Several years ago I wrote this piece for Hybrid Pedagogy that unpacked how scholars could or should be a bit more digitally literate.
One of the threads of this piece focused on making your work more accessible and approachable.
Academics can assist citizens by making their specific area of expertise more accessible and understandable to a wider audience.
A bit later in the piece, I write in a manner solely suited for an academic publication.
We need to frame the rigor, responsibility, and rectitude of academia while identifying opportunities for scholars to speak in a manner that is approachable and accessible.
Lastly, I close out the piece with the most succinct version of my thinking.
We must make intellectual work accessible, and accessible work intellectual.
This statement has been the one that I repeat frequently in talks with students and colleagues. It guides most of my work.
Approachable in this sense means content that is easy to engage, understand, and know. Accessible in this sense means that you can actually read it. Approachable means that you can use it. Accessible means that you can get it.
It is the reason why I blog. It is the reason why I write a weekly newsletter.
I take pieces of my journal articles and book chapters and revise, rewrite, and share them on this blog to make them accessible and approachable for a different audience. I embed videos, images, drawings, and animated GIFs to make the posts a bit more visually and digitally literate.
In research, grant funders ask for specifics about how you’ll disseminate your research to the masses. One project includes the development of a website where we openly blog about the process, product, and lessons learned. In another project, we hosted a podcast to discuss infusing computational thinking in the classroom.
The focus was on redirecting our materials, making them more approachable by stripping away the academic language, and talking like a human. How would I explain my work to my neighbor? I also focus on making my work more accessible by sharing it openly online and disseminating it through social networks. Far too often my work is cloistered in pay-walled journals, textbooks, or email listservs.
How we communicate is changing because of new, digital literacies and practices.
This comes at a time when the Internet becomes an increasingly common source of information. A perfect storm has erupted around the ways in which networked publics consume and critique information online. While these changes are occurring, educators wait in the shadows while algorithms and echo chambers ensure that individuals do not read the same information as to their next-door neighbor.
Academics discuss the challenges of echo chambers in society, yet we’ve created our own filter bubble through our system of journals, textbooks, classrooms, and conferences. This should be a time when there are shifting norms in how researchers are expected to engage with society through new technologies.
I recognize that educators and researchers are usually already very busy, and I do not seek to pressurize them further by increasing their burdens.
I also do not want to encourage the watering down of research, or fragmentation of scholarship across different platforms and silos. Educators and researchers need to be highly strategic in how they engage with different methods of dissemination.
There are many reasons why we educate, research, and teach. All I ask is that we engage in critical dialogue and the possibilities as we strive for approachability and accessibility.
There is the opportunity to engage and connect in novel and engaging ways, and increase the impact of your work on science and society. There is the opportunity to educate, empower, and advocate for all learners, and for each other.