Educational Technology,  Instructional / Course Design

Pedagogy First When Selecting Learning Technologies

[social_share/] [social-bio] I teach the Introduction to Learning Technologies course from the GMCTE. In the past, I’ve also taught a similar course for undergraduate students in the College of Education and over the past several years I’ve given a number of workshops on to the topic. I always give the same one bit of advice and the same caveat related to learning technologies. The advice is to never put post anything online, including in an email that you wouldn’t want your mother, your boss or your grandchildren to see. You don’t want to embarrass Mom or get fired from your job, and your content will be out there long enough for your grandchildren to see it, whether you want it to be or not.

Hammer and Screw

The caveat has to do with coming to me for help with learning technologies. I welcome you coming to me with an educational experience that you want to create or improve, possibly with the help of learning technologies. Do not come to me with a shiny new technology and ask me to help you find a use for it. I liken this to going to a hardware store and buying a hammer and then going home searching for a nail to drive into a wall and discovering that you have things that need to be done that would be better accomplished if you had a mitre saw or even simply some carpenter’s glue.

Before selecting a particular learning technology for use in teaching and learning, you need to be clear about what needs you are going to meet with it, much like when choosing a teaching strategy or type of assessment. Pedagogy must come first. For a given situation an enterprise solution, such as Blackboard or Echo 360 might be best pedagogically for your students. But perhaps what will be best, again pedagogically, for your students may be a free and/or open-source tool like Mahara (for ePortfolios) or Skype. And the reality is that there are many situations where the best pedagogical solution will still be pen and paper (which are also considered learning technologies).

The point is, don’t try to use a hammer for a job that calls for a screwdriver or paper clip just because you want to try a new tool or it’s the one you’re most comfortable with. Choose a tool based on what will help you accomplish your goal. Choose a learning technology that will be the best pedagogical solution for you and your students given the learning goals you want to meet, never the other way around.

Picture courtesy of Justin Baeder via Flickr with a Creative Commons license (Attribution – Some rights reserved)

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