I’ve been teaching Latin American history for roughly 7 years now, and I’d say I was pretty mediocre at it until I began digging deep into critical pedagogy and exploring the ways that digital tools can facilitate “teaching as a practice of freedom,” as the late Paolo Freire put it. For a few years now I have been developing and employing two digital teaching projects, closely following student feedback and adapting these along axes of critical engagement, personal exploration, collaborative research, and fun and curiosity. With Empire’s Progeny, students of my Colonial Latin America course work together and individually to interpret dozens of historical sources that speak to the emergence and evolution of race thinking across 400 years of imperialism and slavery in the Western hemisphere. Through States of Belonging, my Modern Latin America students investigate 200 years of state-building, nation-building, and social movements in the region to contemplate and debate the status of national identity, citizenship, borders, and globalization (of many varieties) in the present and the future.
These projects operate with an assumption of privacy and/or anonymity. Many of my students belong to vulnerable populations and I aim to inspire intellectual risk-taking, play, and experimentation, and hence I am very protective of my students’ work and intellectual property. The consequence is insularity: almost everything about these projects sits behind firewalls and passwords. Empire’s Progeny and States of Belonging therefore have something of a cozy feel — they are just ours.
This bring me around to why I am here as part of Digital Pedagogy 2 at the Graduate Center. Creating the above teaching tools has been the most invigorating intellectual project of my life and career (certainly far more invigorating and inspiring than writing a dissertation!!!) They are my best examples of praxis. Yet I have no training in the digital humanities and I am still at an infancy stage in figuring out how digital pedagogy can achieve its democratic potential. This brings me to the 11 of you. I am foremost looking to learn from this group though a sustained conversation about practices, inspirations, goals, methods, and possibilities – a conversation that goes beyond what can be achieved at a conference or a week-long institute. And I am particularly interested in critically examining the Open Educational Resources – um, movement, I guess we can call it – as part of my process of figuring out how to continue along my pedagogical trajectory in ways that are more open, more public, and that work with my students to connect with the world beyond the university. I am (and I’m sure I’m not the only one here) skeptical of the fetishes of “openness,” the democratizing potential of the web, and the like (the one time I tasted a MOOC I thought it was laughable), but nonetheless I see possibilities. I am here, with you, therefore, to discern how to create public digital pedagogical projects that are – to quote bell hooks – responsibly “transgressive.”