Old ways, new challenges

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I am becoming ever more conscious of the fact that people like me often come across as technophiles who focus on technology rather than pedagogy. By the time we realise we are giving the wrong impression it’s often too late.

No matter how we emphasise that the latter is far more important than the former – it’s not the tool that matters, it’s how you use it – people have already made up their minds: at best you’re a gullible victim of ridiculous new fads – which will never catch on anyway – and at worst you’re a condescending and contemptible person who, by extolling a certain approach to teaching and learning, is implying the inferiority of everyone else’s approach.

I have grappled with this quandary before and my policy of not-evangelising-but-instead-leading-by-example, which by and large produces the desired effect in the long term, is proving to be ineffective in combating the perceptions of teachers who may interpret any suggestions of change as a personal attack on often deeply held pedagogical values and beliefs.

Whilst recognising that one does certainly not need technology to be a brilliant teacher – some of the best teachers I know hardly ever use a computer in a lesson – one must also realise that widening the gap between our pupils’ experience of the world and our more traditional pedagogical values often leads to situations in which our expectations and theirs are widely differing. Prohibiting the use of mobile phones – even to set reminders for homework due dates – and the filtering out from school networks of the social networking phenomenon which could otherwise be harnessed to help deliver the curriculum in a more contemporary way are just two examples of expectations which we are failing to meet.

People like me – those who are willing to adapt our practice to the world in which we live – are often accused of being pedantic or patronising. However, we are seldom praised for being open to new ideas or for exploring new pedagogies.

If you take a moment’s thought you’ll realise I am neither condescending nor patronising. I am humbly acknowledging that there may be a better way.

What do you think?

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José Picardo

José is Assistant Principal at Surbiton High School and a Fellow of the RSA and Naace. He is interested in improving education and the way technology can be used to enhance and transform teaching and learning. José has been curating Box of Tricks since 2007 and holds a MA in ICT and Education.

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  • Graham Davies

    This topic was raised in the excellent blog maintained by EFL teacher Marisa Constantinides, and I followed up with a reference to her blog thread in my ICT4LT blog at
    http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com/2009
    under the heading “Technology v. pedaggogy – lest we forget…”

    Both Marisa's blog and my ICT4LT blog attracted a few interesting replies. Have a look.

    Graham

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  • Jo

    I suspect that sometimes a person who is quick to accuse others of being a technophile is actually a technophobe themselves and often driven by fear of discovery; lack of self-confidence in general, hidden behind a facade of blasé attitude. It is far easier to divert attention by mocking others and accusing anything different or new of lacking pedagogical worth, than to face up to one's own feelings of inadequacy!! ;-)

  • http://un.teachable.net/ SimonSays

    I think it's interesting how people tend to divide 'technology' and 'pedagogy' when technology is such an integral part of teaching. You don't need to be a technophile to acknowledge that CDs are more convenient than tapes and not having to spend 15 minutes cueing them up before class means you have 15 more minutes to plan the lesson etc.

    Technology that's pedagogically useful sticks and most teachers end up using it in the long-run but there always needs to be some teachers prepared to be early-adopters and actually figure out whether new technology is useful or not and how it can be applied in class.

    Great teaching needs to reflect the world around us and technology is an integral part of that world. We need to learn about history, tradition and heritage but writing it out on slates (bits of stone– not tablet PCs) is not the way to do it.

  • http://www.chrisfuller.typepad.com/ Chris

    Yet again I completely agree. Some people find the easiest argument to change is to dismiss your perspective as that of an obsessive, leading them down a path of doing exactly what they've accused you of- closing their minds to different options. And yet the crucial thing to remember remains that the tool needs to be selected according to the individual task, not with a broad brush. If technology does the specific job better, use it. If a paper-based task is the most effective, use it. But don't discard any tool as we fight the many battles with which we're confronted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Rose-Palacio/1066496499 Jean Rose Palacio

    Found my way here through YouTube.

    I agree with your point of view. After having taught for more than 12 years in the high school and observing the evolution of the students' way of thinking and how they experience the world, I also see the need to enhance traditional pedagogy with modern technology. Yes, enhancing pedagogy with technology for effective instruction and relay of knowledge and/or skills.

    But being assigned in one of the far flung areas in the Philippines where majority of the teachers are resistant to change, I and my other “technophile” fellas are misunderstood as condescending and arrogant and all those other things.

    Sad… but I'd rather be doing what I think is best for my students than continue to tread what is thought to be safe because it's familiar at the expense of my students.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Rose-Palacio/1066496499 Jean Rose Palacio

    Found my way here through YouTube.

    I agree with your point of view. After having taught for more than 12 years in the high school and observing the evolution of the students' way of thinking and how they experience the world, I also see the need to enhance traditional pedagogy with modern technology. Yes, enhancing pedagogy with technology for effective instruction and relay of knowledge and/or skills.

    But being assigned in one of the far flung areas in the Philippines where majority of the teachers are resistant to change, I and my other “technophile” fellas are misunderstood as condescending and arrogant and all those other things.

    Sad… but I'd rather be doing what I think is best for my students than continue to tread what is thought to be safe because it's familiar at the expense of my students.

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