What Digital Pedagogy is NOT
The current prominent experts in the field of Digital Pedagogy emphasize that the mere use of technological components in the classroom does not equate to digital pedagogy. In his introduction to the MLA Digital Pedagogy unconference, Brian Croxall states that “some argue that just because you are using digital technology in your teaching, does not mean that you are practicing digital pedagogy, especially if you are not reflecting on pedagogical change.” He illustrates this point beautifully by referring to Paul Fyfe’s statement, “if the tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat problems as nails,” meaning that a simple incorporation of a tool, for example, powerpoint, in a lecture, without thinking about how the pedagogical approach to the lecture should change as a result, is essentially the same as a lecture where Powerpoint is not used at all.
In the preface to the timeline that he developed, Jesse Strommel states that “Digital pedagogy is an orientation toward pedagogy that does not fetishize digital tools,” thus he applauds definitions that focus on process and elements rather than on the idea of instructional technology itself. He states that Digital Pedagogy should focus on how instructors’ interaction through machines could affect teaching and learning.
In his article “Digital Pedagogy Unplugged,” Fyfe asks the question: “ Can there be a digital pedagogy without computers?” He points out the current discussions surrounding digital pedagogy, that some scholars are vigorously critiquing the “headlong rush to technologize education from those who suspect its deleterious effects upon learning,” such as in the case of Bauerlein and Carr, as well as healthy critiques of instructional technology from people very sympathetic to educational and humanities computing, who point out that technology cannot change the classroom without first changing the pedagogy (for example, Kraus).
Although writing within the context of Digital Humanities, Fyfe argues that digital pedagogy is not simply the technological tools that are being utilized within the classroom, and that one of the current shortcomings or misconceptions around digital pedagogy is how frequently it gets conceived in terms of instructional technology – often thought of as just something that uses electronic tools or computers, rather than altering the pedagogical approach.
He states that new tools are easy, but what is difficult is reimagining how to use them, “imagining the social conditions they might enable and, hardest of all, creating the institutional structures in which they will flourish.” One of Fyfe’s most eloquent examples is that of presentation technology, and how it became ubiquitously used in lecture halls for what inevitably became a way to display bullet points. The technology is not necessarily make the lecture more engaging, or more meaningful from a pedagogical point of view. In the article, Fyfe refers to two examples of effective digital pedagogy.
The first case is that of Jose Bowen, Dean of Southern Methodist University (SMU) who proposed to "teach naked" - which meant the removal of all the computers and projectors from his classrooms. Fyfe claims that Bowen was reacting to the “ineffectiveness of pedagogy when it gets governed by the tools it uses.” Bowen advocates giving students access to podcasts and online discussion groups, and PowerPoint presentations, but not within the context of the classroom. He feels that during class time, students should be have access to question and answer session, in person discussions. The second case that Fyfe refers to is that of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and their creation of the flipped classroom. Digital sources are used outside of the classroom, while class time is used for questions and discussion.
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