Sep 29 2022

Q&A: Bold Schools Can Use Technology to Serve Pedagogy

Award-winning teacher and administrator-turned-author Weston Kieschnick says technology can be a powerful classroom tool.

In the classroom, pedagogy rules — or, at least, it should, according to Weston Kieschnick, education consultant, podcaster and author of the books Bold School: Old School Wisdom + New School Technologies and The Educator’s Atlas: Your Roadmap to Engagement. EdTech: Focus on K–12 spoke with him about his vision for integrating tech into teaching so students can thrive.

EDTECH: In your book Bold School, you write, “Technology is awesome. Teachers are better.” What inspired you to say that?

KIESCHNICK: Technology emerged in our schools, and we got really excited about it, justifiably so. It enables us to do things with kids that were never before possible, but we got more excited about technology than we did about pedagogy.

Technology is not going to be the thing that fixes education or moves our kids forward; that’s going to be pedagogy. It’s going to be great instruction. The art and science of teaching has to sit front and center in the work that we do with kids.

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The word “bold,” in the way I use it, is just a mashup of the words “blended” and “old,” as a reminder that as we pursue more innovative methodologies for instruction, old-school wisdom must come with us on that path.

EDTECH: What can teachers do to center pedagogy when using ed tech?

KIESCHNICK: From this moment forward, let’s never have a conversation about a digital tool that occurs independently from instructional strategy.

EXPLORE: Support pedagogy in school districts with educational technology.

We have to ask ourselves whether this technology is going to be a thing that helps us or helps kids build relationships with their teachers, with the content and with one another.

EDTECH: Could professional development focused on ed tech help teachers improve their mastery of these tools?

KIESCHNICK: Actually, I think this is a two-part solution. First, I think professional development is definitely one of the answers to solving the problem of using these digital tools with efficacy. I think addressing the intimidation factor of the tech tools that exist out there is the second part of solving this problem.

The dirty little secret about ed tech expertise is that ed tech experts don’t have a catalog of 30 or 40 digital tools that they’re using all the time. Teachers need to absolve themselves of the notion that every time a new tool comes out, they have to go learn what it does.

Find between 10 and 15 that do exactly what you need them to do, that support the most common instructional strategies, and then just build from there.

LEARN MORE: Discover the benefits of integrating technology into today's K–12 classrooms.

EDTECH: How do you think a teacher’s fear of using ed tech impacts student acquisition of tech expertise?

KIESCHNICK: I think that often, the only thing keeping really great technology from the hands of children in an active sense is the fear of the adults around them. It’s a fear of giving up control, and that fear is real and it is justified. At the same time, if we’re going to truly embrace the promise of ed tech and what it has in store for education, we must be willing to loosen the reins a little bit and relinquish some of that control.

EDTECH: Project-based learning and flipped classrooms are forms of relinquishing control. Is that always a good thing?

KIESCHNICK: I think there are huge advantages to that, but we have to be careful as a profession, because what I’ve seen in my observations is that for some folks, the pendulum has swung so far that everything is flipped. It’s wonderful, but the single greatest thing we’re always going to put in a classroom is a great teacher who is not only a pedagogue but is equipped to build great relationships with kids.

I just want to make sure that as we pursue things like project-based learning, as we pursue things like voice and choice and pace and place in the classroom, that our pendulum doesn’t swing so far that some teachers are lost relative to their understanding of where they belong in the classroom.

DIVE DEEPER: How can educators incorporate asynchronous learning in the classroom?

EDTECH: Your latest book is focused on engagement. How can educators re-engage their students?

KIESCHNICK: We have an engagement crisis in our schools, and we have to recognize that external elements are never going to solve the problem of engagement.

The way teachers solve the problem of engagement is by understanding that engagement is formulaic. Here’s what engaging teachers do differently: They capture and hold student attention. They’re masters of transitional phrasing. They teach clear and concise lessons. Those lessons are always followed by an activity of doing, and then there’s a summation.

The single greatest thing we’re always going to put in a classroom is a great teacher who is not only a pedagogue but is equipped to build great relationships with kids.”

Weston Kieschnick Education Consultant, Podcaster and Author

Really engaging teachers are concerned with how kids feel, because the feeling when they walk in can’t be boredom, and the feeling when they walk out can’t be failure. If those are the two prevailing emotions, they will disengage.

This is where technology comes in. Tech lives in the activities we offer students after we’ve taught the lesson. It’s not enough just to lay information at a child’s feet. What are they going to do with it? You think, “How am I going to use a tech tool to create a concept map? How am I going to use a tool like Flocabulary to create musical mnemonics around new vocabulary?” That’s where technology lives. Technology helps with doing things so that kids aren’t just recipients of information and content. Instead, they’re active participants.

EDTECH: What’s your favorite ed tech for teachers and what are some ways they can use it?

KIESCHNICK: I love Nearpod. I think Pear Deck is similar. The versatility that exists in those tools is incredible. You can use Nearpod or Pear Deck to support questioning, feedback and reciprocal teaching. The list of instructional strategies that those two particular tools can support goes on and on.

EDTECH: How can the public begin to express appreciation for what teachers are doing?

KIESCHNICK: I think the next time a bond referendum comes up in your community, the next time a mill levy comes up in your community, the next time your local schools are asking for help, give it.

I think that is a place we can all start. What else can we do? As parents, I think we need to think long and hard before we hit send on that email to our kid’s teacher and ask ourselves, “Is this necessary?”

UP NEXT: Teaching emerging technologies empowers K–12 students.

Photography by Julia Vandenoever

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