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About Sean Michael Morris

Details: Bio. Sean is currently Senior Instructor of Learning Design and Technology in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also the Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab, an international professional development gathering for educators committed to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, critical digital

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On Presence, Video Lectures, and Critical Pedagogy

Details: Presence is human, all-too human, because education is human, and learning is a problem that humans must solve. And a teacher’s presence must welcome students’ presence so that the community can begin to answer the questions education demands we address. Community in a classroom, though, is complicated.

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Critical Pedagogy and Learning Online

Details: Education has become too shrouded in technology for us to return to the mere classroom, mere pen and paper, chalk and chalkboard. But we can retreat to that point in our minds, to make it back to a figurative, theoretical square one, and consider what choices we would make from there. And then begin making them for the first time.

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Adventures in Unveiling: Critical Pedagogy and Imagination

Details: Education is an operation of imagination, discovery, and unveiling. When the imagination leads us astray, when it takes us down paths our teachers would not advise we walk, it “poses the issues of decision, of option, of ethics,” even, says Freire, “of education and its limits.”

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Critical Pedagogy in the Age of Learning Management

Details: The advent of online learning has introduced a new level of data and measurement (also, fucking absurdity) into education. With the learning management system (LMS) comes the ability to track all kinds of information about student performance, participation, and more. At the LMS company where I worked until recently, educational research often

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Open Ed, Digital Pedagogy Lab & the Challenge of Education

Details: The Lab is a place where that brave, wobbly, experiment can take place—in the happy and challenging company of others. Unlike Open Ed, however, Digital Pedagogy Lab wears its ideology on its sleeve. Founded in the approach of critical pedagogy, the Lab is clear about one thing above all else: oppressive practice is a non-starter.

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Instructional Design vs Online Pedagogy

Details: The pedagogue is concerned more with big ideas, the themes of education, its ethics and morals and goals, and a lot less with grading mid-terms, quizzes, and preparing well-researched lectures.” Pedagogy consists of the universal principles of learning that undergird any teaching practice.

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A Call for Critical Instructional Design

Details: The application of operant conditioning to education is simple and direct. Teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement under which students learn. They learn without teaching in their natural environments, but teachers arrange special contingencies which expedite learning, hastening the appearance of behaviour which would

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Wide-awakeness and Critical Imagination

Details: A responsibility as educators to students, to the very systems of education, to the tools we use in class, to the mechanisms we employ to assess, and the approaches we use to include, validate, and keep human students. But also a responsibility as educators to ourselves. To the very curiosity that has brought us here today, that took us through

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As we step forward, we must stand still: Critical digital

Details: The idea behind this is that education has been for too long voiced by heterosexual, cis white men; and so, if we are going to imagine a new future for education, it stands to reason that listening to the same voices will only lead to repetition, a future less about possibility, and one narrated instead by reified practices.

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What Is a Pedagogue

Details: Most higher education instructors receive very little or no training in pedagogy, and so—thrust into the classroom because they have knowledge of their field—they teach with the tools available to them. Teaching is, a lot of the time, a matter of tradition, a matter of habit.

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Pivot to Online: A Student Guide

Details: Pivot to Online: A Student Guide. With the sudden rush of coronavirus across the globe, and the urgent need to practice social distancing, universities and colleges across the United States and around the world are closing campuses and “pivoting” to online teaching and learning. The perils of this to education are both clear and

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Critical Digital Pedagogy after COVID-19

Details: Education, and especially online education, has had a months-long “come to Jesus” in 2020. The behaviourist paradigm I’ve been discussing may not be the entirety of American education today, but it is impossible to ignore the way in which modern schooling is founded on this model—this banking model—of teaching and learning.

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To Go Far Enough

Details: It’s also important to realize that, as much as these companies may claim to provide services for the betterment of education, they are first and foremost in the business of creating demand. Every for-profit business has to be. Without demand, their supply sits …

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Critical Digital Pedagogy and Design

Details: Educational technology, almost to the one, is bent on efficiency and designed on models of evidence-based education. But critical digital pedagogy—and critical instructional design by necessity—recognizes that digital learning is an area of education about which terribly little has been determined. And so, at the end, critical instructional

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On Love, Critical Pedagogy, and the Work We Must Do

Details: “A humanizing education is the path through which men and women can become conscious about their presence in the world. The way they act and think when they develop all of their capacities, taking into consideration their needs, but also the aspirations and needs of others.” ~ Paulo Freire and Frei Betto, 1985

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Innovation through Reflection: A Call for Teachers

Details: Innovation through Reflection: A Call for Teachers. “Didn’t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?” ~ Phil Hill at ITC 2015. It is a truism that learning can happen in any environment. Learning does not require a teacher, though traditional education relies upon the sage-on-the-stage (or at least the guide-on-the-side) model.

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When We Talk about Grades, We Are Talking about People

Details: As if saying the word is nearly equivalent with changing the landscape of education. With MOOCs, the prevailing mentality was a “build it and they will come” optimism. With microcredentials, the hope is that education might finally be able to beat the corporate sector at its game by making learning small, particulate, digestible, and fast.

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Education is not a field for mediocre hopes and mediocre

Details: Education is not a field for mediocre hopes and mediocre dreams. "Education lifts, inspires, changes lives, builds futures, starts careers, reveals new knowledge. It’s this profoundly odd and profoundly unlikely and profoundly beautiful endeavor that …

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Open Online Office Hours

Details: We believe, as bell hooks says, that education is a practice of freedom, that it is an undertaking that liberates the minds of students and teachers alike, and fosters a critical consciousness. Critical pedagogy raises very specific questions about how we teach and learn online.

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A Problem-Posing Learning Design

Details: A Problem-Posing Learning Design. There's a movement across the field of learning and instructional design to create a digital education which is more inclusive and just. There's a growing awareness of the lack of complexity in the way that traditional design methods based on behaviourism confronts or tries to manage the complexity of learning

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What Is Digital Pedagogy

Details: Digital pedagogy is different from teaching online because it allows us to open up learning and teaching in ways that gravity-bound education doesn’t permit. When we bring the Internet into our teaching, and truly embrace all that the digital engenders, we open our students (and ourselves) to a whole new world of networked, connected learning.

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Times which Require Greater Care: Ethos in Online Learning

Details: Times which Require Greater Care: Ethos in Online Learning. During my short tenure at the University of Mary Washington, my job focused on faculty development. My hire as lead instructional designer was, in truth, a smokescreen for using an existing line to bring me on permanently as the director of Digital Pedagogy Lab.

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Reading the LMS against the Backdrop of Critical Pedagogy

Details: At all levels, the LMS is a capitalist structure that participates in the idea that education is about production. The LMS must, as Illich says in the epigraph above, “confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education.” If it fails in that project, …

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Technology is not Pedagogy

Details: Technology is not Pedagogy. Every year, hurricanes batter the coasts of Florida. But people stay; they don’t move away. Every year, wildfires and mudslides endanger those living in Los Angeles. And people stay. Every year, institutions of higher education face budget crises, shortfalls, administrative bloat, and student attrition. And. we. stay.

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Love Letters and Pen Pals: Community through Correspondence

Details: Over the past two decades working with instructors at every level of education, the plainest objection to online learning has been that it is impossible to preserve classroom pedagogy—much less intimacy and community—when separated from students by distance, with only a screen to connect teachers with their classes.

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An Upsurge of Questioning and Critique: toward a Community

Details: If leadership in education has to include a 3D printer, an Oculus Rift, a budget to hold “summits” and attend conferences, then I fear there are too many leaders being left out. Quoting Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Greene writes: Praxis cannot be the viewed as the project of any single individual. Rather, it is “the cluster of relations of an

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Imagination as a Precision Tool for Change

Details: It was education at its most mathematic, learning delivered in a robotic fashion with an eye trained most vigilantly on consistency and replicability of results. I was working from home the day the Chilean monster got my attention. I immediately messaged my friend at work the news. And across our distance from screen to screen we both awed and

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Critical Instructional Design

Details: Critical Instructional Design is a theoretical approach to the design of teaching and learning that grows out of the theory, practices, and praxis of critical pedagogy, especially as applied to digital or online learning. Through this lens, we understand education to be a practice of freedom, a discursive, digital act of resistance.

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Teaching through the Screen and the Necessity of

Details: And in many cases, education rigoured. It clutched its rubrics tight to the chest. It tucked in with quality concerns, remote proctoring and other surveillance technologies. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on tech—hardware and software—in answer to the fear that the rules of education would be broken by students who went unseen.

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Collegiality as Pedagogy

Details: The truth is that the important shifts in education today are masked by misunderstandings and misinterpretations, seedy buzzwords, hip trendiness, and edupreneurial attempts to capitalize on the bits and pieces of theory that creep into sales meetings. Personalized learning, adaptive learning, competency-based learning -- even “student

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We Rise and Fall Together: Assessment during COVID-19

Details: The dream of education isn’t built upon the framework of rubrics, testing, quantifying—that is its bureaucracy. The dream of education is built upon a practice of freedom, a discipline of hope, and an understanding that we all rise and fall together. COVID-19 humanizing pedagogy critical digital pedagogy.

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Reflections on Teaching through the Screen

Details: The default approach to online education which has made institutions like Southern New Hampshire University, University of Arizona, and Western Governors University so financially successful has been aimed at a replicability, at a sameness of instruction and outcomes, that was never the goal of classroom learning.

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The Habitus of Critical Imagination

Details: My education at Metro required a constant imagining of possibility, which I daresay was also true of the non-traditional students who accompanied me on my way. What that education taught me best, in fact, was that learning asks for improvisation, messiness, collaboration, revision, and a willingness to be surprised. And yes, imagination.

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Digital Pedagogy Lab

Details: Digital Pedagogy Lab is an annual learning and teaching event held at the University of Colorado at Denver. The event was established in 2015 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an opportunity to provide in-depth dialogue and practical experience to educators working …

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We Do Not Debate Civilly

Details: This is the wound of education's Narcissism: that Professors—and not administrators, not "innovators", but most importantly not students—are the guardians of education. In this scenario, students need to be protected from administrators and innovators and themselves by …

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Critical Instructional Design and Acts of Resistance

Details: Critical Instructional Design isn’t not upsetting, especially in that it asks folks with instructional design and education degrees to think again about the foundations of their practice. It isn’t not upsetting also in that it rears an ugly head against the institutional effort to make learning efficient.

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Reimagining the Syllabus

Details: Reimagining the Syllabus. On July 10, 2017, I had the opportunity to work with a group of instructors in an online environment. The subject for our discussion was “the syllabus,” especially as it relates to what a syllabus is for online students. The following is a compilation of some of my thoughts. This post was originally published on

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Humanizing Digital Pedagogy: the Role of Imagination in

Details: Humanizing Digital Pedagogy: the Role of Imagination in Distance Teaching. On 24 February 2021, I was invited to give a talk at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education's Quality Insights Conference. The following is the transcript from that talk. 4 a.m.

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Hospitality and Agency

Details: In education, that space is most usually the classroom, and today, the learning management system. But what has happened in the classroom is something beyond sending the invitation and setting the table. Education has become a party game with too many rules. I wish we would suspend our need for learning objectives.

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Once a fearsome murderer invaded a Zen master’s home

Details: Education today assesses student knowledge based on their ability to repeat back. Questioning, criticizing, looking for wisdom past the usual authority—these are rare activities indeed. Even a class on creative writing—presumably a subject that grows from a student’s own subjectivity—can have rubrics, right and wrong answers, multiple

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If bell hooks Made an LMS: a Praxis of Liberation and

Details: If bell hooks Made an LMS: a Praxis of Liberation and Domain of One’s Own. What follows is the text of a presentation I gave at the Domains17 conference in Oklahoma City, OK on June 5, 2017. I co-presented with Jesse Stommel, Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington.

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Is It Okay to Be a Luddite

Details: There are many who look at the Internet as the downfall of modern education. They decry online learning as necessarily sub-par, stating that the digital can never replace the face-to-face. These are teachers throwing sabots into the machine, hoping with words to stop the gross forward movement altogether, before all we do is reduced to microwaves.

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The Production of Tomorrow

Details: The Production of Tomorrow. “ Prophetic imagination is outrageous—not merely in dreaming the dream, but in already living out the dream before it has come to pass, and in embodying this dream in concrete action.” ~ Mary Grey, The Outrageous Pursuit of Hope. On February 21, 2019, I presented the following talk at the DREAM 2019 Conference

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Subjectivity, Rubrics, and Critical Pedagogy

Details: Subjectivity, Rubrics, and Critical Pedagogy. This post was originally published on the blog of the Office of Digital Learning at Middlebury College. In " Embracing Subjectivity ,"مها بالي (Maha Bali) argues "that subjectivity is the human condition. Everything else that attempts to be objective or neutral is pretense. It is inauthentic.

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Fostering Care and Community at a Distance

Details: Fostering Care and Community at a Distance. The following piece was written as advance reading for a presentation at QAA Scotland’s online Enhancement Conference, ‘Learning from disruption: exploring what counts in higher education’, 4-5 June 2020. Every day started with tea and the keyboard, chai and typing.

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