Panic + ped·a·go·gy = pan·i·go·gy.
I first learned of the word pan·i·go·gy, coined by Sean Michael Morris from the University of Colorado, in an NPR story about teaching online courses during the Coronavirus pandemic. But it really hit home on August 24th, the first day of the fall semester, at just the moment that both Zoom and Canvas went offline, setting off panicked technological improvising from faculty and students across the IU system. It didn’t take much for me to adopt the word as I, like pretty much everyone else at IU, desperately called UITS, only to find out that there were 146 callers ahead of me.
I was a reluctant online warrior from the get-go anyway. I feared any number of different things. Some of my concerns were pedestrian: Could I figure out how to screenshare? Where is the Chat function? Other concerns were more consequential: Could Zoom classes be rewarding for students? Would I learn any of my students’ names if I could only see 14 out of 90 students’ heads in small square boxes on my screen at any given time? Could teaching and learning still be transformative?
But after the first day panic, things have calmed down and all of us, professors and students, have developed our own online rhythms and Zoom routines. Teaching and learning is still exciting. I like to see my students’ faces and watch them lean in towards their screens whenever lecture gets especially rousing. Even though the medium is different, it turns out the message is the same. I am still telling my students harrowing stories of eugenic sterilizations, Dr. Bashey continues to demand that her students know how to properly read and understand a scientific paper, Dr. Hardy is still explaining the detailed biological mechanisms of the AIDS virus, and Dr. Wasserman is still hoping against hope that we’re all going to survive the Anthropocene somehow.
At the end of the day, good teaching still feels like good teaching always has and I hope, I trust, that good learning still feels like good learning always has, and knowing that seems especially important to appreciate during this school year.