We create our future: Why we need to embrace critical digital pedagogy

Why do I believe we need to embrace critical digital pedagogy in the design and experience of learning and teaching? Perhaps it is because I don’t want to live in a future like this:

Science Fiction Fact?

How would such a future come to be? A future dominated by commerce and competition, a future where who we are and what we are able to do is determined by algorithms? Where our very existence might be predicated upon meeting the requirements of very particular criteria?

This video is three years old, and already we are scarily much closer to its realisation than when it was released. The reasons for our trajectory are multiple, complex and not all of them could possibly be addressed in just one short and under-researched blog post. However…

…what I believe this video challenges us to realise is that we have the capacity to create our future, and our actions – and particularly our actions as educators – inform the type of future we are heading towards. It is not enough to view digital literacies as forms of  technical competence, and to embrace protectionist models of digital citizenship which emphasise frameworks focused only on personal responsibility. Rather, we need to work towards education which leads to a critically aware justice-oriented citizenship, where opportunities to “analyze and understand the interplay of social, economic, and political forces” are promoted (Westheimer & Kahne (2004) para 15).


This week, I have been on Twitter, following the DigPedLab conference, an annual event where educators gather to deeply explore critical digital pedagogy. This approach to teaching and learning, (formal, informal and everything in between), is described as being:

predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). (Morris & Stommel, 2018).

One of the key characteristics of critical digital pedagogy that appeals to me is the ‘bigger picture’ in which (digital) citizenship, literacies and pedagogies are embedded. It raises these underpinning concepts out of the realm of ICT, and places them within the realm of every educator and learner – out of the labs and the world of ‘computers’ and into the curricula and learning spaces throughout the school, home and community.


Critical digital pedagogy empowers the individual to reflect upon and evaluate not only the uses of the technological tool/digital environment, but also to consider who created the tool/space, who it was created for and why it was created, as well as the influence or impact of the tool/space and the consequences of the content or resource it affords. Critical digital pedagogies can be identified, discussed, developed and implemented even in the absence of technology – its focus is not only on the techy fads, the idevices or the shiny new applications, platforms and gadgets, but on the people, ideas and beliefs that initiate, create and are embedded within the design of these, and the implications of their use within the learning and teaching context.

Critical digital pedagogy challenges us to ask questions similar to those of the Transformative GeSTE Window (Lupton, 2016) such as “who benefits from this digital technology? whose voices are loudest? whose are silenced? what are the alternatives to using this digital technology? what are the implicit or explicit biases; what attitudes or responses does this digital technology encourage? which are rendered null or reduced in value?

Critical digital pedagogy also recognises the value of hybridity:

hybrid pedagogy does not just describe an easy mixing of on-ground and online learning, but is about bringing the sorts of learning that happen in a physical place and the sorts of learning that happen in a virtual place into a more engaged and dynamic conversation. Jesse Stommel, https://hybridpedagogy.org/hybridity-pt-2-what-is-hybrid-pedagogy/

It acknowledges the various binaries that exist in education – physical/virtual, collaborative/individual, open/closed, passive/active, introvert/extrovert, private/public…
It gives learners/educators (yet another binary, co-working in the process of knowledge construction) agency to choose, blend or meld in the way most effective for the content, process and context.

Critical digital pedagogy reminds us that we create and inform our future through countless, infinite decisions made every day, often even without thought.

To purchase a particular product. To click on a particular link. To sign up to a particular service. To read a particular article. To engage in a particular discussion.

Nothing is neutral.

This awareness takes a wide range of capabilities and literacies. It takes time to grow and cultivate. It is a continuing journey, in which we are all at different stages.

I believe it is a part of being an active, justice-oriented, socially aware human being; and what we should hope for for all of our students, and for ourselves. This is why I believe critical digital literacy is necessary. Because I do not want to live in the hyper reality of  Keiichi Matsuda‘s imagination. And I am sure neither does anyone else.



Morris, S.M. & Stommel, J. (2018). Critical Pedagogy: A Definition. In S. M. Morris & J. Stommel (Eds.), An Urgency of Teachers: Hybrid Pedagogy Inc. Retrieved from https://criticaldigitalpedagogy.pressbooks.com/.

Westheimer, J., & Kahne, J. (2004). What kind of citizen? the politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237-269. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312041002237

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