CRITICAL PEDAGOGY IN AN AGE OF ONLINE LEARNING
Paulo Freire and Critical Pedagogy
Freire’s pedagogical concepts, such as problem posing, dialogue, praxis, conscientiazation and the politics of education, were devel-oped in a pre-Internet era. His work in popular education was deeply interpersonal and involved spending significant time in a community becoming familiar with the culture, linguistic patterns, and lifestyle of the people before ever embarking on teaching.
struggles to employ a critical pedagogy in the increasingly assessment-oriented, outcomes-based environment
While designed to make teaching in the online environment more efficient, these systems confront the critical pedagogue with challenges to create a teaching-learning environment that promotes critical reflection not only on the content of a course but on the very way in which content is delivered.
teaching in cyberspace requires a different teaching paradigm altogether
p. 170 Feenberg (2009) developed the Critical Theory of Technology (CTT),
p. 171 As outlined by CTT, technology creates a cyber culture that redefines human identity and the meaning and means of human interaction (Gomez, 2009). When viewed through this lens, online education is not simply another tool for the promotion of learning, but rather an all-encompassing environment managing and controlling access to information, structuring relationships, and redefining individual identities.
p. 171 While masquerading as efforts to enhance student learning, these industries are clearly profit-oriented. Knowledge has become a commodity, students have become consumers, faculty have become content providers, and schools operate as businesses
p. 172 Like Feenberg (2009), Freire would be concerned with the values and principles embedded in the technology of online learning, as well as the cyber culture it has created.
p. 173 Schools did not venture into online learning because they thought it was a better way to teach, but rather because they saw it as a way to reach unreached student populations with the promise of off-site educational offerings. Only later was attention given to developing online pedagogies.
Whereas education in the United States was originally viewed as a way to prepare students for effective citizenship, now it is seen as a way to develop loyal and capable employees of their corporate overlords
p. 174 A second area of concern is the banking nature of the LMSs. One of the underlying assumptions of an LMS like Blackboard™, Moodle™, or Brightspace™ is that the online platform is a repository of resources for teaching and learning.
Freire vehemently rejected this banking approach to education because it did not recognize or encourage the student’s creative, exploratory, and critical abilities. In the banking model the teacher is regarded as the holder and transmitter of knowledge, which is then imparted to the student. The banking model assumes the student is an empty vessel and does not value or recognize the student’s experiential and cultural knowledge
By contrast Freire argued for a problem-posing, constructivist approach that invites students to critically engage their world and one another. In the critical classroom, the student at times takes on the role of teacher and the teacher becomes a learner, inviting a sharing of power and mutual learning. While this approach can be carried out to an extent online, the LMS is set up to be the primary source of information in a course, and the teacher is assigned as the expert designer of the learning experience, thus limiting the constructivist nature and mutuality of the learning process.
p. 175 A third area of concern is the limited access to online learning to large sectors of society. While e-learning advocates tout the greater access to learning provided by online learning (Goral, 2013; Kashi & Conway, 2010), the digital divide is a reality impacting millions of students.
p. 176 A final area of concern is the disembodied nature of the online learning process. One of the major attractions of online learning to potential students is the freedom from having to be in a classroom in a particular time or place.
p. 177 Embodied learning means students must not only engage the cognitive dimension (thinking and reflection), but also partake in concrete action. This action in reflection, and reflection in action, referred to as praxis, involves acting on and in the world as one is seeking to learn about and transform the world.
To limit education to the transmission and reception of text-based knowledge without action undermines the entire learning process (Escobar et al., 1994).
Freire believed dialogue begins not with what the teacher professes to know, but with the student’s experience and knowledge.
p. 179 For Freire, the building of a learning community is essential to creating meaningful dialogue; this is also true for those who seek to teach effectively online. Palloff and Pratt (2007) contend that all online teaching must begin with building community and stress that a carefully constructed online learning community provides a space for students to test ideas, get feedback, and create a collaborative learning experience.
For Freire, learning was a social and democratic event where authoritarianism and control of the learning process are minimized.
“reading the world,” or conscientization, that is, understanding the larger political context in which experience occurs and knowledge is situated. In the current era of Facebook, Twitter, instant message, and other social media, in-depth discussion and analysis is often absent in favor of brief, often innocuous statements and personal opinions.
Through online academic databases, students have easy access to far more sources of information than previous generations. Furthermore, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and the like bring students in contact with remote sources, organizations, and individuals instantly.
p. 180 the challenge is not only the accessing of information, but also encouraging students to become discerning purveyors of information—to develop “critical digital literacy,” the capacity to effectively and critically navigate the databases and myriads of potential sources (Poore, 2011, p. 15)
more on online teaching in this IMS blog