Technology a silver bullet for success and retention?

Technology a silver bullet for success and retention?

Over the last few years and more recently I have come across this question while in conversation with a number of faculty members. Can technology help increase my student retention and success rate?
A valid question but should we view technology as the silver bullet to remedy this issue?

My argument is yes/no. Technology certainly can have a positive impact on success and retention but not if it is situated in traditional teaching practices. It is how you use the technology that has the potential to impact on learning and teaching. It is the pedagogy of situating the use of technology appropriately in the learning process.

The potential use of TV and radio in the early days of its release in education are well documented. However the lack of pedagogical underpinning in its use has proved to be a determining factor in its
use to date. Of recent the Internet and all the emerging trends and tools associated with rapid development of technology is potentially facing the same fate.

You can use blogs, wikis, twitter, google+ or any other Web 2.0 tool but if they are situated within old practices, don’t expects things to change just because you are using technology. The emphasis is on pedagogy, and this is what should be driving the use in your teaching.

For example: Using Twitter as a tool for mass communication with the students. The use of Twitter here is for transmitting information to students, situated within transmission mode of teaching
(instructivist). A more pedagogical approach would be to use Twitter to create a community of learners. This empowers the students to be more communicative, collaborative thus creating a social environment that characterizes sharing of ideas, resources, feedback, and questions asked and answered, a process that is driven by the students depending on their need at the time (social constructivist pedagogy).

In my experience it has never been enough to just say to the class we are going to use Twitter or a blog. There is always an element of setting up the class, basically taking the students through
the process of setting up an individual account. If you are using a blog or Twitter, showing and allowing time in class to follow each other. But the most important element is the modeling of the use of the tools by the teacher. This is where you as a teacher show the students what’s possible and discussing how it is helping you as a teacher and discussing with the students how it might help them. We have heard and read about digital natives but knowing how and applying the know how for effective use is a process I have observed to a step too far for an individual to make without support or scaffold. This is why modeling and technological support for students by the teacher is important. The use of technology has to be shown to students as embedded in the course, the teacher needs to drive this process by modeling in class.

The effective use of technology is dependent on many factors but more importantly on how the course is facilitated and how (what purpose) the technology is used for.

This semester, I am involved in a project with languages students and staff. This wiki has more information on the project:

This is the 8th week since we started the project and here is a feedback from a staff member who is not directly involved in the project but has keen interest:

“I just had to signal to you the incredible work being done on this course – I’ve seen some great technology-driven initiatives in this institution over the past couple of years but the work that Lecturer 1, Lecturer 2 and Staff from the Central Unit (and the rest of the ESCP team – not to mention the students) have done on this course has blown me away.

It embodies so much of what we have been trying to achieve – learning that is situated in authentic contexts, is scaffolded, reflective and student-generated – all based on a conversational framework and all mediated by mobile devices. I think the ongoing blog/situated/mobile learning approach on this course opens up real opportunities for all our students to choose those areas that interest them (future employment or a particular mainstream study area).

This represents real innovation and a real success story for the programme, the department and indeed, the institution as a whole.” (Programme Leader)

The wikispaces link shared above has more information on how iPad’s and some Web 2.0 tools are used in the project with languages students.

The key is pedagogy not technology :-).


Digital Divide: If Youre Reading This, Youre One of the Lucky Ones [INFOGRAPHIC]

Digital Divide: If Youre Reading This, Youre One of the Lucky Ones [INFOGRAPHIC].

Digital Divide: If Youre Reading This, Youre One of the Lucky Ones [INFOGRAPHIC]

What has changed?

What has changed?

We have better equipment, most rooms now have a projector and a smartboard but that’s about it. The pandemic that surrounds the lack of innovative and effective practice for enhanced learning is still the wide application of  traditional pedagogies with smart technologies! So in reality nothing has changed! We continue the same practice with new tools. And the implication of this as highlighted in this tweet by @tomwhitby (

“If we continue to teach as we were taught, we will be doomed to live in the past as we move to the future! “

Back then:



  1. New technology
  2. better seats
  3. Whiteboard (has progressed from Blackboard :-D)
  1. Passive role of the students (sit and listen)
  2. Sage on stage – delivery of information/knowledge to the students
  3. classroom setup – rows and columns
Time for a change:
Involve the students in what we are doing. Better, you get involved in what the students are doing. It’s about them, their future is on the line. Knowing is not enough to survive in this world, but continuously finding ways of knowing what you don’t know is. This is where technology helps the most. It helps by enabling a medium by which you can give feedback, and guide the students when needed. It enables learners to be active knowledge seekers and generators. It allows them (learners) to bring into learning their own experience and knowledge – a level of ownership and this ensures sustained engagement since they are solving a problem closure to their heart rather than something you have pitched (Authentic Learning).


Education is no rocket science!!

Education is no Rocket Science!!!

A couple of years ago, a friend who is a doctor and have to say a bit up himself, asked me what I did for a living. We schooled together and there was a bit of a history between us. Anyway back to the question, what I did for a living – I answered, I am in education. My friend who shall remain unnamed answered back, It’s not rocket science is it? You work in, stand in front, talk and your job is done!

Well my reaction to his first question :-# – education is no rocket science – Damn right, it is Not Rocket Science, in fact it is harder than that and I went on to explain:

Every component in a rocket has a predictable behaviour and you know as a scientist exactly what you can expect from it – the exact outcome. It remains the same every time. Thus assembling a rocket is a simple matter of putting the components together carefully, making sure that the output from one component feeds into the the next that is attached to it the right information. However in education, each component (student) is uniquely different, they can not be controlled, as a matter of fact, they should not be controlled and the outcome from each is absolutely unpredictable! If I were to assemble a rocket using these components, it will be a damn hard task, don’t you think?

My friend – speechless! He it seemed had just landed from the land of arrogance and full of ego!

In my 8 or so years in education, I have to say that teaching is probably one of the most difficult job, if it is done right. Each student in the class is uniquely different, they have their strengths and weaknesses and each will react differently to a certain task. In my experience, just as a scientist has to build a link or relationship between each component he/she assembles, we as teachers have to do the same every time and everyday. A rocket scientists job is done when he/she knows exactly what the relationship is, however, a teachers job is never finished! He/she has to keep building and working on this relationship every given time. That is of course, the teacher is not just standing in front of the class talking as my friend perceived it to be.

The reason why I have written about this experience now and not when it happened is because earlier this week, I attended my institutes annual teaching and learning symposium and the keynote reminded me of the importance of ‘RELATIONSHIP’ in education. I don’t see the differences between the students as a weakness and that I as a teacher have to bring it to uniformity rather I see it as a strength that if nurtured in class could enable us to learn from each others experiences and knowledge and this action enables the relationships to be established. If these conversations were to happen frequently, you are assured that the links between the components will start to form and this will enable you to build a spaceship that is UNIQUELY different. Where each component is not programmed rather act on their own accord and regularly improve their own performance as they continue learning.