Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Digital Immigrant Venture into Teaching Online: An Autoethnographic Account of a Classroom Teacher Transformed

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Digital Immigrant Venture into Teaching Online: An Autoethnographic Account of a Classroom Teacher Transformed

Article excerpt


Through qualitative inquiry, I study others' changing beliefs, perceptions, and their storied lived experiences. I acknowledge my own socio-cultural constructivist theoretical positionality, the lenses through which I perceive and interpret the phenomena I explore and share people's stories and meaning-making. I seek to listen to those who otherwise may not be heard. Being a teacher also informs my understanding of the world. For decades, I invested in the art and science of my pedagogical practice, conceptualizing the teaching-learning relationship situated within the face-to-face, interpersonal context of the classroom.

Changing Contexts in Higher Education

While teaching in higher education, I witnessed important changes. The demographics of students have changed significantly: "More than half of today's students are older...Most work full or part-time...and represent the largest market segment of those who will attend college in the foreseeable future" (Falk & Blaylock, 2010, p. 15). Traditional age college students have also changed significantly. They have grown up in a world where digital technology is ubiquitous. The exponential proliferation of information and mobile devices is changing the way people live, think, learn, and relate to one another. The digital age presents a new culture to navigate. The change in college student demographics and the shifting culture necessarily presents an impetus for changing how we meet those students' educational needs. Flexibility remains paramount for student accessibility and persistence in higher education. However, education as a system has struggled with reinventing itself and remains entrenched in traditional approaches to teaching.

The specific context within which I live and work adds another cultural layer to my teaching experience. I am a white middle-class middle-age woman from the northeast region of the United States (US), an outsider transplanted in the US-Mexico borderlands teaching at a predominantly Hispanic Serving Institution (I). The majority of students are adults working full time who have families they support. When I first arrived, I empathized with their need for night classes and welcomed an evening teaching schedule. I found the diversity and crosscultural milieu of classroom teaching at an I dynamic, interesting, and filled with opportunities for me to grow and learn along with my students. My first semester in my faculty role at the I, initially a small teaching university, required on campus classroom teaching. The faculty responsibilities of teaching, research, and service emphasized and valued excellence in teaching as the top priority.

Given the changes in student demographics and the changes in technology, and considering the context where I teach, online education may become the force of creative destruction of traditional classroom-based education. Numbers of students taking online classes has increased, with as many as one third of all students in higher education taking at least one online class (Allen & Seaman, 2014). Like it or not, our digital world is changing the context of our praxis and the culture in academe.

Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain (1998) use the term figured worlds to refer to the social contexts of practice. Practice theory attempts to describe how individuals shape, and are shaped by, the cultural worlds in which they live. (Jensen & Lewis, 2015, p. 137)

As a tenure-track assistant professor, the stakes are high for me to perform within this figured world of academe, "Bordieu's (1988) English translation.. .describes the production of faculty work or practice within the social field of higher education as a high stakes game with winners and losers" (Jensen & Lewis, 2015, p. 136). The expectations of the competitive social field of academe and tenure status attainment within this context framed my academic practice. For my second semester as a new Assistant Professor, I was assigned to teach a graduate course 100% online. …

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