Transforming the way we teach and learn

Learning technology

Perhaps never before has there been more urgency to develop the relationship between technology and pedagogy to support teaching and learning. Yet even this phrasing has been debated; should learning come before teaching some might ask; others might say that too often, once students have been taught, the responsibility for future learning is passed on. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, teachers and students can and should use this learning process to influence and shape future practices and collaborate with one another to build a community of lifelong learners in the process. 

Whether we are talking about a face-to-face, online or hybrid learning model, learning technology has a unique ability to bridge the gap between teachers and students. The growing importance of technology in education has often been seen as taxing or perhaps overwhelming. At the same time, it has revealed its capacity in improving student engagement, promoting individual learning and cultivating a community of learners.

Teachers continue to play a key role in the learning process but maybe, part of the responsibility can now be shared between the technology and the students  themselves. Perhaps they no longer need to be such central characters in a student’s education. This is not about shirking away from our commitments as educators but rather, in creating a wholesome and inclusive learning environment where students can use the tools at their disposal to become more active participants, to shape their learning, identify gaps in knowledge and understanding and nurture a sense of self-belief. 

Collaboration itself is a term which has been used quite freely, one we are all familiar with and recognise its impact. At the crux of this debate between technology and pedagogy, perhaps, is the question of how we collaborate and what we hope to achieve from this, as opposed to whether we  entertain this educational phenomenon at all. Teaching excellence is founded on strong partnerships between the teacher(s) and student(s). In this regard, it is important to remember that both sides play a role in this partnership and each can and should be encouraged to advocate for innovative and dynamic approaches to get the most out of their learning experience. 

We are in a fortunate position where we can shape our teaching practices to work with the technology; the reverse is also true. Through greater collaboration with our colleagues and students, we can decide how we want learning technology to transform education; what role we want it to play  and how to balance this with the relational pedagogy element. Technology is more effective when we use it together, to achieve shared targets and objectives but more often than not, it is seen as the enemy, seeking to make our current practice more complicated and laborious. 

One of the current concerns, however, is whether there is too much focus on technology and not enough on education. This is a critical question to ask if we are serious in upholding a constructive relational balance between teachers and students but also with the pedagogy that underpins our use of technology in the first place. There is a great deal of attention paid to the teacher-student partnership but what is often missed is the centrality of the student-student partnership, one, which if developed and enthused in the right way, can have a transformative impact on Higher Education in the years to come. It is important to remember and remind ourselves that whatever approach we adopt when we teach, student engagement is a key ingredient to a rich teaching experience. 

If we are to take away two points from the influx of learning technology in recent years, it is that firstly, it serves a dual purpose as both a teaching and learning tool; secondly, that technology and pedagogy co-exist to supplement and reinforce teaching and learning, not to replace this. Whether it is a feedback tool, a quiz or a workshop, technology enables students to interact with others wherever they are, empowering them to be an active participant in their learning process. In many respects, the  relationship between technology and pedagogy is symbiotic and enriches the opportunities to achieve  excellence in teaching and learning. 

Dr Stephanie Conway is a Learning Technologist at SOAS.

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