Carts and horses

In light of all the discussions we’ve had in the team recently about the dangers of technology starting to drive learning, rather than the other way round, Natalie shared a paper with us examing issues of carts and horses (Sankey 2020). It’s a very readable paper, and has lots of things that are very relevant to the work we’re currently doing. 

However, it made me think. I’ve been entirely guilty in the past of 

we have tried to fit the pedagogical intent for what we are trying to teach, in after having chosen a tool to teach it with (because we like the tool), instead of using the pedagogy as the reason for adopting a particular tool (as this tool helps me apply my pedagogy). It’s been kind of like putting the cart before the horse

Thinking back to the early noughties, when tools like Writely (later to become Google Docs) emerged. Suddenly, we realised, rather than getting students to co-author work – and watching them either share a USB stick around, or 3 of them talking and 1 frantically typing – they could all have a computer each, and work on the same document at the same time! A colleague tried it, not particularly successfully, as he had about 50 in the room at the time, working on a single document! However, it revolutionised group work! I do agree, however, that it’s too easy today to see a “new” tool, that’s really not offering any more functionality than 100 other tools, but does offer a fancy look. 


Sankey, M. (2020). Putting the pedagogic horse in front of the technology cart. Journal of Distance Education in CHina, 5–20, 11. https://doi.org/DOI:10.13541/j.cnki.chinade.2020.05.006
[Apologies – the site is in Chinese – but you can get an English .pdf ]

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