I found yesterday’s class discussion extremely productive. Particularly striking was the question posed regarding learning outcomes—I.e., if one is teaching writing, what should one expect his/her students to actually gain/know by the end of the term?
As Mark Sample notes, the undergraduate essay is somewhat superfluous. Therefore, I find that augmenting critical thinking abilities, broadly speaking, is the most effective learning outcome, particularly for undergrads whose paths are often uncertain. However, this raises a somewhat abstract question as to how we think, which may be where DH pedagogy comes into play. For instance, there may have once been a moment in history when the most effective means for producing critical thinking involved reading and writing, but perhaps that is no longer the case. In my extremely limited teaching experience I have found that writing skills seem to be decreasing and technological skills are exponentially increasing, and this is not an attribute of shifting pedagogical strategies but of mass culture in general and perhaps even radically different psychological modalities. Digital pedagogy seems to support this shift, whereas traditional pedagogy may be working against it.
Katherine Hayles’ most recent book How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis highlights the distinction between hyper-reading and close-reading, and she calls for an amalgamation of the two. In other words, we should embrace the way we think and process information as a digital culture, but the ability to close-read is still valuable. This, I find, is the best approach to pedagogy in the digital age.
Admittedly, I am simply outlining my thoughts following yesterday’s discussion, and this is probably not an adequate account of what I feel is an important discussion in DH and certainly beyond. Do people, particularly those with more teaching experience, have any thoughts?