The Opportunities of Digital Pedagogy - Part 2

August 17, 2016

Part 1 in this blog series discussed the opportunity digital pedagogy provides to reflect on why you teach the way that you do and to explore current learning theories.  In addition it listed a few books that you might find interesting in further developing your teaching practices.  Now let’s consider two more opportunities that digital pedagogy affords us.

Opportunity #2: In considering Digital Pedagogy we have the opportunity to reflect on how technology has changed Learners/Learning.

Simon and Chabris’s 1999 Selective Attention Test, also known as the Gorilla Experiment ( ) highlights that focusing on one thing can be done to the exclusion of all other things. Are we focusing on how students should learn and thus missing how they actually do --- particularly in light of their technology-saturated world?  

In a keynote at the 2013 IdeaCity conference, Don Tapscott discussed the results of his $4M longitudinal study of what he calls the “NetGen” (see  If you don't have time to watch the entire 25 minutes, start at the 19:37 time mark for his closing story as it summarizes the nature of today’s learner and how they are still being successful despite learning very differently from prior generations.

We all know that the “center” of instruction has now moved from the Instructor to the Learner whose life is saturated with just-in-time online information.  They are also very social and “connected”.  Based on anecdotal reports from faculty, the advantage of this is that learners spend more time developing products that demonstrate their learning if peers and others are going to review it or be learning from it. If we are to meet learners where they are, a more networked and “choice oriented” approach is needed.

To maximize this opportunity to meet 21st century learners where they are:

  • Think about the last thing you learned.  How did that happen?  What role did technology play in that?  In what ways might you have more in common with your learners than you think?

  • Consider administering a student survey of technology comfort/expertise; perhaps have a student technology advisory team for your course.

  • Include students in the design of your course.  Ask your students how they would like to communicate using technology, particularly mobile.

  • Allow learners to choose the technology tools they will use to demonstrate learning to you.

Opportunity #3: In considering Digital Pedagogy we have the opportunity to blend the best of all available learning environments into one cohesive, effective learning experience (Blended Learning).

It’s easy (and correct) to assume that not all strategies work well in a digital environment.  Gaining consensus online can last well beyond any reasonable timeframe.  Conversely, not all instructional strategies work well in a classroom-based learning environment, particularly in the case of large classes.   Knowledge development that requires reflective discussion cannot be accommodated in a 1-2 hour block of class time.  Creating the most effective learning experience requires weaving the two environments together.  Consider the following table outlining the pros/cons of each mode when planning course activities (Hew & Cheung, 2014, modified slightly):

Strengths/Limitations of Learning Modes


Possible Strength

Possible Limitation

Face-to-face (f2f)

      Immediacy of conversation

      Can read body language

      Can build interpersonal relationships

      Time constraints for discussion

      Introverted may not participate

      Time & effort to travel to fixed location

Online content delivery

   Learners can follow content at own time & pace

   Learning content can be easily distributed to learners

   May not have to recreate content for each course offering

   Speed of Internet connection

   Additional faculty work load to prepare online resources

Synchronous online sessions (chat, audio or video conferencing)

   Immediacy of interaction

   Learners can participate at location of convenience

   Difficult to ask question and get it answered, particularly if conversation is not well-managed

   Difficult to find a meeting time

Asynchronous online sessions (discussion forums or boards)

   Increased time for learners to reflect

   Helps introverted students to learn without feeling embarrassed

   Allows individuals to participate at own time and pace

   Requires self-discipline on the part of learners

   Requires online management techniques to minimize additional workload on the part of the instructors or GSI

One More in the Series

The final blog in this series will focus on opportunities related to selecting technology to enhance engagement, information delivery and assessment as well as using an Intentional Design process to assist in the selection of the correct technology tool.   


Davidson. C. (2011). Now you see it: How technology and brain science will transform the way we live, work and learn. New York: Penguin.

Hew, K.F. & Cheung, W.S. (2014).  Using Blended Learning Evidence-Based Practices. New York:Springer.