Aug 24 2016

Should Pedagogy Always Drive Technology?

An elementary school principal argues for the importance of letting technology shape education.

Teachers hear this mantra often from the best minds in education: Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. Focusing on pedagogy, or the craft of teaching, is a frame that helps ensure educators prioritize content, strategies and students in our work. Technology comes in later.

However, are there times in school in which technology could be the driver? What might happen if pedagogy took a back seat, even briefly? These are questions worth asking.

Teachers work hard to design lessons and create the conditions for success. Yet we know that not all learning happens in school. Our experiences and reflections provide some of the most important lessons about life. Some of these experiences are now mediated by technology. Maybe it is time to pay these tools a little more heed in schools.

One reason to consider leading with technology is the access it provides for students. There is an ability to create new things not possible without it.

Kids can write computer programs with coding applications. They can also construct original worlds in Minecraft. There are often no directions provided. Students have to figure it out on their own. When they cannot, they will usually connect with their peers and collaborate within their digital constructs. By providing some access, we increase the possibilities for new learning.

Another consideration as to whether technology could be a driver in certain educational situations is the reality that students often do need instruction on how to use digital tools for learning.

The first resources that students often go to for research are YouTube and the opening page of search results in Google. If that is the skill set they leave school with, they’re in trouble.

A part of being literate today means understanding what types the resources are out there and how to effectively locate them; determining the purpose for our inquiries; and vetting content with valid criteria. Assuming students will simply come to understand these concepts is a mistake. Literacy is no longer exclusive to paper and pencil.

Finally, could we agree that learning technologies can also be a lot of fun? In a standards-based educational world, is that okay to say? We can find associations between the digital resources available and how we have operated in the past. In fact, by leading with technology at times, we can come to transform our past practices and teach in ways we might not have considered previously.

Certainly, we don't want to monopolize instruction in numeracy and literacy for the sake of the technology. That said, embracing new hardware or software in our current practice can revitalize our instruction.

What might happen if we started writing weekly reflections on a blog in front of our students? We don’t know — and that’s the point.

By showing students that we, too, are learners, we create the conditions for creativity and innovation, which may lead to even greater successes. The learning process becomes collaborative. Maybe educators feel uncomfortable making mistakes publicly, yet what a powerful lesson that could be for our students. It may be the most important part about leading (at times) with technology.

Andersen Ross/ThinkStock

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