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Friday, June 9 • 11:35am - 11:55am
Grappling with Discord: Digital Literacy and Networked Learning with Class Servers

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Founded in 2015, Discord has since become a widely adopted and recognizable group chat application among similar age groups (18-24) as those predominantly enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities (National Center for Education Statistics 2022). Between its broad familiarity among young people and its dynamic affordances as an educational technology, Discord can provide educators with rich opportunities to customize and iterate over their own interactive learning environments. Yet, not without its fair share of growing pains, Discord also bears a checkered history with moderating hate speech and harassment (Browning 2021). Accordingly, I treat this talk as a chance to grapple with the pedagogical possibilities and political contexts at stake in the use of Discord in higher education, charting some of the ways it can be transparently used for community building and networked learning in writing-intensive courses (Networked Learning Editorial Collective 2021).

Through this process, I draw on my online instructional guide to Discord, called Discord Educational Toolkit, to map out the pedagogical models and technical steps involved in the ethical use of “class servers” for teaching and learning. Here, I flesh out the connectivist principles on which my educational toolkit is based, then survey how to build class servers into networked learning spaces, which I offer as a student-centered alternative to institutionally endorsed learning management systems (Siemens 2005). I address these guidelines for the design of class servers across online and in-person modalities, describing in effect how to onboard students and prepare them for reflexive inquiry, critical dialogue, and group collaboration in Discord (Qualley 1997). In portraying class servers as sites of interstitial learning, I also consider how students can co-create their own “digital third spaces” amid the ever-evolving backchannels of formal class discussion (Moran 2018). From this commentary, I ultimately converge on series of methods for using Discord to scaffold students through digital literacy practices integral to their civic engagement with online communities of practice (Wenger 2007).

Works Cited
Browning, Kellen. “How Discord, Born From an Obscure Game, Became a Social Hub for Young People.” The New York Times, 2021.
Moran, Clarice M. "Learners without borders: Connected learning in a digital third space." Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 2018.
National Center for Education Statistics. “College Enrollment Rates.” Condition of Education, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2022.
Networked Learning Editorial Collective. "Networked Learning in 2021: A Community Definition." Postdigital Science and Education, 2021.
Qualley, Donna. Turns of Thought: Teaching Composition as Reflexive Inquiry. Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1997.
Siemens, G. “Connectivism A learning theory for the digital age.” International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2005.
Wenger, Etienne. “Communities of practice: A brief introduction.” http://www.ewenger.com/theory/, 2007.


Zach Muhlbauer

Graduate Teaching Fellow, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Friday June 9, 2023 11:35am - 11:55am EDT
Main 210