Technology and Pedagogy – A Package Deal

13 Feb

I admit it, I have become a bit of a Twitter nut, primarily because of the rich professional learning that has resulted.  There is so much to learn about schools and change.  There is however, something I am finding increasingly troubling and that is the number of blogs, videos, articles, etc, promoting technology in ways that don’t really move learning forward.  There is brilliant work happening with technology in education, but some is just not hitting the mark.  The notion that simply putting an ipad with an electronic textbook in every student’s hand will transform learning and motivate students is the wrong message.  I don’t see this as a particular problem in British Columbia as most of the advocacy for technology here, in my view, is well balanced with learning coming first.  However, there is a problem with how some are viewing technology in education.

Recent blogs I have read describe how the ipad could help transform learning by allowing students to record homework instructions, assignment deadlines and lecture notes with their voice.  They also describe students watching videos of lectures, using e-texts and then completing electronic worksheets on the device.  These are not necessarily bad things if done in proper context of flexible learning but generally speaking these are the kinds of traditional practices that we need to move away from.  Simply doing them on a computer does not transform learning and suggesting it does is misleading to the public and to parents.

Student learning can be transformed with the help of technology.   The problem, is that in many blogs, technology is presented as a panacea in isolation of a larger vision of pedagogical change.  In my view, there is very little difference between students sitting in rows with paper texts and worksheets and students sitting in rows with an ipad and e-books.  This is not transformational change.  In education we are at a significant crossroad where innovation in pedagogy (theories of teaching and learning) and innovation in technology are both critical ingredients for the change that is needed and the relationships and interactions between the two are quite dynamic.  The key to transformation comes down to engaging students in their learning.

We need to focus more on understanding the underlying pedagogical changes that are necessary like formative assessment, project based learning, flexible personalized learning environments, inclusion, instructional groupings, organization of schools and classrooms, grading practices and homework policies to name a few.  I believe that there is urgency for the public education system to become far more relevant to today’s learner.  It is our biggest challenge.

So, my caution is that in a connected world there is access to information everywhere and on everything, be careful what you pay attention to.  This is why competencies such as “critical thinking” and “inquiry” are such important 21st century skills for our students.  If we use technology to promote the same old thinking about school that has existed for 200 years, we will be no further ahead, we actually could go backwards.

note: I wrote the draft of this blog on Feb 8 and then attended the “Targeting Technology for Maximum Student Benefit” in Vancouver.  I was pleased to see that the overwhelming message was pedagogy first, then, ask how technology can bring learning to life.  They are both critical but we must start with learning.  Search for the hashtag #bcedusfu on twitter to view the 850 tweets about this engaging presentation in downtown Vancouver on Feb 9,2012 or visit Chris Kennedy’s “Culture of Yes” for more information.

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Paul Lorette


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