Tech for sake of tech a 'waste of time in the classroom'

Published:04 April 2017

Dr Michael Cowling

Pedagogy before Technology. That's the mantra espoused by CQUniversity's Dr Michael Cowling, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology in the School of Engineering & Technology.

Despite his technology background and love of computers, Dr Cowling says that his experience adding technology to the classroom in the last few years has shown him that technology is not the be all and end all when it comes to learning.

"My students love using technology, but even in my classes I've realised that technology for technology's sake is a waste of time," Dr Cowling said.

"The technology we introduce must serve a purpose and that purpose must be to enhance learning through improving pedagogy."

Dr Cowling has just returned from giving an invited speech at FutureSchools 2017 where he outlined this vision under the heading 'The Future for Technology in Schools (AKA how to weave technology into your classroom'.

In this talk, he outlined how he carried out his vision in a technology class, encouraging students to use technology, but making sure it supported their learning.

"In my systems analysis class, I worked over several semesters to add technology to solve specific pedagogical problems.

"Asking students to use a laptop without scaffolding doesn't work, but if you gather them around an iPad and ask them to collaborate on a diagram, then you are serving both pedagogy and their love of technology", Dr Cowling said.

But, despite his message, Dr Cowling still thinks cutting-edge technology has a place in the classroom.

One of the other projects he spoke about at FutureSchools 2017, developed in collaboration with Bond University, uses augmented reality and 3D printed components to simulate foreign body removal for distance education Paramedic students.

Even in this project, Dr Cowling says pedagogy comes first, with the intervention being a response to student feedback requesting a chance to practise these skills more whilst at a distance.

"For our Paramedic students, the key was to give them tools to help them learn skills more effectively.

"Those tools turned out to be augmented reality simulation but, even in that project, the pedagogy came first. If the solution had been a non-technology one, that would have been okay too."

Dr Cowling has been travelling again this week to present on the Paramedic project at the SeGAH 2017 conference (part of the Festival of the World Wide Web) in Perth.