Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's the Pedagogy, Stupid

In my early days of giving talks at conferences, I occasionally used the word pedagogy in the title of my talk. I didn't get many takers. In fact, on one occasion no one showed up. So I stopped using the word in the title of my talks. And presto, attendance improved. So you're probably wondering about why I'm using the word in the title of this blog. Some background should help to answer the question.

 Recently, I read Larry Cuban's latest book "The Flight of a Butterfly or the Path of a Bullet?" in which he
[...] looks at the uses and effects of digital technologies in K–12 classrooms, exploring if and how technology has transformed teaching and learning. In particular, he examines forty-one classrooms across six districts in Silicon Valley that have devoted special attention and resources to integrating digital technologies into their educational practices. Ultimately, Cuban asks if the use of digital technologies has resulted in transformed teaching and learning in these classrooms. (Source)* 
Cuban found that about 2/3 of the teachers became regular users of technology and were happy that it made for a smoother delivery of instruction to the students. But did it produce better results? In other words, were the students learning better? Cuban doesn't answer the question because he didn't focus on results. He leaves that to future researchers. He did discover that teachers in Silicon Valley do use technology and found that it makes them more efficient with getting resources out to kids. But the question: did they learn better? doesn't get answered. I would characterize what the students were experiencing was Blended Learning. But were they learning better than before? Since Cuban doesn't help me with that I looked for some research on Blended Learning to help me.

In reviewing a conference presentation by Rebecca Griffiths ("What Works in Blended Learning") the author, Doug Lederman had this takeaway:
[...] The use of technology itself appears not to be primarily responsible for [...] improved outcomes. Rather, the accumulated studies they shared found that the biggest effects came when the instructors changed what material they taught and how they taught it. "If you just use a new digital learning technology without changing anything else, chances are you're not going to have a significant impact" on learning, Griffiths said. 
So it appears that the bottom line is what Cathy Davidson wrote in her book (The New Education):
"The real lesson for the New Education is that we need more active, creative ways of teaching that put some of that computer power to good pedagogical use." 
So we've come full circle. What do we/you mean by good pedagogical use? In other words, how do we get kids to really want to learn what you want them to learn? That's the holy grail.

In my thinking about pedagogy, I went exploring and discovered the Cult of Pedagogy. The title is meant as a joke (there's no cult here) but the website is really good for folks who want to improve their personal pedagogy especially in using technology. The author, Jennifer Gonzalez, does make a living from this site so it will cost you some, but it's reasonable.

*This source includes a 30-minute podcast interview with the author, Larry Cuban.