Occupying Classrooms: a #digped Discussion

Quite often, I don’t have the words to speak. To respond. To cry havoc. I have spoken many times already and have made my point. And yet today demands more words; and more than words, today demands action. The academy is really good at giving us words, words about words, and even words about words-about-words. But the academy is not so good at giving us the shoes we need to pound the pavement, stand up on our soapbox, to go door-to-door to try to make change.

Newspapers do or do not endorse political candidates. Schools and churches, departments and figureheads do or do not tweet using #BlackLivesMatter. Pundits speak and we post their words on Facebook. I can feel righteous and a good “digital citizen” if I touch the little heart icon on my Twitter app, or hit that tiny thumbs up. I spread the word, the gospel of the coming revolution. Can I have dinner now? And watch a show?

The truth is that the truth can be hard to say. Not that it’s not there, not that it’s not as self-evident as the nose on my face. It’s hard to say because it’s an angry truth. The truth about Black lives. The truth about trans lives. The truth about Latinx lives. The truth about women’s lives. The truth about rape culture. The truth about the new Jim Crow. The truth about… about… about… How do these truths fit into White lives? How do they fit into the Ivory Tower? How do they fit in our classrooms? (Jim Crow is in our classrooms. Rape culture is in our classrooms. “the students you work with have had to subvert a system that sought to oppress them in order to make it to your classroom.”)

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.

While the hashtag will continue to be an integral part of Digital Pedagogy Lab, the regularly scheduled #digped Twitter chats are drawing to a close. Jesse Stommel, Pete Rorabaugh, and I started this community over four years ago (with a nice bit of help from Howard Rheingold), and we have talked through dozens of issues facing higher education. Jesse and I have maintained these chats—with the help of Chris Friend, Robin Wharton, Valerie Robin, Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, and the whole giant #digped community—in the hopes that they would grow and become a foundation for ongoing international and intersectional conversations about Critical Digital Pedagogy.

As we’ve run them, we’ve kept a wishlist for the community: that it would move to include K12 educators; that it would support adjunct and contingent teachers; that it would see deep contributions from more people of color; that it would be a safe space for critical inquiry; that it would remain ideologically centered on justice, kindness, and love. Some of these things have come to pass, but not all of them.

In this penultimate #digped chat on Friday, October 14 at Noon Eastern, we will consider how our pedagogies and our ideologies and our actions mix. We want to take a hard look at how the work of our field—be it pedagogy or English or Mathematics or Physics or entrepreneurship or community leadership or educational technology—engages with what Freire called “an epistemological relationship to reality.” What do we believe? And can or should that belief lead us, or lead our field?

Some questions to consider before the chat:

  • Who occupies our classrooms? What stories have they spoken? What stories have we listened to? What stories lie under the surface?
  • What silences us? What forces do we wrestle with bringing social justice into the classroom? How do we make space for social justice, no matter what subject we’re teaching?
  • Critical pedagogy works to make us readers of our world. Are we readers of our world? Are we supporting learning and community that helps others be readers of their world?
  • Is there an alternative to critical pedagogy?
  • Is there a digital tool for social justice?
  • Do our assumptions about learning and education drive our methods? Or do students drive our methods?

We hope that you’ll join us for this #digped chat on Friday, October 14 at Noon Eastern. For those unable to join the conversation this week, we will host one more of our regularly scheduled #digped chats on November 11 at Noon Eastern. Watch for an announcement with more details.

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