As a teacher-researcher of digital writing, I work with learners across a variety of levels—from undergraduates and MA/PhD students, to elementary schoolers and senior citizens—to prepare them not just for success in their professions, but for success navigating writing technologies across their lives. That’s why I sometimes take my Introduction to Professional Writing course to a moving elevator to practice their elevator pitches. It’s one thing to describe communication genres and contexts to students, but it’s another experience entirely to engage with them in a fast-paced, high-stakes professional scenario. This pedagogy is grounded in digital feminist values: distributing agency across the classroom, revising my teaching practice according to students’ needs, and sharing expertise across and beyond the university.
I encourage students to think of the classroom as a digital studio, where they seek answers to their own questions. I adopt a collaborative philosophy that distributes agency and authority more equitably across the classroom, recognizing the expertise that both students and instructor bring to bear. Across all courses that I teach, conversations about access to information and the implications of how we (re)present and share that information are key. Students learn how to use both industry-standard (Photoshop, InDesign) and free online design tools (Piktochart, Canva, Gravit) to develop reports, pamphlets, websites, flyers, and infographics, so that they are prepared to create compelling, professionally designed documents no matter what tools they have access to. Because visual communication is increasingly important online, I build students’ design toolkit by requiring a multimedia assignment when I teach first-year writing; for their final project, students educate a new audience by redesigning their research papers as an advocacy infographic.
Just as I ask my students to revise their work continually, I also revise my teaching style according to their feedback on assignments and exercises. Because we create, learn, and problem-solve together, I must also engage empathetically with learners and recognize their humanity. When conferencing with students, I ask them how they are doing at the beginning of our meeting, and I also ask how they feel about their assignment after we have worked on it. I actively listen to their concerns, sharing in their joys and their tribulations, to show respect and solidarity—because learning does not happen in isolation. This system demonstrates my feminist pedagogy that values the humanity of students above all else, recognizing that learning, whether inside or outside of the classroom, should not occur without respect and reciprocity.
I enjoy taking what I’ve learned in technical communication classrooms to other contexts, like showing 7th graders how to write flash fiction through playing a card game, creating documentation for elders in retirement communities to help them differentiate between sponsored content and legitimate information online, and working with groups of undergraduates to help them develop professional portfolio websites. Facilitating workshops across university campuses and their greater communities has taught me the importance of engaging learners with both empathy and enthusiasm. Cultivating excitement around a topic makes tasks easier for learners. I model such passion in workshops by sharing personal experiences—both successes and failures!—to connect with audiences. This philosophy of teaching is embedded in the very words that I use to describe my pedagogical practice: I use the term “facilitate” instead of “deliver” or “lecture” because I believe that participants and I create knowledge together. Feminist pedagogical interventions like these flatten the classroom hierarchy and help learners connect their own skills and interests to the course content, to understand how they can apply their expertise not only within the university, but also beyond it in their professional, personal, civic, and cultural lives.