Why I use Digital Pedagogies: a not-quite manifesto on teaching in the age of digital feminist movement.

I was invited to speak about my digital pedagogies on a roundtable at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Performance Studies pre-conference on “Radical Pedagogy: In and Beyond the Classroom.” We had a great time and a really productive discussion (especially in relation to privacy and safety) that you can witness partially on the #ATHEActIV Twitter hashtag. In the spirit of sharing, I wanted to post part of what I spoke about here, mostly unedited. I hope you enjoy and mostly I hope you join me in engaging students online.


I don’t necessarily consider myself a scholar of digital pedagogy (though my WGSS colleagues refer to me as “digital girl”). I’m more of a practitioner by curiosity and necessity who tries things out, sometimes fails, and sometimes finds something productive. But Gywnn, [the session organizer] gave me a prompt—that my part “could be a kind of manifesto”—that allowed me to write about my practices in my most favorite thinking/writing form: bullet points.

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Before I get to my not-quite manifesto on why I use digital pedagogies, I want to provide some context in the form of three quotes:

“A new wave of feminism is here, and its most powerful weapon is the hashtag.” —Nisha Chittal, How Social Media is Changing the Feminist Movement

“If education is meant to help students learn life skills, and if feminist education is geared toward combating injustice and exploitation, and if the ability to use social media well is becoming an important life skill and feminist skill […], then social media literacy should be more explicitly taught in the feminist classroom.”—Tracy Hawkins, Can You Tweet That? (2016: 154-55)

“Technologies are the master’s tools and yet they will never be just that, any more than [we] are the master’s tool.” —la paperson, A Third University Is Possible (2017:21).

For better or for worse, feminist ideologies, representations, and actions are now widely circulated online and my job is to prepare students to be leaders of our collective feminist future. I firmly believe that we must train our students to wield the tools in the digital sphere as weapons for revolutionary decolonial social justice projects. Thus,  I use digital pedagogies:

  • to expand the personal is the political is the pedagogical into the digital
  • to deconstruct “ivory tower” disciplinary ideas about epistemologies—who owns them, how they’re produced, where they belong, and what we can do with them
  • to transmit experience and understanding beyond the walls of the classroom to a general public
  • to train my students in social media literacy skills so they can be public intellectuals translating academese to a non-academic reader/listener/spectator
  • to ensure my students engage the world outside of their world
  • to encourage creativity in the process of knowledge production, comprehension, and analysis
  • to give students the tools they need to articulate their critical feminist position better in conversation
  • to build the online community of radical queer anti-racist feminists who challenge mainstream white feminist rhetoric
  • to challenge my students to use digital technologies for social justice and selfies

Author: Jessica N. Pabón-Colón

Dr. Jessica N. Pabón-Colón is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz. She published her first book—Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora— with NYU Press in June 2018.

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