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Universal Design for Learning
Curriculum Considerations

Critical Digital Pedagogy (CDP)

Building on critical pedagogy, critical digital pedagogyOpens in a new window “demands a new kind of literacy and critical understanding with respect to the emergence of the new media and electronic technologies, and the new and powerful role they play as instruments of public pedagogy” (Giroux, 2021). As Giroux argues, our use of technology in education does not advance learning if it is merely a repository for content.

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Critical Digital PedagogyOpens in a new window (Runtime: 6:21 min).

The discussion about critical digital literacy is not new. Shortly before the advent of the internet, Marshall McLuhan observed that Western society adopted “a posture of non-involvement” when it “acquired from the technology of literacy, the power to act without reacting” (McLuhan, 1964). He spoke then of technology and media as an extension of ourselves, “incorporating the whole of humankind in us” where (hopefully) we would participate in the consequences of our actions, because the “aloof and disassociated role of the literate Westerner would no longer be possible to adopt” (ibid.).

However, lasting colonialism and disparities between the global North and South, and between the privileged and marginalized everywhere, have created a gulf between those with access to technology and those without. This is known as the digital divideOpens in a new window.

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Critical Digital Pedagogy: A DefinitionOpens in a new window” Stommel (2014) (Word Count: 1,800).

Critical digital pedagogy is concerned with an equitable distribution of power, where students are empowered in the digital sphere and engaged in new language and new opportunities for connectivity (Rorabaugh, 2012). Critical digital pedagogy allows educators to reflect and assess the power dynamics that lead to a lack of representation in online content and online educational spaces.

The digital divide presents significant barriers for many learners. Many students do not have regular access to a laptop or desktop computer. Some students do most of their schoolwork on a smartphone, which can present formatting issues and functional limitations.

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 Critical Digital PedagogyOpens in a new window podcast (Runtime: 54:13 min). This podcast comes with a transcript.

In Toronto, a recent report from the Brookfield InstituteOpens in a new window showed that barriers to high-speed internet access and devices paralleled other social inequities, mainly those related to socioeconomic status and age (Andrey et al., 2021). This CBC article discusses the continued digital divide in Canada: “We Need to Get All Canadian Students Online Quickly in the Face of Pandemic UncertaintyOpens in a new window.”

A Great Example of Critical Digital Pedagogy

This  Every Learner Everywhere Faculty Playbook Opens in a new window advocates for equitable outcomes in higher education through advances in digital learning. Its overarching lens reflects a collective understanding of systemic racism in education and guides decisions about work and choices around technology and pedagogy.

Choosing technology for various representations can be a challenge, as educators need to be aware of the barriers that different types of technology can bring to learning spaces. One way to critically choose a good option is to focus on a particularly difficult aspect of your course or your student support role, and put the technology to the test.

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Guelph University’s accessibility tips: “Digital Tools for Teaching and LearningOpens in a new window.”

In “How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your CourseOpens in a new window,” Michelle Miller (n.d.) suggests that “technology needs to earn its place in your classroom by providing tangible benefits, and it has the best chance of doing that when it targets the hardest or most time-consuming aspects of a course.”

Next sectionAsynchronous, Synchronous, and Accessible