The Mystery of Pedagogy

shifting-conversations-logoWhen you think about the amount of time, energy and passion that has underpinned the move to ubiquitous computing access over the past 25 years, it still comes as a bit of a shock to many that we have so little to show for it.

Not that there aren’t exemplars, and it was pleasing to hear from a number of those educational leaders who joined the commentary after my last column. Further to the dialogue that did provoke, I wanted to continue and have a closer look at the extent to which we have also underestimated the weight of legacy practice.

In keeping with that, maybe it’s time that we had a closer look at just how well existing pedagogies currently serve the needs of our young modern learners?

kc2   If we know that some 30 million K-12 students worldwide have ubiquitous access to their own fully functional laptop or tablet, wouldn’t you think that by now we might have seen more genuine transformation within more schools?

Maybe I’m just an optimist or simply naïve, but that’s an awful lot of empowerment to be wasted, an extraordinary amount of possibilities that is untapped, and an exceptional array of pedagogical opportunities not realised.

But herein lies the problem, because no matter how many times we might speak about pedagogy, and we certainly do spray it around frequently enough, I fear too often we are guilty of simply taking its true meaning for granted.

To many it’s become a bit of a touchstone, something they drop into a sentence when they want other educators to take them seriously as professionals. Yet when it comes to articulating the reality of what they mean, it can escape them. For most that is simply a function of the busyness of a day in the classroom when every spare moment is focused on what students are doing, and what they will do next.

How well do existing pedagogies serve the needs of modern learners?

While in some circumstances this might be understandable, nonetheless it would seem reasonable to suggest that we need to be more attentive to the empowerment that pedagogy offers the profession, because after all it is our practice.

It is that delicate balance between the art and science of teaching and learning, and the move to digital richness demands a deeper examination of all aspects of that if we are to ever fully realise the opportunity it provides our students. Ubiquitous access to computers does not in any way mean that all past practice is no longer relevant, however it should at the very least require that we review our practice in light of this new context.

It says that at the very least we should seek ways to ensure this new digital context enables more students to access more complex ideas, more of the time.

It suggests we should explore ways in which we can further refine the science of our teaching to add new dimensions to the manner in which we might develop more challenging learning experiences for students, and it challenges all teachers to refine the artful manner in which they can combine this knowledge with their own professional repertoire. These are the challenges that modern leaders must both understand and explore in some depth with their faculty.

It goes without saying that much of current practice resonates well in our rapidly changing, highly connected world, but there is extraordinary scope to do better. To do that requires a deeper commitment to the true meaning of pedagogy, and a sense of boldness about both the science and art it represents that ultimately will accelerate the shift in the classroom experience to one that is more in keeping with the context of the digitally rich world our modern learners are now part of.

Image credit: Kathy Cassidy

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