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eDTech and progressive pedagogy: transferability, intervention and mediation

This is an unfinished BLOG, given the day and the impending New Year I’ll put it out. It’s a few thoughts on edTech. It’s partially as a response to an increasing awareness of Educate 1-1 and the tweets of @josepicardoSHS and @domnorrish but also because I think that technology is at the heart of progressive practice.

I recently blogged two articles on the meaning of being a progressive practitioner. Some might see the word progressive as being pointless. Playing the false dichotomy game. I think there is a purpose to differentiating approaches for the purpose of context not least because the two approaches are completely incompatible. That doesn’t mean that traditional approaches have no purpose. Rather that purpose, and use, is different in the two models even if practice is the same. edTech is just one example, of a number.

The question is; what it the point of edTech and how does it fit into practice. I have a view, of course I do, this is a BLOG. The view is this that the main purpose of edTech from a progressive perspective is to transfer ownership of learning to students; allow them to personalise the context of learning.

In the original BLOG, a case was made for progressive practice outlined in the diagram below:

progressive kearning

In the original BLOG the blurb relating to the diagram describes, “group collaboration”. This is the process of transferring ownership to students. From this perspective,  I envisage that edTech as a really useful tool. Ownership could be in the form of independent research in a humanities subject or simply a real world application in a symbolic representational based subject (Math etc)

Traditionally edTech has been all about intervention. Proper teaching start then stops, for a power-point or AN other edTech tool, and then starts again. This is useful for neo-traditionalists and their empirical approach to pedagogy. The intervention can be measured against outputs. Not unusually the empirical tail wags the teaching and learning dog.

A progressive perspective sees teaching and learning as more than just a transaction between a teacher and a student but rather one between the student and the rest of the world. edTech helps to mediate the transaction between classroom practice and a wider context. It allows students to relate learning to a practice context external to the classroom.

By technology I don’t mean Power-point or Prezi. They simply exist to offer a background noise to the usual mode of the teacher, talking about stuff. No, I mean the liberating technology that allows learners to conduct personal research, interact with peers and other educators, read news stories, engage with world affairs and finally access databases full of facts (even Wiki).

If mediation allows learners to gain access to a wider context for learning; transferability allows learners to gain a measure of autonomy. This perspective does not see the (progressive) teacher owning the learning environment. The learning environment is not held prisoner by the walls of institution, the rules of the classroom pinned to the back of the door ominously dictating behaviour; thou shalt not drink, thou shalt not eat, thou shalt not breathe. Technology de-limits the learning environment and gives learners the opportunity to manage learning spaces online.

In the impoverished neo-traditionalist learning model, learning is just the transmission of knowledge from teacher to learner. edTech is a threat because, in this model, you wonder where the added value resides? The teacher is a repository of knowledge but computers do that really well.

The progressive view of technology is that it is a window on the real world, and the world of practice. Liberating for both teacher and student. Whatever your political perspective ultimately students learn stuff so that they can go and use it in the real world. As teachers we need to add value to the knowledge they learn; skills, context and creativity.

In my last BLOG I mentioned the fact that edTech needs to engage with pedagogy and not simply be  a discourse about Gizmos. It might help if we consider that there are three routes for edTech to engage with pedagogy: transferability, intervention and mediation.

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2 thoughts on “eDTech and progressive pedagogy: transferability, intervention and mediation

  1. Though I would describe myself as progressive-when-I’m-able-but-traditional-when-I-have-to-be, this chimes very well with how my view of technology’s fit in the bigger picture of education has evolved in the last few years.

    When digital technology was clearly differentiated (or in contexts where it still is) from the processes involved in teaching and learning, it made some sense to try to measure its impact on learning as a separate intervention. For example, in the days when technology was having to be shoe-horned into a lesson – for example by booking an ICT suite or a class set of laptops – it made more sense to try and measure technology’s impact on learning as a separate factor.

    However, as more and more teachers cease to plan technology into their lessons and move to plan lessons that happen to make some use of technology, it makes less sense to try and measure its impact as a stand alone factor and it frankly makes you question the judgement of those who still to this day insist in closing down debates about the role of technology by stating there is no evidence to support the use of technology, especially as technology has become so deeply ingrained into the fabric of schooling (every aspect of school life – reporting, communication, feedback, student learning, classroom practice… – makes some use of technology).

    Not only is saying that there is no evidence wrong (meta-studies carried out more famously by Hattie, but also by other erudite folk such as Higgins and Coe, conclude fairly unequivocally that technology has a positive impact, albeit not very large, even when measured as a separate intervention), but it also barks squarely at the wrong tree in my view because, in many contexts where technology is more integrated (such as mine) it no longer makes sense to try and measure its impact as a separate factor. In a sense, it would be like trying to measure the impact of being connected to the mains on GCSE results.

    If the call to find out “what works” must be answered (and I refer you to Biesta’s views on this, to which I currently subscribe), then it would make more sense to try and measure proxy indicators of how technology supports the processes involved in teaching and learning. For example, in many settings, it may make more sense to measure how technology impacts on giving and receiving feedback or on supporting teachers with content delivery, for example, than trying to measure technology as a single factor, which would be, in my view, utterly pointless.

    1. Thanks for the comment appreciate your time.

      I think technology used properly has a big impact. In fact I cannot imagine not using it.

      The other interesting thing about technology is the issue of distributed cognition. In other words how often do we now bookmark information that we once would have had to learn and remember.

      Technology is changing the whole paradigm of how we think about the world. Evidence is a problem partially becasue of the dynamic environment that we are in.

      I think it’s important to try and evaluate what works but also to accept that we are limited in the extent to which we can do that. And I agree Biesta’s interpretation of Dewey is a useful way of thinking about the issue.

      I certainly cannot envisage any argument against edTech whether it be in class or to manage practice more effectively using data.

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