Why is this important?
The findings from a large number of studies undertaken to explore the level of technology use by pre-service teachers indicate low levels of technology integration in the design and delivery of their lessons (Al-Ruz et al. 2011; Dawson, 2008; Liu, 2012). This has been mostly attributed to ineffective technology teacher-training programs (Albirini, 2006; Liu, 2012; Scheeler, 2008). An approach that treats teaching as an interaction between what teachers know and how they apply this given the unique circumstances or contexts within their classrooms is required, where the use of technology in teaching can no longer be an afterthought in lesson and unit design.
There are no pre-ordained ways of integrating technology into curriculum and integration efforts need to be creatively designed or structured to be effective. In order to achieve this, teachers must be equipped with the necessary skills to facilitate seamless technology integration into their instruction in ways that move beyond mere presentation and communication to a place of creation, innovation, and problem-solving. In this regard, teacher-training programs must ensure a holistic approach that is infused with active use of technology. An approach to this end might be to adopt what Gellel (2010) refers to as ‘communities of practice’, essentially uniting pre-service teachers with practising teachers, students, and wider school communities. Gellel argues that the practicums currently offered to teachers during their degrees are inadequate and that pre-service teacher education should enable the creation of communities of practice through “short residential periods, social activities and discussion groups” (p.173).
Teaching is a complex practice that requires a combination of different types of specialised knowledge. In this sense, teaching could even be described as an ill-structured discipline, requiring teachers to apply complex knowledge structures across different cases and contexts (Mishra, Spiro, & Feltovich, 1996; Spiro & Jehng, 1990). Teachers play their craft in highly complex, dynamic situated contexts that require them to continually adapt and improve their understanding (Leinhardt & Greeno, 1986). As a consequence, effective teaching depends on flexible access to rich, well-organised, and integrated knowledge from different domains, including knowledge of student thinking and learning, knowledge of subject matter, and increasingly, knowledge of technology (Glaser, 1984; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Shulman, 1986, 1987).
In a matter of weeks COVID-19 appears to have achieved what years of advocacy has failed to do such that it became the catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to begin searching for alternative learning delivery mechanisms – necessity it seems, truly became the mother of invention. It has changed how students are being educated around the world, and these modifications provide a glimpse into how education could transform for the better in the long term. The closure of schools and the disruption to young people’s learning has been particularly worrisome for all stakeholders – students, parents and teachers. These emerging challenges that the education sector is facing, are indicative of more permanent changes that need to be made.
The spate of sudden school closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a transition away from the traditional “synchronous learning” model, where learning happens in real time, with all the students in a classroom, at a specific time. Schools have been required to embrace an online “asynchronous learning” model, which is a location independent type of learning that does not occur in the same place or at the same time, and making this change has been a challenging and disruptive experience for students and teachers alike. Had the culture of schools and education in general been better conditioned for change through research and an intentional practice of continuous improvement, change and innovation would be a normal occurrence, thereby making education systems more resilient and better prepared to cope with such emergencies.
Despite the increased availability of technology in schools, many practicing teachers remain uncomfortable integrating technology into their daily teaching and learning interactions (Barton, 2001; Cuban, 2001; Keengwe, 2007; Yau, 1999). Research has shown that many practicing teachers in K-12 schools struggle to keep current with the implementation of emerging and rapidly advancing tools of instructional technology. The teachers struggle with technology can be largely attributed to inadequate professional development and training (Raynolds et al 2001; Teclehaimanot et al 2011). Each technology has its own potential, affordances, and constraints that makes it more suitable for certain tasks, in certain contexts, than others (Bromley, 1998; Bruce, 1993; Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Understanding how these affordances and constraints of specific technologies influence what teachers do in their classrooms is not straightforward and requires a rethink of teacher education and teacher professional development. To this end, we believe there is an urgent need for establishing professional development programs that can support both pre-service and in-service teachers in tangible ways that will contribute towards building a more nimble, informed, and continuously improving teaching workforce.
What we propose
A majority of pre-service teachers feel that they are not currently being adequately prepared during their training years for integrating technology into their teaching. At Cinglevue we concur with the research findings that equipping every pre-service teacher with these essential skills and knowledge should be a mandatory part of any teacher-training program so as to empower the new teachers with critical educational technology competencies that reflect and meet the educational demands of the 21century. While we acknowledge the remarkable pace of transition to digital learning and the challenge this could pose to teacher training programs in terms of staying ahead of the curve, when compared with other preparatory programs in fields such as medicine, business, and engineering, teacher pre-service training programs have been somewhat reluctant to embrace technology, evidenced by the lack of proactivity in keeping up to date with the realities and needs of 21st century education and learner. Given the ever changing learning landscape, it is critical – not desirable, that technology forms an essential part of the teachers’ repertoire right from the beginning. To this end, our workshops will, amongst other approaches, utilise the TPACK framework.
Teaching practice is usually the first opportunity that many pre-service teachers get to utilise the skills they acquire through their program’s mandated coursework. These practicums are where aspiring teachers begin to create their own teaching philosophies and establish practices. At the heart of good teaching with technology are three core components; content, pedagogy, and technology, plus the relationships among and between them. The interactions between and among these three components, playing out differently across diverse contexts, account for the wide variations seen in the extent and quality of educational technology integration. These three knowledge bases form the core of the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) framework and the process of understanding and utilising these as interrelated knowledge bases is not an insignificant challenge. In reality, these components exist in a state of ‘‘essential tension’’, in this sense, adopting any of these components in isolation from the others would be a disservice to good teaching.
Ongoing advances in the capabilities, quality, and spread of Internet-enabled technologies has also dramatically increased technology-based learning opportunities for students and professional learning opportunities for in-service teachers. As such, there is a clear need for teacher preparation programs to reflect the current educational technology use in today’s schools, so teachers arrive confident, experienced, and ready to lead. Teaching and learning with technology exists in a dynamic transactional relationship (Bruce, 1997; Dewey & Bentley, 1949; Rosenblatt, 1978), where a change in any one of the knowledge components has to be ‘‘compensated’’ by changes in the other two. (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1029). Achieving a state of dynamic equilibrium between all three components is the goal of TPACK. For more information please visit TPACK website.
The TPACK framework provides a sound basis for effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help rectify some of the problems that learners face; knowledge of learners’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to increase existing knowledge to develop new epistemology or strengthen old ones.