Three dogs, looking at the camera, a motley crew
11
Nov
2016

A Different Kind of Call: Not a #digped Discussion

Every month like clockwork (or very near to clockwork), the two of us have helped imagine, organize, announce, and facilitate #digped chats, gathering together over the last nearly five years an international community of educators. That community has grown from a small number of isolated teachers, learners, writers, instructional designers, and technologists into a network; people who once felt alone in their concerns about the intersection of learning, teaching, and technology now have a home. These are the folks with whom we’ve spent so many of our days.

The days this week have been long. In the 55 months since we started #digped, our community has not faced a political (and, really, a critical pedagogical) catastrophe of quite this sort; there are questions about how to face it, how to survive it, and also questions about what actions are the right actions for educators now. We announced the end of regularly scheduled #digped chats last month, but this is not the note we had planned to end on. We had hoped this community would continue to thrive under the first American female president, that the steps forward we’ve taken together in digital learning and teaching would gain momentum. We knew there were more questions to ask, more questions to answer, more reasons to gather, more work to do.

And there still are; but it’s our feeling now that this work and these questions should turn to a different kind of action—distributed action, unified action, pedagogical action. A ground game. The time for academics pontificating about possible futures is done. We are in our future. #digped has never been only about theory, rhetoric, argument, or agreement—the questions we’ve asked have been meant to incite practice. And so, as we draw our regular Twitter chats to a close, we find ourselves asking: where must this practice, this action, begin?

A hashtag alone will not be enough. Writing is action but it is not now action enough. We find ourselves looking back as a way to look forward. Our #digped chats began in May of 2012 with a discussion of Howard Rheingold’s wonderful book Net Smart, where he writes, “Digital literacies can leverage the Web’s architecture of participation, just as the spread of reading skills amplified collective intelligence five centuries ago.” And over the last almost five years, what ground have we tread?

Reading through nearly 75 #digped announcements, not much has changed, outside the urgency of our discussions and practice. As time has passed, the interest in critical digital pedagogy has gone from curious to acute, and the need for real advocacy—for students, adjuncts, people of color, queer and trans people, and more—has clarified. Digital pedagogy is not a conversation about tools, about machines, it is a movement focused on equity and agency. Over the years, we have grown bolder. Our questions have grown bolder.

How do students and teachers begin to talk with each other about pedagogy? (May 21, 2012)

How do educators invite students into discussions about the future of education? (January 30, 2013)

How can the lessons we learned as children inform the way we teach and learn as adults? (June 3, 2013)

Why do we grade? How does it feel to be graded? (December 3, 2013)

Critical pedagogy calls for our teaching to be ethical, to strengthen agency in our students, and to abdicate the authority of the podium in our classrooms. (July 30, 2014)

Our Education resists change, even while our culture has the digital in every corner. (August 4, 2015)

Women are not safe on the Internet. Women of color are not safe on the Internet. Queer and trans women of color are not safe on the Internet. (January 6, 2016)

There are at least half a million graduate students in the United States. Of those who will matriculate, more than 60% will not have a job waiting for them, and less than 1% will find a tenure-track job. (May 11, 2016)

What on earth is critical pedagogy for if not to confront the conditions of our world and seek to change them? In small ways, in large ways, in every-single-day ways. (October 11, 2016)

And the flood of tweets across the hour of our chats has sometimes been deafening. Hundreds and hundreds of voices parading in 140 characters.

There’s not room enough now on Twitter for what must continue to be said and done. When we decided to draw these #digped chats to a close, we knew the conversations would continue on the hashtag without our announcements as a driving force. Everyone in the network is equipped to ask the questions, to collaborate and gather. But now we recognize that these chats, while they can provide us the solace of community, are simply not forceful enough to enact change. We are deciding to let them go, not for a lack of love or dedication, but in order to make space for other kinds of work.

We had meant to have one final scheduled chat today, on our usual second Friday, as a goodbye. But now is not the time for goodbyes or nostalgia. What we ask for instead is a cacophony of hellos. Here is what we ask:

  1. This work doesn’t happen alone, so find collaborators. At least one. We have always worked together, led and taught together, and thought together (we’re even writing this final #digped post together). Reach out to people today that you haven’t before.
  2. Make teaching activism. Don’t go to conferences about education unless you also bring students there. Start conversations that go beyond homework, due dates, attendance policies, and syllabi. The bureaucratic trappings of education are not the action we need.
  3. Be forgiving but critical of commonly held beliefs about teaching practices. Look bravely at the way grades, learning outcomes, and honor codes can patronize students and reinforce hierarchies that ask for submission rather than encourage agency.
  4. Champion each other. The fight we need will be started with hugs not assault rifles. Don’t be afraid to use the word “love” in your pedagogy.
  5. Stop writing announcements. We need a different kind of call.

So, instead of joining the fray at Noon eastern today, as we have so many times before, offer your own call. In the space between this #digped and whatever comes next, tell us what you need, give what you can, make an effort to sustain this community, be a friend—to a student, an adjunct, a woman of color, a trans person, someone whose voice has been silenced—because they’ll need it.

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