Course Syllabus

Audio version of the text on this page, read by the author

Course Description

This course will focus on building community in collaborative digital learning environments and will interrogate notions of outcomes, best practices, and instructional design. Our work together will be productive, grounded in praxis, and driven by learner experiences.

Digital Humanities, with its deep reliance on technological tools, is replete with courses about those tools. This course offers an alternative: It is an exploration of pedagogy, challenging teachers to rethink how they approach their classes and interact with their students. We will discuss critical pedagogy and the importance of letting students define, control, and take responsibility for, their learning environment.

This course will also serve as a playground, letting participants experiment with critical digital pedagogy. Participants will leave with a better understanding of their approaches to teaching and how critical digital pedagogy applies to DH courses, and the course will conclude with the creation of a multimodal teaching philosophy re-shaped by the conversations of the week.

The Instructor

Chris Friend is Assistant Professor of English in New Media at Kean University. He is also Associate Director of Hybrid Pedagogy and producer of the Teacher of the Ear podcast. He holds a PhD in Texts & Technology from the University of Central Florida. His research examines hybridity and collaboration in education, with particular attention to their influence in composition courses. He tweets as @chris_friend, and his personal website is

Suggested OER Texts

With the exception of a few texts provided in the Coursepak, all material used in this course is open-access, available on the Internet without a paywall, subscription, or fee. Much of it comes from three books published by Hybrid Pedagogy. The three-book set provides not just a theoretical foundation for the work we do in this course but also an exploration of how this work applies more broadly across teaching, learning, and life. Each title is available in multiple formats.

  1. An Urgency of Teachers (hereafter “UoT”), by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel — Paperback | Kindle ebook | pay-what-you-will online text
  2. Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Collection (hereafter “CDPC”), edited by Jesse Stommel, Chris Friend, and Sean Michael Morris — Paperback | Kindle ebook | pay-what-you-will online text
  3. Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, Politics (hereafter “HT”), edited by Chris Friend — Paperback | Kindle ebook | free print- or screen-ready PDFs | open-access online articles

Any readings listed below that come from these books have their chapter and page numbers referenced for the convenience of those who prefer print materials. Links are provided to the online editions of each article, as well.

Daily Overview

Each day will include discussion of that day’s readings and the issues they raise, as well as some experimentation with one or more digital tools. Participants will, over the course of the week, examine their teaching practice and perhaps a course or assignment they’ve designed and should expect to engage in moderately coordinated (aka “synchronish”) discussions. Our schedule for the week is as follows:

Monday — Human(e) Learning

Guiding questions

  1. What is Critical Digital Pedagogy (CDP), and what are its goals?
  2. Why implement critical pedagogy, especially digitally?
  3. What defines a course?


  1. bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Chapter 1, “Engaged Pedagogy” (included in coursepak)
  2. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Chapter 2
  3. Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Definition” (UoT ch. 1 / p. 2)
  4. Julie Fellmeyer’s “Disruptive Pedagogy and the Practice of Freedom” (CDPC ch. 5 / p. 43)
  5. Ian Derk’s “Pedagogy, Prophecy, Disruption” (HT ch. 3 / p. 13)
  6. Recommended Deep Dive: Seymour Papert, from The Children’s Machine: “Teachers


  1. Teaching Philosophy update
    Create or revise your Teaching Philosophy statement. Did any of the readings for today’s session make you reconsider priorities? [There’s no expectation to share this activity with others.]
  2. 4-Word Pedagogy Tweet
    What, in only four words, is your pedagogy? Write it down, and consider sharing it with the #4WordPedagogy hashtag.
  3. What is a course?
    We sort of take for granted what a “course” is within our institutions. But what else could that concept mean? At my home institution, Spring and Fall courses last fifteen weeks, while Summer courses take about five. COVID-19 changed our expectations of interaction and connection. What does it mean to have/make/take/be a course? Share your thoughts using the #CritPrax hashtag.
  4. Introductions via vulnerability
    In the #introductions channel, let the group know who you are by sharing these tidbits:
    1. your favorite part of teaching or learning—whatever keeps you coming back for more;
    2. an experience that humbled you as a teacher;
    3. where you live—as specific as you want, but at least a time zone; and
    4. what pets you might have that will “help” you this week.
  5. Highlights of bell hooks
    In the #hooks-highlights channel, paste the single most significant/influential/important sentence from the bell hooks reading, then vote on a runner-up sentence from what others have posted by giving it a thumbs-up reaction. If someone else already posted the sentence you were going to write, give it and your runner-up a thumbs-up reaction.
  6. Explore prior DHSI #CritPrax course creations
    Conversations in this class go in different directions each year. For some context, take a look at what previous classes have created to help process their thinking:
    1. 2016: A Course is a Course is a Course
    2. 2017: Place in Education
    3. 2018: Teaching Toward Activism
    4. 2019: Balancing Issues of CDP

Tuesday — Pedagogy as Praxis

Guiding questions

  1. How can instructors/designers build courses with CDP in mind?
  2. How does CDP inform praxis? Where are the trouble spots?
  3. Brainstorm an open course: What principles guide its design?
  4. What tools help create, deliver, promote, and maintain open courses?


  1. Sean Michael Morris’s “Technology is Not Pedagogy” (HT ch. 1 / p. 3) and/or “Beyond the LMS” (UoT ch. 4 / p. 25)
  2. Jesse Stommel’s “Learning is Not a Mechanism” (UoT ch. 5 / p. 31) and/or “How To Build an Ethical Online Course” (UoT ch. 11 / p. 65)
  3. Chris Gilliard’s “Pedagogy and the Logic of Platforms” (HT ch. 22 / p. 129) or Chris Friend and Chris Gilliard’s “Platforms” episode of HybridPod
  4. Martha Fay Burtis, “Messy and Chaotic Learning” (HT ch. 8 / p. 45) and/or Audrey Watters, “The Web We Need to Give Students” and/or Timothy R. Amidon’s “(dis)Owning Tech” (HT ch. 23 / p. 133)
  5. Recommended: Howard Rheingold, “Net Smart: Introduction” and/or Chris Friend’s “How (Not) to Plan Your Entire Course


  1. Practice applying CDP
    Select one item from a course you teach—one activity or one assignment works best; for an extra challenge, consider your syllabus. Then, apply the principles of CDP you’ve learned from the readings so far. How do you re-envision or re-imagine the work of your course through the lens of CDP? [There’s no expectation to share this activity with others.]
  2. Identify Guiding Principles
    Based on our readings so far and your experience as both a learner and an educator, consider what the guiding principles of CDP would be. Share one or two—either your own phrasing or an attributed quote—using the #CritPrax hashtag.
  3. Ethics of Teaching Online
    Help us build a set of ethical principles for building online courses that use CDP (consider this Students’ Bill of Rights for a precedent). We’ll work in a collaborative document for this activity; the link will be posted in Slack and shared in the daily email blast.

Wednesday — Learning/Design/Technology

Guiding questions

  1. How do we form outcomes for online courses?
  2. Whose voices contribute to the design of our courses?


  1. Janine DeBaise’s “Best Practices: Thoughts on a Flash-Mob Mentality” (CDCP ch. 9 / p. 83) and/or Maha Bali’s “Critical Pedagogy: Intentions and Realities” (CDCP ch. 7 / p. 67)
  2. Cate Denial’s “A Pedagogy of Kindness” (CDPC ch. 26 / p. 212)
  3. Sean Michael Morris’s “Critical Instructional Design” (UoT ch. 20 / p. 133) and/or “Not Enough Voices” (UoT ch. 34 / p. 209 / video)
  4. Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “A Guide for Resisting Ed-Tech: The Case against Turnitin” (CDPC ch. 4 / p. 29) and/or Pete Roarbaugh, Sean Michael Morris, and Jesse Stommel’s “Beyond Rigor” (CDPC ch. 27 / p. 221)
  5. Recommended Related Extras: 
    1. Karen Cangialosi’s “But You Can’t Do That in a STEM Course!” (CDPC ch. 10 / p. 89)
    2. Jesse Stommel’s “Digital Humanities is About Breaking Stuff” (UoT ch. 26 / p. 167)
    3. Chris Friend’s “Learning to Let Go” (HT ch. 8 / p. 35)
    4. Luca Morini’s “Education as Bulwark of Uselessness” (HT ch. 24 / p. 143)


  1. Guiding Principles
    Today’s readings call us, while designing courses, to build from “stuff that just might work” (DeBaise / @writingasjoe), intentions (Bali / @bali_maha), kindness (Denial / @cjdenial), the “voraciously humane” (Stommel / @jessifer), etc. What can staff, librarians, faculty, or administrators do to establish these principles as standards, norms, or expectations? Share your suggestion using the #CritPrax hashtag; consider @mentioning the author you’re drawing from.
  2. Amplify Voices
    Many of today’s readings center around listening to marginalized voices. What voices do you listen to already that warrant amplification? How can you help those voices be heard by a wider, larger, or more diverse audience? Repost, retweet, share, etc. the work of a voice that needs to be amplified. You should not use the class hashtag for this exercise, as that would interfere with the intent.
  3. Critically Evaluating Digital Tools
    What should we learn about our digital tools before we assign them for use in class? What do we not know about the products we use by default? Work with a small group to learn about the ethics, background, and intentions of the technologies we often use in today’s digital classrooms. You might be surprised by what we find. We’ll work in a separate collaborative document for this activity; the link will be posted in Slack and in the morning email blast.

Thursday — (Meta-)Assessing (with) CDP

Guiding questions

  1. How does CDP change the intent of, or need for, assessment?
  2. What assessments (or tools) work? How will we assess our own work this week?


  1. Asao B. Inoue’s “Assessing so That People Stop Killing Each Other” (HT ch. 18 / p. 107) and/or Chris Friend, Maha Bali, and Asao B. Inoue’s “Compassion” episode of HybridPod
  2. Shea Swauger’s “Our Bodies, Encoded: Algorithmic Test Proctoring in Higher Education” (CDPC ch. 6 / p. 51)
  3. Sean Michael Morris’s “The Failure of an Online Program” (UoT ch. 12 / p. 73)
  4. Recommended Related Extras:
    1. Peter Elbow, “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment
    2. Cathy N. Davidson’s “Crowdsourcing Grading: Follow-Up” and/or Chris Friend’s “Outsourcing Grading” and/or Chris Friend’s “Student Writing Must Be Graded by the Teacher


  1. Goal of Assessments
    Today’s readings subject traditional assessment to critical scrutiny, suggesting it serves functions other than what’s commonly assumed. Based on your reading and your experience with how assessments are used in your local context, write a position statement about the goal of assessments. The twist: It needs to be precisely one tweet in length, including the #critprax hashtag. That means exactly 270 characters, leaving room for a space and the tag. Bonus points (because we’re assessing, right?) for sending a follow-up tweet enacting/applying your position statement to assess the first tweet.
  2. Alternative to Assessment
    Select one assessment performed in your context (this could be at the course, program, department, or school level) and create an alternative to that assessment. What could you or your institution do in place of the current assessment that would better meet the needs of your students, your context, and your ethics? [There’s no expectation to share this activity with others.]

Friday — Deploying CDP


  1. Audrey Watters’ “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump” (HT ch. 27 / p. 163)
  2. Sean Michael Morris’s “Hospitality & Agency” (UoT Epilogue / p. 292) and/or “Adventures in Unveiling: Critical Pedagogy and Imagination” (UoT ch. 9 / p. 51)
  3. Amanda Licastro’s series “Learning at the Intersections” (CDPC ch. 29 / p. 236) and “When One Class is Not Enough” (HT ch. 17 / p. 99)
  4. Jessica Zeller’s “Pedagogy as Protest” (HT ch. 19 / p. 117)

Guiding Questions

  1. What is the goal of education, and how can digital technologies best help learners achieve those goals?
  2. How can our institutions/contexts help students develop their agency?
  3. How might education become a site of activism?


  1. Teaching Philosophy, Redux
    Take another look at the teaching philosophy you wrote on Monday. Does it warrant revision? Has your perspective of education, of your role as an educator, or of your particular professional context, changed? Update your philosophy, if needed, to reflect your current thinking. [There’s no expectation to share this activity with others.]
  2. Revisiting bell hooks
    Think back to the bell hooks reading from Monday. (If you’re registered as a participant, review what you wrote in the #hooks-highlights Slack channel.) How do her ideas apply in digital spaces? How might we go about creating the learning environments she envisions for students and educators? How can digital tools, platforms, and/or spaces help achieve these goals? Consider writing a blog post or similarly public document to share your ideas.
  3. Start—Stop—Continue
    What actions/behaviors do you want to change as a result of taking this course? Which actions/behaviors are you more determined to keep doing based on your thinking this week? Use the activity sheet for ideas to prompt your reflection.