So what comes first, technology or pedagogy?
For me one of the messages that comes out of the videos I was watching last week and resonates with me, is how the most effective way of using technology is where it is used to solve a problem.
The problem could be pedagogical, as with the teaching machine, that allows independent self-directed learning, or it could be social, as with Sugata Mitra’s hole in the wall experiment.
What I have noticed at conferences and online in social media is that this often results in the conclusion that we should put pedagogy first and before technology.
I do agree with that sentiment that we should start with the problem we are trying to solve and if it is a pedagogical problem then we should start with the pedagogy. We should the consider a range of technologies that could be used to solve that problem.
There is an assumption there that a practitioner is fully conversant in the ranges of technologies available and understands their potential for solving issues.
From working with practitioners is that they are not always aware of the different types of technology available and what their functionality and capabilities are. Without knowing what things can do and how they enhance and enrich learning, how can you make an educated choice about which is the right technology to use in which context? This is why I do think that sometimes we do need to talk about technology and how it can transform learning. This is not about solving problems with TEL, but providing TEL as a box of potential solutions to solve future problems.
Of course you are not going to be able to know everything, or understand how everything works to make use of it, but understanding the potential means that if you encounter a problem in the future then you will have a potential solution that can be worked on.
A secondary aspect that also needs to be considered is the transformative nature of technology. If we start talking about technology we might find there are new ways of learning, new pedagogies that could be exploited to solve problems. If we didn’t think about the potential of different technologies.
Technology can offer new ways of learning, that if we started from a learning perspective may be missed.
One example that comes to mind is GPS, location based learning can be transformative as it allows learning to happen in places that otherwise might be missed. If you think of those services on phones that remind you to buy something when you pass a particular shop, then put this into a learning context; imagine your phone alerting you to a building or location you are passing and how it relates to the current topic you are studying. You may not even realise that the location is connected, but GPS and location aware learning objects will help you to do just that. The problem here is about context-sensitive learning, but this just couldn’t happen in a classroom or lecture based scenario. Technology allows us to transform the potential for learning and create new ways for learners to access learning.
I do think we need to stop thinking about what we should focus on “first”, pedagogy or technology, but actually consider the context and audience we are working with.
If we are a teacher then more likely when working with learners, the TEL will be there to support the solving of a learning problem. The learning will come first in this instance, and the TEL will be supportive. However what if the teacher wants the learners to consider a range of technologies to support an assessment objective, in this instance then it makes much more sense to talk about the technology.
At a conference, training session or on social media, it can make sense that we start talking about technology and what it can do, rather than start talking about problems and pedagogy,
So what comes first, technology or pedagogy? Well both do, it depends on the context.