Dancing pedagogy: Reflections on my learning design journey

by Dr Denise M. Sweeney

My first experience of academic conferences was when I was an educational designer in Australia and attended and subsequently presented at the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) annual conference. 

My recollections of these conferences were positive where there was a good mix of listening, reflecting, discussing, and dancing the night away at the conference dinner. I usually went with work colleagues and got to meet new colleagues through workshops and events. I remember one conference in Brisbane in 2005 particularly well where in a workshop as part of a team we created a learning design which we subsequently presented to peers and received feedback. Many of us didn’t know each other at the beginning of the workshop but we struggled and collaborated to create something by the end of the workshop. The workshop entitled ‘Rethinking Learning:  A Learning-centred Approach to Curriculum Design’ was facilitated by Diane Salter and Geraldine Lefoe. 

What strikes me now is why did this positive conference workshop learning experience from 2005 resonate so much that I was urged to mention it in this blog piece? And, how surprised I am that the workshop title is still so relevant in our current postdigital higher education learning landscape. As a conference participant I was able to immerse myself with colleagues in the complexities of a particular ‘learning design’ approach and experience curriculum design from a learning through talking about pedagogy and technology options and choices and doing this as part of a group. I have been on a learning design journey since that workshop that I am still on nearly twenty years later. ALT-C has become a part of that journey since my first conference in 2012 in Manchester.

What is inspiring me now? What am I getting to grips with in the 21st century learning design space?

Earlier this year, a colleague shared with me an article thinking I would be interested in reading it and using its ideas with our ‘students’ (those university teachers and third space professionals who teach and support learning in HE). I am going to be doing just that in the new academic year. I wanted to share this article with colleagues as my contribution to ALT-C 2023 and its 30th birthday celebrations.

The article entitled ‘Entangled Pedagogy: Looking Beyond the Pedagogy—Technology Dichotomy’ is by Tim Fawns. What I like about the article is that it expands and enriches the technology and pedagogy learning design conversation. He states that there is a ‘mutual shaping of technology, teaching methods, purposes, values and context’ to contend with (Fawns, 2022, p.711). I am not wanting to review the article here, but I do think this has provoked my thinking and I am sure many others. 

What draws me in is the dance metaphor (as someone who has been immersed in dance through my children’s involvement). In Fawn’s ‘entangled model’ he sees pedagogy as the dance and technology is entangled within pedagogy. Therefore, the dichotomy of pedagogy – technology is not possible. One cannot ‘choose a pedagogy and then a technology, nor can pedagogy be tacked onto an existing instantiation of technology’ (Fawns, 2022, p.715). Teachers are the choreographers; however, students also contribute through their own interpretations of that choreography. There is nothing like seeing learning design with a fresh lens which can contribute to the 30-year long ALT-C conversation around pedagogy and technology.

So those of you who will be attending ALT-C this year, what are your memories from conferences that deal with pedagogy and technology? How have they contributed to your own learning journey?

For those of you who are coming to ALT-C for the first time, welcome. I hope that you can engage and share with colleagues and create memories. I hope that ALT-C becomes part of your learning design journey as it has for me.  

You can find out more about ALTC23 on their website.


  • Tim Fawns says:

    Thanks so much, Denise. Glad the paper has been helpful. It’s interesting to hear about all of these connections across time as well.


  • Denise Sweeney says:

    I just love the fact that you have responded to my blog!! I hope we can get you to talk either at Nottingham or ALT ELESIG. Are you going to be in the UK at all in the near future? Let me know. I have two dancing daughters which added to why I was drawn to your metaphor!!

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