Part Two: Technology As a Conduit for Critical Consciousness

Some may wonder if online learning is conducive to critical pedagogy and if transformative education can be accomplished in the virtual classroom. The answers in both cases is yes: online education supports and encourages curiosity and critical inquiry. This blog indicates how such learning can transform the process.

As outlined in my previous blog post, “Critical Pedagogy in the 21st Century: An Introduction,” I discussed the meaning of critical pedagogy–a philosophy of education that encourages reflective and engaging thinking, the ability to understand the connections among ideas, and the effort to question and challenge all forms of injustice. A large factor in critical consciousness is the shift within the power structure within the “classroom” and the use of student experiences to bridge new learning results in a change of perception for both the students and their teachers. This change occurs primarily through interactive teaching through dialogue.

Technology changes the way we achieve and make use of this dialogue. Today, numerous mobile solutions provide opportunities for interactive dialogue through the use of phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. With these eLearning solutions, many tools such as discussion boards, ePortfolios, dropboxes, and quiz engines allow for dialogue and collaboration between educators and learners, resulting in an effective online community. A powerful online community is more or less like teaching in any other formal context; however, the online classroom creates its own unique environment. Firstly, in the online environment, learning material is supported with multimedia video and text which provide learners with the ability to interact in a variety of formats: text, speech, video—your students will have others they’ll want to introduce.  Secondly, formative assessment allows for open dialogue between teacher and student. The capacity of the online learning environment also allows for an increase in freedom and control over course content as students are able to express their ideas and ultimately become co-authors in their education. Whether in class or online, education should be dialogical with teacher speaking with rather than to his or her students. Course content that is designed and presented in a conversational fashion will diminish the hierarchical relationship that prevails in much learning. An effective online community will perpetuate changes in typical teacher/student roles, as dialogue allows students to act as teacher or teachers as students. Such dynamics result in a wholly collaborative educational experience.

In online learning spaces, teachers should not be confined to prepackaged content that is not easily modified in response to students’ needs.  Rather, the design and organization of activities should proceed in a democratic fashion, and online curricula should not be predefined only by expert knowledge, but should also be constructed in real time by contributions from all of those engaged in the learning process.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this blog series for more specific information regarding using the tools in the Learning Environment to facilitate curiosity, critical thinking, and reflection in the digital sphere.

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