Thursday, 3 May 2018

Pedagogy | digital technology

In my experience, this is a much talked about topic and one that doesn't disappear.  I often wrestle with pedagogy vs digital technology, especially when asked questions on how people should approach the use of an existing or new piece of digital technology.  In this post I provide a quick mind dump on this over-thought question and work through some of my thoughts around what might come first, and if one actually does.  So, let me work this into a question, which comes first for the effective use of TEL, the affordances of the digital technology or pedagogy?

I guess this stems back from a conversation I joined in during MoodleMoot 2017.  Where I stated reassuringly "Pedagogy first then digital technology."  Then I was prompted by a participant that you need to know what the digital technologies affordances are before applying with pedagogy.  Which then led to me to respond with "I usually put tech first when I haven't thought through the pedagogy.  But I agree that you need to see the tech affordances too."

To me the main difference between the two is:

  • Pedagogy - learning outcome and teaching delivery focused
  • Digital technology - tool and feature focused

It can be a difficult one this as you need to see what digital technology is capable of doing/right tool for job before delivering through it.  Hence why trying/playing with the piece of digital technology first can help rule out any reasons why it can't be the right tool.  Perhaps it's down to peoples previous knowledge or awareness of a tool or system?  If they have already experienced what the main objective of that tool is, then they have an instant idea if it will work or not.  For example; social media - often discussion based; production tools - creating something tangible and usable and so on.

An important point is that the digital technology should assist learning and seamlessly facilitate these processes.  Digital technology should be the facilitator – not the focus.  With that in mind it is not always the case.

A closer look

Taking a closer look of myself in meetings recently.  Why do I choose a paper-based notepad over a mobile app?  What can't I do with an app that I can with an notepad - they both have the same features but one is more efficient than the other.  I mean I even type up some of my notes afterwards!  My aim in meetings is to focus on the discussion, peoples tones and expressions not the digital technology itself.  I often see people use their tablets when taking notes, but how involved are they in the discussion, perhaps they can divide their attention more than I can.  You could say it is down to preference as some people can 'multitask' by typing away and actively listening.  I choose active listening and being able to use one hand for my pen rather than a mouse/pen clicking/touching.  Maybe it's too much cognition at one time for my brain or maybe I just have outdated practices?!  However, at conferences I tend to open up TweetDeck watch online conversations as well as what is happening in front of me.  But often, I may be interacting with Tweets without taking in what is happening around me.  In this instance, I am choosing digital technology before pedagogy.  Although it is communication, but is anchored towards my own learning, I can see in this situation the advances the digital technology brings.  I'm probably digressing, as both of these are not 'true' pedagogy but mainly communication.  However, it does emphasise a point about how TEL can affect the interplay between face-to-face experiences.

What was my point again?

Well, at the Recent Jisc Digifest 2018, I was observing online and caught some Tweets, to which I replied:


So this affirms that I am still conscious of the challenge between the two approaches.  I think I will still wrestle with the two but I have come to some sort of mild conclusion, which is very obvious, but I still can't help dwelling over it.

Coming back to my question "which comes first for the effective use of TEL".  I think it's all about what is appropriate at the time of the digital technologies intended use.  If digital technology is going to be used as a serious long-term implementation for learning and teaching, then pedagogy comes first and should be critically examined on all angles of it's application.  Digital technology should come first when making an initial judgement of the application within the context it may be used in. For example, in an academic, professional services or research context.

Yes you need pedagogy for anything learning and teaching related.  There are quick wins but as said, for long-term use it may take some time to plan and practise with, which includes obtaining feedback and evaluation to perfect it.  In my #LTbookFE, I focus on how people may approach the use of digital technology with specific performance tasks and emphasise on getting to know the piece of digital technology through play to expose further potential.  Perhaps being presented with statements of practice that include ways of using digital technology so that people can relate to it.  Rather than just having a list of digital technologies to wade through.  I'm still pondering...