Back to Basics: prioritizing teaching and its foundations over technology

With students eager to learn how to use and apply technology, and with the aim of providing them with the practice they need, we run the risk of overshadowing the fundamentals of education and forgetting that the basis of knowledge must be understood and mastered first in order to make the most out of technology.

By Juan Raúl Esparza Martínez
juan.raul.esparza@itesm.mx

We are living in an era of such rapid technological advancements that there is not enough time to assimilate and integrate them into academic life. Nevertheless, for the new generations, these changes are normal. The sight of “technological distractors”, such as tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, electronic games, and laptops, among many others, is becoming increasingly common in traditional classrooms.

This has had a drastic effect on the teacher’s task of engaging students, whose attention is very often disturbed by these distractors, but without sacrificing the fundamental teaching-learning process of the subject being taught.

With students who are eager to learn how to use and apply technology, and with the aim of providing them with the practice they need, we run the risk of overshadowing the fundamentals of education and forgetting that the basis of knowledge must be understood and mastered to make the most out of technology. The capacity to know how to learn, how to deal with a problem from its definition to its expression in writing, are basic competencies for building and applying knowledge. 

The basis of knowledge must be understood and mastered first in order to make the most out of technology.

We must remember that a competency undoubtedly demands ‘knowing how to act’, but ‘knowing how to act’ demands ‘knowing how to be’ and the latter implicates that the person who receives the knowledge, first assimilates it in order to make it his or her own before applying it.

This is why the inclination toward competency-based education and challenge-based learning is highly promising because they help us to change our approach from teaching content to developing competencies and from setting challenges instead of homework for students.

These challenges must be accepted and developed by the students themselves. This change of perspective is crucial because it makes students responsible for their own learning, thus motivating and engaging them more in their own development. We need to change our approach from teaching content to developing competencies and from setting challenges instead of homework.

Therefore, technology should be the means rather than the end, an aid to developing learning activities more efficiently and not a distractor. Technology must always be present to favor rather than detract from learning. Students must be the center of the learning process, the teacher a mentor who guides learning, and technology a learning aid.

Based on my experience as an educator, this is my proposal:

  1. The courses should be fully student-oriented.
  2. The topics to be covered should be established on the basis of two factors: the competency students will achieve and the challenge to be solved in order to achieve the competency.
  3. Problem-solving should be designed to address everyday issues, so that students can learn and consolidate their capacity to understand a problem and design a solution.
  4. Technology should be integrated into the course to support learning activities, thus streamlining their development.
Technology must always be present to favor rather than detract from learning.

There is nothing new about these proposals per se, but the approach to their use and application is new. I think that this is when the fundamental topics that support educational models become relevant. Therefore, I would like to invite all teachers to review the pedagogical approaches described in this article, to understand and explore them, in order to support their instructional work.


About the author

Juan Raúl Esparza Martínez graduated with a B.Sc. in Electronics and Communications Engineering and holds an M.Sc. in Information Systems. He has been a professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey since 1979 and has developed multiple educational projects at the Institution.