Posted by: MandyS | February 26, 2014

How to justify the use of technology in teaching an learning…

…or an appraisal of Price and Kirkwood (2011).

It is impossible to disagree with the fact that “a range of technologies could be used to
support a range of educational purposes” and the list of uses provides an overview of what is important in determining whether the use of technology can be justified:

  • the use of technology to support flexibility and widened access to the
    curriculum;
  • the support of more mobile and transient learners, those in the workplace,
    or those geographically remote from a campus
  • the ability to support students with specific learning difficulties who may
    find aspects of the curriculum difficult to access
  • the ability to engage students in a variety of ways in their learning
  • supporting appropriate assessment and feedback for students
  • supporting students’ skills development and professional practice through
    virtual environments
  • supporting students’ revision and reinforcement
  • supporting students’ reflection upon learning and personal development
  • developing students’ abilities to link theoretical and practical aspects
  • supporting students’ interactions with peers and engaging them in
    collaborative work
  • preparing students for life beyond university by developing their
    networking and discernment skills.

No one technology could ever support each of these criteria so, for me, this is not the starting point. The overarching determintation justifying technological use has to be the context and the goal to be achieved. I found it interesting reading how different technologies have been applied in different contexts and what the outcomes of their use were so, as the report suggests, the basic tests to be applied are:

1. How is the technology used to achieve the learning goal?

2. How is it integrated with the needs of the student?

3. How is the learning and teaching context accommodated?

In that regard, these practice-based scenarios have a key role in evidencing how technology can be used to support learning and teaching and the report makes a significant point; such evidence is underutilised by practitioners. Instead of testing out new technologies to accumulate a wealth of evidence, why not focus on developing ‘new practices’ based on the available evidence of how technology has been successfully (or otherwise) applied. Easier said than done? Especially given the report’s view that the fundamental issue here is not necessarily justifying the use of technology but changing the mind-set of both educators and policymakers as to the cost-effectiveness of the ‘integration’ of technology into learning and teaching.

What I have found intriguing with the current activity is that despite an apparent acceptance that the focus should always be the pedagogy and not the tool used to support it, technologies have been suggested at will without a clear focus of what that pedagogy might be. Does this mean that practitioners accept the theory ‘in theory’ but in practice it is more a case of ‘this looks interesting, let’s give it a go?’ On that basis, is the justification for the use of technology because it ‘actually fits’ the pedagogy or because it has ‘been made to fit it’?

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