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People in the field – Jesse Stommel – riding unicorns ain’t for everyone


Jesse Stommel is a documentary filmmaker, professor, and founder of the Digital Pedagogy Lab and Hybrid Pedagogy. Stommel’s background in English lends itself to his teaching and research interests of higher education pedagogy, critical digital pedagogy, ungrading and assessment, composition, new media, public humanities, scholarly publishing, games and game-making, horror, science fiction, and queer theory. You can find his website here

Stommel’s work is about open education, open pedagogy, critical pedagogy , and radical pedagogy. He insists that issues of social justice and democracy are not distinct from the act of teaching and learning. His contributions shine a light on compassion and inclusion in education. He is not a fan of “best practice” or “scaffolding”. You can find some of his keynotes and lectures here.  Stommel states that  critical digital pedagogy is not neutral and that students’ voices must be heard and that students are agents of their own learning. We need to treat the least privileged with the most respect and a teacher’s job is to advocate for students. You can see some of the pushback his ideas receive here. Unicorns. Stommel believes that although technology has made learning more efficient we must prioritize dignity over efficiency as well as control and compliance from being prioritized over freedom and agency.

Stommel’s work is particularly important to the field of EdTech as it centers justice and care. Stommel contends that there is a call to action as we participate in a digital culture that is “owned and operated” by others. That skills are needed to “read” our modern world. He states that it is not ok to normalize the things that are not working in teaching. We should not pontificate about the future and that the future is here.

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
― Alan Turing

6 thoughts on “People in the field – Jesse Stommel – riding unicorns ain’t for everyone

  1. Thanks for posting about Jesse Stommel. I tend to feel aligned with educators who marry tech and care and Jesse is someone who does this consistently. I have been so curious about why Jesse does not think scaffolding is worth anything. I do so much scaffolding in my design because that is what I learned from my mentors so Jesse saying he did not believe in it makes me super curious.

    1. Agreed Karen! I feel like I am dipping my toe in the water when it comes to many of these theories. I too tend to use a lot of scaffolding in my own work. It was this comment that had me do a mental double take as I listened to Jesse in In Between the Chapters and google him and some of the ideas he presented in 25 years of EdTech by Weller.

  2. Really nice to read your thoughts here. There’s always something a little bit odd about seeing yourself written about in the third person, but I’m truly honored that you featured me here.

    The second half of this piece touches on what I find harmful about the concept of “scaffolding”:

    It has less to do with the really wonderful ways that lots of folks implement the concept, and more to do with the authoritarian origins of the term. As you observe so well here, my work has always been about raising an eyebrow at the stuff in edtech that gets tacitly accepted and promulgated.

    PS. Love the single word sentence: Unicorns. For many years, I had a line in my Twitter bio that said “Fan of one-word sentences.” Yours was a perfect use of the form.

    1. Hello Jesse, I was caught off guard reading your reply. I am honored! I really respect how you speak so passionately about education. It can really make an impact. I am learning so many new things right now and you have sent me off in a new direction and have me reading so many new things.

  3. Great post Sam, you really did Jesse justice by featuring him, I’m glad you highlighted some of the current issues with identity and displaying ones “self” through technology. It’s great to see increasing platforms for self expression through technology and how important they are to creating the learning environment.

    1. Thank you so much. Between our great teachers and diverse cohort, I am learning so much. Thank you for reading my post.

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