I spent the holidays (or part of them at least) thinking of simple metaphors and analogies that would help in conceptualizing the connections and inter-relatedness of content, pedagogy, and technology. I’d like to share one and see what you think.

Imagine a particular dance:  the tango. This is a dance normally performed by two people to a specific form or piece of music. The moves these dancers perform are generally of a specific type from a recognized canon, although the timing, sequence, and emphasis of these moves are generally left to the dancers to interpret and perform. Now imagine that a third dancer has been added, one the two dancers must incorporate into their routine. Changes must now be made to the existing structure of the dance. The addition of the third dancer necessitates a re-evaluation of the moves performed by the existing pair. In changing their moves to accommodate the third dancer, new moves may emerge which were previously impossible with only two; other moves that were executed with only two dancers are now awkward and equally impossible. In developing new moves, the dancers may also find new meanings and interpretations within the music itself. Many observers would declare the new performance is not a tango but, save for the music, something entirely new.

Mapping this analogy to the connections and inter-relatedness of content, pedagogy, and technology, certain insights emerge. For our purposes, the music represents the content and the moves of the dance represent pedagogy. The initial pair of dancers represents the teacher and the student(s). Even observers with only a cursory knowledge of dance would recognize that the introduction of a third partner to the existing dance routine for two would result in significant changes to the routine, the way it is performed, and the way the music itself may change, if not in form but in meaning, for the two performers. There is interaction between the variables of music, movement, and interpretation that is visibly apparent to even casual observers because the logic of that interaction is manifested in the embodied thinking of the participants.

Pre-service teachers may be aware that the introduction of a new educational technology may alter the pedagogical strategies but they may not see how the content itself can be transformed. For example, is a frog dissection still about animal physiology when performed virtually on a computer? Or has the content become how to better explore and understand familiar territory from different perspective that were previously unavailable. Introducing a new technology for learning doesn’t mean adding a third partner so that we can dance the same dance. It means seeing what potential our new combination offers in all aspects of interaction.