Understanding Critical Digital Pedagogy

This is a guest post, from Prof Leigh A Hall of the University of Wyoming, on Critical Digital Pedagogy.

Leigh A Hall (Uni of Wyoming)
Leigh A Hall (Literacy Professor, Uni of Wyoming)

Critical Digital Pedagogy (CDP) is a philosophical approach to teaching that applies concepts of critical pedagogy within a digital context. Under a critical pedagogical approach, we want to create experiences that allow students opportunities to question and challenge dominant beliefs and practices. Teachers push students to consider how the dominant practices/beliefs that are in place, and often highly valued, support some and oppress others. CDP is thus an extension of these ideas within digital spaces.

In addition to the ideas and practices that critical pedagogy supports, I understand CDP to have six main elements:

  • focused on community and collaboration
  • open to diverse, international voices
  • reimagines how communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries
  • cannot be defined by a single voice
  • must gather together a cacophony of voices
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

It’s important to note that CDP is not a matter of identifying and using digital tools in your instruction, nor does it automatically happen because you are teaching in an online space. You might use Twitter or blogs with your students. However, using those tools does not mean you are applying CDP – it simply means you are using digital tools. Engaging in a CDP approach requires you to use digital tools and spaces in ways that align with a critical pedagogical approach. Additionally, no single instructional practice will likely incorporate all six of the above elements. These elements are something to be mindful of, and you can evaluate instructional experiences in light of them.

Bear in mind that a CDP approach requires everyone to do things differently. Teachers and students will have to break out of habits of mind around teaching and learning. What school looks like under a CDP approach will likely be very different from what most people are used to (lecturing, quizzes, answering comprehension questions, etc…). As a result, students may experience some discomfort with what they are asked to do. In my experience, it’s best to acknowledge this up front as something that is normal and tends to pass with time.

Teaching under a CDP approach then becomes about being OK with letting go. This means accepting the uncomfortableness and messiness and expectations of what school is supposed to look like. Once we’ve let go of what school is “supposed” to be, then we can dive into a CDP approach and engage our students in work that can have significant meaning and purpose both to their lives and the lives of others.

How do you use digital tools to support forms of critical pedagogies? Which technologies are effective for facilitating any of the elements described above?

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