Blog Post

Teaching First, Technology Second

Are we using technology for technology's sake in educational research? Or, are we thinking of teaching first (i.e. our goals, outcomes, activities, communities of practice) and then asking ourselves if the affordances of technology can help attain said goals, outcomes, etc.?

These questions form the basis of my dissertation research and work as research assistant in the Krause Innovation Studio at The Pennsylvania State University. The title of this post is our tagline at the Krause Innovation Studio: Teaching First, Technology Second. Our goal is to develop innovative pedagogy that is supported and draws on emerging technologies.

In my dissertation research, I'm exploring how pre-service teachers learn to use technology to support teaching and learning. Rather than looking at what tools and technology pre-service teachers are exposed to, I'm seeking to understand the more capable peer (Vygotsky, 1978, pp. 86) - peer relationships in teacher education. I will share more of this research as I develop my theoretical framework and familiarize myself with the current literature.

My research at the Krause Innovation Studio centers on four topics of investigation: the future of learning spaces; digital records of teaching practice; digital scholarship; and visualizations of complex data. In each topic, we research how technology can support innovative pedagogy and teaching practices. Below, I pull out a few intellectual "nuggets" from previous Krause Innovation Studio blog entries and invite you to follow the links and participate in the ongoing conversations.


The Future of Learning Spaces

Privacy is no longer defined by the walls of the classroom. Any student in class can be engaged in a conversation outside of those walls. Or the opposite may be true: the professor may invite outside participants by encouraging a backchannel feed on Twitter during class discussions. ~Private and Public Learning Spaces

Inviting outside students/people to sit in the back of class on a sofa during regular class activities is radically different than traditional notions of higher education. Is it possible to have our students unlearn their notions of a classroom so they will use and feel comfortable in these hyper-public spaces? ~The Hyper-Public Learning Space

Even if our learning spaces are designed from an understanding of how identity is negotiated with in a community of practice and how collaboration occurs, yet our instructors/teachers are not using instructional methods that are conducive to the design of the space, the space fails. ~The Design of Spaces vs. the Use

Social media and innovative pedagogies are changing the landscape of learning. Learning spaces can be designed to facilitate these changes, but they will be successful only when our students and teachers change their paradigms and notions of what a classroom looks like and how to facilitate a class filled with social media savvy students.


Digital Records of Teaching Practice

A guerrilla video type system - video recording that involves multiple views/angles and microphones on teacher and on student activities - as opposed to the traditional, back of the classroom surveillance video type system, could add enough detail to enable the professor to understand the learning as it occurs. ~The One Click Solution

An online video club cannot be seen as a tool and resource because doing so would remove the necessary components of a video club: productive conversations and discourse around teaching practice. ~My Vision of an Online Video Club: Resource or Community of Practice?

Records of teaching practice are useful when they record the complexities of teaching and learning. Digital technologies enable more of the complexitiy to be recorded and analyzed. But, technology cannot replace peer teacher interactions. Without productive conversations and discourse around teaching practice based on the digital records, reflection will not turn into change.


Digital Scholarship

As research libraries move forward from an age where large stores of information were kept shelved in a physical building, to one where researchers control their own online information universe, librarians are becoming more invested in helping faculty optimize, organize and archive their personal scholarly information collections ~You Are Your Own Librarian (E. Cahoy)

With Twitter, while deeply immersed in his own interpretations and writing, Dr. Long can bounce ideas off of his research assistant Lisa and receive valuable feedback and possibly sources that he might have looked over. ~#DigitalScholarship

I believe what we will see in academic scholarship is a new breed of scholar that is part librarian and part disciplinary expert, who builds their reputation as a scholar by creating structure and organization dynamically as new work emerges. ~Curation as Scholarship (S. McDonald)

Digital scholarship involves archiving previous scholarly information collections, using social media to assist in the creation of new scholarship, and synthesizing and creating structure by modifying archives as new work emerges. Synthesizing and creating structure around scholarship is a skill that will become more and more important as the Internet provides us with information (and scholarship) overload. 


Visualization of Complex Data

A super graphic is a high resolution data dump designed to allow people multiple interpretations and also to live on beyond the context of the talk or first interaction. ~A World without Supergraphics (S. McDonald)

"Turn to your neighbor and ask them to describe what they see in the data, and once you have an agreement, compare your opinion with others around you," might provide just the student-centered collaboration that could transform Dr. Richards' lectures. ~Clicking our Way through Race and Ethnic Relations

Without adequate examples and pedagogical reasons from a learning theory perspective, instructors will fail to use clickers as more than a replacement of raising hands. ~The Diffusion and Adoption of Clickers - For the Right Reasons

Teaching and learning are complex. As technology expands our ability to represent the complexities of teaching and learning, we must resist using visualizations because we can. Pedagogical reasons for using technological tools and visualizations will become increasingly important. 


Please provide feedback and comments as this research is a work in progress. Also, I encourage you to follow our Krause Innovation Studio blog. New entries are published every week. I look forward to sharing and participating more in this forum over this next year as a 2012 HASTAC Scholar. 


Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.



Really interesting projects here and I'd like to go back to grad school and work on all of them ; ) My response to the larger question of the role of technology in innovative education is inchoate: I am wondering if those of us who are old enough to be blogging even know what the difference is between "technology for its own sake" and using technology to help students learn outcomes. It seems to me that the line between the figure and ground here is in a state of dynamic change. The questions that we as educators need to be asking ourselves is, what are learning outcomes and literacies for 21st century learners--and how can they be separated out from the technologies that enable them? As kinesthetic practices of web interfaces become part of the way that youngsters think, then what is critical thinking going to look like for such learners? Do we use technology to enable education or is the medium becoming part of the outcome?

I am no longer sure about the currency of the learning outcomes that I teach to writing and literature students. I think we are in a truly emergent pedagogical moment, with the dominant paradigm still driving learning outcomes discussion but the shape, meaning and significance of this emergent paradigm still unknown. I'll be tracking this project at Penn State. Thanks.


Well done Insys colleague :) I liked your linked post on the Hyper-Public Learning Space. I've been to the Seattle public library and very much agree about its openness and invitation for participation. I think the elements of Change and Re-visioning are key here. Are students and faculty open to this re-visioned space? How well have learning organizations invited students and faculty to collaborate in this re-visioning in order to ensure a more organic design?