(A PDF of my teaching philosophy is also available.)
Education as Liberation
I understand education as a fundamental act of liberation. Through teaching and learning, instructors and students can recognize and identify the often-unseen structures that govern and oppress. Education is an incredible force through which oppression, bigotry, racism, and other societal concerns can be challenged. My approach to education is grounded in the critical pedagogy developed over the last 50 years. I work to integrate Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy into my own digital pedagogy, creating a space wherein these two pedagogies are allowed dialogue and my students and myself to better understand the tools we use to engage with the world. I have used this space-building approach for several years, and I call it, “critical digital pedagogy” or CDP (a term that has gained traction over the last few years).
Vital to this approach is an idea that the tools with which we engage often control us as much as we control them. This idea is fruitful because it allows my students and me to work toward understanding each other through shared experience, which is a hallmark of critical pedagogy. Given the advent of the digital age, it is imperative for educators to coalesce analog and digital spaces within the classroom. In this way, the types of traditions that gave rise to racism, sexism, colonialism, and bigotry bind us less. We create our own community, our own discourse, and our own way of being, while simultaneously critiquing and challenging the unfortunate traditions from which we seek liberation.
Teaching in the Digital Classroom
I teach by encouraging dialogue and valuing student voices. I work to assist students in understanding their own writing processes in relation to their interests. Digital literacy is an essential aspect of my classes, and, as such, digital technologies are used and critiqued. As a 21st century educator, I would be remiss to ignore the omnipresence of digital technologies; such technologies are central to my students’ lives and work, so I teach writing through both the analog and the digital. My students and I co-create exercises and assignments to reflect their interests and the course learning outcomes.
I have co-created many exercises and assignments with my students. For example: An exercise might ask students to catalogue their daily digital activities for a week in order for them to understand how they spend their time. Or, an assignment might ask students to select a Wikipedia entry, investigate the entry topic, and improve the entry based on their own research and writing. Finally, a group of students might be asked to read a scholarly article or long form popular article, synthesis it into a short handout, and spend 30 minutes leading the class in discussion and web-based annotation.
Dialogue Before Lecture
This is how I conceive of teaching and learning: an ongoing and dynamic dialogue between my students and myself and in context of the hostile and vexing world. I do not seek to dangle knowledge in front of students, like a carrot to a mule; much like a Sherpa, I only offer myself as a guide through the discourse of the analog and digital worlds that shape knowledge. I seek to make my courses fun, relaxing, and active. I do not ask my students to do anything I would not do myself, and students respond well to this pedagogical approach because it is respectful and kind.
I treat my students as peers. I respect them, I value their voices, and I am attentive to their perspectives. I labor to provide them with opportunities to succeed and view their world from a new perspective. The 21st century classroom is unique, and it provides students the opportunity to consider their work in context of the greater technological and societal issues relevant to them. I guide my students into this world, but, ultimately, the destination is their choice alone.
Updated Feb 2015