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EdTech Fast 5 - Dr Michael Cowling on Pedagogy Before Technology

May 24, 2018

Michael is a senior lecturer in educational technology at CQUniversity with a keen interest in digital ubiquity. He’s the founder of The CREATE Lab and a consulting expert in information technology for TEQSA.

1. What’s the most overrated topic in education right now?

Technology in classrooms! Don’t get me wrong, technology can be transformative, but it needs to be used in the right way. I advocate for an approach of pedagogy before technology, and often say that if the pedagogy doesn’t support the technology use, then we shouldn’t use the technology. 

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for mixed reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence in the classroom (I’d hope there is, otherwise I’m out of a job!), it just means we need to carefully consider our learning approach first, and then buy technology to support it—not the other way around.

2. Does technology motivate creativity?

The work of Dr Ken Robinson comes to mind here, arguing for more creativity in the education space. He’d argue that this question is the wrong way around. 

Creativity should be enabled by technology. 

The ideas come from within, but the technology can allow you to express those ideas in more effective ways. This is what makes technology so exciting; it doesn’t change us as people, but it allows us to share more freely with the world.

3. What app can’t you live without?

Despite the recent push to stop using Facebook, I’ve been a member of the social networking platform for over 10 years and find it an invaluable way to keep up with my close friends who have, over time, moved to various parts of the world for their exciting adventures! So I’d find it really difficult to delete that app since I use it every day. 

However, I totally understand the motivation—my brother recently deleted it and I can understand his reasons relating to the amount of data Facebook has on us and what they might do with it. Just not quite ready to #deletefacebook myself yet!

4. What events from your own experience as a learner have informed your approach to your work in education?

I always liked to tinker and play with gadgets, even before I went to university. This love of tinkering informed my PhD, and I think has also informed my career as an educational technology academic. 

There are so many gadgets out there, so many new things we can do in the world, and I think those gadgets can be woven into the fabric of our classrooms to provide a positive pedagogical difference for students. Plus, I love the idea that one day my kids might be learning math from a holographic teacher in mixed reality by wearing a headset, but maybe that’s just my love of gadgets coming out again!

5. Which actor would play you in the movie about your life?

I’d love to say Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but the honest truth is that I’m probably more suited to being played by somebody like Kevin Smith, Josh Gad, or Seth Rogen! 

On the other hand, if Kevin Smith ever expressed an interest in writing, directing, and producing a biopic starring himself as Dr Michael Cowling on a mission to remove the fear of technology from the world, then I’d hardly say no (don’t worry, Jason Mewes could play my brother)!

To read more of Michael’s writing and thoughts on technology and education, you can head to his website or connect with him on Twitter.

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