Humanizing our Digital Pedagogy
It is necessary to develop the appropriate pedagogical tools to deal with edtech, and digital pedagogy is an effort in that direction. Obviously, critical assessment of digital tools is an important step in creating a valid digital pedagogy. But it isn’t the only step. It is also important that we humanize our digital pedagogy. Here are four ways to do that:
First, care needs to be taken on the topic of digital communication. Students often do not understand that, without the nonverbal aspects of traditional modes of communication, messages can be garbled and thus misunderstood. So a key task for digital pedagogy is to ensure that students know how to communicate well using digital tools. It might seem that digital tools would make it easier to communicate. Well, they make it faster and less expensive, to be certain. But in some important respects, they make it more difficult since the nonverbal cues are missing.
Second, there’s another key aspect of digital communication that needs attention in a digital pedagogy: hate speech, bullying, and general incivility have become problems in a variety of digital spheres. Pedagogies need to understand this reality and not only teach students how to avoid participating in it but also how to respond when they are a victim or a witness to it.
Third, a digital pedagogy can never be totalizing. In other words, there always needs to be ample room for non-digital forms of communication and learning. After all, face-to-face conversations are still crucial, and students need the time and space to develop the skills to have them. So no legitimate digital pedagogy can replace all in-class interactions with digital tools; there still needs to be ample room for live class discussions, small group work, and one-on-one conversations.
Fourth, digital pedagogy has to grapple with what is surely the most vexing problem in the edtech space: the research dilemma. Here’s the problem: the life cycle of most edtech products is so short that it is nearly impossible to study them before they are obsolete adequately. This makes it extremely difficult for education stakeholders to determine best practices for emerging technologies. It may be that there are ways to speed up the traditional research model.
Or, it may be that there are alternative models that harness the data analytics implicit in most edtech products to gather data more quickly. Or, there may be some other, as-yet-unimagined solution on the horizon. But, in any case, the field will need to solve this problem—or it risks losing credibility.
To sum, digital pedagogy is necessary. It needs to be robust, and it needs to be tested, tried, and developed iteratively. It needs to focus, primarily, on issues related to communication and research. The future of edtech requires it.