It’s about the technology, pedagogy, and content

A few weeks ago I was talking with a group of colleagues and the topic of how we integrate technology came up. One of them said that it’s all about the pedagogy, not the technology. The point he was trying to make was that we don’t want to base the decisions we make only on the availability of technology. For example, we shouldn’t say “I have this iPad, I should use it to teach Math!” This is a very technocentric approach to technology integration, because we aren’t consider what we teach and how we teach it (content and pedagogy).

However, making the claim that it’s all about the pedagogy is similarly misguided, because it assumes that the ways in which we teach will encapsulate the use of technology (let’s just leave effectiveness out of the discussion for now). We all know this isn’t true and to prove it isn’t true we just need to walk down the hallways of our school, whether it’s elementary, middle, high or post-secondary. There are a number of teachers who don’t use technology and have success. So we have an inherent issue when we say that it’s all about the pedagogy, because as a number of teachers have shown, only considering pedagogy simply ignores the use of technology. Pedagogical knowledge is technology neutral and is concerned with issues surrounding classroom management, assessment, instructional strategies, etc.

If we want to effectively integrate technology into the teaching and learning process, then it really is about the technology, but it’s also about the pedagogy and content too. Integrating technology is not an isolated technology event. Rather it is the complex interactions between three types of knowledge: technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. It’s not enough to have each type of knowledge in isolation from the others. Each has to be considered in relation to the other two, because only when we consider how a technology effects what we teach by how it can be represented and understood through the use of the technology, as well as how the way we teach that content changes due to the use of the technology, will we be able to truly integrate technology in purposeful ways.

My purpose isn’t to nitpick what one of my colleagues said. Rather, it’s to point out that we can’t continue to think about developing knowledge in isolated ways. We can’t learn how to technically use an iPad and then be expected to integrate it into our teaching. It doesn’t work that way. But we also can’t just focus on pedagogy development either, because that doesn’t guarantee the effective use of technology. If anything, it would guarantee the effective use of a management, assessment, or other instructional technique. So if we really want to integrate technology in an effective way that has implications for learning, then we need create opportunities where we are developing knowledge about a particular technology, but only insofar as it relates to how to teach a piece of content in a particular way.

This is the only way we are going to have forward progress with the effective use of technology in the learning process. As you begin to plan for professional development this next school year, reconsider your technocentric sessions. Find ways to create opportunities for your teachers to develop knowledge surrounding not only technology, pedagogy, and content in isolation, but also with how each of these interact with the other. Then you’ll be on the right track and will have the potential, not the guarantee but the potential, for successful technology integration. Remember, this is the first step, not the last. There’s a lot more to do and no truly clear way of getting there.


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