Digital Pedagogy and the Digital Divide

One of the ideas presented by Mills Kelly in his book Teaching History in the Digital Age is the notion that professors need to meet students where they are and the need to engage students in the space where they live. This means that professors and teachers need to be willing to adapt current technological trends into their syllabi and course teachings, and that by doing so they are meeting their students in a realm in which they are already comfortable. This is usually the space in which they re creating content for others to see, use, and remix. Professors should teach students how to be a historian in a digital space by showing them how the practices of the historian can be applied in that space.

Jody R. Rosen and Maura A. Smale’s “Open Digital Pedagogy = Critical Pedagogy” echoes these same ideas. They want students and professors to engage in productive dialogue by using open digital tools and platforms. They state that college spaces typically reinforce traditional hierarchies but virtual spaces do not have to do so. By promoting the use of digital tools, students can bring in prior knowledge and rely on their own experiences more readily than in a traditional classroom setting. Open digital pedagogy can “facilitate student access to existing knowledge and empower them to critique it, dismantle it, and create new knowledge.”

I agree wholeheartedly with both propositions and think that such techniques should be employed in all educational institutions. But I also think that such claims warrant mention of the digital divide. How do professors teach in the digital realm in places where the internet is not quite as reliable or fast? How do students gain access to the internet? How does the digital divide affect pedagogy? How does the digital divide affect students, especially those who are considered “digital natives”? How can the digital divide be overcome so students can become digital historians?

My favorite chapter in Teaching History in the Digital Age was the final chapter, entitled “Making: DIY History?” Kelly discusses his course Lying About the Past, in which students produced a historical hoax with the purpose of learning about the historical process. The ethics of making such a hoax were briefly mentioned, but I think ethics and pedagogy go hand in hand in many instances. When is it okay for students to “remix” copyrighted sources? Was lying to a reporter ethical when interviewed about the last pirate? Students need to learn how to be ethical, responsible historians, and I think that those who took Lying About the Past probably debated such issues much more heavily than other students who didn’t have the opportunity to take such a course.

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