The APT Methodology
The APT methodology, where APT is shorthand for the Alignment of Pedagogy and Technology, was developed by Dr Richard Osborne over 10 years of educational research. It is a structured way of thinking about the differing components within a digital educational ecosystem, using principles from ecological psychology, designed to align the needs of teachers and learners with the affordances of digital technologies. The best available research suggests that this approach is the most reliable way to use digital technologies within education contexts.
'It is not whether technology is used (or not) which makes the difference, but how well the technology is used to support teaching and learning. This alignment of technology and learning is important.'
Higgins, Xiao and Katsipataki (2012, p. 15)†
Developed and proven in both secondary and higher education contexts, Dr Osborne has used this methodology to design new tools and techniques specifically for secondary schools, including surveys and heuristics to analyse current contexts, AIM models to design changes to practice, Tech Trumps® to align digital apps, and evaluation tools to monitor and check progress. Together these tools and techniques drive the CATALYST Programme, and allow schools and individual educators to make the most effective use of digital technologies that they can.
The word apt means something that is appropriate or suitable in the circumstances?, an apt response to a suggestion perhaps, an apt tie for a suit, or maybe an apt wine for a cheese. It is a relative concept, as it describes a positive relationship between two objects in a specific context.
Similarly, the APT methodology aims to find which digital technologies are most "apt" within a specific educational context, helping teachers to understand the value of a digital technology within their teaching practice.
The research background
The APT methodology was developed by Dr Osborne as a way to overcome a key philosophical duality when analysing technology use in society:
- Is technology by its very nature deterministic, does it prescribe exactly how it should be used; i.e. is it inflexible?
- Or is technology socially interpreted, is it defined by how we choose to use it rather than what it is designed for; i.e. is it flexible?
The APT methodology attempts to join these two conflicting positions, by aligning the two using a relativistic approach. Neither one end nor the other of the socially constructed <> technologically deterministic paradigm is allowed to dominate, instead the specific context is analysed and a specific relationship is derived which joins individuals and technology in that context. By following this method specific meaning becomes apparent, and hence the practical benefit of a technology can easily be identified and capitalised upon.
This relationship between the individuals who use technology and the technology itself is visualised below, demonstrating the key role that the concept of affordance plays in linking them together:
Within the APT methodology the left side of this model, the teachers' intention, is captured using AIM models; radar diagrams generated through survey data and individual reflection, which for secondary education has been mapped against the UK Government Teachers' Standards. The right side of the model captures the invariant properties of technologies, in the context of these AIM models, pre-coded using Catalysed's Tech Trump playing cards for secondary education, providing quick and easy reference to well over 50 mature and proven digital technologies. Brought together, these two methods highlight the affordance of specific technologies within the given context, and provide this alignment between pedagogy and technology.
'True computer literacy is not just knowing how to make use of computers ... it is knowing when it is appropriate to do so.'
Seymour Papert (Mindstorms, 1993)
† S. Higgins, et al. (2012). `The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation'. Tech. rep., Education Endowment Foundation.