Digital Pedagogy Lab is an international professional development gathering for educators committed to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, critical digital pedagogy, and imagining a new future for education. The Lab is a space for teachers, students, librarians, administrators, and technologists interested in inquiry, praxis, and social justice.
Digital Pedagogy Lab may look from all appearances to be a traditional professional development event replete with speakers and sessions. But in fact, the Lab is a classroom. Participants sign up for one track, focused on a topic specific to their research interests, teaching area, or imaginative impulses. Once in a track, attendees form a cohort and learn, collaborate, and teach each other for the entire duration of the Lab.
We believe that when you create a space where people feel free to join, free to experiment, free to voice themselves, free to try, free to fail, free to succeed, free to change—and reinforce that space with a foundation of generosity, kindness, care, hospitality—you also create a space where the new, the inventive, the generative and creative—in other words, the necessary—can emerge.
Digital Pedagogy Lab began in 2015 as a small event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally known as the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute, the Lab moved in 2016 to the University of Mary Washington (UMW), but also developed a global presence. Events in Egypt, Canada, and the UK began to see the spread of ideas formulated at the Lab, and the event slowly became less a conference and more a gathering of educators interested in equity, diversity, justice and the intersection of critical pedagogy with digital learning.
From 2016 to 2019, the Lab thrived and grew at UMW; until, in 2020, the decision was made to move the gathering to the University of Colorado Denver. That transition was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed the Lab online for the first time. What we found when we moved the Lab online was that more people could attend than ever before, opening access to new international colleagues and making the event that much richer for the diversity of participants. Because welcoming people to these discussions is foundational to the Lab, once those digital and international doors were open, we would never dream of closing them. So from 2020 forward Digital Pedagogy Lab would be offered online.
A Cohort-based Pedagogy
Participants at the Lab sign up for one track, specific to their research interests, teaching area, or imaginative impulses. registers for a single track (e.g., Intro, Inclusive Design, Open Pedagogy, etc.). In this track, they join a small cohort of other educators for the full week, working and collaborating together on projects and discussions throughout. The cohort model for tracks allows each participant to dig in deep on a single subject, exploring various areas of that track as fully as possible in a week’s time. This intimate model—even online—also provides a greater opportunity to connect with other educators who share interests, even as everyone is coming from different perspectives.
Focus on Critical Digital Pedagogy
Because critical digital pedagogy is at the heart of Digital Pedagogy Lab, attendees can expect to really participate in their own learning. While lectures do happen, most of the Lab is centered on activities, learner-centered discussions, and projects that help to meet people’s goals and give them something concrete to walk away with.
The Lab can be a political space as well, with a leaning toward issues of social justice in and around education. That said, all sides of every issue are welcome in dialogue. The Lab seeks to be an open space that welcomes all people, and most especially Black educators, Latinx educators, all people of color, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, neurodivergent folks, LGBTQ+ people, women, nonbinary folks, students (undergraduate or graduate), sessional and adjunct faculty, educators from outside the U.S. and non-Western countries, among others.
As part of our ethos, Digital Pedagogy Lab, insists that “authority” is a shared mantle, and “expertise” communal, arising from discussion, invention, collaboration, as assent as much as dissent. This means that participants are invited to join in the discovery and creation of authority and expertise, while bringing passion, experience, and wonder to every discussion.
At Digital Pedagogy Lab, we believe that when you create a space where people feel free to join, free to experiment, free to voice themselves, free to try, free to fail, free to succeed, free to change—and reinforce that space with a foundation of generosity, kindness, care, hospitality—you also create a space where the new, the inventive, the generative and creative—in other words, the necessary—can emerge.