Something is missing in our equation for applying technology in education and that’s the cause for all failures – right, digital pedagogy! Technology is only a tool; we must get our principles right.


My Observation On Digital Pedagogy

As an edTech trainee, I watch technology being introduced to schools and I see the entire struggle around teachers and technology. Younger teachers (who grew up in the digital age and have gotten very used to tech) are trying all sorts of edTech in the classroom and are at loggerheads with the older teachers (who have become parents and grandparents) who have an almost natural phobia for technology. Several school admin, having heard about all the edTech failures, are extremely sceptical about its introduction. This is certainly a problem.

Technology And The Education Industry

Today, we see technology everywhere. We seem to like it, trust it, and depend on it – if not, we could never enjoy air travel, use an ATM machine, or call a friend on the phone. Technology has changed how we live, and the truth is it has come to stay. To fight it is to fight a battle you cannot really win. Eventually, literacy will not be just about going to school alone, but about knowing how to use basic technology. We see technology affecting every other sphere of life – banking, marketing, health, corporate organisations, logistics and transport, communication, etc. Almost everything we use and do now is built around technology. The world has changed because of it and this is for the better.

However, the education industry seems to be slow in seeing this and adopting it; we are coming last to the game. We seem to be really sceptical…We’re hearing the news: It’s failing everywhere. Why is this happening? What is the solution? Ban technology? Put up posters that say “Please switch off your phones”?

An older colleague of mine used this great illustration. What do you think of when you see a knife? “Useful”? “Dangerous”? Sure, there have been several stories of people being stabbed with a knife (and sometimes over and over, all around the world), but will the solution be to ban all knives in your house? Think about it (or maybe try it): Put away all knives and see if you’ll survive a week. The problem is not the knife; the problem is what you do with the knife and, most importantly, how you use the knife!

The Cause Of Failure

The reason for all failures in edTech is not technology. It is how we’re using technology. We are putting Technology before Education. Most of the time we allow technology drive the teaching. We simply want to use technology, and so technology becomes the end in itself. Technology, just like the knife, is just a tool. It’s our partner in teaching. Unfortunately, we have abandoned our teaching and its core principles and instead have focused on the technology.

The Solution

Great Teacher + Great Technology + Great Pedagogy = Great Teaching

The missing piece of the puzzle (and cause of failure) is the lack of appropriate digital pedagogy. Before technology came, we had great teachers who knew their content properly. But then, interestingly, we also had a pedagogy, our guide to teaching. A great lesson wasn’t great just because there was a great teacher, teaching an interesting content, but because they applied the right teaching strategy and methods suitable for this content. Unfortunately, when technology arrived, we threw away this important component and replaced it with great technology.

Teachers must be trained to use technology well; otherwise, we will continue to fail. Teachers (even digital natives) need to be trained and shown how to use the technology they are so used to in order to teach. As teachers, we need a simple yet effective digital pedagogy plan that guides us how we use technology in our classrooms.

Our students likewise must be shown how to use technology to support their learning. The fact that they ordinarily use smartphones and other tech gadgets does not mean they know how to use them to learn. Teachers should be available to show their learners how to engage with these technology tools and devices for learning purposes.

The @ctivated Classroom Model

@ctivated classroom modelMy friend and a senior colleague, Dr Craig Blewett, a senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has developed a great digital Pedagogy that is simple and relevant for our teaching called the @CTIVATED Classroom Model. It’s a Pedagogy by a teacher for teachers, that helps teachers use technology appropriately in the classroom. It uses pedagogies from curation to conversation, to correction, to creation and chaos to activate students in the learning journey. Get a brief overview here.

You can also enrol in the @ctivated Classroom online course to learn how to apply this Pedagogy in your classroom. Better still, schools can enrol their teachers as a group for an even better experience. For more on the @ctivated Classroom, visit

My Concluding Thoughts

Somehow, I know that even though the education sector is coming late to the use of technology, we will soon overtake other industries regarding the kind of transformation we can have when we use it appropriately. Getting it right is critical for us; but once we do, we are set to employ technology to transform our teaching, build great students, and further change our world.

This article was first published on the eLearning Industry site.

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