“Pedagogy is the driver, technology the accelerator.” This popular thought has been making the rounds on social media, instilling the importance of “pedagogy first, technology second.” This kind of thinking speaks volumes to educators for many reasons. Technology is often branded ‘disruptive’, a term justly despised by many. After all, what educator wants disruption? By placing the emphasis on ‘disruptive’ technology, over pedagogy, we’re making the wrong argument for education reform. For an educator, changing pedagogical method is not as easy as many would like to believe. Changing method with ‘disruptive’ technology? Forget about it. What we should be looking at is rather the pedagogy behind the technology… the purpose behind the tools.
“Our team is about more than just technology, it’s about innovation, powerful learning, and student empowerment, using technology as a vehicle”, says Leslie Pralle Keehn, Technology Integration Consultant from Iowa. While technology integration is top of Leslie’s agenda, she also recognises the necessity for good pedagogy first and foremost. “Technology in schools can be a game changer. It’s an equalizer. It’s a way to offer opportunities we have never had before and to close the achievement gap. However, technology can also be a magnifying glass. It doesn’t fix poor teaching strategies. It can make great teaching better, and poor teaching worse.”
Too often, educators are deprived of the support and training needed to fully understand the devices being placed in their hands, and how they can best support the pedagogy being implemented. “Many universities are still not modelling meaningful integration (or sometimes any) into the teacher prep classroom beyond one or two designated ‘technology’ courses”, says Leslie. “Even our new teachers, while they have a strong informal background in technology, do not have much in terms of formal training about how to really harness the power of technology to change and enhance teaching and learning.”
While more support and training is essential, bringing educators on board with what we like to call ‘21st century education solutions’ also requires a change of context, a language adjustment. Rather than focusing on the tools, we need to focus on the questions.
These questions place the focus on changing mindsets, re-evaluating the teaching process. Beginning with these, Leslie highlights the importance of failure in such a task. “Failure is a crucial part of the learning process”, she says. Recommending ‘pilot’ programs as ideal stepping stones for educators with a plan in motion, Leslie explains: “This gives teachers a chance to be brave and try something new, but still have a form of safety net in place.”
As schools scramble to meet the demands of the digital world by encouraging technology integration, others are looking at the pedagogy and mindsets surrounding education, promoting the innovation that brings about such change. By keeping ‘pedagogy as the driver and technology as the accelerator’, educators are beginning to ask questions, change mindsets… reform education from the ground up.
About the author:
Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.