Trust, Truth, and Knowing Through the Pandemic: The Digital Learning Challenge


Learning and technology have been defining features of global pandemic responses.

The pandemic has brought into stark relief how engagement with evidence and science, digital and social media, and public health systems intersect, to shape views and behaviours. We’ve witnessed the central role of education and learning in terms of understanding gaps in knowledge, and how to support citizens to learn effectively, to navigate trust, truth, and knowing.

Digital technologies are intertwined with this learning. They shape our education needs, how we navigate trust on social media, understand complex data, and engage with critical and creative thinking when learning and work are conducted from home. They also offer opportunities, for understanding these learning needs, sharing knowledge, building trust in communities, and technology enhanced teaching to engage with new complex information and data. That is, who we trust and how we think about knowledge are bound up with learning and intertwined with the tools we use.

An invitation to think with us

This brief gives a taster of how taking a learning and technologies perspective can help illuminate concerns around trust, truth, and knowing in the pandemic.

Below, we share some of our headline thinking.

Our partners are across galleries, libaries and musuems; technology and edtech organisations; the primary and secondary education sector; organisations that span learning over lifestages, and across communiuties; within UTS and other universities.

All of our partner contexts, and expertise, are important. We hope you’ll take up this invitation to add more voices of expertise in response to these brief provocations.

Trust, Truth, and Knowing Through the Pandemic: The Digital Learning Challenge

How do we model changes in learning needs for truth, trust, and knowing, through crises like pandemics?
How do we design for technologies to help us navigate these changing needs?

Search result image for 'analytics', by Edho Pratama on Unsplash
Modelling change, Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Through our interactions with each other, and with our technologies, we shape, and are shaped by, our changing world. This is true across learning communities, and between them, as different communities interact with and learn from each other (or don’t), and as different communities – professional, educational, personal – come into contact.

But how do we support people to learn across these contexts, and how do we understand existing strengths, and learning needs? To put it another way:

as the world around us changes, how does education keep up?

The pandemic has highlighted the power of learning and technology, through the ways some communities have shared public health information and data. But it has also highlighted gaps in learning, and poor uptake of some technologies to support truth, trust, and knowing.

To navigate truth, trust, and knowing through the pandemic, what skills and knowledge do people need?

Data visualisation of COVID-19 cases, by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The pandemic has highlighted huge variation in how people and civil society think about, and build on, evidence and data. On the one hand, there has been widespread concern regarding denialism, of the seriousness of the pandemic, and around efficacy or safety of treatment and mitigation options.

On the other side, the mantra “follow the science” has at times failed to acknowledge that “the science” is not a body of fixed knowledge, but a collection of human processes, testing and building theory in an iterative, evolving, and uncertain manner.

Technologies, and the ways we engage in dialogue across communities, mediate this understanding, through the ways they enable sharing of information and data, through algorithmic filtering and ranking, and tools that allow us to engage in dialogue together - more or less constructively.

what skills and knowledge do people need to navigate our digital and data mediated world?

How do we support educators in designing for learning to navigate truth, trust, and knowing through the pandemic?

Child studying at a laptop, Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash
Home schooling, Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash

Teachers play a fundamental role in how society can respond to changing learning needs, and key events such as the pandemic. The pandemic has starkly highlighted that when we consider learning needs, such as how our children learn to navigate credibility, think critically, and understand the science of vaccines, we must also consider the situated context; remote learning brought about a new set of challenges, entangled with issues of truth, trust, and knowing, and tackled in tandem by teachers.

Learning from teacher practice is central to supporting teachers to support their students. By understanding, sharing, and building practices with teachers, we can co-construct curricula that integrate with new digital pedagogical practices. The pandemic has amplified the crucial role of education in helping learners navigate the nature of science and variations in source and data quality.

To navigate information online, learners need to be able to think about information they may disagree with, and to understand the importance of corroboration, and expertise. This of course matters for our personal lives, but it is also key for active engaged citizenship and full participation in society. The pandemic has shown the potential of using technologies to share knowledge, with examples of private citizens – including school students – creating apps, sharing data, and contributing to open knowledge resources such as Wikipedia, to support people’s learning about COVID-19 cases, and mitigation.

What role does technology play in supporting teachers' practice?

Conclusion: We invite you to think together with us

Our learning needs are in dynamic interaction with the world around us, and we need tools to model this and measure where things are going well (and not). The pandemic has highlighted some needs, and we want to understand these, the tools we have available to tackle support for learners, teachers, and educators.

We want to hear from you, examples from your own work, stories, or links to resources or examples in the media, that demonstrate where things are going well, challenges we face, and any burning questions you have about digital learning for trust, truth, and knowing. The survey embed below will ask you about these, and you can view responses as they come in from the report below.

  • How do we model the change, and design technologies that support learning through these changes?
  • What skills and knowledge do people need to learn, and what new tools do we have to help them?
  • How do we help teachers and educators in using digital technologies to support their learners?

We invite you to think together with us

Fill out survey below or at this qualtrics link

We hope to use these responses to think with you, in our launch event, and in shaping CREDS future activities, including future events in which we’d love to hear from you about how taking a learning and technologies lens might help inform your work, and challenges you face that our work might impact.

We invite you to think together with us

Your responses

View the results below, or at the Qualtrics report.



We explore the dynamic relationship between technology and learning – across formal, informal, and professional education contexts throughout the lifespan.

Our research interrogates the new ways in which technologies enhance learning, and the changing learning needs of a digital society.

To cite this page use either:

CREDS (2021). Trust, Truth, and Knowing Through the Pandemic: The Digital Learning Challenge. University of Technology Sydney, Centre for Research on Education in a Digital Society (CREDS).

Knight, S., Buchanan, J., Dickson-Deane, C., Do, H., Ford, H., Heggart, K., Hunter, J., Johns, A., Kearney, K., Cetindamar Kozanoglu, D., Narayan, B., Thompson, D., Tregenza, B., Wahyu Mustikasari, D., Buckingham Shum, S., Coupland, M., Kitto, K., Knussen, L., Maher, D., Palmer, T. (2021). Trust, Truth, and Knowing Through the Pandemic: The Digital Learning Challenge. University of Technology Sydney, Centre for Research on Education in a Digital Society (CREDS).

Meet the Team



Simon Knight

Senior Lecturer and Director of CREDS

Epistemic Cognition, Learning Analytics, Critical and Creative Thinking, Argumentation and Evidence use



Damian Maher

Teacher Professional Development, Mobile Pedagogies, Technology Enhanced Learning, Professional Learning Networks


Jane Hunter

Teacher Professional Development, Technology Enhanced Learning, Technology Integration, Integrated STEM


Keith Heggart

Learning Design, Learning Analytics, Citizenship Education, Critical and Creative Thinking


Kirsty Kitto

Learning Analytics, Learning Design, Quantum Cognition, Skills Modelling


Mary Coupland

Mathematics Education, Critical and Creative Thinking, Teacher Professional Development


Matthew Kearney

Mobile Pedagogies, Teacher Professional Development, Technology Enhanced Learning


Simon Buckingham Shum

Learning Analytics, Hypermedia Discourse, 21st Century Learning Assessment, Writing Analytics and Argumentation Mining

Associate Member


Marco Angelini

Mathematics Education, Engineering education, Educational equity

Honorary Associate Member

Higher Degree Research Student