Pedagogy vs. Technology: It’s time to stop the debate!

Pedagogy vs. Technology: It’s time to stop the debate!

This post is not related to any of the questions on the NGL blog, but is inspired from this week’s discussion on pedagogy and technology. I have just watched the catch-up zoom recording and have been thinking about Chris’s emphasis on pedagogy and the discussions surrounding being critical on technology. As a teacher (librarian), I find there is a pedagogy vs. technology debate within higher education. When I work with academics, they seem to think they can only have one or the other (probably due the restrictions of copyright and the nature of my role). However, I find this sentiment frustrating, and a contradiction to the principles of NGL.

As a librarian, I have witnessed the transformative role technology plays in bridging the digital divide, by bringing online learning to the “offline” world. I have contributed to this through my work, where I contribute to a project that is taking technologies that do not require internet access into prisoners to enable tertiary opportunities (University of Southern Queensland, 2017). This has been achieved through the development of a LMS that is disconnected from the internet. In the online environment, this LMS works in conjunction with the university’s institutional repository. However, this is not feasible for students without internet. To address the issue, the project uses a “compiler” software which harvests objects hosted in the repository and “packages” the course for export to correctional centres, where incarcerated students can access their courses and even use them on personal devices without the need for internet (Farley et al, 2015).

The integration and use of these technologies show there are ways to bridge the access divide. Despite this success, critics like Toyama (2011) believe there are “no technological shortcuts on good education,” and that “attempts to use technology as a stand-in for capable instruction are bound to fail.” This belief is also supported by Eamon (1999) who states that teaching involves more than the conveyance of information. It involves socialisation, interaction and group activities, which require proximity and thus, cannot be replaced with technology (Eamon, 1999). Jones & Bennett (2014) agree that a course should be driven by pedagogical purpose, rather than technology. However Jones & Bennett (2014) also counteract Toyama’s argument by stating that “pedagogic principles need to fit within the practical structures and market mandates that make certain digital technologies compulsory in university courses.”

Looking at the interplay between the digital divide and social capital it becomes understandable why certain technologies become compulsory. Although Toyama (2011) argues that technology cannot replace instruction, the realisation that some students are disconnected from everything, including teachers, must be remembered. Therefore, asynchronous learning via digital technologies are often considered better than no learning at all, even if they are not quite holistic. Tobin (2000, p.12) believes this should not hinder the learning process as “all learning is self-directed.” According to Tobin (2000) “real learning” – the information that is retained and used beyond a course – can only be determined by the learner themselves. This is why pedagogy is paramount when designing courses for the offline environment. The alteration of courses to suit the technology is a controversial topic. It has sparked debate in literature with scholars agreeing with Toyama (2011) and Eamon (1999) that technology poses a threat to pedagogy, especially when teachers develop courses to suit the technology, rather than vice-versa.

In contrast, supporters of educational technology use social constructivism and a constructive learning framework to argue that teachers should take the role of a facilitator in which students can construct their own knowledge (Le Cornu & Peters, 2005), ideally connected to real-world scenarios in which technology plays a fundamental part of 21st century work life. Instead of fuelling the debate, Jones and Bennett (2014) suggest that the “digital” needs to be de-emphasised in higher education discourse. This will result in the reimagining of educational technologies and allow for the reassertion of pedagogy-led design, where digital technologies are seen as equivalent, not superior, to effective non-digital alternatives (Jones & Bennett, 2014). The project I work on also recognises the need for an equaliser identity between technology and pedagogy. This is reinforced by Farley et al (2015) who states that getting students to engage with technologies and a course requires more than just access – it requires the employment of appropriate pedagogies, the fostering of social capital and a unification with educational technologies.

This is where I stand in my role as a teacher. I believe we need to grasp pedagogy in one hand, and technology in the other, and bring them together. Rather than fuelling a debate, we need to realise that the unification between pedagogy and technology can lead to the most transformative learning experiences.

I’ve been privileged to hear about these transformative stories via the success of incarcerated students, and as an educator, these are the stories I carry with me.

References

Eamon, D. (1999). Distance Education: Has technology become a threat to the academy? Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 31(2), 197-207. doi: 10.3758/BF03207711

Farley, H., Dove, S., Seymour, S., Macdonald, J., Abraham, C., Lee, C., Hopkins, S., Cox, J., & Patching, L. (2015). Making the Connection: Allowing access to digital higher education in a correctional environment. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2015, Perth, WA. Retrieved from http://www.2015conference.ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/ascilite-2015-proceedings.pdf

Jones, A & Bennett, R. (2014). Dissolving the online-offline divide: Re-conceptualizing space in higher education course design. Paper presented at proceedings of the 23rd annual Teaching Learning Forum, Perth, WA. Retrieved from https://clt.curtin.edu.au/events/conferences/tlf/tlf2014/refereed/jones.pdf

Le Cornu, R & Peters, J. (2005). Towards constructivist classrooms: the role of the reflective teacher. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6(1).

Tobin, D. (2000). All Learning is Self-Directed. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

Toyama, K. (2011). There Are No Technology Shortcuts In Good Education. Retrieved 22 August, 2017, from http://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/there-are-no-technology-shortcuts-to-good-education/

University of Southern Queensland. (2017). What is Making the Connection? Retrieved 22 August, 2017, from https://www.usq.edu.au/research/research-programs/education-digital-learning/making-the-connection/about

 

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