New technologies are continuing to make their way into our classrooms. It is evident that this is transforming how we design the learning space, the role of technology, the role of the learners and also the other centrepiece of education, ‘teachers’. My recent experience of online discussions shows that the changing role of the teacher in technology-enhanced learning is becoming a very popular topic. What is interesting is that on many occasions teachers are blamed for not adapting and incorporating technology into their teaching. What I haven’t seen is anyone talking about how the role of the teacher has altered. In every single discussion, educators have talked about what needs to be done to support teachers to use technology better in the classroom, but no one has discussed about what has changed.
I think it is very appropriate to mention Dr. Jessel’s point on this topic. Jessel (2012) suggests that, “Innovation arising from new technologies makes a variety of demands upon the role of the teacher”. He continues, “At another level, the introduction of innovation makes major demands upon teachers’ pedagogical, professional and managerial skills.” What this tells us is that by using only the traditional teaching will not help teachers to integrate technology into their teaching. As the new technologies constantly evolve, maybe the focus has been too long on the technology, rather than training teachers to learn to evaluate each medium in terms of what can be achieved in practice and which strategies needs to be adopted.
I would also like to point your attention to the word ‘pedagogy’. We do need to understand this term in the context of education. Hanks et al (1986) describe pedagogy as the ‘principles, practice or profession of teaching’. Therefore we could say that pedagogy includes ‘teaching’, ‘learning space’, ‘content’ and ‘methods’. What we also need to remember is there is a very strong relationship between ‘pedagogy’ and ‘practice’. In other words how learning content manifests into knowledge, mainly shaped by how it has been taught in practice.
This brings more questions, as the pedagogical approaches to education are not necessarily detached from cultural traditions and beliefs, therefore embedding technology into teaching and learning is a more complex task than just re-arranging a classroom space. According to Pepin (2010) the cultural traditions and philosophical beliefs of countries determine the principles upon which that national curriculum is designed and the pedagogies adopted in schools. As a result, the content and aim of the curriculum itself, places expectations on teachers. If the curriculum is designed to evaluate learning through test scores, surely teachers will use pedagogy to serve and meet this purpose rather than focusing on how to develop learning. This not only limits the teacher’s methods to lead teaching, but also impacts on their meeting the different learning needs of students, which in most cases results as a failure in education.
I believe that teachers are very confused about their role and their direction in the learning cycle that employs new technologies. Surely, where a curriculum has been designed by policy makers and theories have been discussed by scholars, confusion is certain. The break in communication between the main stakeholders of education; policy makers, scholars, teachers and learners is the main reason for this outcome. This communication breakage causes other problems, which can be seen as the reasons why some teachers are having difficulties with embedding technology into their teaching. These can be listed as:
- Lack of resources
- Not having enough time to get familiar with the tools
- Being unsure of what can be achieved with which technology
- No training in pedagogy and strategies that works well with specific technologies
- Uncertainty in assessing and evaluating the learning that has been gained using technology
- Issues around managing behaviour and classroom
- Demands on meeting specific learning objectives-as technology doesn’t always fit in to meet these.
There were also comments about some teachers being reluctant to change. I have to admit, in my role as an ICT Coordinator for many years, I haven’t come across teachers that did not want to try any of the new technologies that I have suggested or discussed. What is important is having a shared vision in school for the implementation of technology, from the senior managers at the top to the staff involved in teaching and learning.
This shared vision is what enthuses educators to not only use new technologies but also provides a well-designed constant training opportunity. A flexible project based learning approach is also a must for utilising the full power of technology in education. If we are to focus on just subject related learning objectives and miss the bigger picture of learning behind the scenes, we will provide children with limited learning experiences. However adopting a PBL approach will provide children with the opportunity to master their skills and knowledge which then make it possible to transfer them to other learning areas. Another important point is involving teachers and learners in the research process. Understanding the value of technology in the classroom requires constant monitoring and evaluating, which will feed back into developing new models of implementation. Who could be the better resource than the teachers and learners that are the main part of the learning cycle?
So in summary, a shared vision within the school, two-way communication between the stakeholders of education, a curriculum that allows a flexible project based learning approach will make a difference. Without these qualities, teachers understanding of their changing role in education will still be clouded and as a consequence of this, integrating technology into education will remain a hazy concept.
Hanks, P., McLeod, W. and Urdang, L. (Eds)(1986) Collins dictionary of the English language, Collins, London & Glasgow.
Jessel, J. (2012) “Social, cultural and cognitive processes and new technologies in education” in Miglino, O., Nigrelli, M. L., & Sica, L. S. Role-games, computer simulations, robots and augmented reality as new learning technologies: A guide for teacher educators and trainers, Liguori Editore, Napoli.
Mortimore, P. (Ed.) (1999) Understanding Pedagogy and its Impact on Learning, Paul Chapman Publishing, London
Pepin, B. (2010) “How educational systems and cultures mediate teacher knowledge: teacher ‘listening’ in English, French and German classrooms” (p. 119-138), in Ruthven, K. and Rowlands, T. (eds) Mathematical knowledge in teaching, Springer, Dordrecht.
Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Aston, H. and Houghton, E. (2013) “Game-based Learning: Latest Evidence and Future Directions” NFER (FUTURELAB), Slough, [online], http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/publications/GAME01/GAME01.pdf