Education International Report | Pedagogy Must Underpin Technology as Educators Adapt to Rapid Changes

published 29 October 2020 updated 30 November 2020

Pedagogy should underpin technology if society wants quality education for all in a context defined by COVID-19. That is according to a new report, “A Review of Technology in Teaching and Learning”, by Education International.

Introducing technology in education is a complex matter, says the research report. While it allows access to education during school closures, it also creates a new situation that both teachers and learners need to adapt to and navigate.

This research was commissioned by Education International and completed by Dr. Alison Egan, of the Marino Institute of Education, Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Egan presented the findings at the report’s launch on 28 October during the first online session of the 15th Research Network meeting. Over 80 attendees worldwide were presented with the report’s recommendations around areas of concern such as pedagogy, teacher training, and continuous professional development.

Technology surge

Whilst the report was commissioned before the onset of the global pandemic, it touches on relevant issues given the increase in technology use in education due to school and university closures globally.

Indeed, Egan notes that the use of technology in education is no longer a matter of choice. She said education communities have probably reached a ‘tipping point’ where technology has become a main feature of any classroom.

Digitalisation of education

The study will be a source of information about contexts where technology is already advanced as well as those where its use is still evolving. As Egan pointed out, the meaning of technology in education differs according to students’ and educators’ digital competences.

On the other hand, many pedagogical features are impossible or new ones need to be developed if technology is to take on a greater importance in the classroom. Educators experienced in pedagogy and inclusion now face new challenges and technological barriers with the swift introduction of online learning.

As online platforms become more widely used globally, equity of access to technology is an important area for improvement, according to the study. Egan said education unions should take the lead in shaping policies on the digitalisation of education.

Pedagogy first

The study points out how, after a first phase of technological ‘hype’ or hyper focus, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, the question for educators is how to use the technology in the most effective pedagogical way. The report discusses the “pedagogy first” principle – a comprehensive view that comprises technology, pedagogy, and the teacher’s content knowledge of a given subject. While technology underpins the rest, the study shows how teaching – even under COVID-19 - is about much more than using technological tools.

Digital standards for educators and device agnosticism

However, the study also highlights the importance of the technological self-efficacy of educators. It analyses if teachers have the skills they need to use technology in the most efficient way in the classrooms. It questions whether the fact that an educator can use a piece of equipment means that he/she should actually use it.

Egan went one step further and advocated for ‘device agnosticism’. She said: “The technology is incidental, and the analysis should not be focused on one tool”. She stressed that educators should see technology as a pedagogical tool for their teaching purpose. This is particularly the case, as research shows that students and teachers are becoming increasingly tired of screens and constantly being online.

All about skills

The study highlights the crucial importance of the professional development of educators when it comes to technology. Models such as TPACK (technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge) or PEAT, which focuses on ethics, address other key skills that an educator needs to effectively integrate technology in the classroom.

What next?

The study highlights how six months into the pandemic, the pitfalls in terms of technology and teaching are becoming evident. They do not necessarily relate to technology but to the skills, competences, and confidence of educators in the use of technology.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Egan to the ResNet attendees. “We cannot go back now. But we need to go forward in a pedagogically sound manner: make technological integration seamless, but always underpinned by pedagogy.”