Human(e) Learning

Guiding questions

  • What is Critical Digital Pedagogy (CDP), and what are its goals?
  • Why implement critical pedagogy, especially digitally?
  • What is a course?

What would bell hooks do with an LMS? How would Paulo Freire make a MOOC? The two most influential thinkers behind critical pedagogy see education as a deeply personal and intimate endeavor that helps people grow, together, through mutual support and understanding. Conversation forms the centerpiece of their pedagogy because it facilitates connection and mutual understanding, essential elements in a collaborative learning environment.

By contrast, today’s commonplace learning environments emphasize scalability, predictability, and duplicability. Our institutional systems tell us that learning should be managed. We create massive open courses that facilitate access to information—but perhaps at the cost of connection.

Connection Through Technology

I’d like us today to think about how connection and interaction—two actions facilitated by online technologies—can help us focus on the human aspects of our classes and make our teaching a more humane practice. The lingering effects of COVID-19 have shown just how much personal situations affect learning environments…and vice-versa. Teaching in today’s world demands patience, kindness, and grace. How can we use our technologies to extend those features to students?

Along the way, I also want to question the concept of a “course”. What qualifies as a course, and what essential elements have to be present to create meaningful learning experiences? At many institutions, a course is defined by seat time—how long a student occupies a desk—and is divided into eight equal modules, each with required discussion posts, and a final exam at the end. Do those requirements serve the students, or are they designed to meet the needs of the institutional machinery? How else might we conceptualize a course, to make it more open and flexible to the needs of the people we teach?


Today’s activities are as diverse as they are free-form. (See the course syllabus for details.) Consider reviewing your teaching philosophy statement after reading perspectives from today’s readings. Try finding the core of your teaching practice by stating your #4WordPedagogy and sharing it with the world. Share your thoughts on what a course can be using the #CritPrax hashtag. Regardless of which activities you choose, make sure you put people first. Remember that we teach students, not content. Our teaching becomes most effective when it’s decidedly human(e).

One reply on “Human(e) Learning”

[…] pedagogy in our specific contexts, we have to balance the expectations of our institutions, the human needs of students, and the implications of our digital tools. Such triangulation obviously requires thoughtful […]