Pedagogy Before Technology?


Ross Cooper has some really interesting insights on learning over at his blog.  In his last post, he talks about the phenomenon of “Pokemon Go”, and how educators seem to be clamouring to embed into their classrooms this fall.

Yes! Pokémon Go will definitely engage our students, but so will any other fancy, new technology. While technology has its place, we first and foremost want to make sure we’re prioritizing effective pedagogy and not simply masking bad practice with a dog and pony show. Also, when talking about student engagement as a result of technology, it can be compared to one of the main reasons why punishment should not be used as a classroom management tool. In both of these instances, the intended effects will eventually wear off once the students grow accustomed to what is going on around them (Vargas, 2009).

Any educator can put Pokémon Go in front of students, make a half-hearted attempt at a curricular connection, and cry “Engagement!” Meanwhile, great educators will be able to leverage the app to promote a deeper understanding of content, which most likely could not have been possible had the app not been brought into the equation.

Although he does not directly state it, the mantra that you will hear often is “pedagogy before technology, not the other way around”.  I feel though that in a world where constantly new technologies are so prevalent, simply adopting an “either/or” ideology could be limiting.

Here is part of the comment I wrote to Ross:

One thought…We say things like “pedagogy before technology”, but I think it is too much of a blanket statement. Sometimes the technology drives the pedagogy.

Some questions to think about with Pokemon Go…What makes it appealing to so many? What are some things that I would like to create that have been inspired by this product? Is this something that is going to be a fad, or the next evolution.

When I google the definition of “pedagogy”, here is what I get:

“the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.”

Is there a problem with this since “learning” is nowhere in the definition? Do we start with what we think is important (or is deemed important by others), or with the learning?

Just some quick thoughts that were inspired by a really great post from Ross.


  1. John F Riley said:

    Great dialogue. I tend to be an early adopter and try all new technology. What I have discovered is very similar to the conversation your are having here. Sometimes we think new means better results, better engagement, better grades, etc. In fact what we truly discover is that new technology brings about resiliency. Where teachers and students simply try it out, fail at it, discover it’s strengths and weaknesses then determine what it is good for. Last year at a conference I had the chance to ask some amazing instructional designers what they thought the next big thing in education would be… simply stated…. getting back to the basics. I couldn’t agree more. When we focus on the basics we can then incorporate whatever technology we want to support it. Great post and thanks for sharing.

    August 1, 2016
  2. To be truly engaged is when students are being met at the optimal level of challenge and their abilities, or as Csikszentmihalyi describes it in a state of “flow.”

    The type of engagement we should be striving for in education — the type that leads to deep and powerful learning — does not occur simply because technology is present. It can’t be observed, either.

    There are far more important factors to consider, such as the purpose for the work the students are doing. Relevancy and authenticity will trump the presence of technology every time. We should ask ourselves: Do the students have autonomy and agency over the learning that is taking place? Are they doing this to get a grade or because they’re motivated by a greater cause? Furthermore, what role does technology play? Is it being used to do old things in new ways, or is it providing opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist?

    How many teachers today would know the definition of Pedagogy without Googling it as Ross did above? Does the exact definition matter as much as the fact that the majority of teachers today are given technology with not nearly enough support to help them evolve from traditional didactic instructional strategies?

    “Pedagogy before technology” is not perfect, but in a world of information overload and yet communication in 140 characters, it certainly gets the point across. Call it whatever you want… Pedagogy, instructional design, teaching etc. as the report from OECD concluded, simply adding 21st century technology to 20th century teaching only dilutes the effectiveness of the teacher.

    August 2, 2016
  3. Just a quick thought – pedagogy is all about the art and science of teaching (not pushing Marzano, but I like the thought behind the phrase) rather than focusing on learning. The two are intrinsically linked – or they should be.
    What I find limiting about the “pedagogy before technology” or similar statements is that it ignores the concept of pedagogy with technology. Teachers have been using technology (and technology is a very broad term) in their classes forever. Pens, paper, chalk, OHTs etc. What bothers me is that we now have a problem with so-called ‘new technologies’. They are simply different tools than what we’ve used before – could be used well, could be used poorly, just like every other tool. Each teacher will find tools that work in their class well and then should be free to use them. Let’s not jump on the idea of Pokemon Go! just because it’s new – let’s jump on it if it works in our class, with our students, for a desired outcome. This should be the thought process behind every tech. We’re still only introducing the idea of Minecraft at my school because I’ve only just now got a teacher who can see the effectiveness of it with their class/students and they’re comfortable going out of their comfort zone.

    August 2, 2016

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