Teaching and Learning Philosophy with Technology

My friend and colleague, Rick Lee (@rickleephilos), asked me to speak with his graduate teaching seminar at DePaul University about using technology to teach philosophy.

Rick and I have a long history of conversations extending back to our days as graduate students ourselves in the Philosophy Department of the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research, so I jumped at the opportunity to engage him and his students on an issue that is of central interest to both of us.

In order to provide a bit of structure to that conversation, I have gathered here some resources about teaching philosophy with technology that I have curated and developed over time.

My basic approach is informed by a vision of education as a cooperative endeavor. I wrote about that back in 2010 when I was working on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth and thinking a lot about the work of Frederick Woodbridge.

There I wrote:

Cooperative education, then, must cultivate certain excellences in those faculty and students committed to it. It will need to teach and learn openness, comfort with ambiguity, generosity and equity. It will need to affirm the value of difference, embrace diversity and seek common ground. It will need to be animated by mutual respect for the experience of students and for the wisdom of teachers. It will need to empower students to take ownership of their education and faculty to move from imposition to collaboration.

I stand by that articulation of the nature of cooperative education and mention it here as a kind of orienting principle of teaching philosophy with technology.

As an endeavor, the attempt to integrate technology into the learning process has always been more about the pedagogy than the technology. Still, it would be naïve not to consider what it is possible to do with technology and what technology is doing to us in the process.

I tried to articulate the connection between technology and the practice of philosophy here:

In order to cultivate a culture of cooperation in the classroom, it is important for the faculty member to relinquish some control in order to empower students to take a more active role in the learning endeavor.

This was the strategy in my PHIL200 course in which I had students do all of their writing for the course in public on a co-authored course blog.

The pedagogical value (and risk) of public writing is that it brings the weight of appearing in public to bear on the learning experience.

Here some questions emerge:

  • What are the pedagogical affordances and limitations of having students write in a publicly accessible space?
  • How does making the boundaries of the classroom more porous enrich and impoverish the learning experience?
  • What learning objectives might be served by public writing?

Blogging in my courses is assessed by a robust scoring rubric designed to cultivate ongoing writing throughout the semester.

You are welcome to view, adopt, and adapt the scoring rubric here.

I have developed these ideas more fully in my article on Cultivating Communities of Learning with Digital Media public in Teaching Philosophy:

Aside from blogging, what technologies might be deployed to cultivate a culture of collaboration in the classroom?

  • Zotero can be used to share notes and pdfs associated with secondary sources so students can learn the art of collaborative research.
  • Diigo is a good way to curate and annotate the web with students.
  • Tumblr or Known are good ways for students to share content from around the web related to a specific course.
  • Then, of course, there is Twitter, a great way to engage students throughout the semester by crediting a hashtag for your course and sharing content along the way. You might think about using Storify to create and curate posts from Twitter and across the web.

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