Pedagogy of technology

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Pedagogy of technology

Call it a twist on an old aphorism: Those who can, do; those who can do well -- well, they teach. Put Dr. Sagini "Jared" Keengwe in that category. He teaches prospective teachers how to teach and how to integrate technology – how to use computer tools -- to create meaningful learning experiences for students.

A young faculty member on the rise with already more than 100 publications in refereed journals and conference proceedings, his third book -- Pedagogical Applications and Social Effects of Mobile Technology Integration -- due in 2013, Keengwe is enthusiastic about both his teaching and his research, which focuses on instructional technology integration and constructivist pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning.

"My research is really grounded on trying to find a balance between effective teaching and appropriate technology use to promote meaningful teaching and learning," said Keengwe.

He incorporates his research into the classroom, which, he says benefits the students in multiple ways. It helps "demystify" research, he says, when the students see something they've experiences turned into a research article.

He uses his work in class, and that allows students to ask the author "How did you do this?" "Using my own articles in the classroom is a great way to demonstrate the art of teaching and learning."

You could say that he teaches what he researches, and researches what he teaches. Or as Keengwe puts it, "My teaching informs my research, and my research informs my teaching. You can't be a great teacher without understanding the research on teaching."

As a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Development, he believes his obligation is to be a contributor to the field. "We want to be creators of knowledge, not just consumers of research."

For Keengwe, effective teaching is grounded on pedagogy and not technology. First, you have to understand solid pedagogical practices, he says.

"My argument is that technology [attracts] the best of teachers and the worst of teachers, who are not doing their work well," said Keengwe. "If you are already a great teacher, you understand the art of teaching, [and you will] do a good job bringing technology into the classroom. Those teachers who are doing a good job teaching without technology will do a good job teaching with technology."

Great teachers understand that technology is a tool for enhancing the learning experience, said Keengwe. But he also says teachers who prepare students for the future realize that the decision to integrate technology is no longer a personal choice.

"Most teachers, if they didn't have to, wouldn't use technology," said Keengwe. "[But] we have no choice. The workplace is a technology-rich environment."

The key, he says, is to have a framework for effectively, selectively, and appropriately integrating technology into classroom instruction. Keengwe, who prides himself on being a well-traveled global educator who brings his experiences into the classroom, tells the example of his native Kenya, where teachers tell students: Turn on your cell phones.

While there are more and more virtual high schools in the United States and many school districts are providing students with laptops, netbooks, or iPads, schools in Kenya can't afford to incorporate that level of technology tools. So educators do what they can, says Keengwe, and what they can do is integrate cell phones into the teaching environment.

It sounds incongruent, but cell phones in developing countries like Kenya and bordering Tanzania are actually inexpensive, says Keengwe, so teachers are finding ways of incorporating the use of cell phones into their curricula.

Unfortunately, not all teachers understand how to integrate technology into their pedagogical practices. Technology can be integrated in multiple ways, including posting student assignments, grading, organizing and scheduling, as well as integrating the use of technology into the curriculum.

It is not always easy to convince teachers to change their traditional ways and embrace the pedagogical applications of technology, says Keengwe. "The greatest challenge in integrating technology is changing a teacher's belief systems. Teachers don't want their belief systems to be challenged."

Younger teachers are more likely to embrace technology. Still, says Keengwe, some teachers use technology "as a medium, not in an integrated way."

In most cases, introducing students to technology is not a problem. They are Digital Natives, individuals who have grown up in a digital world and who routinely use a variety of technological tools for entertainment and personal use.

In some cases, the teachers are able to create student-centered classrooms, where the students are able to take some control and are able to demonstrate how technology can be used. In these situations, the teacher is more of a guide or a coach and the students are in charge, says Keengwe.

In other cases, students often go on "intellectual strike," says Keengwe, clocking in just enough to do all of the things they need to do to get the grade. But they are not intellectually active, not engaged, said Keengwe. They are waiting for time to get out of class.

The challenge, says Keengwe, is getting the students to connect what they do in their spare time with what is required in the classroom.

Keengwe cites some examples. "Talk to students about podcasting and they stare at you blankly. But talk them about YouTube and then they get it." The same, he says, goes for Google Docs, used by more and more teachers. Keengwe suggests telling students "It's just like sending photo attachments to friends."

For himself, Keengwe facilitates his courses using the student-centered model. "I come in with the notion that I'm not the expert – I come in vulnerable, a human being." Students are more willing to engage with him if he presents the human aspect first. Then, he says, he can "challenge them in good faith."

He says his students know they can challenge him in class, and that they can connect with him when they need to. He keeps regular office hours for interacting with students, but they know he is available beyond those hours.

"Students text me when I'm at conferences. Students know I'm very accessible, and that's a good thing."

Peter B. Johnson

Executive Associate Vice President for University Relations

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