedagogy: one narrative continually enchanting universities and administrators who have, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (and very likely before), clung to the idea of digital learning like a lifeline, believing that this is “the practice upon which education must wager its future” (2). Alternatively, scholars like Morris, who have worked in and on digital learning for decades, embrace the narratives in which digital pedagogy is more about “the relationships between teachers and students” than it is about “delivery of instruction” (3). Community building in an online interface is quite different than simply constructing an online
interface. Morris posits that we must place greater emphasis on human experience when we look to design and redesign educational technology and digital teaching. Ultimately, the implementation of technology is not pedagogy; rather, it is one element of digital learning and hybrid teaching that must be negotiated alongside other efforts to build community, to encourage dialogue, and to empower our students.
Jesse Stommel makes a related point in his essay “Trust, Agency, and Learning.” That is, “Technology has the potential to both oppress and liberate” (62). Stommel’s essay, situated in Part Two of the collection, comments on how technology impacts and influences the educational landscape. We should not be encouraging technology for technology’s sake in our classrooms. Instead, we might think about how technology can support the agency of our learning communities (63). I agree with Stommel when he exhorts us to consider that success in digital environments “has much less to do with fluency in particular tools and much more to do with our ability to think critically about our tools” (63). This essay is just one in a particularly fruitful section of the text. Readers interested in these ideas of trust, technology, and teaching, might turn next to Amy A. Hasinoff’s essay, “Do You Trust Your Students?”
When turning to the third and final section of the collection—the section on politics—I cannot help but think about the prescient point Friend makes in his Introduction: “Addressing complex, dynamic problems requires broad, possibly slow approaches” (xvi). And yet, when such problems reach an “inflection point, breadth and deliberation can seem irresponsible, adding pressure for decisions that sound easy” (xvi). The final essays in this collection have been written, as Jessica Zeller notes in her essay “Pedagogy as Protest: Reimagining the Center,” during a time that does indeed feel like an inflection point. In this fraught moment, how might we look to pedagogy to fight against calls for “content delivery,” for “data-driven” learning, and for classrooms conspicuously free of any humanity amid a multitude of crises? (114-15). Perhaps we can, as Zeller does, embrace the classroom as a space for resistance and as a space where the sort of trust and engagement described in so many of the other pieces in this collection are not only welcomed but fostered. See also in this section Timothy R. Amidon’s “dis(Owning) Tech: Ensuring Value and Agency at the Moment of Interface,” and Audrey Watters’s “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump.”
Friend laments in the Introduction his inability to offer an antidote to the “frustration and hopelessness that spread globally throughout 2020” (xiii). It is true that there is no one answer, no easy solution to the problems we face as educators, as community members, and as people each individually living through this moment in time. However, a collection like Hybrid Teaching emerges as a point of connection—a touchstone for anyone who wishes to join in this conversation and plot out, in Friend’s phrasing, “a path forward that allows education to defy surveillance and authority while empowering students to define their world—and then change it” (xvii).
Danielle N. Gilman is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the Writing and Communication Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Danielle earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia where she also served as the Coordinator of the First-Year Writing Digital Learning Lab. Danielle’s research interests include twentieth- and twenty-first century British and Irish literature, archival studies, and digital learning. Danielle currently serves as Associate Editor of Notes from the Field, an extension of the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Collective, and as Associate Editor of College English.