“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Widely attributed to Henry Ford after the success of his Model T car, though quite possibly apocryphal, this quote nevertheless neatly encapsulates the problem with putting pedagogy first.
Let me unpick that. I’ve argued before that technology must be form an integral part of any school’s development plan if we want it to become embedded, mundane and therefore truly transformational.
However, whenever I’ve said that the technology is really important it is often construed to mean that I think technology is more important and inevitably someone pipes up that pedagogy must always come first. In fact, they say, that is the problem with digital strategies: they’re putting the cart before the horse.
But (I humbly submit) they’re wrong. For this reason:
We seem to have happily settled on the assumption that technology’s value to education is limited and that it may be doing us more harm than good. This is a point I‘ve tried to make recently here and here.
From this perspective, it makes sense to be cautious about the dangers and pitfalls of technology. However, in stark contrast with this sceptical approach, is the fact that technology has had a an overwhelmingly positive impact in all areas of society, including education. Every piece of research on the subject – from Nesta to Hattie, from Futurelab to Willingham – suggests that, when effectively used, technology benefits teaching and learning. It really is as clear as that, yet we still remain culturally biased against technology.
What actually makes sense is to embrace technology and explore how it can support teaching and learning. A school’s digital strategy must ensure that both technology and pedagogy go hand in hand if we are to avoid the faster horse scenario, where our vantage point only allows us a narrow field of view that cannot provide us with the insight and perspective that are required to make educational technology so mundane and so embedded that teachers can focus on the teaching, which is what every teacher in the world dearly wants to achieve.
Far from putting the horse before the cart, a good digital strategy puts the horse inside the cart, providing it with a powerful motor to drive research, development and innovation in teaching and learning.
What do you think?