COVID-19 has enrolled many of us in higher education in an unexpected experiment in online learning. While many classroom teachers have been practitioners of hybrid pedagogy for years—in-person meetings facilitated or complemented by digital texts, tools, and activities, learning management systems like Blackboard, and operational platforms like SIS—we find ourselves suddenly adapting by necessity to environments that lack the affordances of face-to-face contact. Trying to read the room via Zoom, or even an individual expression—that is not easy. An impromptu check-in after class isn’t the same as a scheduled video-chat. An extemporaneous exchange to address a burning question doesn’t happen in a pre-recorded lecture. Small group activities. Student presentations. Lab experiments. Hands-on assignments. Community-engaged projects. Robust seminar discussions. Undergraduate research. Many of the teaching and learning techniques we use every day—and many of those designed explicitly to promote more engaged and active learning and more agency for students, such as those outlined by the CUE2 commission—developed in response to the very flexible and efficient conditions of IRL experience.

It’s not possible to import some of these techniques directly into a digital environment. But the transition, for the time being, to remote learning doesn’t mean we have to let go of basic principles of good pedagogy, or of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy—educational methods that combine the insights of critical theory with pedagogical practices derived from liberation philosophy—may not be a term you apply to your teaching. But if your teaching reflects an investment in learning communities, inclusive classrooms, and education as a force for freedom, then you are implementing its fundamental precepts.

Critical digital pedagogy, then, is teaching that enacts these norms and values (adapted from this source) in the digital learning environment:

  • community and collaboration;
  • diverse, international, and multiple voices;
  • communication and cooperation across cultural and political boundaries;
  • attention to power dynamics, especially in relation to existing structures, in order to empower learners;
  • use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

You can use Zoom, Blackboard, e-books, and, yes, even the unhappily named Panopto towards these ends, as you Keep Teaching @ JHU.

If you are looking for guidance about class activities and assignments that take advantage of digital tools in pedagogically responsible ways, here are some resources to investigate.

Karen Cangiolosi, “But You Can’t Do That in a STEM Course!Hybrid Pedagogy, 26 June 2018.

Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. [Preprint.] Modern Languages Association, 2020.

Digital Pedagogy Lab (courses in July 2020, but many readings available now)

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) Teaching & Learning Practices.

TILE (Toolkit for Inclusive Learning) LibGuide

ERIC (Education Resources Information Center)

Search ERIC for articles about digital pedagogy in your discipline. For example:

Joni K. Adkins. “Progression of a Data Visualization Assignment.” Information Systems Education Journal 14.6 (Nov 2016): 20-26.

Anne Bialowas and Sarah Steimel. “Less Is More: Use of Video to Address the Problem of Teacher Immediacy and Presence in Online Courses.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 31.2 (2019): 354-364.

Sarah Warren-Riley and Elise Verzosa Hurley. “Multimodal Pedagogical Approaches to Public Writing: Digital Media Advocacy and Mundane Texts.” Composition Forum 36 (Summer 2017).

More on these topics

Tressie McMillan Cottom. “Rethinking the Context of EdTech.” EDUCAUSE Review, 26 August 2019.

Culture, Politics, & Pedagogy: A Conversation with Henry Giroux. Media Education Foundation, 2014, via Kanopy Streaming.

Neal Dreamson. Critical Understandings of Digital Technology in Education: Meta-Connective Pedagogy. Routledge, 2019.

Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th Anniversary Edition. Bloomsbury, 2014 (1968, 1970).

bell hooks. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Taylor and Francis, 2014 (1994).

Petar Jandric and Damir Boras, eds. Critical Learning in Digital Networks. Springer, 2015.

Douglas J. Loveless and Bryant Griffith. Critical Pedagogy for a Polymodal World. SensePublishers, 2014.

Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel. An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy. Press Books, 2018.

Murat Oztok. The Hidden Curriculum of Online Learning: Understanding Social Justice through Critical Pedagogy. Routledge, 2019.