It was impossible for us not to think deeply about our values and overall philosophy...
After writing our own Teaching (With Technology) Philosophy but before remediating it—expressing our ideas and philosophy in a new media, this time an infographic of sorts—we were asked to read for class a review of a similar process by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss titled Teaching With Technology: Remediating the Teaching Philosophy Statement. This review outlines the process of remediating a Teaching With Tech Philosophy and the many questions and challenges that arise.
One set of questions raised by the group, as articulated on page 33 of DeVoss’s piece, was, “How do teaching philosophies change when the classroom itself also changes shape or form? … Do writing teachers need two different—or three or four or more—teaching philosophies, or might just one that includes a discussion of technology suffice in this digital age?”
At first reading these questions, especially on the heels of reading so much Palmeri and Kress, I was a bit confounded. Technology in our classrooms—in any form—was, I had thought, meant to be an extension and enhancement of how and what many of us may be used to teaching already. Hopefully it would go beyond that and push us in new ways, but at its most basic I saw it as taking what we already do and opening some new avenues, some new points of entry and different ways of looking at ideas or tackling challenges or sharing thoughts. However, I had taken from Palmeri and Kress and our most recent reading, Writer/Designer, the idea that learning to “read” and compose multimodal texts (using multiple technologies) was in many ways a new application of reading and writing alphabetical texts. Isn’t this the entire idea behind a remediation? That we are engaging in a similar process—identifying audience, main ideas, tone, etc.—but applying it to a new medium? Isn’t the whole idea of a multimodal classroom that you can get at the same idea (or philosophy) in many different ways that add something new to our understanding while still communicating the same central point?
In other words, why would my philosophy change just because I’m expressing it differently? Why would what I believe about teaching change just because my classroom might or might not have new media or technology in it? Aren’t my basic aims, beliefs, goals, and values—the things that I feel would make up a philosophy—generally going to remain as a foundation?
As I continued reading, I realized that perhaps there are a few things at play here.
Perhaps many of us define ourselves as teachers by the tools we are given and what we do with them. How we teach may be more a defining factor than what we teach. On another level, though, what we teach may mean a few different things. The question, “What do you teach?” is often answered with something along the lines of, “tenth grade humanities,” or “AP Lit to high schoolers.” Rarely do we answer it with the types of things I would hope might show up in our teaching philosophies. “What do you teach?” “I teach creativity, inquiry, critical thinking, analysis, perseverance, team work, respect, and a value on diversity and inclusion.” And yet, these are the types of things I hope would be included not only in any classroom that teacher sets foot in, but in any teaching philosophy they write (or compose) in any medium.
Another possibility is that perhaps the philosophies weren’t changing because the classroom changed shape or form (as in the first question at the start of this post), but perhaps because our means of communicating our philosophies was changing. We’ve discussed the idea that different modes provide different emphases, different entry points, and different ways of communicating and also understanding a central idea. DeVoss acknowledges and explains on page 36, “It was impossible for us not to think deeply about our values and overall philosophy as we moved from one technological tool to the next, and we migrated from one delivery mode to the next.” This, to me, implies that working in new media forced these students to reflect thoroughly on what was at the heart of their philosophy, what could not be sacrificed, what was most essential. By expressing the same idea multiple ways, we get at the true heart of that idea and eliminate whatever extra we might add to make that idea conform to genre expectations and fit into a particular mode of communication.
Composing in a new mode does not change our ideas, it means we adjust how we say what we say. Just as stepping into a new classroom does not change our philosophies, it just means we adjust how we teach what we teach.