Critical digital pedagogy: A conversation with Sean Michael Morris

What does critical digital pedagogy look like in practice? There’s no one answer, but conversations on the topic lead to some interesting places.

Earlier this month, the Emerging Practices Reading Circle hosted An Urgency of Teachers co-author Sean Michael Morris for a conversation about critical digital pedagogy, renegotiating classroom power structures, and taking time to unpack and share why we make the choices we do in the classroom.

Check out a few of Sean’s comments that stood out to me below, or view our entire conversation via the recording above. Users without a UW NetID may request access to the recording by emailing me at marisp2@uw.edu. You can also view the full transcript of our Q&A.

On what critical pedagogy is:

Critical digital pedagogy has a breadth of practice that it would go beyond active learning, for example, it would go beyond student centered learning, for example, or flipped learning or any of those sorts of things. It may be parts of those, but it also is much broader than that … It’s more about engaging students in understanding their own agency and understanding how to read their world. That was one of the sort of key pieces that Freire came out with, was this idea of an epistemological relationship to reality. Where they would basically able to look at their circumstances understand the circumstances and decide whether or not to intervene in some way.

On what it looks like in practice:

So, critical pedagogy is about that sort of engagement with what’s happening in the room. And that really depends on the teacher, really depends on the classroom really depends on the subject, depends on the school, depends on lots of other things. So there’s not really a simple way of saying, here’s how you do it … What it looks like is a lot of guesswork. What it looks like is a lot of trial. A lot of experimentation. A lot of play, a lot of allowing things to emerge. A lot of conversation. A lot of dialogue with students as if they were equals with you. Because they are in many ways, while they play different role in the room, they are equals with you in that learning process and so it looks like that. It looks like a mess, is what it looks like. And you just go into it bravely and you make sure your students know that you have them, that they’re safe. That this is going to work. And that you have their best interests in mind. And then you all get to figure out what it looks like.

On transparency in teaching:

[An important practice is] Being absolutely as transparent as you possibly can be about your teaching and why you’re teaching that way, which means you have to understand your teaching … Which often has influences, all the way back when you were a child, the teaching you received, also teaching that’s expected from you, from the university, the kind of degree that you got. The torture of going through a PhD program and doing your dissertation. All of those things play into how you think teaching should happen and then talking to students about that, being really transparent about that and why you make the decisions you make the classroom.

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