Pedagogy or Technology – whose in the driving seat?


‘Pedagogy’ ought to be a Welsh village 2 miles west of Mold. But it isn’t. Instead, it’s a nasty word used by educationalists to describe the profession of teaching (I’m sure it has Chinese origins). Now you may think ‘teaching’ is an ancient Chinese philosophy (‘T-Ching’) and you might possibly be right. I just think the world has gone mad.

Whenever I teach, I’m reminded of what’s important in the classroom (and I don’t necessarily mean me or the quality of the snacks). There’s a real temptation to overuse modern technology (I speak relatively here, though perhaps not quite Einsteinian). We may feel enticed by its seductive calling – even when it blatantly doesn’t fit. Like a kid who is determined to make that square peg fit into that round hole (I never had problems fitting round pegs in square holes).

There’s obviously a pressure to do this. It could be the fear of being left behind or ridiculed. We have the equipment, so we’ve got to use it. I guess I first saw this with the ubiquitous use of powerpoint slides. There was an initial wow factor that made any self-respecting over-head projectionist feel somewhat overwhelmed. The beauty and eloquence of the trainer no longer mattered, the animated slideshow provided sufficient distraction. Yes, we saw a whole new generation of ugly trainers (present company excepted); they could come out from the shadows and enter a new, Capraesque world. People were no longer looking at them. They were just facilitators trained in the art of pressing that ‘next slide’ button and soaking in the vicarious adulation. You could feel the smugness in the room. You were in for a real visual treat. But they became arrogant and lazy; ‘more slides…more slides’ and it just became something to get through. People saw it for what it was…well, just slides.

But people tire easily and charisma is no substitute for character or substance. I have to remind myself who’s in charge – technology is just an aid; a medium. Used appropriately it’s brilliant and exciting but, overused, it becomes a tyrant.

Helping students really learn things is what’s important. This calls for variety and appropriateness of teaching strategies, methods and aids. So, don’t throw out that flip chart just yet, I think you might just need it.