Digital Futures in Teacher Education

Photo credit: Picture shared under a Creative Commons Licence by James Armstrong

Yesterday, I attended the Digital Futures in Teacher Education (DeFT) dissemination conference in Sheffield.

The aim of the DeFT project is to develop guidance on digital literacy practice and to create an Open Textbook on Digital Literacy for Education. The Open Text book is a big online space used to share the outcomes of the individual projects.

The conference began with an introduction from Richard Pountney and Dr. Anna Gruszczynska. This was followed by a brief review of the main themes emerging from the project by Cathy Burnett and Julia Davies.

Some interesting points arose during this presentation, including the notion of the ‘Knight’s Move’ as a metaphor for staff development. Julia Davies began by discussing that often when new technology is brought into the classroom is it used for existing practices and ways of teaching. Julia argued that perhaps this is necessary in the early stages of innovation, in order for confidence to grow. That like the chessboard Knight, a practitioner must take a few steps before veering in an entirely new direction.

Julia talked about how ICT can be used to break down the barriers of time and space for CPD – meaning that opportunities for teachers are no longer restricted to particular times and physical locations. Devices learners use on a daily basis are blurring the boundaries between the classroom and the home environment, which Julia referred to as ‘the third space’.

The Professional Development Issues session involved four case studies:

Mick Connell made some insightful comments regarding their project with PGCE students to produce digital videos about different themes around Sheffield. He felt that the process of producing the videos was just as much, if not more valuable to the students than the end product itself, – being the creator of a digital resource had developed their skills. He also commented on the student’s ‘Digital Daring’ – the willingness to take risks when trying new approaches with technology. This was one of the biggest areas of gain from the project.

Sarah Butler showed us videos of Hallam’s Digital Agony Aunts – a forum developed to allow the student teachers to air concerns and share their experiences. Sarah’s presentation highlighted the student’s interests in sharing best practice. Her students saw sharing resources and ideas as a part of their professional identities and struggled to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to share what works openly online?

Michael Payton-Greene introduced us to Wales High School’s staff development blog. The blog is used to share best practice throughout the school, with faculties commenting on blog posts when they had taken the ideas into their own subjects. Here’s a good example looking at the use iPads across the school.

Christine Bodin demonstrated how she uses Moodle for her French and Spanish teaching. Christine looked at how she has adapted to technological change over her career and how she has utilised Moodle to deliver a varied Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) curriculum.

After a short tea break, the first Keynote was delivered by Dr. Doug Belshaw (Badges and Skills lead for the Mozilla Foundation).

Doug talked about the definitions of open educational resources and digital literacy and used a fairly funny video of DMX battling with Goggle to highlight the dangers of making assumptions about a person’s ability with digital tools. He also commented on the spectrum of digital literacies: from tool-based knowledge to critical and reflective skills. Doug has also blogged about the event.

The mobile learning session included three presentations:

It was fascinating to look at the use of mobile devices across Early Years Foundation Stage, Primary and Secondary. At Sharrow Nursery school, cameras and voice recorders had been used to document the children’s progress through a module on Farm life. The images and recordings where then posted on the Nursery’s blog and parents were informed on how to access these.

At Winterhill, the pupils were inspired by Magna Science Adventure Centre to create artwork, compose music and write poems. QR codes were then developed to link the physical Magna environment with the school children’s creations.

Photo credit: Picture shared under a Creative Commons Licence by Winterhill Comprehensive School

QR codes were also used by Halfway Junior School in a treasure trail activity that aimed to use the technology in order to develop a narrative. At each stage of the trail the children were given a clue as to what happened at the site of the activity and a clue for finding the next QR code. The children were also asked to write about what they believed had happened in the park.

The second Keynote of the day was delivered by Bob Harrison, drawing on his work with the New Technologies Advisory Board. Not only was Bob’s presentation studded with funny anecdotes, it also included a number of insightful one-liners:

“You can do a lot WITH teachers, but not an awful lot TO them”

“Twitter is the best CPD tool I’ve had in all my 40 years in education”

One of the key questions asked in the closing panel was: In the current policy vacuum, where do we go for advice, guidance and resources? Bob Harrison’s reply was:

“The answer is teachers helping teachers”

We are supporting this approach across Leicester through our interests in networked learning and the sharing of best practices. The purpose of the Digital Literacies Research Associate role is to develop a self-evaluation framework. This will be used by staff in order to reflect on their use of technology to support teaching and learning. Alongside the framework we hope to support the growth of a bank of open educational resources that will aid staff in developing their own digital literacy practices.

The conference was closed by Academic Lead, Professor Jackie Marsh and Principal Investigator, Professor Guy Merchant.

The Open Textbook is due to be released on November 1st 2012.

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