The majority of policy statements and initiatives around the use of technology in schools revolve around technology as an assistive tool for pupils or the content of the technology curriculum. The failure of these approaches is that they ignore the research into the most important variable in the pupil’s education: the teacher.
Research from the seminal work of Sanders and Rivers (1996) onwards has shown the impact of an effective teacher over an ineffective teacher.
In a similar way that Zuboff (1984) realised the change for the workforce in the Seventies and Eighties as the new technology, computers stepped into the workplace with “their interesting processes and applications and data”, Education is currently going through a historical transformation of immense proportions. We are all part of this transformation. This requires design-based research methods building on revolutionary approaches of participatory design methods that enable ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger, 1998) and ‘communities of interest’ (Fischer, 2001) for education knowledge co-construction.
The effective use of technology to improve outcomes for pupils by adopting a national strategy around adult learning, where CPD strategy provides peer feedback based embedded design practice exchanges enabling a broad reach that is not just national but international. For an example of this research in action internationally see Learning Designer Community.
That the remit of the overall technology strategy is broadened to include tools which improve the quality of adult education/ITE/CPD for teachers.
Can you quote a policy in this area that worked in the past?Although there has been no direct policy in this area historically, BECTA did provide the opportunity to develop and disseminate evolving ideas.
Towards the end of its existence, BECTA was demonstrating that it was able to act as a framework for innovation in technology. This framework now seems to be missing. There is an evident need for a body to stimulate, assess and build an evidence base of impact. With the current focus on evidence based practice there is little to help stimulate exploration of what ‘may’ work rather than what is proven to have worked. In this vacuum, it can be difficult to innovate or provide formative evaluation which can lead to genuine change. Communities such as the Learning Designer Community, MirandaNet and MESH are providing action-based research with evidence emerging about the engagements with communities of interests and impact. These bring tools and frameworks for understanding what types of teaching enable the types of learning that need to take place and approaches to sharing this knowledge internationally.
The future for CPD and Innovation through communities of practice
For web based video to be an accepted tool for CPD, IRIS Connect research shows that the tool must be owned by teachers. This grassroots ownership is vital if innovative learning technologies are to be embedded in pedagogical practice. In this context, evidence shows that there is a growth of professional communities of practice that engage with a wide range of technologies used in teaching and learning and that they are networking with each other internationally. For example, the MirandaNet Fellowship, whose members have researched the value of learning technologies since 1992, are now partnering with specialist emerging communities such as the Learning Designer community and MESH. These professional communities of practice are delivering changes in practice and teaching designed by the teaching community. In these professional groups teachers find the power to engineer changes in school practice through collaboration in this peer-feedback approach. The changes are embedded because the practitioners have developed them and own them. Imposing change from the top down has been shown not to work in a range of research studies authored by MirandaNet members.
It is essential that the Government recognises the difference between observation as part of the accountability framework and as a tool for empowering teachers through self-reflection and collaboration.