Anonymity as Freedom: Drawing Critical Hope from Pandemic Pedagogy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


With the move to online learning over the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers embraced many new ways of working, as pedagogy morphed to address the changing contexts. Many online platforms offer breakout rooms, to approximate small group discussion, yet it transpired that engagement between students could be painfully difficult to facilitate. Moreover, connectivity issues could make video-participation impossible and even audio-participation could be patchy. All-too-often students resorted to written exchanges in the ‘chat’, or opted out altogether. In grappling for alternatives and exploring options, the interactive whiteboard came into its own. This different space for engaged, dynamic, probing interaction emerged as a solution. Crucially - unlike chat where names are visible to all - this function is entirely anonymized. Students could safely offer answers to questions, raise tentative points, ask all-manner of questions and air concerns and difficulties. A small-scale qualitative ‘reflections’ survey reveals that with this format, fear of being labelled as stupid, or being exposed as possessing a minority view - these all melt into air. Similarly social anxiety abates. A silent environment has never been so dynamic and previously silenced voices begin to participate. Something wonderful, akin to genuine student academic freedom (Macfarlane, 2016) and situated close to critical pedagogy (Freire, 1996) is afoot. In silence and anonymity there is dialogue, expression and inclusion. Sustaining this unexpected win from pandemic pedagogy, as learning returns to blended or in-person formats, seems vital.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages11
JournalCurriculum Studies Collaborative Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2024


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