Modern learning practices/pedagogies & traditional practices

This blog post for me probably raises more questions than answers and is very much me reflecting on conversations I’ve had over the past week or two.

There’s a lot of talk (and action) at the moment about 21st century learning, modern learning environments and practices, future focused education, modern pedagogies or whatever you want to call it! It’s invading education. In a good way I think. I’m excited to be working in education while this shift is underway. I believe it’s positive. Not easy, but definitely positive. Recently when I’ve talked with some teachers—both primary and secondary—about their schools plans to move into BYOD or 1:1/1:2 (or whatever!) environments a couple of things have come up (my words, not theirs!):

  1. Why do I/we need to change when I know what I’ve been doing works and my students are succeeding academically?.
  2. How can I continue to teach in my traditional ways but using digital tools?

I think the first question is very valid. Many teachers have been teaching successfully for many years. Their students are achieving highly and are engaged. Yet, for some reason there are people saying that they need to change and adapt to use new technologies. Why? I don’t doubt that these teachers are getting good results, but my question is, why wouldn’t you do more to engage these students where they are at? If we’re aiming for personalising learning, then wouldn’t using the tools/technologies that our students are using regularly, every day surely be advantageous?

The second question in my mind says that we acknowedge that digital devices/technologies are being used these days and it makes sense that I would use them in my class (or we have to) but we’re comfortable where we’re at. The danger with this is that a laptop/tablet is going to be a word processor. A place to write notes, essays, stories etc—used as an expensive ring binder to keep all our notes together. It’s not 21st century learning. It’s not personalised, it’s not future focused. So while I think it’s important that we move into modern ways of teaching and learning I wonder…

What—if any—place do traditional pedagogies and practices have in the 21st century learning environment?

If you have any thoughts/comments around this, I would appreciate you sharing them in the comments area below.

Teaching, philosophy and pedagogy

A Thinking Man

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about e-learning and pedagogy. I blogged about this earlier this month when I questioned whether there really is e-learning pedagogy or whether what most people are talking about is best practice. I’m really starting to believe that pedagogy is not really what most people are concerned with.

As a teacher, I have a philosophy of teaching. It is on by CV for when I apply for teaching jobs. It has changed – perhaps evolved is a better term – since I started teaching about 8 years ago. My philosophy of teaching has changed during this time as I have developed as a person, as a teacher, as a reflective practitioner and also as a learner.

Underlying the pedagogy that I exhibit in my teaching, is my philosophy of learning. It shapes how I teach and how I believe is best for the learners in my class to learn. My philosophy drives who I am and how I teach.

But it’s not just my philosophy that drives this. I’ve been thinking about our national curriculum and how there is an underlying philosophy from which this has also been written. Consider the key competencies, for example. Relating to others in my view is not going to fit very well into a behaviourist perspective, philosophy or related pedagogy (didactic learning). It well however be promoted more through a social constructivist viewpoint or through the more modern idea of connectivism. Inquiry teaching and inquiry learning is the same, The philosophy underlying the New Zealand Curriculum leans more towards certain pedagogical theories and practices.

It is difficult to think how some teachers can continue to teach in the same ways that they always have and at the same time meet the needs of the curriculum. Steve Wheeler recently blogged about the possibility of us need to progress with modern pedagogies in his post, Shifting Sands. He states that technology is a driver in this as it has affected the way people interact, learn and of course teach.

I wonder whether if teachers don’t move on or our practices evolve, what will we see in the future?

Image: – wesleynitsckie / CC-BY-SA

E-learning pedagogy–fact or fiction?

Homework on the beach

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about pedagogy, and in particular the idea of an online or e-learning pedagogy. Teachers I work with all want PD in e-learning pedagogy.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Of course. But what is it? What does everyone mean by e-learning pedagogy or online pedagogy?

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about what pedagogy is, because I don’t think a lot of people really understand it. Actually, at the time, I’m not sure I really understood it. It is often bandied around as the thing we have to do and consider, but sometimes I wonder if it’s an excuse – particularly when it comes to e-learning and giving it a go. Although in that post I mentioned that pedagogy is about teaching children, I don’t think it necessarily matters now that we use this term often in talking about teaching adults.

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching.

So what is e-learning or online pedagogy then? Is it simply the art and science of teaching online or the art and science of teaching with technology?

Do we need to consider Pedagogy 2.0 which focuses on the 3 Ps – personalisation, productivity and participation?

Or maybe the newer idea of Peeragogy is what we should be looking at. The video below is about peeragogy.


The issue I have is that I don’t think this is what any of the teachers are looking for when they ask for PD in e-learning pedagogy. I think what they’re really asking for is guidance in instructional design and also best practice for teaching and learning online. Yes, pedagogy is a part of best practice, for sure, but I feel that it’s not all of it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since going through teacher training, is that pedagogy is not something that is taught. You cannot run a PD session on pedagogy. You learn it on the job. You experience it. It’s an art and science that in some ones is particular to individuals. Yes there is some theory surrounding it (the science), but then there is no one way to teach correctly (the art). I have learnt so much about teaching and learning through experience. Through trial and error. Through failure and success – sometimes more failure than success!

The other thing I’ve learnt about teaching online is that apart from the platform/medium being used, what we do is similar to face-to-face. No, I’m not saying we can sit there and lecture our students, but is this best practice face-to-face? We want to see interaction amongst students and with their teacher and the content. We want to see group work – collaboration. Innovation. Student-centered learning.

A lot of the best practice in online teaching is the same best practice in face-to-face, classroom teaching. The difference is in how it is delivered, and much of that comes down to instructional design.

What do you think? Is there really an online or e-learning pedagogy? Do we need to totally change the way we teach? I’m sure some do, but perhaps some need to anyway.

Is the request for e-learning pedagogy an excuse to not give e-learning/blended learning a go? It shouldn’t be. Most, if not all of us, would have developed our art of teaching by jumping in, trying it out, learning from our mistakes and adapting what we do accordingly.


Image: Flickr- Ingo Bernhardt CC-BY-2.0

Is technology important in a classroom?

I firstly need to clear something up… Technology has always been used as a teaching tool. Eg. papyrus, slates, blackboards, overhead projectors (remember those? – Many teachers still use them!). Technology is dependent on what we know and understand at the time. Just because we have access to laptops, iPads, interactive whiteboards/projectors, mobile phones etc now, does not mean that technology in the classroom is a new idea. We’re just using different technology that has been used in the past.

Of course I’m specifically talking about computers, tablets, mobile phones and any other modern device you might be able to think of.

If we are not allowing/using at least some of these devices in the classroom as a part of learning then I think we’re disadvantaging our students.

Perhaps that’s a big statement to make, as there are many excellent teachers in schools teaching without using this technology, however I struggle to think of any jobs that does not require the use of this type of technology at some point.

I’m not talking about using these devices for word processing or simply publishing their work. We are beyond the age of typewriters. Teachers and students need to use these devices to be creative! Rather than sitting at a desk and writing by pen a draft story to then be edited before being typed up on a computer, our students could be writing and editing on the computer (that’s what they’re for). Or the student might not ‘publish it’ as a written story at all. Perhaps they will video themselves reading their story and share it on YouTube? Or maybe they will share it through an animation site?

When used to the full potential, our students are able to be creative and innovative and share their ideas they’ve come up with or created using technology, with a wide audience via the internet. They can receive feedback from this wide audience on their ideas/compositions/whatever they’ve done – both positive and negative – and can use that to learn and to improve on what they have done. It’s not just limited to feedback from one teacher, or their classmates.

There are so many tools available for students to show off their creativity, their innovation, their brilliance – both online or through apps and other software. Many of these tools are free! Yes, teachers will need to learn about some of them, but perhaps once some carefully thought through transfer of skills has occurred, our students will firstly learn to find new tools that suit their needs, and some of our students will create tools that suit their needs for others to also use!

If schools and teachers do not allow technology into their classrooms, we’re going to remain stuck in an age that the rest of the world is well beyond.

I know there are many many things that teachers and students can do using these devices that I have not mentioned – enjoy discovering them! And yes – many schools are embracing technology in teaching and learning. I think you’ve taken an exciting and needed step. Will it take time, patience and effort? For sure! But I truly believe it will be worth it.

Pedagogy – what is this thing?

Ever since I started my teacher training back in 2000, I’ve wondered what this pedagogy word really was. Everyone I was studying with appeared to have a good understanding of this word, but I didn’t. I was too shy to say so, and just kept on as if nothing was wrong.

Over the past 2 years I’ve been studying towards my PGDipEd while teaching. And this word that get’s bandied around by teachers, academics and the like, kept coming up. It wasn’t until I had to write something about pedagogy in an assignment that I actually stopped and asked my online class and lecturer what this word actually means. I had Googled it (like any studious person) and had come up with a range of definitions! After reading quite a few I decided on a definition:

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching

I had a few responses from my online class, but was still a bit unsure. Actually I still am unsure!

Last week I attended an eLearning Futures conference and this word pedagogy was thrown around some more. Interestingly, most people attending this conference were from tertiary institutions. The reason I say this is interesting is that my Dad (also a teacher) pointed out to me that the ‘ped’ actually relates to a child! Pedagogy is about teaching children.

The Online Etymology Dictionary states that a Pedagogue is a teacher of children. Pedagogy relates to teaching children. So many people seem to mention pedagogy when they are referring to teaching adults!

I still don’t have a good definition of this word. I’m going to stick with mine for now and add a little bit:

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching children.

I would really like to know how many people use this term without really understanding what it means. I have asked others what they think it means and I’ve struggled to get a good, straight, clear answer. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you to help expand my understanding of this well used educational term!