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ICT enhanced teaching and learning: digital pedagogy.

At the moment I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching. Below are my initial thoughts concerning ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy’.

Why do we need ICT enabled teaching and learning and what is its relationship with effective learning?

It is my belief that learning results from an active process of engagement with learning in order to achieve premeditated goals (Ireson, 2008; Resnich, 1987). This process is enabled through cognitive and physical interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, (Illeris, 2007) with the environment conceptualised as a tri-directional relationship between rules, tools and community, shaping the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009). As in the cases of an active, critical and creative pedagogy, ICT enabled teaching and learning and a possible digital pedagogy should reflect this articulation of effective learning.

Students beginning their secondary level education will never have lived in a world without the internet or computers. Those in primary level education will never have experienced a world without smart phones. Such rapid advances have arguably revolutionised the way in which we learn, play communicate and socialise (Mouza and Lavigne 2013). This Net Gen (Tapscott, 2008) have Grown up Digital (Tapscott, 2009) and with this have developed a capacity to engage with the multimedia landscape, without being fully conscious of such a process, in such a way as to become more knowledgeable and skilled.

A utopian view of digitally enhanced self-directed learning (such as that championed by Sugata Mitra) is not the consensus. Many signal warnings with relation to digitally enhanced learning outside and within the classroom (see for example Bauerlein, 2008; and Twenge, 2006). Without seeking to undermine the well constructed arguments of the critics of digitally enhanced learning, I am confident that educators were equally concerned when chalk boards and textbooks were introduced into the classroom for the very first time. Whatever our sense or personal opinion about this new culture, as educators we can not ignore its existence or its obvious value and potential for enhancing effective learning. This is particularly true when it is evidently such an important aspect of the rapidly changing youth environment (Weigel et. al., 2010) and a symbiotic facet of our post modern knowledge society (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change). To prepare through a formal education for an unknown future a creative pedagogy which empowers learners, is required. ICT enabled teaching and learning, what may be called a digital pedagogy, would be an example of such a creative approach to teaching and learning relevant to todays student learners. Such a pedagogy should be based on 1: understanding how new digital media can complement or enhance effective learning processes 2: how new digital media skills can be taught through an adapted curriculum and 3: a sustainable capacity to harness technology and new digital media to enhance all functions of the ‘teacher’.

What is ICT enabled teaching and learning?

According to Halverson and Smith (2010) Technologies for Learning are generic tools that define learning goals, develop structures to guide students, and in some cases provide measures of learning outcomes regardless of motivation or the ability of individual learners (see for example Khan Academy and MOOCS). Technologies for learners emphasise student agency by allowing learners to select their own route through their learning journey. These have begun to be increasingly prevalent in out of school contexts. Yet the enabled teacher could seek to enhance their practice and the learning of others by adopting such technologies within classrooms, forming a greater interface between the learner and the duel facilitator (teacher and technology). Bridging formal and informal learning contexts through augmentation of the digital and physical classroom could stimulate the most effective forms of learning. These digital technologies which support effective learning could be separated into 4 areas: Technologies that support,

  • Learning to understand and create;
  • Learning by collaboration;
  • Anytime, anyplace learning; and
  • Learning by Gaming (Mouza and Lavigne, 2013).

In addition to technologies for learning and learners, differing models of the relationship between humans and the digital domain where learning, of some form, happens can be conceptualised. The ‘Solarian model’ (Sternberg, 2010) of people in isolation learning online, a second model of distance learning where learners nominally work with unseen others, a third model of students working physically together in a 1:1 technology rich classroom undertaking lessons presented online, a fourth model of ICT enabled interactive group-inquiry taking place within a classroom environment where physical and online interactions can take place and a fifth ‘blended’ model where a fluid (solo-local-global) relationship of learning networks with pre-meditated and/or collaboratively co-constructed goals emerge (see for example the investigation into the causes of SARS in 2003). For the classroom teacher seeking to develop a digital pedagogy the above models may be considered but the most effective practitioners of a digital pedagogy will be those that collaboratively construct models relevant to their own contexts.

An effective framework has been developed by Law et. al. (2011) which can be used to model, implement, assess and evaluate levels of innovativeness within six dimensions of ICT enabled teaching innovation. These dimensions of Learning objectives, Teacher’s role(s), Students’ role(s), ICT used, Connectedness, and Multiplicity of learning outcomes exhibited, reflect features of professional practice within the online and physical classroom. Application of such practices combined with an understanding of the technologies and models of an applied ICT enhanced approach to teaching and learning is what is commonly being called a ‘Blended Learning’ methodology.

How do we enable a digital pedagogy? 

Plomp, Brummelhuis and Rapmund (1996) discuss the concept of emergent pedagogical practices arising out of the implementation of ICT within classroom based teaching and learning. They consider issues related to the management of change associated with integrating ICT into teaching and learning. Process is not just adoption of new technologies. The process must also, if it is to be sustainable and highly effective, produce new learning outcomes and new ‘creative’ modes of learning. Exposure to good practice case studies and the creative use of digital tools such as the Google Apps package or the educational use of so called ‘learning platforms’ is vital, but to impose ‘off the peg’ solutions such as IWB’s (see the 2007 IOE study) or expecting digital literacy from educators would fail to create an ecologically sustainable model of digital practice within education. This process of innovation is gradual and must begin with ITT and maintained throughout the lifespan of an educators professional practice. The approach outlined by Law et. al. (2011) should be coupled with,

  • ongoing teacher exposure to existing innovative practices;
  • awareness of developments in new digital media and technology;
  • the creation of an enabling environment for creativity and innovation; and, fundamentally
  • a teachers capacity to ask the question How will this enable and enhance the most effective learning?

Tools such as those developed by Law et. al. (2011) and an application of a taxonomy of digital and information literacies linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy,  such as that developed by Beetham and Sharpe (2013), would begin a learning focused engagement with ICT enhanced teaching and learning. To direct training and ‘innovation’ is ‘to do to’, but to empower and enable an educator to direct their own engagement with ICT enabled teaching and learning would reap a more fruitful digital pedagogy.

As has been discussed in previous articles on this site it is flexibility within teachers and within school systems which enables creativity in teaching, and what is more creative than coopting technologies and new digital media to the pursuit of organised effective learning? Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a digital pedagogy are vital.


  1. Very interesting; one of the challenges has to be how to optimise digital teaching and learning without exacerbating the already recognised negative impact of too much screen time on grades: one extra hour equating to a fall of two grades at GCSE, as reported in this morning’s news.

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