A growing number of people are starting to talk and write about PedTech – a new approach to thinking about digital technology in education that Fiona Aubrey-Smith and I introduce and explain in our recent book - From EdTech to PedTech: Changing the way we think about digital technology. However, it is becoming clear that some of them have misconceptions about the PedTech approach. This post aims to realign some of these mis-understandings.
Misconception 1: PedTech and EdTech complement each other.
The term PedTech was introduced in order to try to overcome a key problem with an EdTech approach – namely a focus on technology (which one might frame as a focus on the 'What' of digital technology use). PedTech starts with a focus on pedagogical values and beliefs (which one might frame as a focus on the 'Why' of digital technology use). For years it has been argued that we need to think about pedagogy when thinking about digital technology in education, but this has failed to shift the focus from the What to the Why.
The historical EdTech approach – where thinking is framed around how to use a tool in education (or even in teaching and learning) – keeps the focus on the tool first, and the context second.
This is evolving now to a PedTech approach – where thinking is first about pedagogical values and beliefs (i.e. what does it mean to learn, and how can learning therefore be supported) – which keeps the focus on learning first, and then choosing the right tools to support that second.
Many people and many conversations position themselves as being focused on pedagogy, but focus simplistically on teaching strategies, ‘engagement’ of learners, or the many different useful ways an EdTech tool can be used. These are surface level conversations – unlikely to create meaningful and sustained impact because they focus on ‘What’ or ‘How’ rather than ‘Why’.
PedTech is what evidence tells us is the natural evolution on from a historical (and flawed) EdTech approach.
Misconception 2: EdTech is about ‘system level’ technology whilst PedTech is about ‘classroom’ or ‘learner level’ technology
The assumption here is that ‘system level’ technology such as admin systems and learning management systems are not pedagogical systems, whilst ‘classroom’ or ‘learner level’ technology is pedagogical.
This misconception is based on a misunderstanding of what is meant by pedagogy, and/or a lack of nuanced understanding of different aspects of pedagogy. In From EdTech to PedTech we devote a chapter to defining pedagogy and highlighting different facets of it.
The key issue here is that pedagogy encompasses all aspects of support for learning – any decision made in or about a school is (or at least should be) a pedagogical decision. Thus ‘system level’ technology is still pedagogical. It therefore needs to be considered from a PedTech perspective.
This is why it is so important for all those making decisions about technology in schools, with schools, or for schools, to invest time in understanding the influence that their pedagogical beliefs have on their decision making.
See Chapter 3 and 4 of our book. Or for a very quick activity, go to: https://forms.gle/XJWNYwdbKKV7jdM96
Misconception 3: PedTech advocates a particular pedagogical stance
Claims are being made that a PedTech approach aims to increase the focus on critical thinking and lead to a better blending of ‘traditional methods’ with ‘digital methods’. This assumes that a PedTech approach advocates a particular pedagogical stance (i.e. particular views about how learning should be supported and what should be learnt).
In From EdTech to PedTech we explicitly state that different people will have different beliefs about how to support learning (i.e. different pedagogical stances) and that the key to effective practice is to ensure that there is alignment between your pedagogical stance (what you value and believe) and your practice (what you do). We provide vignettes that illustrate how people who hold four different pedagogical stances might use digital technology differently. Thus, PedTech does not advocate a particular stance.
Later in the book we also explain why frameworks such as SAMR that implicitly assume what ‘good practice’ looks like are problematic because they encourage teachers to make judgements without understanding the influences affecting those judgements.
As further misconceptions arise we will try to highlight them – however, we strongly recommend working through From EdTech to PedTech to gain a true understanding of the PedTech approach.
If you have questions about the PedTech approach then email us at PedTech@OneLifeLearning.co.uk