Teachers are Learners too
Here we are 16 years into the 21st century and still there is an imperative to integrate digital teaching and learning into our educational institutions with few making much headway. So why are we spinning our wheels? One suggestion involves the lack of appropriate professional development.
Looking at the well-respected Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge Framework, known as TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) there are some glaringly obvious omissions in the way that much of the available professional development for teachers is structured, that is with a technology focus.
Why we should be revising TPACK
Don’t be concerned that TPACK is itself 10 years’ old, the beauty of the framework is that it transcends time, unlike some technologies. So, using TPACK to inform how professional development should be evolving, the focus must be on demonstrating how educators can develop sustainable strategies to integrate digital teaching and learning into the classroom.
Strategies will continue to encompass the three areas of technology, pedagogy and content as espoused by Mishra and Koehler but in a contemporary context at any given time.
Technologies will be chosen based on the affordances that they offer to learners. An affordance is an action that learners can perform with a technology that enhances learning and these affordances must typify needs of modern learners, for example learners require skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. While building these skills, they will also build initiative, self-direction, adaptability, leadership and responsibility.
Chosen pedagogies will also expose learners to affordances through their learner-centredness, for example project based learning, enquiry based-learning and Socratic questioning. They will promote autonomy through personalisation and in the process build learner self-efficacy and resilience.
Lastly, the outmoded focus on provisioning learning content to learners who assume a passive role in the learning process is replaced by content creation. The Web contains a vast bazaar of content in a number of formats. Locating, curating, remixing, repurposing and re-sharing content, accounts for deeper learning episodes which is preferable to pushing selected learning content to learners. While this concept alone causes dread amongst many educators, which is largely due to accuracy and safety concerns, closing access is not the answer, digital citizenship is the answer. Learners must learn how to check the accuracy of the information that they are accessing as well as a number of other key lessons in this area such as respect, literacy and protection.
Until professional development for educators encompasses more than digital tool use, the wheels will continue to spin. Existing staff development is found to be boring, irrelevant and abstract. Some teachers also report that the focus of some of the technology training will not function at their site due to resourcing such as bandwidth, equipment and funds. Further, there is little ongoing support to hone newly learned skills.
Rather than isolating particular technologies for staff development, the focus must be on assisting teachers to identify affordances, select suitable tools that meet their individual requirements and chose pedagogies that will enhance learning.
In a progressive professional development program, learning will be shared by educators in a professional community of practice to minimise stress associated with continual change in digital teaching and learning as well as provide opportunity to practice new concepts before integrating them into teaching.
Teachers like their students, require a comprehensive understanding of digital citizenship so they can assume the roles required of modern educational professionals in supporting learners. We cannot assume this teacher knowledge ….. teachers are learners too.
Louise is an educational technologist and founder of CloudEd at cloudeducation.com.au.