Toward a New Hybrid Pedagogy

Here is the abstract for and a link to the notes from my presentation with Pete Rorabaugh at MLA 2013 in Boston, MA.

Abstract: All learning is necessarily hybrid. In classroom-based pedagogy, it is important to engage the digital selves of our students. And, in online pedagogy, it is equally important to engage their physical selves. We live simultaneously in the realm of physics and data; maybe we forget that the latter is still governed by the former. In the book Hybridity, Marwan M. Kraidy writes, “hybridity has proven a useful concept to describe multipurpose electronic gadgets, designer agricultural seeds, environment-friendly cars with dual combustion and electrical engines, companies that blend American and Japanese management practices, multiracial people, dual citizens, and postcolonial cultures.” For Kraidy, and for us, the term “hybrid” is powerful exactly because it resists easy signification.

The smart phones and iPads we carry, the GPS we depend on, the YouTube clips we share at parties, all shape our understanding of the world. We don’t put the technology away when class is over. This is the realm of the Posthuman, which Sherry Turkle’s discusses in her 2010 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other. Turkle forces us to reconsider the lauds many of us heap on digital culture; however, whether a more general hybridity is healthy for us or not, we cannot argue with its present ubiquity.

At its most basic level, the term “hybrid,” as we’re using it here, refers to learning that happens both in a classroom (or other physical space) and online. In this respect, hybrid does overlap with another concept that is often used synonymously: blended. We would like to make some careful distinctions between these two terms. Blended learning describes a process or practice; hybrid pedagogy is a methodological approach that helps define a series of varied processes and practices. (Blended learning is tactical, whereas hybrid pedagogy is more strategic.) When people talk about “blended learning,” they are usually referring to the place where learning happens, a combination of the classroom and online. The word “hybrid” has deeper resonances, suggesting not just that the place of learning is changed but that a hybrid pedagogy fundamentally rethinks our conception of place. So, hybrid pedagogy does not just describe an easy mixing of on-ground and online learning, but is about bringing the sorts of learning that happen in a physical place and the sorts of learning that happen in a virtual place into a more engaged and dynamic conversation.