Edtech Should Complement Good Pedagogy, Not Attempt to Replace It
The newest generation of edtech is downright amazing; it’s no wonder that various education stakeholders might be a little excited about its potential to transform education. However, edtech works best when it is thought of as a tool to achieve a specific instructional objective and not as an end in itself. In other words, edtech should complement good pedagogy, not attempt to replace it.
There are three characteristics of good pedagogy:
Good Pedagogy Is Designed Backwards
In the Understanding by Design model, the instructional plan begins by deciding on the objective. In other words, the outcome is determined first. In the second step, the assessments are designed. Finally, instructional activities are chosen. This is, of course, backward regarding the traditional model, where an instructor would choose activities first and then design assessments later. The benefit of the UbD model is that it focuses instructional tasks not on what is fun or engaging or traditional or easy but rather on exactly what is needed for the student to achieve certain learning goals.
Good Pedagogy Is Collaborative
Whether it is called collaborative learning or cooperative learning (and some pedagogues do find a distinction between the two), students need opportunities to work with others as they learn. These experiences help them develop their communication and leadership skills as well as exposing them to alternative ideas and points of view.
Good Pedagogy Is Focused on Mastery
Traditional instruction can be compared to an out-of-control train: a student is along for the ride with no options. But a better approach is to focus on mastery. This means that a student studies a concept until they have mastered it, not until the teacher decides to move on to something else. Obviously, this approach increases the likelihood of students genuinely learning the material instead of just being exposed to it without truly understanding it.
So, What about Edtech?
These three essential elements of good pedagogy can all be better achieved using edtech, but they require intentional effort to incorporate on the part of edtech designers and users. For example, it has become common for teachers to try out new edtech just because it looks fun and engaging, but the principles of backward design require a teacher to only deploy edtech if it is the best way to achieve an already-articulated instructional goal. Similarly, edtech can lead to students working in a less collaborative manner, hunched over their screens, unless a teacher actively strives to find tools that encourage collaboration.
In sum, edtech is not its own pedagogy. Instead, it needs to be used in accordance with sound pedagogy.