Digital Pedagogy

What is Digital Pedagogy about?

Digital pedagogy is about the way that we teach and the way that students learn when we use technology. It is not about the technology itself, and it doesn’t mean that using technology in your teaching automatically makes it ‘good’ or ‘innovative’. It is about recognising the relationship between digital tools and learning, and designing teaching that uses technology appropriately to create an effective learning experience. 

Practicing digital pedagogy is a conscious digital-first design process, rather than a conversion of traditional teaching methods to use technology. It recognises that the way students learn when they use technology is different to how they learn with other tools, and therefore teaching needs to be purposefully designed to support that. 

What does this mean for my teaching?

If you’re interested in practicing digital pedagogy in the classroom or through online teaching there is one key thing to remember: “In order for technology to be incorporated effectively, there needs to be a purpose to it, and it should not be done for its own sake” (Ford, 2015).

This means reconsidering your teaching approach, and asking yourself:

  • What is the point of this activity?
  • What are the skills and knowledge I am trying to develop in students through this task?
  • Given the aims of the task, what is the most appropriate technological solution?

When you are clear on the experience you are trying to create for learners, you are likely to find that the digital-first solution might be quite different to the ‘analogue’ version.

An example

Consider the task of converting a traditional face-to-face lecture to an online alternative. 

The main purpose of a lecture is usually described as giving information to students and therefore the obvious online equivalent is a video of the lecturer talking through their slides, and providing the same information as they would face-to-face.

However, this view hugely over-simplifies the point of lectures and the skills of those delivering them. Breaking down the ‘point’ of a single lecture would throw out many more reasons than just providing information, at the very least, it:

  • allows students time together in a learning community
  • helps students think critically about information
  • provides the lecturer with real-time feedback on students’ understanding, enabling them to adapt their approach accordingly
  • provides students an opportunity to ask questions. 

When you consider these aspects, a static video recording no longer seems to meet the requirements as it has no social or community elements, offers no feedback from students, nor any opportunity for them to ask questions. It also assumes that a person studying at home has at least an hour of uninterrupted free time, sufficiently good internet to stream a video, and has no accessibility requirements.

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So what about a live webinar? Well, this would help a little, but they are even less flexible than a recording as the student must be available at a specific time. In terms of building a learning community, we are still some way from technological solutions that help students feel like they are really in a room with others. Webcams are useful, but often impact on connectivity, so it is often not viable to keep them on throughout a live session. This makes it difficult to get non-verbal feedback from students, and often students need scaffolded activities before they are confident using their microphone or the text chat to ask questions. 

A better digital-first approach would be to split the lecture content into chunks. The information is provided via short videos, audios or readings, separated by activities that give students the opportunity to think critically, put their learning into practice and interact and collaborate with their peers in a supported way. This enables students to interact in their own time and to develop relationships with the rest of their cohort. Educators are able to review discussions and activity outputs (e.g. responses to polls and quizzes) to gage how their students are progressing and what additional support might be needed. Bookable office hours and drop-in sessions using wither live chat or video-conferencing software can be used to provide support, check-in with how students are feeling and bolster community spirit.

Where next?

This site offers guidance to support you in practicing digital pedagogy. Refer to the policy documents section for top tips, a step-by-step approach to design and checklists to help you reflect on your own practice. The learning design section contains examples of patterns for effective digital teaching.

References

Ford, T. (2015) Digital Pedagogy: Is there too much Technology in the Classroom? [online] available from https://guides.library.utoronto.ca/c.php?g=448614&p=3340274 [22 June 2020]

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