Some grouchy hot takes on technology and pedagogy

Warning: I’m feeling a little sharp tongued today, so my writing may be seasoned with some expletives. If you’ve spoken with me (in any format), this will not be a huge surprise.

There are a few things sticking in my craw lately about technology and pedagogy. I want to preface this post to remind/inform you that I love technology, use it daily, and value its use in the f2f/online classroom.

Working in online education means that I often see the full spectrum of using tech in the classroom: the good, the bad, and the snarky. Here are some of my hot takes:

  1. I recently co-facilitated a session on the cool tool traps in ed-tech and one piece of feedback was that a faculty member would never go to a session like that because they want to explore cool tools. First, the session was about two things: LTIs lack of transparency/taking ownership of FERPA sensitive student data (HELLO PUBLIC LTI SETTINGS) and not letting technology drive pedagogy*. I need to remind myself that one ill-informed comment does not overshadow the “holy shit” looks of realization from attendees who realized they had power in limiting data sent to vendors. USE ALL THE TOOLS YOU WANT JUST EXAMINE THEM CRITICALLY BEFORE COMMODIFYING STUDENT DATA.

  2. I recently met with a faculty member who is doing amazing things in her courses. She is focusing on students first rather than leading with technology. She is facilitating opportunities for exploring theory and praxis using basic tools like Zoom. She is providing multiple options for students to demonstrate skills and the knowledge that goes with those skills. And of course, she is getting pushback from sage-on-the-stage colleagues.

    1. One decontextualized example: students needed to coordinate a synchronous meeting. When one student couldn’t attend, they arranged to have a debrief with the group leader. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE. When I can’t make a meeting (because life happens), I get debriefed by a colleague or stakeholder. Also: Students turned in the recording of the meeting and the instructor used it to learn about her students: what they liked, didn’t like, what they spoke about, how their experiences related to course concepts. She didn’t use the recording to assess them, but to become a better instructor. What a concept!

  3. The relationship of technology and pedagogy has me asking: Is the explosion of ed tech tools a good thing on the whole? I don’t know, and I don’t think it’s a yea or no answer. Maybe? Sometimes I think these tools are marketed/spun to fill a need when really they are creating more opportunities for instructors to do any of the following (and more):

    1. Not trust their students or invest time in building trust/relationships (hello plagiarism/cheating tools)

    2. Micromanage learning (MUST SEE ALL THE THINGS TO GRADE IT. HOW DID IT HAPPEN IF I DID NOT SEE IT ALL HAPPEN? Again, see trust.)

    3. Focus on tasks vs. skills (wow you do a click on these auto-graded quiz buttons, good jobs!)

    4. Prioritize boring-ass things.

I have more thoughts, but it’s also exhausting to be grouchy. I think I’ve been a sourpuss long enough for today. Just like the weather here in Colorado, wait five minutes and it (I) will change. Onto my brightly scheduled brain programming…

Note: awarding myself a cool frickin’ trophy for not going full swearbear here.

*Sometimes technology has to dictate pedagogy, a specific example is using industry standard software/hardware.