The need for technopedagogues and will it ever go away?

Tim Klapdor writes about (along with a bunch of other stuff today) the process of discovering the concept of a technopedagogue and offers his translation of the French definition of that concept

The technopedagogue is a kind of bilingualist, one foot in human needs and learning process, and the other in technology and its potential. So a technopedagogue can oversee the design, implementation and even the implementation of interfaces, environments and the digital tools that support learning or various processes. The technopedagogue communicates easily with system architects and programmers as well as administrators, trainers and teachers. They can also act as a translator between the two, often translating the educational needs into the technical requirements. What makes this techno-pedagogical bridge so vital to our digital society is the ability to maximise the potential of the technological tools to meet our needs, which are first and foremost, human.

Like Tim I can see some resonance between that role and the type of stuff I do. In fact, any value that exists in the stuff that I do comes because I’m able to bridge the techno-pedagogical chasm. Not because I’m a brilliant pedagogue, or even a brilliant technologist. Far from it.

It comes from the fact that it is so unusual for any one person or organisation to be able to effectively bridge the techno-pedagogical chasm.

Do we need to teach “ICT and Pedagogy”?

Four years ago I started work at my current institution charged with the responsibility of teaching “ICT and Pedagogy” to pre-service teachers. Back then I was wondering why there was still a need for this type of course, I wrote

If technology is part of every day learning and teaching, why have a separate ICT in pedagogy course?

I really wasn’t sure there would remain a need for the course. I was fairly certain I’d be looking for another job fairly soon.

Not as long as the chasm remains

I don’t think that any more.

The perceived importance of digital technologies in education remains and is perhaps more widely recognised. It appears that governments and formal education institutions are starting to spend more time and attention on the problem.

But I don’t think any of that is going to work because the chasm between the techno and the pedagogue is going to remain.

The Incommensurability barrier

For me the chasm is unlikely to disappear because the techno (perhaps defined as involving the “system architects and programmers as well as administrators”) work with a mindset that is incommensurable with the mindset used by the pedagogue. Another of Tim’s posts from today on scale gives one example of the incommensurable.

The techno is interested in scale. On systems and practices that work for the whole organisation or the whole of learning and teaching.

The pedagogue is interested – as much as they can be within the current system – in the individual, the specific.

Hence you get Wiley’s reusability paradox.

Ignorance of the nature of digital technologies

The “techno” mindset is so strong we end up with organisational approaches to digital technologies that no longer understand the fundamental nature of digital technologies. Rather than benefiting from Kay’s protean, meta-medium we get the situation Rushkoff identified where human beings are optimized for the digital technologies. A situation we talk a bit about in this paper.

Digital fluency won’t help

Rather than recognise this fundamental problem, the trend over recent years has been to blame the teachers. They aren’t using our technology because they are digitally fluent. If only they were digitally fluent, then everything would be okay. It won’t.

There may well be some benefit, but unless the digital technologies available to teachers (and students) help them deal with the contextual, the specific, and the individual, the chasm will continue to exist. Technology focused on the general, won’t be useful. There’ll still be a chasm between what is provided and what is required.

Re-arranging the deck chairs

Hence courses like ICT and Pedagogy will continue to exist, but there will be lots of activity re-arranging the deck chairs. My course isn’t helping because it isn’t teaching X. So revise to teach X. Oh, that didn’t work. The course needs to be taught in the first year. No that didn’t work. It needs to be integrated across the curriculum. Not that didn’t work….

No to go write some code to bridge the gap between the generic software systems the organisation provides me and the specific needs of my course, the pedagogy I use in it, and my learners.




One thought on “The need for technopedagogues and will it ever go away?

  1. Hi David;
    I think of pedagogy at its best through (1) Vygotskian and (2) Bakhtinian type ideas: (1) A teacher introduces a student to a social practice (like how people operate within a certain discourse) (2) through dialogic interaction that is always unique and non-repeatable. When a teachers interacts in a class of 25 or 30 students through some form of direct instruction much of that pedagogy is lost, but the best teachers still find interaction with each student in some way. Many technologies model pedagogy as direct instruction with algorithmic interaction. It’s much more efficient, but falls into that Rushkoffian optimization trap. Here’s where Daniel Lemire’s ideas fit:
    “. . . it makes no practical sense to limit computers to what brains can do when it is obviously more profitable to build machines that can do what brains cannot do. We do not ask for cars that walk like we do or for planes that fly like birds… why would we want computers that think like we do?
    But conversely, it makes no sense to limit what people can do (and we are much more than isolated brains) to fit what machines can do. Are we not encouraged to focus our educations on what we can uniquely do but where machines struggle. It make most sense to form a symbiotic relationship in technopedagogy that frees teachers and students to be even more human.
    I see 3 problems. 1. is Tim Klapdor’s idea of scale. For tech companies, scale is where the money is, but scale lead to that Rushkoffian optimization trap. The second problem is that so much tech is based on a Kurzweilian type techno optimism. We really have no idea how thought works and people develop intellectually. We have some correlations about what happens neuralogically and some ideas about algorithms that mimic thoughts but no real causal theories. But if computer power keeps doubling, the raw power will somehow fill the gaps. The 3rd problem I think is political. It is that elites really believe they are endowed with the prize we need. That it is OK for Stanford, Harvard and the such to have an elite educational experience but the rest have an education that is optimized for their algorithms. This is the ultimate feudual-techno-distopia.

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