Monday, June 9, 2008

A response to George Siemens

Response to George Siemen's article - Pedagogy first? Whatever.

This was posted a couple of months ago on the connectivism blog, but it raises some pertinent questions about the interaction of pedagogy and ICTs in the educational space. This is particularly relevant to me at the moment as I have recently completed and submitted my portfolio for the ICT Pedagogical License Advanced where there is significant focus on this interaction.

There is certainly a smorgasboard of "educational" research which will support any notion or implementation of pedagogy in the modern classroom. This in itself has confused the idea of sound pedagogy, and the understanding of what sound pedagogy is. I have had discussions with my principal on what our understandings of sound pedagogy are. The discussions are generally a result of conflicting viewpoints, yet neither of us is incorrect. Should this mean we end the search for sound pedagogy, I think not. I fear the situations described in Dr. Siemen's original post of the "instinct to nod viciously is enacted by everyone" when the statement of pedagogy first is uttered. Pedagogy is certainly important, but it should not be the sole concept underpinning learning.

However Dr. Siemen's point is to argue against pedagogy being the precursor to ICT selection within the learning environment. I agree with his sentiments, as this would effectively negate experimentation and exploration within a learning environment. However, I think his representation of pedagogy can be misinterpreted. This is evident in the range of reply comments to the blog post. As with any blog post there will be readers who agree and readers who don't. In this case, there may be many readers who misinterpret. Of course, this is only my interpretation of the blog post and the replies offered.

Was Dr. Siemens arguing against the development of pedagogy as a pre-cursor to the selection of ICT tools, or is it the fear that consideration of ICT tools is absent when developing pedagogy. Certainly the experience and knowledge of the educator, resources available in the school or learning environment and copyright restrictions are essential considerations within context. They should be considered within pedagogical development, and not separate. This is what I believe was the intended message of the post.

However, one of the replies to the post was particularly thought provoking. Doug Holton (Edtechdev) stated that many conversations about pedagogy tend to ignore the learner, and in particular the modern learners' ability and desire to actively engage and influence the learning environment. This suggests there will be certain unchartered territory within any leaning environment (that allows active engagement). This concept is similar to transformative learning theory presented by Mezirow, in particular the transfer of power within the learning relationship. In my experience, engaging students in active manipulation of the learning environment is challenging, and definitely a skill that requires practice. What it does do very effectively is incorporate the current learning theories of connectivism and transformative learning into pedagogy. Students can bring their own knowledge and skills into the learning environment, and then manipulate the environment to achieve agreed goals.

However I can't ignore the attraction of ICT use to students. It has a great power to capture and maintain attention. As I've expressed in other blogs and forums previously, my main fear with teacher use of ICTs is that of entertainment. Not that entertainment has no place in a learning environment, but it can't be the focus. I use ICTs to capture and maintain attention, but they support the learning goals and pedagogy. Jorge Goncalves (How to keep students motivated and attentive) states a learning platform with social networking and intelligent software will keep students’ attention. I certainly don't advocate for open social networking (as would occur in facebook) within a learning environment for my context (high school), however the concepts of social networking can be implemented to enhance learning. Sharing and collaboration are essential concepts that I attempt to incorporate within my learning environments. From the outside this will occasionally look like a dysfunctional learning environment if observers are traditionalist in nature. From within, the building of trust and knowledge exceeds traditional learning environments.

The development of ICTs and the collaborative knowledge of their use and application within a range of environments are exceptionally dynamic. New discoveries and uses are discovered and shared at a rapid rate. We cannot consider our knowledge and experience of ICTs in completion when initially planning and developing pedagogy. However, is pedagogical development also dynamic? Even before the advent and integration of ICTs in education, productive teachers would have manipulated learning environments in response to the needs and abilities of their learners.

So, which comes first? The pedagogy or the ICTs?

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