Defining Digital Pedagogy

January 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

What is digital pedagogy? you don’t have a definition, you might think of checking Wikipedia, but I’m afraid that won’t work for you. Given this absence, we’re asking our network to help us with the definition by entering it on a google form here,, or tweeting it to the hashtag #curateteaching.

I’ve been working on the answer to this question for the past few years in collaboration with Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers. Our project, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments is currently under development with MLA Books, available in github at, and has one set of keywords undergoing open peer review in the MLA Commons at failure, multimodal, poetry, professionalization, project management, race, sexuality, and text analysis.

Digital Pedagogy Keywords

We are taking a keyword approach, informed by the work of Raymond Williams. In his seminal book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (first published in 1975), Williams explored words that embody our ideas. Keywords often represent a community’s shared discourse. But they can also reveal differences as they are understood and used differently in different domains. Indeed, this was also the concept behind a session at the 2016 MLA convention called, “What We Talk about When We Talk about DH: Interdisciplinary Vocabularies.”  The session was organized by assigning one interdisciplinary term to each of the panelists: archive, code, edition, curate, data, writing. While this panel focused on vocabulary used by digital humanists, it illustrates how our digital pedagogy project relates to digital humanities, having three words in common. Among our list of keywords you will find archive, code, and curation. We believe that we can gain a clearer understanding of digital pedagogy by asking curators to define the vocabulary of its discourse and illustrate that vocabulary by collecting pedagogical artifacts—examples of pedagogy like assignments, syllabi, and student work. We also hope that by working through keywords we can reach out beyond the usual suspects in the digital humanities community and other typical practitioners of digital pedagogy to all sorts of instructors who may benefit from the resources offered whether they are digicurious or resistant.

What’s your definition?

We also suspect that each person’s definition will differ, but that we can capture a vision of digital pedagogy by aggregating the collective knowledge of this community. There are over 50 curators contributing to our project, and each one curates the work of at least 10 different pedagogues. What can this teach of us? I got a snapshot at THATCamp Digital Pedagogy ATX on Wednesday, when I asked a group to define digital pedagogy through a list of 5-10 keywords. I took those lists and used Voyant’s Cirrus tool to generate this word cloud.

word cloud of digital pedagogy keywords

Collaboration looms large, as does access, open, project, reflection, and text. Looking back at our project’s list of keywords, you’ll find collaboration, open, and project management.

We’ll be continuing this conversation at our electronic poster session, “Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities” session 736 at the MLA Convention on Sunday, 10:15 am, Lone Star G, JW Marriott. If you are at the MLA come chat with presenters about their ideas on digital pedagogy. Co-presiders Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri), Matthew K. Gold (@mkgold), and Rebecca Frost Davis (@FrostDavis), co-editors (with Jentery Sayers, @jenterysayers) of the born-digital project Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, will open the session by explaining how the digital has changed practices, perspectives, and locations for humanities pedagogy. The audience will be invited to visit each presentation station where each roundtable participant will discuss a particular term in the context of teaching and learning and then demonstrate pedagogical artifacts drawn from actual courses, classrooms, and projects. Keywords on display will include failure, hybrid, interface, poetry, queer, and video.

For more info, see

Since we know there are many who practice digital pedagogy who are not at the convention, we are also gathering input online through the twitter hashtag #curateteaching and a google form at If you haven’t contributed please do. We will share the results at our MLA session and on our github site:


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