Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

We have learnt that introducing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can be fraught with controversy unless it is executed through a robust consultation process, transparency at all levels and most importantly being grounded in how the device will enhance learning. The clear articulation and shared understanding of how the device will impact learning positively, what pedagogy will underpin its use and the agreed safety around use is an important first step. In fact the introduction of any new technology should be underpinned by this process.

In his article Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Gregory Firn commented:

Cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality, 3D printing and the “Internet of Things” have reached the classroom. While these technologies already have potential to enrich STEM concepts, they often originate from the consumer world and risk standing alone in maker spaces and classroom workshops.

I agree with Firn and in the age of the introduction of modern learning environments/innovative learning environments/flexible learning spaces we are acutely aware that the effective pedagogy that underpins learning, no matter the learning space, must be clearly articulated, shared and consistently applied across the school before utilising these types of future focused spaces.

As an example, acquiring a 3D printer needs to begin with the same question:

How will this new technology enhance learning?

Introducing a 3D printer into existing mental models and practices of teaching and learning may result in usage within a particular learning environment, such as a Maker Space, but only as an end tool to produce an item.

If, however, the 3D printer is integral to carrying out an authentic inquiry based on a real world need, utilising rich task pedagogy and developing transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, then its introduction will enhance learning.

I saw a wonderful example of this last term whereby the year 7 students undertook a unit of inquiry focused on developing an innovation to aid an adult who was a tetraplegic.

The teachers utilised a powerful combination of practice:

inquiry based pedagogy

transdisciplinary learning

design thinking

student agency

authentic constructionist

The students invented and designed a variety of tools to hopefully help improve the quality of life for their subject. Their dedication, enthusiasm and level of innovation was astounding!  Students explored problem solving through trial and error by digitally designing and modifying models on-screen, and revisiting that design after testing and analysing the printed prototype.

The 3D printer making the knife designed by the students
 Key to their success were the 3D printers. These machines were an integral tool that enhanced learning by bringing the students' designs and products to life. They produced a final and tangible product! As a result of this unit we've now got a number of students who can design and print an object completely independently, which is no small thing.

The knife being tested – a great success!

The 3D printer enriches the STEM concept immensely and when introduced within a rich inquiry, a design task with real world application has huge potential to enhance learning. 

George Velez in his article:


A 3D printer will no longer be a rare classroom accessory, or a tool transported from room-to-room on a cart. They will be the center of the classroom makerspace environment. Rather than teachers assigning students a clear objective for building a working 3D model, students will turn to this technology to complete cross-curricular project-based assignments, or to conceptualize algebraic formulas or sequences.

Velez believes 3D printing as a skill recommendation, or even requirement, is expected to become a reality as soon as 2019.

In conclusion, I believe new powerful technologies are a reality of education today. However, ensuring they are not just a fad driven purchase but introduced to enhance effective future focused pedagogy is key!

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