A large debate within the implementation of 21st Century skills, Common Core, and technology in the classroom is what to teach educators first, the pedagogy or the tool? I have heard this comment over and over from different thought leaders in the field of educational technology and 21st Century skills. It is the chicken or egg debate, and at times has created an” analysis paralysis” of implementation of either into classrooms. This debate represents the old scaffolding approach to learning, where you must have this widget before having the next widget to make a whole.
Here is my take on this debate: The pedagogy can be delivered without technology, though it is difficult to do and requires an exceptional teacher to both understand and implement. However, meaningful educational technology environments cannot be achieved without the use of a pedagogy that uses all the elements of good instructional design, and the ADDIE approach. Furthermore, technology is a tool that is continually advancing and changing, so therefore; requires continuous learning. So where to start? I feel it is essential to demonstrate pedagogy and using technology tools together and at the educators’ level of comfort.
Looking at educators and assessing how much they already know about pedagogy and technology is a great place to start and end the debate. Yes, I know this is radical approach in the field of delivering professional development, actually finding out what educators need before delivering services! However, until this happens, all we are doing is wasting the educator’s time and schools/districts resources by providing services that we are not sure if they need or not. Therefore, by assessing educators prior to providing training, you can determine the educators’ level of knowledge and skill and deliver meaningful instruction. The big plus to this method is that you will be modeling the use of pedagogy! Yes, pedagogy is the holistic approach to delivery of education! Just by assessing the educator’s needs and tailoring instruction to those needs, you have modeled the pedagogy approach to instruction that is needed to deliver Common Core and 21st Century skills.
To be proficient in technology, individuals must have opportunities to practice using the technology. An old school approach might be learning how to write cursive. An educator that just demonstrates how to write cursive on a blackboard and then expect their students to be proficient in writing cursive is not going to have very good results. You need to practice to write cursive effectively, and this is most certainly the case with using technology. In the current educational system, we do not have our educators or students practice using the technology tools often enough.
Within the pedagogy and technology debate there seems to be four types of educators: 1) doesn’t know pedagogy or technology, 2) knows pedagogy but does not know technology, 3) doesn’t know pedagogy but knows technology, and 4) knows pedagogy and technology. This last group should most likely be the mentors and leaders in the schools.
Let’s stop this scaffolding approach of what came first and realize that this is a processing and practice relationship and we need to start assessing, designing and delivering targeted instruction. In addition, educators need to start implementing classroom instruction using the pedagogical methods with administrators evaluating the results of what the educators’ produce. Let’s stop arguing over what comes first and start doing it!