Leading for Digital Transformation: "Technology Shouldn't Determine Pedagogy" but Should It Challenge Desired Pedagogy?

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Leadership

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Brief Abstract

It is often said "technology shouldn’t determine pedagogy." While in general a technology should not limit an instructor's practices, this session will discuss how technology should indeed challenge instructors to reconsider "habits" that are just assumed to be "best practice." Perceived limitations may actually be invitations to digital transformation.


Dr. Matthew Vick is a professor of science education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has directed/co-directed two grant projects at UW-W: a two-year Wisconsin Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title IIA Improving Teacher Quality Grant entitled "Integrating Science and Literacy Learning with English Proficient and English Language Learners" and a one-year UW System Outreach grant entitled "Collaboratively Implementing the Vision of the Next Generation Science Standards in the Mukwonago Area School District with Pre-service and In-service Teachers". He has published research articles and a book chapter in science education as well as practitioner-based articles. He has presented at the National Science Teachers Association, the Association for Science Teacher Education, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, and the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers. He has served as department chair for the department of Curriculum and Instruction and interim associate dean of graduate studies.

Extended Abstract


By the end of the session, participants will 

  • Define stages in Digital Transformation

  • Describe how learning outcomes (objectives) can often be achieved through a variety of pedagogical approaches.

  • Evaluate a current technological solution on their campus with perceived limitations and then define possible opportunities to leverage the weaknesses to benefit student-focused change.

  • Describe examples of leading for Digital Transformation in terms of teaching and learning

  • Develop a plan to lead a campus discussion on being open to pedagogical shifts due to external factors


Materials:  Supporting PowerPoint will be shared through the Conference website and app.


In the summer of 2020, many colleges and universities began planning for various implementations of Brian Beatty’s "HyFlex" approach to instruction in order to develop strategies to serve students who wanted face-to-face instruction in addition to those wanting online/remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A local story brought to light how the technology installed would not permit replication of the pedagogy that instructors were comfortable with and statements about "technology should not determine pedagogy" were made. Faculty and instructional designers desired a chat feature in the video-enabled classrooms. This was not possible due to the design of the video boards (the vendor explained that the chat messages would be too small to read on the screen making it an ineffective approach). A second issue was the infeasibility of using virtual breakout rooms with students in the HyFlex classroom and online mixed since the class microphones would capture all audio in the room. Eventually the conversation shifted to the question of "what are you trying to accomplish?" Solutions were found that could accomplish those outcomes even though it required a change in instructional approach.

Digital Transformation has been described by Educause (https://www.educause.edu/focus-areas-and-initiatives/digital-transformation) as "a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts that enable new educational and operating models and transform an institution’s operations, strategic directions, and value proposition." Five stages have been proposed:

  1. Digital information

  2. Organize information

  3. Automate processes

  4. Streamline processes

  5. Transform the institution

While these stages may seem more directly applicable to business-side Information Technology concerns, teaching and learning also can progress through these stages. All technologies, not just new electronic technologies, from a whiteboard in the front of a lecture hall to a video-enabled HyFlex classroom have both possibilities and limitations. Leaders in Learning Technology and Instructional Design can use this process to guide campus conversations about how technologies will likely lead to changes in how teaching and learning occur, but how learning outcomes can continue to be met (perhaps even in a better way).

Learning outcomes, or objectives, should be statements about what a learner can do after completing learning activities. Using a mindset similar to either Backward Design or Universal Design for Learning (UDL), instructors and designers can approach the use of technology to accomplish learning objectives from the mindset of "what opportunities for learning can be designed considering the limitations of various technologies and delivery methods." Often technology limitations that lead to the complaint that "technology should not dictate pedagogy" result from users focusing on the limitations of this new technology as compared to their current practice (without also recognizing limitations of current approaches). While technology leaders and IDs need to be sensitive to preferences of instructors, they should also be prepared with strategies to help instructors be open to re-evaluating the methods they consider when designing learning activities.

Overall, this discussion should not be interpreted to mean that the limitations of technology should never be questioned. If a technology would require a course to limit itself to recall of information when goals are supposed to be synthesis and analysis, this technology will not work to meet these outcomes. However, many technologies bring about the opportunity to reconsider current practices and ask whether the limitations confront comfort with current practices (and perhaps offer a challenge to consider different, possibly better practices) or whether the limitations truly limit student learning.


Session Plan (45 minutes)

  1. Case Study: HyFlex Classroom Technology Limitation and Opportunity  (5 minutes)

  2. Overview of Digital Transformation (5 minutes)

  3. Examples and discussion about learning outcomes and how they can be achieved in multiple ways (5 minutes)

  4. How to Lead for Digital Transformation in Teaching and Learning (10 minutes)

  5. Group discussions: Identify local technologies with perceived limitations (10 minutes)

  6. Whole group discussion: groups share examples of how technology can positively challenge existing pedagogical practices and lead to digital transformation (5 minutes)

  7. Questions and Answers (5 minutes)


Participant Engagement 

Polleverywhere will be used to solicit audience feedback and ideas. The group discussions will engage participants in analyzing a situation in their context and allow sharing of approaches with the whole group.