This event took place on Thursday, 7 April on Microsoft Teams.
Framed by a consideration of Paulo Freire’s critical perspectives on technology, marginalisation and education as a liberating force, this interactive online seminar explored the urgent need for a critical, post pandemic reframing of digitally-enabled education in the context of higher education as a public good. Drawing up on their own recent and ongoing research focused on the concept of the digital university (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2019) the presenters led the seminar’s participants in reflecting on what can be learned from the pandemic if we want to challenge dominant neoliberal practices, and develop more hopeful and equitable post pandemic approaches to education and our use of digital technologies and spaces for learning and teaching.
The presenters also articulated their own pragmatic response to the above, through exploring their model of the Digitally Distributed Curriculum which is centred around the values of praxis, public pedagogy and participation (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2021).
More Context on the Seminar's Theme
The move to online learning and teaching in the face of the pandemic necessitated the rapid development of contingency arrangements to support and sustain teaching and learning fully online, and then latterly in blended mode and in the context of the socially distanced campus. The responses of our universities and our colleagues within them saw many creative and impactful initiatives to help students and staff transition online, and in the sharing of effective practices.
However our response to the pandemic across the education sector ultimately revealed or put into sharper focus existing and new challenges, frailties and inequalities in the extent to which learners were able to engage in their education. This included dimensions relating to the conduciveness of the home environment to learning, equity in access to appropriate digital technology and resources, and personal challenge and circumstance. Responses to the pandemic within universities also revealed the rigidity of the curriculum and the infrastructure supporting how programmes are designed and ‘delivered’, the pedagogic limitations and inflexibility of traditional forms of assessment, and the limitations of institutional Virtual Learning Environments in being configured to pre-determine the people, peers, resources and knowledge that students can access.
In this interactive and discursive online seminar, Bill Johnston, Sheila MacNeill and Keith Smyth explored the above, and the wider implications of the pandemic, for how we may now seek to consider the role of universities and higher education from a critical standpoint. The presenters framed their exploration within Paulo Freire’s critical perspectives on technology, marginalisation and empowerment, and of education as a liberating force within society.
In an extension of their recent and ongoing research focused on the concept of the digital university (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2019) the presenters led the seminar’s participants in considering the urgent need for a critical reframing of digitally enabled educational practice and praxis in the context of higher education as a public good. Collectively we reflected on what can be learned from the pandemic if we want to challenge dominant neoliberal practices in education.
The presenters articulated their own pragmatic response to how our universities may harness more hopeful and equitable post pandemic approaches to digitally-enabled education, through exploring their model of the ‘Digitally Distributed Curriculum’ which is centred around the values of praxis, public pedagogy and participation (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2021). Participants considered the model within the context of their own institutions, roles and practices, and be invited to share their insights into how we may now want to reframe higher education moving forward.
Johnston, B., MacNeill, S. and Smyth, K. (2019). Conceptualising the Digital University: The Intersection of Policy, Pedagogy and Practice. Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan.
Johnston, B., MacNeill, S. and Smyth, K. (2021) Paulo Freire, University Education and Post Pandemic Digital Praxis: https://postpandemicuniversity.net/2021/11/09/paulo-freire-university-education-and-post-pandemic-digital-praxis/
|Keith Smyth is Professor of Pedagogy and Head of the Learning and Teaching Academy at the University of the Highlands and Islands, a geographically and digitally distributed tertiary education institution in Scotland. Keith is interested in co-creative pedagogies and curriculum models, open education, widening access, and linking education strategy to practice. He developed the openly licensed 3E Framework for designing technology-enhanced learning which is widely used across further and higher education. Keith is Vice Chair of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).|
Sheila MacNeill is an independent digital learning consultant, open education practitioner and artist based in Glasgow. Sheila has over 20 years experience in developing the effective use of digital technologies for learning and teaching work at institutional and national level. Sheila is an experienced academic developer and works with a range of staff in a number of universities and organisations across the UK and Europe. Sheila is active on a range of social media and shares her work, research and random thoughts on digital learning openly through her blog.
Bill Johnston is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde. Before retiring in 2010 Bill was Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director at Strathclyde’s Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement. Publications include:
Johnston, B. and Dalzell, C. (2021). All Of Our Futures: Scotland’s ageing population and what to do about it 2021-2045. Common Weal.
Johnston, B. MacNeill, S. and Smyth, K. (2019). Conceptualising the Digital University: intersecting policy, pedagogy and practice. Palgrave.
Anderson, A. and Johnston, B. (2016). From Information Literacy to Social Epistemology: Insights from Psychology. Elsevier Chandos
Johnston, B. (2010). The First Year at University: Teaching Students in Transition. Open University Press/Society for Research in Higher Education. McGraw Hill Education, Maidenhead, Berkshire.