Let us hope that "ICT" is dead and buried

Fragment of a discussion from Talk:PeterT's bliki
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Peter, I agree on the importance of terminology and I can also see the need for a term to represent the effect of technology (education-specific or not) on pedagogy. I just think TEL is not a satisfactory term.

I guess that what this boils down to is that I do not think that non-education-specific technology *has* had much of an effect on learning in formal educational environments.

The internet and other generic software is great for:

  • disseminating information;
  • social networking;
  • games and simulations;
  • creative tools.

The problems have been that formal education is not about accumulating information (bullet 1); and that children are not motivated to use generic social networking tools for learning (it can be done, I agree, but I have yet to see an example that has struck me as being worth the effort) - bullet 2. There is, I believe, great potential for education-specific social networking environments - but they have not been developed yet. Similarly with games and simulations - generic commercial games are (pace Graham Brown-Martin and Ian Livingstone) next to useless and the education-specific, serious games have not yet been developed - bullet 3. As for creative tools, word processing software is probably the most useful contribution to date in the whole of education technology to formal education. Again, there is great potential for education-specific tools but so far they have not been developed (my own subject is History: why has no-one developed a timeline editor or a causal mapping software?) - bullet 4.

I would go further than this and say that the internet has broadly had a negative effect on education. Its most common use is for "internet research" which in reality involves cut-and-paste plagiarism, with lazy teachers failing to understand that research is not about the accumulation but the processing of information. Desktop publishing and other presentational software has also, under the guise of making students feel good about themselves, led to a massive waste of time in school. Yet "TEL" implies that technology always represents an enhancement.

So my analysis is that the whole project has failed due to the lack of education-specific technology that is supportive of good pedagogy - yet most of the TEL community do not even recognise the absence of education-specific technology - it is the elephant in the room - and the TEL acronym allow them to continue not to see it.

Another problem is the poor liaison between academic educationalists and teachers: the contrast with doctors, who are held responsible for keeping up to date with research journals, could not be starker. Again, by focusing on "learning" rather than "teaching", TEL helps perpetuate the view that the teacher has an incidental role in education, merely as facilitator.

Instead of leading teachers to expect that you just stir in to teaspoons of technology and out comes enhanced learning, we need to focus on the need for good teaching.

So while I recognised at the top of this comment the need for another acronym with the definition that you propose, I would suggest "digital pedagogy" rather than "TEL", to cover the practitioner's contribution to the party, as a companion to "education technology" which focuses on suppliers' contribution. My post today at http://edtechnow.net/2013/05/12/pedagogy/ explains what I understand "pedagogy" to mean in practice.

As a final aside, I was always amused by the forward to Becta's first Harnessing Technology report, in which Charles Clarke encouraged us all to "embrace the new pedagogues". I imagined a wave of government-approved sexual harassment breaking out in schools up and down the country. But notwithstanding the Malapropism, I thought the basic intention was a good one.

Crispin Weston14:49, 12 May 2013

I would be happy with having a different acronym to TEL, but don't think digital pedagogy works because it foregrounds the digital (the pedagogy is digital). This foregrounding of the technology within TEL is less problematic, because the technology is only enhancing the learning. However, I'd be very happy if we came up with a better term ...

I don't buy the argument about 'because technology hasn't been used well by teachers' then technology (unless designed specifically for education) can't impact on pedagogy. I have seen many instances of digital technology which were not designed for education being used very effectively in ways that change the pedagogy (though I wouldn't disagree that much or even most of the use of technology we see in schools isn't making much difference to the pedagogy - or is making it worse). However, I'm happy to disagree on this one. :O)

PeterT03:25, 13 May 2013

Just to reiterate my argument, I think the failure to foreground the technology is part of the problem because technology is not a given and we need mechanisms which ensure that teachers get their hands on the right technology.

But I guess we've probably run our course on this one, at least at an abstract level, and to go any further our remaining disagreements probably need to be discussed in relation to particular concrete issues. Perhaps we may have a chance to do that some time soon.

Thanks for the discussion.

Crispin Weston04:45, 13 May 2013

One thing I would add ...

I once led a TLTP3 project called SoURCE (Software use, re-use and customisation in education) which aimed to explore the extent to which you could embed good pedagogical design within software. One of the things we found out that was even where technology (software in our case) had been specifically designed for pedagogical purposes it could be (and was) used in ways which totally undermined the embedded pedagogical model.

The point being that it is not the technology that is the issue, it is how it is used.

So, whilst I agree that it would be good if there were more educationally focussed digital technology (ie technology designed specifically for education), this will not solve the problem of pedagogically sound use of technology ...

PeterT02:42, 14 May 2013

I agree that software might be used in ways not originally intended - but I do not see that it follows that educationally-focused software "will not solve the problem of pedagogically sound use of technology". Just because you can have a tin which says "just add pedagogy", does not mean that it might not be better to have a tin which says "comes with pedagogy inside". And the fact that you *can* bodge stuff together does not mean that you *should*. And if you find the need to undermine the embedded pedagogy of the original software, does this mean that the original software was not well designed or was inappropriate to the intended purpose?

It partly depends on the sort of software you are talking about - a point that I addressed in my post "Aristotle's saddle maker", at http://edtechnow.net/2012/01/25/aristotles-saddle-maker/. Some software is very generic, some is very application-specific. You could not, for example, used a system designed to handle point-of-sale transactions for doing anything much other than handling point of sale transactions. Whereas a word processor or web browser can be used for all sorts of things. In an educational context, it is the application-specific software that is lacking: at a systems level assignment managers, common markbooks, e-portfolios, learning analytics; at the instructional level, subject-specific creative tools, serious games etc.

Part of the problem with ed-tech is (a) most teachers are not technologically confident, and (b) most teachers are not even very pedagogically confident - they do not read the research literature and I doubt whether there is even general agreement about what pedagogy *means* (see my most recent post - more of a draft than a finished piece at present - on "Five principles of pedagogy" at http://edtechnow.net/2013/05/12/pedagogy/). So what has happened is that ed-tech has proceeded as a kind of local boy scout modelling club - lots of string and sellotape and enthusiasm which *hasn't* really been very infectious. What I am arguing is that we need the education-specific software that works out of the box, puts good pedagogy in the classroom and does not depend on the local teacher to reinvent another bodged-up wheel.

Can you point to a write-up of the SoURCE project which you are referring to?

Crispin Weston03:57, 14 May 2013

Both the SoURCE website (www.source.ac.uk) and the OU's Knowlege Network (where many of the outputs from SoURCE are located) are currently unavailable. Check out [[1]] and search for SoURCE ...

Our experience was that even with software specifically designed to embed pedagogy, and where we explained how to use the software to teachers (actually lecturers in HE), they often undermined the pedagogical model.

PeterT08:43, 25 May 2013

Hi Peter, Sorry for slow reply - only just found this comment.

It is a little hard to respond in detail, (a) because of the scarcity of project outputs and (b) because of the amount of time it would take. However, working from the SoURCE overview at http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/getfile.cfm?documentfileid=2220, I would make the following comments.

1. Customising content was the objective of the project - so it is not very surprising that it found that it *could* do what it set out to do. It does not sound as if the project made much attempt to assess the extent to which such customisation was found to be necessary or desirable by teachers and lecturers.

2. The extent to which software needs to be customised will depend to some extent on the quality of the software - so an assessment of the significance of the project outcomes will need to start with an assessment of the quality of the software being used, and how well it met its original requirements.

3. That said, I think the principle of adaptablility is a very important one. Let me propose a difference between "customisation" and "adaptability" on the basis that the first incorporates a subversion of the original intention of the software and the second does not, but represents the application of the software to a variety of different contexts. So your paper quoted above says:

"Thus, for example, you can customise the Elicitation Engine by changing the artefacts that it is manipulating and/or by using it as a reflective tool for students, or as an assessment tool for staff to identify students’ misconceptions".

I haven't worked out what the "Elicitation Engine is yet - but it seems clear to me that the two ways in which you are changing the application of the software represent my "adaptability" and not a subversive "customisation". "Changing the artefacts that it is manipulating" represents the application of the *same* encapsulated pedagogy to a different subject area - this strikes me as an essential feature of any pedagogy-encapsulating software. Second, the use of the Elicitation Engine as either a "reflective tool for students or as an assessment tool for staff" boils down to different ways of using the tool and its outcome data in a wider ecosystem. This too is an essential characteristic of a digital ecosystem built on open interoperability standards, that the student and teacher can play lego with their software components, modelling different pedagogical processes at the macro scale, by different combinations of pedagogy delivered by different software applications at the micro scale.

In short, neither of these examples seem to me to represent the customisation of encapsulated pedagogy in way that is subversive of the original intention of the software.

One further point. Customisation by tweaking program code or using software for a purpose that was not intended is likely to be difficult and cause confusion - particularly when deployed in a class of 30 who are bound to find out any flaws in the software that exist. The example that I quote from your paper illustrate the two principles of *adaptability* which I think are essential:

1. adaptability by parameterised launch (in this case, providing a different list of resources) with parameters being specified in user-friendly interfaces;

2. adaptability by different selection and combination, with these "sequences" and other aggregations of content being created in easy to use, drag-and-drop authoring tools.

Neither of these principles undermine - but rather enhance - the value of software that encapsulates pedagogy.


Crispin Weston03:03, 4 June 2013

You are quite correct Crispin that customisation within SoURCE did NOT involve changing the pedagogy embedded within the software. The ability to customise the software for use in different contexts (e.g. with different artefacts for 'sorting') was part of the software design. This was not where the problems occurred.

The problems were when someone came to implement the use of an instantiation of software that had already been customised. For example: Elicitation Engine (EE) Shell - customised by adding some artefacts => An instantiation of the EE. This then gets used in some teaching context. It is at this point that the pedagogy is undermined - for example by the 'teacher' telling the students what categories to use to sort the objects rather than expecting them to come up with their own categories.

This sort of undermining of the pedagogy that was designed into the software occurred frequently in our experience, even when the teachers had engaged in professional development that was intended to help them understand how the software was designed to be used. They used it in ways that fitted with their existing pedagogical practice by and large - rather than the pedagogical practices designed into the software.

PeterT01:19, 17 June 2013