Pedagogy First? Whatever.

In dealing with faculty and instructional designers, a series of almost default phrases are vocalized once technology is mentioned: “We need to start with pedagogy”…”It’s pedagogy first”.
Or, whenever I’m in a meeting and someone says “pedagogy first”, the apparently genetic instinct to nod viciously is enacted by everyone around the table. “Yes, that is right. We need to have priorities here. Let’s tame technology and focus instead on what we already know and are comfortable with. Let’s ensure that technology does not get away from the tried and true method of containing innovation and new approaches.”
On the surface, I share this sentiment. I’ve used it many times as well. It’s a nice comforting way of letting people know that we are people with good priorities. We are not from the dark side. Come a little closer to the edge. We are just like you.
Another one of my favorite conversations that cause me to feel with warm, glowing edu-speak goodness: “We need to design our course/program on sound pedagogy”.
But my angst can no longer be contained.
What is sound pedagogy?? Let’s lay aside for a moment that pedagogy traditionally has referred to the instruction of children and Malcolm Knowles’ concept of andragogy is likely a more correct term to use. I’ll assume that those advocates of sound pedagogy use the term as it is commonly understood in most educational conferences and discussions. Well, what is this mysterious sound pedagogy? Is it found in the research of no significant difference? Or significant difference? Is the media used important? (.pdf) or is the type of media not important? Oh, wait, here’s another fun one: transactional distance (.pdf). Better yet, let’s talk about brain-based learning, learning styles, and problem based learning. Simply put: if you want to create your very own pedagogy, you can likely find research that supports it. If you think we should do “a” or shouldn’t do “a”, if you think we should use technology or shouldn’t use technology, if you think learners need more guidance or less guidance, you will be able to find research that supports what you’re saying. (For a slightly less, but not much more so, cynical view of the quality and value of educational research, see Arthur Levine’s report Educating Researchers (.pdf)).
The term sound pedagogy means nothing unless it’s used in a very specific context in which individuals hold to generally similar views of what is and isn’t not appropriate educational research. The use of sound pedagogy as a concept for a diverse group of educators with a diverse group of interests is of no value. What, however, does the term vaguely mean? Common definitions provide some type of reference to art and/or science of teaching. Wikipedia (which is not pedagogically sound), adds additional detail: “generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction”. Art? Science? Style? How can these be determined by research? Who is to say art is sound?
The confusion I find most difficult to deal with is the type that arises from using a certain (apparently sound) line of reasoning in service of the wrong role. While consideration of pedagogy can be important in how we use technology, pedagogy should NOT be the basis of deciding what type of technology we should use. The logic (can I use that word in reference to what is also called an art?) of pedagogy ought to be applied after this selection has occurred.
Pedagogy is not the starting point of planning to teach with technology. Context is.
Consider, for example, an educator who decides to start using Second Life in class. Pedagogically (again, I have no idea what it means due to diverse use) people could suggest it’s not the best approach. The uncertainty can be high…it’s an additional barrier to learning materials…spatial orientation can be difficult for people who have not used virtual worlds before…it’s a clumsy way to present content. Educationally it’s tough to say that Second Life for teaching is the best way to go in teaching (other than in fields like engineering, architecture, game design, or research of group behaviour where using 2L is the primary task. Learning poetry is a secondary (pun!) task in 2L). Why then would anyone want to use Second Life? Because of the learners. It’s new, it’s different, and it captures their attention. Second Life in this instance is a motivation tool (hey, let’s throw that in the pedagogy bin, then we can say 2L is pedagogically sound because it invokes motivation).
I had the experience of students being awakened to learning several years ago while still at Red River College. A colleague – Steve Yurkiw – designed an Authorware game modeled after Jeopardy!. Students worked with basic knowledge terms, a section of the curriculum that was generally dry and boring. In this instance, however, students were motivated and engaged, with about half the class crowded around the laptop and the other half shouting answers from their seats.
Or consider teaching students in a remote location. How should we select technology? In my eyes, selection should be based on the funds available. The experience of the educator. The technology learners can already access. The intended outcomes of the program. And so on. In the end, we may end up using video conferencing in central room. Or we may use ustream with distributed participants. Perhaps skype and chatterous for interaction.
Pedagogy should not even be a consideration during the planning stages of technology use. Harsh statement? Perhaps, but it’s a reality. Few Utopian situations exist where our decisions on how to teach can be based exclusively on pedagogy. Resources, expertise, technology, needs (of learners, educators, society), and funds impact what we choose to do. In a world: context. The mix of multiple, mutually influencing factors determine what we types of technology we select. For more information on context, see this wiki page on the subject that I’ve used at U of Manitoba for workshops (much more detail is required, but I haven’t got around to expanding it). Or for a more esoteric discussion, see pg 61 – 63 in Knowing Knowledge (you can download the book, no charge). Or a page I’m working on related to research.
Let’s abandon the somewhat silly notion of pedagogy first and recognize that the choice of technology is driven by many contextual factors and therefore context is what we are evaluating and considering when we first start talking about possible technology to use. Then, after we have selected technology, we can start talking about pedagogy. Pedagogy is just not a practical starting point for deciding the technology we should use.

26 Responses to “Pedagogy First? Whatever.”

  1. Dear Dr. Siemens:
    I think I agree with you. I tend to avoid all clichés and simplistic mechanistic rules applied to education.
    However, I might go a bit farther than you. I’m largely against instruction and the notion that you learn by being taught.
    I know that the examples you use aren’t critical to your thesis, but Jeopardy as created by a teacher seems a real low-level use of the computer and an example of the teacher having the learning experience that they deprive the students of. If only or primary benefit of the environment, tool or experience is student motivation. It too falls short of what is possible.
    Gary

  2. Great Post! As I would expect…
    In evaluating (or beginning a discussion about) what technology (if any) should be used within a educational setting I completely agree. Context is the starting point. The context should include, well… everything about the context. Language, culture, bandwidth, hardware, software, clean power, community, geographic location, time of year, etc, etc, etc… Once everything about the context, that can be known, is known then the discussion about pedagogical approach and use of technology can begin… And at the same time… I remember when I was doing a whole lot of reading about context I ran across some writings about functional contextualism… Some good head scratching here.
    Fox, E. (2005). Constructing a paradigmatic science of learning and instruction with functional contextualism. Educational Technology Research and Development, 54(1), 5–36.
    Jonassen, D. H. (2006). A Constructivist’s Perspective on Functional Contextualism. Educational Technology Research and Development. 54(1), 43-47.
    Reigeluth, C. & Yun-Jo, A. (2006). Functional Contextualism: An Ideal Framework for Theory in Instructional Design and Technology. Educational Technology Research and Development. 54(1), 49-53.

  3. John Larkin says:

    George,
    Yes. What do the students actually need to learn? What is the situation? What is happening in the school, classroom and in my head? What is the end goal for the students? Is it an attitudinal, skill or knowledge based outcome/objective? These questions float beneath the conscious.
    Now, which tool do I draw upon to achieve this objective? I reach into my invisible backpack of teaching experience and select the appropriate tool. Is it a piece of chalk, an experiment, a debate, a field trip, an essay or perhaps I may reach into my backpack and pull out a little technology? As I select the tool I also think (unconsciously?) about timing, place, assessment, my state of mind and the students’ state of mind.
    I am not consciously thinking “pedagogy” as I select the tool. I am simply thinking what needs to be done and what factors are most influential at that time. I am simply applying commonsense and a practical approach to the job. This commonsense is generally an unconscious act ~ it is not uppermost in my mind. It is simply there. It is how I teach/work. Some people may label that process pedagogy. I just think it is commonsense.
    If technology is the best or even simply a good tool for the job then why not use that tool? I will pull technology out of that invisible back pack that I carry with me as a teacher. So, this time, reassured that I know it is a good tool (strategy/tactic) I will use technology. Not all the time, but sometimes.
    George, you mentioned Second Life as an example. I have never personally used SL but I have been to a couple of educational sites within SL and I feel that Second Life, for example, would probably be useful as a tool for teaching economics students how to run a business or manage an island resort (depending upon the funds available). So, why not use Second Life as a tool of choice? If it matches the need and suits the situation then give it a go. Make a note of the process and store that within your invisible backpack for future reference.
    Are my thoughts clear? I think they agree with you. I know I agree with you. Perhaps I need a quiet beer.
    Your post stood out among the feeds this late Sunday afternoon as the term ‘pedagogy’ had a bad name within a school where I once taught. Speaking the word was not recommended within the staffroom. The staff had grown tired of, and cynical towards, the endless annual cycles of professional development that seemingly focused more on the theoretical and less so on the practical.
    Cheers, John

  4. Hi George
    great post – totally agree! I have been feeling uncomfortable about the ‘pedagogy first’ mantra and agree that in reality context and pragmatics are important drivers. We have recently being doing interviews with teachers to find out their views on learning design and to try and understand how they go about the design process. The overwhelming finding is that they are NOT driven by esoteric learning theories but by prior experience and practice.
    Grainne

  5. lpt21 says:

    An interesting post. I agree with much more of it than I disagree but I would still put forward a case to support the notion of “pedagogy first” or at the very least “pedagogy at all”. Of course there is a lot more going on in any curriculum design/development decision than pedagogy alone…but hopefully it is in the mix and preferably at the begining of the mix. There are lots of other factors and context is as good a word for it as anything, it needs to be a holistic decision, and there are a number of instances where ease, efficiency, flexibility, convenience, skill levels are prevailing factors and that’s fine but what a shame to miss an opportunity to discuss pedagogy in the planning. Seven or eight years ago there was lots of talk about “pedagogy by stealth” around learning technologies – by enthusing staff about technology it was an opportunity to discuss and explore their curriculum design, pedagogical models and, often most important of all, assessment strategies. With early adopters and technology enthusiasts (the ones for example likely to give teaching in SL a go) this is less of an issue, but for a lot of staff they look for the “pedagogy first” conversation to reassure them that this isn’t about using students as guinea pigs, having their best interests at heart (and yes instructional designers use it exactly as you suggest – as some kind of entry fee – “please let me talk to you, I’m not just going to push technology at you like a travelling salesman”). Also in my experience, often the “pedagogy first” conversations are rarely about sticking with what we know or are comfortable with, technology opens doors to new pedagogical opportunities and some of the best conversations start with the staff member declaring “I can’t use technology, it doesn’t fit with my own pedagogical model”…
    I absolutely agree that there are lot more factors than pedagogy when deciding what techonology to use and they can be frustratingly chicken and egg decisions – for example if we want our students to use SL then we have to offer SL access on-campus (as a point of principle) and of course the technical people who need to be convinced that it is worth their while to do the work (and around we go). On the other hand, we have a small number staff who love a tool which is pedagogically interesting but can be confusing to students and expensive to administer. The decisions here are certainly not “pedagogy first”. How about I propose a complementary consideration – it may not be pedagogy first in all decisions about what technology to use, but it ought to be pedagogy first when considering how technology is applied to a learning context but not about the pedagogical safezone about pedagogic opportunity. We need to think bigger and when there are opportunities for students to learn better we should not confine ourselves to learning differently.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  6. Cindy Seibel says:

    Your post brought to mind the cart and horse conversation that often happens at K-12 leadership tables – the focus should be on learning and not the tools of learning. But I’m also wondering what we can learn by looking at the research associated with disruptive technologies? Surely the social learning tools available today fit that description.
    An early post about blogging as a disruptive technology suggested blogging would become the new content management system. For many it has, particularly when coupled with tagging and RSS feeds.
    Speaking of RSS, F. Andy Seidl describes RSS as “a disruptive technology hiding in plain sight” and suggests the phenomenom is not new. “In each case, its not like the established solution providers were unaware of the new technology. In fact, they were the people explaining how and why the new technology was insufficient to meet the requirements of their market.” I think this nicely mirrors what is happening in education. It may not be that we are unaware of the new social learning tools (in K-12 how can we not be aware of what our students are engaged in) but rather we fail to see the relevance to existing learning models. Can understanding how disruptive technologies work help us to change the established thinking? Food for thought.

  7. If the “pedagogy first” teachers are truly committed to learning, they must, as you said, make context central. Who are they teaching what to in what circumstances? I want to suggest that there are many aspects of technology much easier, cheaper, and more accessible than Second Life that are part of the context of modern life, and ought to be explored and then used by responsible teachers. There’s del.icio.us for saving URLs for research and information, there’s Bloglines or Google Reader for following various subjects, there are wikis and/or Google Doc for cooperative work, there are blogs for discussion and reflective writing, there are are various presentation tools, some proprietary and some free, that would allow dyslexic students to demonstrate their knowledge, and there’s lots more, but I think my point is made. In this era, in our modern environment, the computer and the web are ubiquitous. They ARE the context for learning, work, and play. Not learning about what technology can support teaching and learning in a teacher’s subject area, is, IMHO, currently irresponsible. http://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/2008/03/11/using-the-web-in-schools-two-solitudes/

  8. Daniel says:

    It’s true that we use the term “pedagogy” to differentiate between what is worthwile in learning and what is not.
    On a comic note, my brother, an SAT preparation expert, observed something that has to do with what was “worth learning” when we were kids. Our father wanted to teach us “useful skills” and one of them was fixing the car. We always avoided this as much as possible, prefering to play video games. It was the early 1980s, so this included basic technology problems like getting the tape recorder to play back the game, how to cheat in the game, and many times how to modify the code (in GWBasic). In 2008 these skills turn out to be much more useful than knowing how to fix a car. Unless you’re in the desert alone and your car breaks down and you have a whole bunch of tools and replacement parts with you, of course.

  9. Lanny Arvan says:

    George -
    Suppose you take the cycle view of teaching where between each offering there are plans to try something new, with that latest experiment steeped in the prior history of experiments and teaching experience and then the actual realization has in part the notion of an experimental trial. And with that, suppose you focus on that part of the cycle where the next experiment is conceived.
    In that setting a few preliminary questions might be asked. Who is generating the experimental concept – the instructor, an instructional designer, a team with both and perhaps others too? And then, what issues are he/she/they trying to address? Student engagement is one, as you mention, but might there be others? What about getting students to tie what they are taught in the course to what they might be aware of from outside experiences? Or perhaps it is to expose students more broadly to the thinking in the field by reading some of the scholarly works in the discipline that students might find accessible.
    My sense of this is that learning technologist would give different answers to these questions than the instructor. The admonition “pedagogy first” can be conceived of us a suggestion to the learning technologist to couch the discussion in the instructor’s frame. I don’t believe it means to address the formal literature on learning and lift ideas from there for implementation. Rather, as several of your previous commentators have mentioned, it means situating the discussion within the context of the particular class. In that regard, the pedagogy first suggestion is akin to the recommendation given to instructors to make their teaching more learner centric.
    One further point. If the prior history of teaching experiments is quite limited for the particular instructor, then doing something to generate some experience may be more important than designing an optimal experiment. This is the case where technology first makes the most sense to me and is most in accord with the experience I and my staff have in supporting instruction.

  10. amiddlet50 says:

    Can you ever separate pedagogy from context? Are we taking ‘pedagogy’ to mean ‘method’ here? I tend to think of pedagogy as ‘considered approach’ and this allows for context. And so I would argue it explains why pedagogy does come before technology (even if we feel that is a slightly tired idea).

  11. David Kirby says:

    I get it —- Technology is the message.

  12. Deb Jones says:

    I’m struggling a little with the concept of context before pedagogy… I think context is part of pedagogy – if we consider the view of pedagogy being about “teaching and learning” as a teacher when we plan for any ‘learning episode’ context is considered within the curriculum intent. And I guess I feel too, that if we choose to base our learning on ‘context’ first- will we ever make a difference in our classrooms – we will always have restrictions and resource issues, will we ever get our message through to the higher beings…. If I am to plan a ‘learning situation’ I ask “What do I want my students to engage in – processes and content” “What tool / resources / learning approach” will I consider? / What is the best use of technology I/students can use….. just some initial reflections.

  13. Lissa Hodson says:

    George – I don’t really know how it sits with me – yes I do – I’m disappointed. I have been a fan of yours for some time now and love your thinking and concepts but your latest blog has found me stepping back wondering how this all fits into something that I have personally constructed that is quite different to this. You states “Pedagogy should not even be a consideration during the planning stages of technology use. Harsh statement? Perhaps, but it’s a reality. Few Utopian situations exist where our decisions on how to teach can be based exclusively on pedagogy. Resources, expertise, technology, needs (of learners, educators, society), and funds impact what we choose to do. In a world: context. ”
    The difficulty I have with this statement is the notion of not acknowledging the pedagogy as an important part of the process. I understand where you are coming from when you state that if we only consider our pedagogy, then there is much technology that we would never explore – but then again, isn’t this more about the restrictions of the curriculum? And simply talking about technology narrows the argument a little as the notion of potential and capacity have not been explored of what technology can do or is possibe of doing in our learning environments.
    Over the last 12 months I have been actively exploring what it is that motivates teaches and allows them to buy into even considering ICT in their learning and the one common characteristic is that of moral purpose – as vague and as wide ranging as that might be – at least it’s a start. I’ve found that building from this and linking to 21st century skills ( usually developed as skills that teachers consider important in 20 years time for students) allows a shared understanding of which I can start to build knowledge and understanding from. The next thing I usually converse with teachers about is what it is that they want their students to do (Essentials program does this really well in Education Queensland)…all of this is threaded and connected. The thing is that by doing this, it allows the teachers to ‘buy’ into ICT because it has a foundation of something they know…sure, it doesn’t always ‘do’ or transform learning straight away, but it does allow teachers to develop their own sense of belonging to the process.I know that I am rambling now but I’d like to just end off with another disappointing quote from your latest blog where you state “Why then would anyone want to use Second Life? Because of the learners. It’s new, it’s different, and it captures their attention. Second Life in this instance is a motivation tool “…you think this okay??…sorry George…a good teacher already motivates their students without the use of ICT and they actually have a good learning environment – this just doesn’t cut it with me nor is it compelling enough for teachers to want to transform their teaching into another paradigm.

  14. Wow! Great post! As an educator pedagogy has the staus of an iconic god. Not putting it first is to incurr the wrath of eductaion professionals, the defenders of the faith (perhaps a bit extreme here but I think I made my point :>) ).
    At times I have wondered how practical some of the research literature is that I am reading in the Masters of Distance Education program in which I am currently a student? How does it make me a better teacher? How practical is it? Does it fit my context?
    You argue that the decision to use technology in education should not be based upon a vague notion of sound pedagogy, which means different things to different people with different backgrounds. It should be context first. You wrote in reference to the distance education setting:
    Or consider teaching students in a remote location. How should we select technology? In my eyes, selection should be based on the funds available. The experience of the educator. The technology learners can already access. The intended outcomes of the program. And so on.
    My one criticism centers around innovation within an organization? I can see how this approach could stifle innovation. I believe the context of the k-12 educational system (and in post-secondary) is responsible for holding back technological progress? On that note, some schools and school districts have banned students from bringing personal electronic devices (cell phones, digital cameras and mp3 players mostly) to school. I guess these are the disruptive technologies, but I don’t think anyone within these organizations has thought about how we can use these devices to enhance learning. Perhaps it does not fit in with their pedagogy.

  15. Wait a second…isn’t consideration of context first just good pedagogy? And isn’t pedagogy just another word for teaching? And isn’t a good teacher always aware of context from design through to assessment through all of the permutations of interactions in-between? Context isn’t just a place to start – it (in it’s many forms) influences everything. I never use the term “pedagogy” at a party among friends or when I’m working on a project with students – but I might with a group of colleagues at my university. I wear my pjs when I’m working at home in front of my computer but not to the grocery store (usually). I reveal my secret addiction to reality TV to my close colleagues at work (and apparently now on a public blog) but likely won’t share this in my next job interview. Context is everything.

  16. Doug Holton says:

    You’re forgetting (and we all do) one of the most important components of any learning context – the learner him or herself, the body, the mind. And learners aren’t passive victims of external context, they work hard to control and change their environment all the time.
    But to me, pedagogy is not what you should first consider when planning technology use, it should be a part of who you are. You should have a sound “model” of how people learn, and a mental “database” of what works and what doesn’t. You should know things like – just because the teacher says something, or a video states something, or a book has a brilliant chapter on something, doesn’t mean a learner paid the slightest bit of attention to it, for example.

  17. Geoff Caing says:

    This is a very interesting post. I read your book Knowing Knowledge and the book seems to be entirely concerned with how we process knowledge and the world around us, and how, therefore, we learn. To my way of thinking that is what pedagogy is all about. Pedagogy has a lot to do with what we know about how people learn and the decisions we make about how to teach. Your book contains an implied definition of how the brain works and what knowledge is — wouldn’t that imply a pedagogy? If we make a decision that a teaching tool is not effective, lets say it relies too much on textual communication to a population that requires more images (e.g. ESL students), isn’t that engaging in pedagogy? I think having some set of thinking tools (metatools) to decide what tools are appropriate and how they are used is very important.
    I am not sure if I would agree with your assessment of Second Life. “Why then would anyone want to use Second Life? Because of the learners. It’s new, it’s different, and it captures their attention.” Deciding to use a tool just because it is exciting and new is a huge mistake, and a mistake like that becomes quickly apparent in the performance of the students. Many instructors have looked at Second Life and decided to use it not because it is “exciting and new” but because it is potentially a highly interactive environment. The resources there for building interactive models, simulations, role-playing are enormous. When a student invests time in an avatar, they invest in the learning. There are few learning management systems that are as connective: text chat, full voice chat, notecards, the ability to blog from SL make this a richly connective environment.
    If you knew that you wanted to give your students the widest array of communication tools in order create the most optimum learning environment, wouldn’t that be a pedagogical decision that would shape which tools you chose? Angel over Blackboard for instance?

  18. I need to take time out to read this thread closely. Looks interesting and relevant. As a quick contribution, I found an interesting article that relates to this discussion by Bruner in Folk Pedagogies in ‘Learners and Pedagogy’ edited by J Leach J and B Moon B, OU Press 1999. I posted on this at the time -
    http://eduspaces.net/terry/weblog/11729.html

  19. Roger Goodon says:

    I agree with the post. I was particularly taken by an earlier response comment by Cindy Sibel: “Your post brought to mind the cart and horse conversation that often happens at K-12 leadership tables – the focus should be on learning and not the tools of learning. But I’m also wondering what we can learn by looking at the research associated with disruptive technologies? Surely the social learning tools available today fit that description.” I too, although in a higher ed. environment, have heard the cart and horse analogy brought forward on occasion . . .however, I like to bring up the point every so often that unless the horse and cart are off on their own, or disconnected, it’s really the ‘driver’ that we should be concerned about: What does the driver relate to the horse and the cart? How does the driver see the environment? What choices does the driver have? And, perhaps more importantly, where does the driver wish to go?
    Roger

  20. Dear Dr. Siemens,
    I appreciated this post and the comments about it very much. One concept I would like to add related to pedagogy is from an article by Prabhu entitled “There is no best method. Why?” from TESOL Quarterly, 1990, 24:2 p. 161-176.
    Although Prabhu is writing specifically about language teaching pedagogy, his central concept of “plausibility” as the most significant element in pedagogical effectiveness applies to any learning context. Simply put, if students and teachers find an activity mutually plausible, it will have the greatest chance of leading to learning. That is, if teachers truly believe that what they are doing will help student learn, and their students sense and accept that belief as genuine (plausible), they are most likely to respond with active engagement in the learning process. But if they feel that the teacher’s belief in what he/she is doing is not genuine, they will be less likely to engage fully in the learning process. Clearly what will be genuine or plausible varies from context to context, as you have pointed out. I also find that this concept fits well with a non-linear view of learning.

  21. Very stimulating thoughts. In essence I hear a call to sound instructional design principles and practices. This would include starting with the end in mind, knowing your learners, having clear learning outcomes, etc. In that sense context rules the front-end of instructional design, and selecting specific teaching strategies or technologies comes after a deep exploration of the overall context.
    Thanks again.
    Randy Meredith
    Dir. Academic Technology
    Spring Arbor University
    http://www.arbor.edu/oat
    http://blog.podagogy.com

  22. V yonkers says:

    I have to agree with Lissa on this. I begin by finding out what my students (teachers) want to do better in their classroom. Then we look at what their context is including factors such as what technology they CAN use. You make it sound as if teachers have a choice, when in factor many times they are not even consulted as to how they teach or where they would like to have technological improvements. For example, perhaps they already are effective in their teaching methods using role plays in the classroom. Why would they want to use Second Life (an environment that might be perceived as fake in their classroom)? Perhaps what they really need to do better and just can’t with the current technology is to get students to work together better outside of the classroom.
    Knowing this, IT should then look at the options out there that might meet this need (wikis, course management systems, groupware). This is not a question of “pedagogically sound” practices but rather supporting teaching with technology.
    This semester, I have tried to introduce my students to a variety of new technologies (the course is about new technologies). My students proponents of facebook, don’t want to use it in an academic context. There is a very vocal resistance to this (disengagement rather than engagement). I did find however, that they like chats, they like IMing so that they have me available 24/7. Is this sound pedagogy? Perhaps. Is it going to happen? No. Because the reality is I don’t have time and there are other options that are more effective (face to face meetings force students to have a two way discussion and present their arguments knowing I am going to have a counterargument).
    Finally, In my experience, pedagogically sound for administers translates “how are we going to measure the learning for this investment?” I am still trying to figure out how to capture the depth of learning that goes on in developing a wiki as the final outcome does not come close to the learning I hear in students discussing what changes need to be made to wiki and why.

  23. Casey Kelly says:

    WOW. This was a great read and a shot in the arm. As an educator who hates buzz words, I am a huge fan of ridding ourselves of these. When I started teaching, I promised myself I would never say, “Life isn’t fair,” mostly because I was so sick of hearing it from teachers growing up.
    What is it about these things that drive us crazy? For me, it seems like a loophole in actual thought. If I can contain all my focus and energy into one catch phrase—and not one of those pesky ones people have to think about—then it seems my job has been done for me. It seems—and is—too tempting to be true.
    I like the idea that when things of this nature are reduced to simple declarative statements, those who like to puff their chests and make big noise about it have no idea what to do. This is why buzzwords need to be abolished. Anything that requires real thought is deemed strange, unworthy because it even sounds heartless. Think of it: “Pedagogy should not even be a consideration during the planning stages of technology use.”
    I can see teachers rolling up their sleeves and getting their complaining faces ready just thinking about it. But this is a true statement when thought over, giving it the attention it deserves. We need to come up with new things, because, simply, a non-learner cannot have a chance as an educator. We expect our students to learn something new every day; and yet I see teachers squirm and resist every step of the collective way whenever a new element comes along.
    This needs to stop. Because this post is correct: technology is here to stay. We are the ones who need to adapt. And just because pedagogy is not considered during the planning stages, true teachers will use it to immeasurable ends in implementation.

  24. frank antal says:

    The premisses are more like just flimsically being contoured throughout this dicussion by all contributors.
    Let’s agree first on the notions of pedagogy, learning and teaching first then that of context. But in the end, with what certainty can one define these concepts that had been the subject of discussion in the highest spheres of philosophy over centuries?
    One thing though appears to be certain and that is precisely what George is suggesting here as I read him:

    1. 1. nothing exist in the void
    2. 2. everything is context

    Thus pedagogy/teaching/learning and ALL things eventuate in contexts as interdependent constituents. If the phenotype of a given context displays the features of some particular contituent, in our view it will be interpreted/favoured as one or the other. If for instance a context phenotype is leaning predominantly in favour of the priority of pedagogy, then some will support what Lissa is professing. Some other phenotypes will show the characteristics of teacher centered “facilitation”, whilst others may exhibit learner centeredness.
    But overall they all only exist in contexts.
    So I feel that George is perfectly correct in exposing the priority of context as the container over the constituent content. Let’s add immediately that the notions discussed here are just SOME of the constituents that form the content. The learning context embraces a multitude of constituents, including the teachers, peers and the learning community of all those that partake in the context.
    But lastly I am of the opinion that we tend to fall in the trap of digging in the same whole here, that of a critique or an adjudicator.
    The computer chip is no different to the clay tablets of Sumer or the paper print of Gutenberg. They are all knowledge storage devices and clearly social tools. The computer with its speed is probably closer to the human brain than clay or paper based knowledge. Our whole civilisation is facinated with SPEED. From pedibus jambus we went to the equine gear speed, then steam and the combustion engine etc. This fascination with speed is ostensible with kids in front of the screen. They READ LINKS on pages not the full text. They are impatient to move as fast as the CONTEXT permits. Their brain gets ENGAGED maybe even into a higher gear, often to scare some teachers.
    So what pedagogy? Can you preach in the void. By virtue of your existence/presence/participation you become a context constituent.
    Technology at the level of clay or paper or computer chip has always heavily impacted on the phenotype of the learning contexts.
    This is why I fully aquiesce with George’s proposition.

  25. Lisa M Lane says:

    I’m a “pedagogy first” faculty proponent. But I don’t mean some research-defined “sound pedagogy”, just the idea of pedagogy. I want faculty to think about their teaching before they dive into the technology.
    My focus is really on “first”. I deal with instructors who are novices when it comes to the internet, and are starting to teach online. Many are experienced instructors in the classroom. For them, things work better when they start with the way they teach, regardless of the method they use. Then they can “tame” the technology into doing what they want.
    These folks aren’t creating their pedagogy from scratch. They have methods that appeal to them and that they are confident about in a classroom environment. The best way to maintain their effectiveness and confidence in an online environment, at least at first, is to have them adapt the technology to their pedagogy, not the other way around. The context is not the research; it’s their own experiences as instructors.
    This is particularly true for the faculty I encounter daily, who do not spend much time on the web. They have no idea what their technology choices are, or why they might want to use them. Without a “pedagogy first” perspective, their choices are guided (and limited, according to my own research) by the course management system that is supported at the college. They request assistance, and are taught how to plug things into the CMS’s defaults.
    The “pedagogy first” approach prevents novice online instructors being overwhelmed by technology choices (and the CMS) when they start out. Once they get going, they network with other online instructors and discover more technologies and (I hope) more approaches. At that point, it’s comfortable to let the technological possibilities influence the pedagogy.

  26. Sherman Dorn says:

    Interesting hand-grenade you’ve thrown, and I wish I had come across it a few months ago. I think you’ve set up a straw-man argument, though; I’ve never heard “pedagogy first” at my university (and I teach in a college of education! nasty folks with Vygotsky’s Disease and so forth).
    What I do hear are concerns about students who don’t have fast computers or fast connections, older students who are not technologically savvy, or subject matter that doesn’t mesh well with the available technologies (e.g., seminar classes where the choice is either F2F or asynchronous). There’s also faculty time involved: sure, I could probably spend the next six months developing a Civ4 mod for one of my undergraduate classes, but I don’t know how to mod Civ4, the semester starts in six weeks, and I have competing obligations for my time. Which of those concerns are “pedagogy first”?