Full Title of the Essay: “Tinker-Centric Pedagogy in Literature and Language Classrooms”
Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies (Computers and Composition Digital Press) joins the ongoing conversation about collaborative work in the humanities. Instead of focusing exclusively on the digital humanities or emphasizing only the large-scale computational analysis or archival projects typical of that field of study, the collection focuses on a variety of projects led by or involving English studies professionals in particular. In doing so, the collection demonstrates growing interest in and diverse application of collaborative methods within the field and provides examples of the exigencies that have prompted a move away from the stereotypical lone-scholar model of scholarly work toward collaborative endeavors.
The first aim of the collection is to present readers with compelling examples of how English studies professionals are employing collaborative approaches to the digital, thereby providing an up-to-date perspective on the nature of the work colleagues are doing as they come together around technology-related research and teaching questions. The second aim is to provide readers with concepts and models they can use in their own work as educators, researchers, and administrators. — Laura McGrath, ed.
“Tinker-Centric Teaching in Literature and Language Classrooms” explores how tinkering (a hands-on practice rarely affiliated with the study of texts or language) can be mobilized in the field of English studies. Throughout the argument, I note how tinkering not only enables critical engagements with technologies but also affords an opportunity for students and instructors to step away from the screen and collaborate around and through physical objects. The works of Anne Balsamo, Susan Leigh Star, and Annette Vee serve as foundations and precedents for the chapter.
This essay is my first critique of screen-based learning in higher education, not to mention my first publication on boundary object theory in a pedagogical context. At Computers and Writing 2010 (screen shot left), I had the opportunity to present a version of the chapter, and—in the classroom—I am currently working with students toward learning about Web 2.0 practices through “low-tech” approaches, which do not always require computers or the Internet. From these experiences, I am developing a vocabulary and set of modules for framing technical practices in computing through situations more familiar to humanities students, who may or may not have access to (let alone knowledge about) new technologies.
(Courtesy of Garnet Hertz and Tara McPherson, respectively, the first and second images on the left are of me in Hertz’s circuit-bending workshop at NEH Vectors. The third image is a screen shot of the website for Computers and Writing 2010 held at Purdue University. The final image is courtesy of Computers and Composition Digital Press.)