Best Practice

Technology: Putting pedagogical intentions first

Most teachers would agree that technology should serve teaching and learning and not the other way around. To achieve this, Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith says we should practise pedtech


Pedtech is very simply about putting pedagogical intentions first, and the technology serving those intentions second. That’s it. Simple.

But we need to pause for a moment and be really clear about why it means something different to the more common term edtech.

When we talk about edtech, we are talking about technologies used in education. These include technologies used for:

  • Teaching (online classrooms, video-calls, content management, assignments, curriculum delivery…)
  • Learning (creation software, formative assessment, communication tools…)
  • School administration (MIS, timetabling, parent/staff communications…)
  • Underpinning all the above (e.g. devices, infrastructure).

When we talk about edtech, our conversation is framed around two things. Education and technology. By education, we are drawn to think about the systems and processes involved in education – content delivery, reporting, marking, evidencing, admin. By technology, we are drawn to think about software and hardware that support those systems and processes.

Conversations about edtech are framed by systems and processes. These are actions, behaviours and pedagogies that we can learn, be trained to enact, and that we can incorporate or replicate in our own practices.

But pedtech turns this on its head. With pedtech we start by thinking about pedagogical intentions.

However, as I wrote in an article last year (SecEd, 2021), I think the problem is that no-one really knows whose pedagogy we are referring to. Do we have a national pedagogy? An agreed academic or research-based pedagogy? A trust or school-wide pedagogy? No. We can’t. Because pedagogy is values-based.

Just to be really picky here: A pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning. Each of us, as teachers, broadly align with one of the main theories of pedagogy, whether we are aware of that or not.

Perhaps it helps to think of a pedagogy as like the rules of a game. It’s a way of doing things that leads to particular organisational structures and expectations, and particular practices, forms of interaction, and intended outcomes.

Our individual pedagogical intentions are the ways in which we – personally – are approaching teaching and learning in a specific way. Pedagogical intentions are about the types of relationships that our actions create, and about the types of learning behaviours that our approaches encourage.

These things are often subconscious. Perhaps it helps to think of pedagogical intentions as the reasons why we are playing the game – they are tied to our values and beliefs.

It is a subtle but very important difference. We can replicate a pedagogical practice. But our pedagogical intentions are woven into the very fabric of who we are. The two can align, as well as differ. As Hamachek (1999) said: “Consciously, we teach what we know. Unconsciously, we teach who we are.” Consciously, we adopt pedagogies. Unconsciously, we live out our own pedagogical stance.

And this matters when it comes to technologies because as research shows, technology reflects and amplifies our existing pedagogical stance (Aubrey-Smith, 2021; Twining & Maher, 2017).

So our choices about technology are reflecting and magnifying something that we may not yet be conscious of.

We can address this by surfacing our pedagogical stance and making it explicit. That’s the space that pedtech occupies. Pedtech is about starting our thinking and conversations with some key questions:

  • What is my role in relation to this student’s learning?
  • What role does this student believe I have in relation to their learning?
  • What becomes possible for this student if I support them? What do they need to do to achieve this? What can I do to support them?

By answering those questions, we then see opportunities, possibilities and relationships surfaced. We are then in a position to discover, try, explore and reflect upon the most appropriate technologies as solutions.

This is why we need to make that shift from edtech to pedtech – because then we focus on learners and learning, rather than educational systems and processes.

If edtech is the shoe that fits the foot – pedtech is the leg which gives that foot purpose and direction.

  • Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith supports schools and trusts with professional learning, education research and strategic planning. She is the founder of One Life Learning, an associate lecturer at the Open University, a founding fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, and sits on the board of a number of multi-academy and charitable trusts. Read her previous articles for Headteacher Update via and follow her on Twitter @FionaAS. Find out more at


Further information & resources

  • Aubrey-Smith, Fiona: An exploration of the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical stance and the use of ICT in their classroom practice, EdD thesis, The Open University, 2021:
  • Hamachek: Effective teachers: What they do, how they do it, and the importance of self-knowledge. In R. P. Lipka, & T. M. Brinthaupt (eds) The role of self in teacher development, University of New York, 1999.
  • Headteacher Update: Forget edtech – we need to talk about ‘pedtech’, June 2021:
  • Maher & Twining: Bring your own device: A snapshot of two Australian primary schools, Educational Research, 59(1), 2017: