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Disrupting the Classroom: MDM Faculty Patrick Pennefather On His New Interactive eBook and SXSW Session

Feb 28, 2014 By Crissy Campbell

Improvisation is a key component to the Master of Digital Media program, teaching self-awareness, time management, teamwork and listening skills to students before they enter the digital media industry.

MDM faculty and improvisation instructor, Patrick Pennefather, believes very strongly in the value of using improv as a teaching technique and, like improv, in constantly revising and improving one’s teaching. Taking his experiences, Patrick is writing an ebook and running a SXSW session, both titled Disrupting the Classroom.

Patrick has been teaching improv and collaboration skills at the Centre for Digital Media for the past +6 years. He’s one of the founding faculty members of the Master of Digital Media program and, outside of the program, he’s also a sound designer, producer, composer and retired clown.

Disrupting the Classroom encourages teachers to break away from the traditional models and styles of teaching and to iterate on their teaching methods. Both the ebook and the SXSW session challenges teachers to be more engaging in the classroom to better engage and teach their students. As Patrick argues in the preface to the book:

Once you get into a pattern of disrupting the way that you teach you will be constantly vigilant for new methods, improved techniques, and revised approaches that you will want to try to engage learners with more. 

Following his own advice, the book itself is an iterative process. Built in HTML 5, Patrick and a team of developers are working on interactive game elements for the ebook, which will evolve and change as the knowledge develops and readers’ feedback gets incorporated.

Here, Patrick discusses the ebook, his upcoming SXSW session and why he chose an iterative process of the book.

Patrick Pennefather's ebook Disrupting the Classroom

What's Disrupting the Classroom about?

The ebook is about consciously disrupting the way that you teach in order to engage learners more and provoke yourself as a teacher to improve the way you think about teaching and learning.

How does the format contribute to the reading or meaning of the book?

The format is one of several planned adventures in self-publishing. This particular interactive format is meant to encourage the reader to take on a more active role in defining their reading adventure. It's a prototype with basic interaction but the plans are to add the feature where readers can also add their stories of disruption to the content. I'm interested in this format as planting the seed for expecting further interactivity, including photos, videos, testimonials, and eventually mini-games.

What do you hope people get out of it?

What I hope people, particularly educators, get from it, is an increased dedication to improving their teaching and the way they think about teaching and learning—that they can be inspired to continue changing and iterating on what they already do well.

In the book, you say "The text is always evolving, influenced by reader and author commentary and will likely change in order to more accurately represent the current state of knowledge" How is this beneficial to readers?

I'm setting the stage for further interaction where reader contribution will also impact the evolution of the ideas. As well, as my knowledge grows and my knowledge of research into teaching and learning, the ideas will be refined, perhaps re-articulated, added to. Readers can expect a constantly changing text. One of the goals of this is to keep attracting people back to the text. There's no reason why I should retain the words that I write in a static unchanging form—at least not for too long.

Who should attend your SXSW session and why.

The main target for the SXSW crowd is teachers. They are really the front line and will benefit most from any of the tools, exercises and experiences that I have gathered and documented. Admins may be inspired to support teachers in their dedication to improving practice and this benefits the program or school as a whole. 

When will your ebook be published?

The publish date for the ebook is this summer. The plan is to add layers of interactivity into the evolution of the text. 

An ebook is too easy in a way, as I could publish it in a month since I have most of the materials written. The magic of the interactive format is that my developing team gets to play within Unity as a game engine and figure out how we can integrate more interaction within the themes of the text itself. This will also allow the text to improve and evolve.


Read an excerpt of Disrupting the Classroom. 

Patrick is presenting Disrupting the 'Classroom': Re-Engaging LearnersMarch 5th at SXSWedu. For more details, visit the events page.