A pedagogy of love found in Cairo

Buoyed by its commitment to open and network learning, Hybrid Pedagogy Journal has its doors flung wide open for anyone to engage. Recently they conducted their Critical Digital Pedagogy Institute in Cairo, Egypt. Why Cairo? Well, a wonderful educator named Maha Bali has a fire within her.  She sees what is possible if classrooms connect to something outside of the institution. I have never met Maha, but through our shared engagement in the open network of the interwebs, we feel as if we have.  She invited educators in the Hybrid Pedagogy community to bring the institute to Cairo. She also started Vconnecting, a project that connects onsite conference presenters with virtual participants for small group discussions that are streamed live and recorded.

I participated in three Vconnecting hangouts over the course of the week of the Cairo institute. The hangouts invited us to dialog with keynote speakers and other participants of the institute. 

The most salient keynote for me was Amy Collier's Not-Yetness keynote followed by a Vconnecting session.  She helped me to see my role as a designer in the ever changing landscape of instructional design in higher education. As one of the gate keepers to educational technology use at my institution, it is important that I remain critical of the digital tools adopted. If we are not critical we end up being sold technologies that devalue the faculty, take away community aspects of learning and primarily focus on analytics in response to the pressures of monetizing education.  Amy names what I see every day, a resistance to and little capacity for ambiguity and complexity that feels messy. I ask myself how can I raise resiliency for ambiguity and a capacity for embracing complexity that is naturally part of the intersection of technology and education?

One answer that came forward is love as pedagogy. 

At the pinnacle of Gardner Cambell's Taxonomy of Student Engagement is the word love. 

Photo credit: Sherwin Darwish

It invites educators to climb up from the the idea of "compliance" where the number of log-ins constitute engagement to asking educators to consider how to "interest" students in their discipline. "Connection" asks educators to help students connect to networks, to questions, and to new ways of thinking. Arriving to the pinnacle is LOVE. Amy conjures the questions, "In what ways can education include love?"

When thinking about love in open, networked and collaborative teaching spaces there must be a willingness to live in uncertainty and embrace complexity. Embracing complexity means allowing for discovery, epiphanies, and a choruses of voices that make education deeply meaningful. Humans are complex creatures and their education is a deeply meaningful process. It is our responsibility as educators to humanize education especially when entering into the digital, open and networked arenas. So does it naturally follow that love is part of the process? That this willingness to embrace uncertainty and live in complexity requires coming at it from a place of love?  Sean Micheal Morris reflects "On Love, Critical Pedagogy and the Work We Must Do:

“Love in pedagogical work is an orientation. It’s a commitment to the personhood of learners, to their intersectionality, to their deep emotional backgrounds, to the authenticity of their lives. It is a decision to commit first to the community of learners and second to the material we’ve come to teach”.

This orientation requires vulnerability and an embrace of uncertainty, but is the first glimpse of what could be the key to a pedagogy of empowerment.  It's a radical notion to invite love into the academy. One blogger annotated Sean's post on Hypothese.is and shared,

“It’s the emotional work that feels scary, so to suggest that love inspires you to be in fact more critical in your practice, defies the logic of the academy.”

It's an orientation to place agency over expertise.  As a designer of learning spaces, I now orient to the questions:

How is agency sustained in this learning experience?

Is the student empowered to create and express themselves?

Are students learning in an environment that invites possibility?

I send gratitude and a bow to those that have flung open the doors to the orientation of love in the academy.