Love Letters and Pen Pals: Creating Online Community through Correspondence
Sean Michael Morris
Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab, University of Colorado Denver,
I am a digital teacher and pedagogue, with experience especially in instructional design, networked learning, digital composition and publishing, collaboration, and editing. I've been working in digital teaching and learning for 16 years. My work in the field of Critical Digital Pedagogy and Critical Instructional Design is founded in the philosophy of Paulo Freire, and finds contemporary analogues in the work of Howard Rheingold, Audrey Watters, Henry Giroux, bell hooks, and Jesse Stommel. I am committed to engaging audiences in critical inspection of digital technologies, and to turning a social justice lens upon education.
I am currently Senior Instructor of Learning, Design, and Technology in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado at Denver. I am also the Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab, an experiential, exploratory professional development gathering for a global digital pedagogy community; and I am the former director and managing editor for Hybrid Pedagogy, a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology. I am the co-author of An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy, and a contributor to Disrupting Digital Humanities, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, MOOCs and their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education, Applied Pedagogies: Strategies for Online Writing Instruction, and Critical Examinations of Distance Education Transformation Across Disciplines.
I have been working in digital learning environments since 1999, first as an instructional designer, and later as an adjunct instructor and English program chair. I've consulted with institutions and corporations including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marylhurst University, the Community College of Denver, Udacity, Instructure, the City University of New York, HASTAC, the University of Delaware, the University of Dayton, the American University in Cairo, Iliff School of Theology, Warwick University, Open University, and the University of Mary Washington, among others. I received my M.A. in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Over the past two decades working with instructors at every level of education, the plainest objection to online learning has been that it is impossible to preserve classroom pedagogy—much less intimacy and community—when separated from students by distance, with only a screen to connect teachers with their classes. While "research-based" methods of teaching online, and the instructional design that unwinds from them, offer a lot of guarantees on the matters of student success, quality assurance, standardization, and replicable results, none go so far as to provide not just a sense of community, but community real and palpable.
In this hybrid workshop, we will explore synchronous and asynchronous approaches to creating meaningful communities in online learning environments. We will take as our example the tradition of letter writing, and we will experiment with a few forms during our time together, and also extrapolate solutions appropriate to each of our own unique circumstances.
Participants in this workshop will be asked to complete a few readings prior to the workshop. Those readings are listed below. While not strictly required, these readings will provide a backdrop and important context in order to fully participate in the synchronous workshop on 1 December.
One week before
Day of workshop
16:30-16:45: Welcome and Introductions
16:45-17:30: Presentation and Discussion: community in online learning
17:30-18:00: Writing exercises
18:00-18:20: Collaboration and invention
- Maha Bali and Bard Meier, “An Affinity for Asynchronous Learning” (https://hybridpedagogy.org/affinity-asynchronous-learning/)
- Sean Michael Morris, “Fostering Care and Community at a Distance” (https://www.seanmichaelmorris.com/fostering-care-and-community-at-a-distance/)
- Sean Michael Morris, “Love Letters and Pen Pals: Community through Correspondence” (https://www.seanmichaelmorris.com/love-letters-and-pen-pals-community-through-correspondence/)
- Sean Michael Morris, “Times which Require Greater Care: Ethos in Online Learning” (https://www.seanmichaelmorris.com/times-which-require-greater-care-ethos-and-practice-in-online-learning/)
- Kris Shaffer, “An Open Letter to My Students” (https://hybridpedagogy.org/open-letter-students/)
- Jesse Stommel, “How to Build an Online Learning Community: 6 Theses” (https://www.jessestommel.com/how-to-build-an-online-learning-community-6-theses/)
Participants in this workshop can expect to engage in collaboration and lively conversation about inventive ways to create meaningful communities in online learning environments. In light of our current situation under the pandemic, the workshop will expose participants to a hybrid learning experience blending both asynchronous and synchronous components. Participants must come prepared to write on a laptop, tablet, or with a pen and paper.
- Learn the basic tenets of critical instructional design, an outgrowth of critical digital pedagogy;
- Discover narrative approaches to teaching and community-building;
- Collaborate on and workshop approaches to creating meaningful communities in online environments;
- Leave the session with 2-3 methods which they can apply to their own teaching or design.
Who Will Benefit Most from Taking Part
Educational technologists, learning and instructional designers, faculty who teach online.
PLEASE NOTE: As seats are limited to encourage interaction, you will need to pre-register for this workshop on the conference registration form.