Dispatch from the Road: Tech before Pedagogy?

I worked on this post on and off today when things were printing, or I was sitting waiting for the board meeting to start. I need to finish now that the meeting is getting started… the board has been doing some hard work with only 7 of them. They have a tough job I guess.


George Siemens from his “Connectivism Blog” entry “Pedagogy First? Whatever.” notes something that won’t startle most of you folks settling into any kind of curriculum review or technology education planning. He writes:

“In dealing with faculty and instructional designers, a series of almost default phrases are vocalized once technology is mentioned: “We need to start with pedagogy”…”It’s pedagogy first”. Or, whenever I’m in a meeting and someone says “pedagogy first”, the apparently genetic instinct to nod viciously is enacted by everyone around the table. “Yes, that is right. We need to have priorities here. Let’s tame technology and focus instead on what we already know and are comfortable with. Let’s ensure that technology does not get away from the tried and true method of containing innovation and new approaches.”

Road  Highway  Night  Lights by Jan TeunisIt would not be a huge surprise to note this is a commonly used phrase and I will admit that I must have that genetic response as well. In many ways it makes sense.. COMMON SENSE. But let’s dig a little deeper.

How much we develop our classrooms really is starting to depend on how far we stretch the pedagogy. Teachers teach. Student learn. Or…. perhaps student create, and build and… teach? “Sound pedagogy” ideals are being stretched and even changed in practice as we push students to create their own learning environments and drafting, editing, developing and publishing their work for review by their peers, by their parents, and ultimately by an educator trained in solid assessments methods. The leap must be from the common practice, or the “sound practice” to a more innovative, thoughtful use of contemporary tools, with contemporary teaching methods– as Seimens says– look at the context. When we turn that idea into “sound pedagogy, we will find our schools moving off the spot.

So…. COMMON SENSE would tell you that we want our students to be motivated and encouraged by the learning we present. In order for us to do this in a more effective way… one that will meet the needs of our changing student population, we must focus on the contextual nature of all of our work of educating teachers.

I’m not able to attend this workshop, but this might be a place where a motivated educator can explore these thoughts more. Check out the conference “Constructing Modern Knowledge 2008”.

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5 Responses to Dispatch from the Road: Tech before Pedagogy?

  1. If history is any indicator technology has always led and pedagogy has followed. We like to comfort our selves with fancy terms but most of us don’t walk the talk. Am I guilty? certainly

    I remember one school http://www.shackleton.org which seemed to get it. Sadly it’s not around anymore but from one visit, I witnessed a different approach

  2. I, too, have the gut reaction of pedagogy first…good teaching is good teaching. But your point is well made here. As a tech and learning coordinator I run into this dilemma regularly and find it difficult to convince good teachers that technology can provide something richer. Whether it’s “sticking to what you know and are good at” or it’s “too much work to learn a new technology that I won’t be good at”, what I have been missing is the innovation piece.

    With a greater focus on that side and thoughtful use, I think more teachers will see it as “common sense” to jump on board.

    On a related note, I also find that there are those on faculty or in administration who want data to prove that these things we talk about as changing the face of education really do “increase” learning. But the technology is so new. At what stage can we implement based on common sense and thoughtful use based on our professional opinions?

  3. Hello Andrew,

    Let me start by saying how encouraging it is to see administrators blogging and joining the conversations so many of us teachers are having. It is this type of foward thinking that allows all of to better understand the future our schools need to take. I think you nailed it when you said, “The leap must be from the common practice, or the “sound practice” to a more innovative, thoughtful use of contemporary tools, with contemporary teaching methods– as Seimens says– look at the context.”

    Sound practices are dying and we need to look to the future and see what is coming down the pipeline. We need educators who are not scared or made nervous by change and technology, but rather people who are excited by it!

    How else will connect to the students of the 21st century?

  4. TFT says:

    Hi Andrew, as you point out Common Sense is a very important thing here. I have seen instances of Technology (or Gadgets) used with out any real thought to how, or why, this should be done. Using Technology in the classroom should be ( and realise that I am a techie and not a trained teacher) to teach and prepare our students for the real world life that they will emerge into. Its not about bragging because of the toys you use.

    Now days video can be, and often is, used in all subjects and not just in English. Collaboration between schools can make projects diverse and interesting for our students. Yes, Web 2.0, and other aspects of 21st Century learning technologies are great to use in our classes. As long as we know why we are using them.

    We are currently looking at restructuring our use of technology in our Middle School. As we look at this we need to look at the bigger pictures, Staffing, Professional Development, Curriculum, Outcomes, and eventually the Technologies that we want to integrate.

    As you say, it all comes down to “Common Sense.”

  5. Pingback: On Deck | Episode 11: How Do We Connect Technology and Classroom Instruction Seamlessly?

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