To accelerate learning, shift mindset from EdTech to PedTech
“That's the real big thing that we now need to focus on is using technology to make a transformational impact on students' learning. But to do that, we have to have it underpinned by effective pedagogy.”– Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith
The concept of pedagogy is complex
It can have different meanings, depending on the context and the individual.
Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith, a strategic education consultant and university lecturer, explains in a recent episode of the School of School podcast that pedagogy is about the study of teaching to support learning. She says it’s an umbrella term that can be broken down into three aspects:
1. Pedagogical methods and approaches
The proven ways of doing things that have an impact on teaching and learning in the classroom, similar to the recipe for baking a cake
2. Pedagogical beliefs
Our deeply rooted ideas about teaching and learning, about what the role of a teacher really is, and about how we conceptualise the role of a learner
3. Pedagogical practices
Our everyday actions and choices, specifically the language we use to respond to learners, the inference about learning that we give to them and the types of relationships we develop with our learners
The idea of pedagogical beliefs and the effect they can have on teaching is set from our own experiences, from our earliest years as children and learners. Aubrey-Smith, who is also director of One Life Learning and who was named by Education Business as one of the 50 most influential people in education in 2021 and 2022, says the way our own childhood classroom teachers interacted with us is the single biggest influence on how we conceptualise the role of a teacher and how we started building ideas about what it means to be a learner.
PedTech switches the focus to relationships and behaviours
Everyone has heard about EdTech — or educational technology, which is understood to be the study of education through systems and processes. PedTech, on the other hand, focuses on relationships and behaviours of the people using the technology, including students, teachers and school leaders.
“The idea behind ped tech is that we are shifting towards what we know makes an actual impact on learning, so pedagogically-led technology,” says Aubrey-Smith.
Switching to a Pedtech focus means the emphasis is on people in relationships and learning behaviours. It’s a shift from a ‘systems-and-processes’ aspect of education to a focus on pedagogically-led technology use.
“It's how we interact with each other, who's interacting with who and how and for what purpose, and how we utilise our time together, teacher and student time together, to really focus on those gains that are going to really make a difference to learning,” she says.
How do we make the most of what we know?
The education system has laid some interesting foundations in how technology is used, and the pandemic has accelerated the introduction of technology in many teaching and learning environments. We’re now at the point where we need to figure out how to make the most of what we now know — both from the pandemic experience and from the research evidence — about how technology can make a difference.
Because technology on its own won’t make a difference to anything, Aubrey-Smith says, citing Rosemary Luckin’s report Decoding Learning.
“That's the real big thing that we now need to focus on,” she says. “Using technology to make a transformational impact on students' learning. But to do that, we have to have it underpinned by effective pedagogy.”
How does PedTech help children learn?
Aubrey-Smith says many technologies have an implicit pedagogy woven into them, and it's imperative that teachers become more aware of what those pedagogies are, because they may encourage us to act in particular ways or prioritise certain things.
Second, Aubrey-Smith encourages teachers — rather than thinking ‘there’s this great tool I want to implement in my classroom practice’ — to step back and ask:
- What am I actually trying to achieve with the students?
- What do I want them to receive from me?
- How do I want their learning to be supported?
- What do they feel they need to help them move forward in their learning?
“That’s the thing about pedagogy first, isn’t it. It’s about starting with the student that is in front of you at that given moment. Where are they at? What do they need? How best can we give that to them? And quite often, but not always, technology will offer a solution or a contribution to that.”
By shifting our thinking from EdTech to PedTech, everyday teaching and learning can be accelerated. In order to do this effectively, incorporating better ways of using technology and pedagogy starts by asking how we can best support our learners to set them up for success. It requires defining what we mean by effective pedagogy — are we talking about practices or methods or beliefs?
“In a nutshell, the whole thing is about being more forensic and more precise in what we're actually trying to do, and that gives us a much more clear-cut way of making decisions and having conversations that will work towards that point,” she says.
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