It is with great regret that we announce that Digital Pedagogy Lab is canceling its 2022 event. There are currently no plans for future events. (All registered participants will be refunded their registration fees in full.) My co-founder, Sean Michael Morris, and I want to thank the entire digital pedagogy community for its ongoing support, for the work it has done in education, and in the world.
So much right now is uncertain. The last two years have been some of the hardest for so many educators and students.
In March 2020, Sean and I launched what we called “Open Office Hours.” For ten months, we held space weekly for teachers, librarians, instructional designers, academic staff—and also us—to work together in real time to think through the challenges of the present moment. In our announcement about those office hours, we wrote, “We welcome anyone to attend and to bring their questions and challenges to the table. We don’t promise answers, but we will work with those who show up to find creative, compassionate, generative solutions—and likely more questions.”
In a Fall 2020 piece for Academe, “Care is a Practice; Care is Pedagogical,” I wrote, “Many of the students we work with don’t know where they will find their next meal. The most marginalized students at our institutions are finding themselves and their work increasingly policed… We have to be patient with ourselves and with each other. And we need to talk openly about ways forward.” I’ve said in multiple places that the students struggling now are the ones more likely to have been struggling before the pandemic. That means that there is no post-pandemic. There will be no post-pandemic.
We launched Digital Pedagogy Lab in 2015 (inspired by our #digped chats which started in 2012) to have hard conversations about the past, present, and future of education. Variously operated at University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Mary Washington, University of Colorado Denver, with smaller events hosted at several institutions internationally, DPL has always questioned any and all aspects of education that might lead to the dehumanization of the people and pedagogies found there. DPL fostered an environment of deep collaboration. Each year, DPL evolved, driven by a growing group of teachers, students, and other contributors, to find more inclusive, more diverse, more equitable ways to bring community together, in the spirit of critical pedagogy. No two events were the same, as organizers and participants alike pushed as much on the limitations of DPL as on the limitations of education itself.
The main goal of Digital Pedagogy Lab has been to sit in challenging and critical ways right at the edge of conversations about critical and digital pedagogies. Our driving ethic has been that educators need preparation and support for their work, especially those marginalized in most conversations about teaching. These conversations are necessary, as much now as ever.
In another piece for Academe, “The Human Work of Higher Education Pedagogy,” I wrote, “The work of teaching is hard. And much of the work is unexamined, exactly because the work is so precarious—because many teachers are not given the space or the support they need to improvise and experiment in their classes.” I’ve spent the majority of my career working in the field of higher education pedagogy. I’ve taught teachers, co-founded a journal focused on pedagogy for teachers at all levels, and helped launch Digital Pedagogy Lab. Most of this work has been done with little direct support from the institutions where I’ve worked. In graduate school, I was pressured to keep quiet about my emphasis on teaching and theorizing teaching. I have been told directly and indirectly that my work doesn’t have a place, that higher education pedagogy isn’t a recognized field or subfield. So many others doing this work have similar stories.
When DPL left University of Colorado Denver earlier in 2022, it had no sustainable home. DPL, since its inception, has received very little institutional funding and has had no outside sponsors, aside from “in kind” sponsorships from tools we’ve used to support various events. Using registration fees, from the start, DPL paid teachers and presenters for their labor. We were committed to not running insidiously off of volunteer labor, and specifically the volunteer labor of already precarious and marginalized educators. DPL has rarely had staff beyond its founders to keep it operating. Over the years, Sean and I have consistently volunteered our own labor. For so many reasons, I’m not able to continue the work I’ve done with Digital Pedagogy Lab these last ten years.
As much as I think the kinds of conversations at DPL were and are necessary, I know they will continue to happen in other places. I know that I will continue to have them. And I know the community DPL has fostered will find other places to gather. I will keep fighting, so many of us will keep fighting, to make sustainable spaces for marginalized and precarious educators. Our work can’t be about conversations that happen only once or several times each year. Our work has to be focused on shifting the culture so that teachers, librarians, instructional designers, advisors, and all academic staff have adequate and continuing development and support.
Although we regret having to close DPL, we remain constant in support of educators and students. At the heart of critical pedagogy is a recognition of the importance of dialogue, among educators, but this work must also include and center students.