Initial teacher education: pedagogy vs technology

If technology has a key role to play in the future of school learning, how big a part should it play in Initial Teacher Education?

Today in East Lothian this year’s probationers, as part of their induction, attended a short session where they were introduced to some of the on-line tools they might encounter in our schools, and that they’d be able to use to support their teaching. During the session, of 75 minutes, we mainly covered Glow and the blogs, with a brief mention of edubuzz Google Apps at the end. (The day also included a session on internet safety from Ollie Bray.)

Those of us involved in presenting the sessions couldn’t help but be struck by the low level of awareness amongst the groups of some of the opportunities now presented by these technologies. Many of the new teachers were clearly surprised that it was as easy to publish to a blog as to send an email, for example. Very few had any idea what Glow offered. In most groups, none were aware of Google Documents and its collaboration possibilities. This wasn’t due to lack of interest or enthusiasm; they just simply hadn’t encountered these tools before, and many soon had great ideas for using them to support their teaching.

If, though, we now know that technology has huge potential to improve learning through, for example, improved personalisation and engagement, it becomes important that new teachers know how to integrate technology in their teaching.

This diagram (source shows a current framework which is gaining ground as a way to think about the kinds of skills teachers need to have.  In 1987, Shulman¹ developed the idea that teachers needed not just content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, but specific knowledge (pedagogical content knowledge) of teaching approaches suited to the content.

Now that idea has been developed by Mishra and Koehler into the TPACK model shown.  That model, though, suggests that technological knowledge – in particular, in the context of content and pedagogy – is now a key part of the skills mix.

If that’s the case, perhaps courses offered to new teachers could be improved by including not more technology for its own sake, but as a context for learning how it might best be used to support particular pedagogical approaches to teaching particular content?


1. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.

Helping Internet-Savvy Staff Make Sense of Glow

Glow logoWe’re noticing that staff new to Glow view it through the prism of their existing model of how the web works. Most of the time, that’s fine, but in some areas it can cause confusion.  Clearly it’s better if we can avoid that confusion, and we’ve been talking today about how we might do that.

The catalyst for the discussion was a planning meeting today with Martin Brown and Karen-Ann MacAlpine of the Glow team for a probationer training session on Glow in August. We expect the probationers will be very experienced internet users, so might be particularly at risk of this confusion.

So where is confusion occurring? Some examples are:

  • an expectation that as it’s web-based, it will be possible to search for content with a search engine
  • an expectation that if you’ve access to a Glow Group, you’ll be able to see it in your list of Glow Groups
  • an expectation that because it’s a private intranet, you won’t be able to hyperlink to things from the public web

What is it that’s happening? We’re presenting people with a very large, complex system which is completely new to them. We do it in relatively short training sessions of only an hour or two, inevitably fairly jam-packed with new terminology. To help make sense of it all, people will use their “best fit” mental model – in this case the one they’ve built up over recent years of how internet stuff works, and – mostly – that’s fine. The confusion occurs, though, when something happens that doesn’t make sense in terms of that model.

What might we do about it? Today we were discussing the possibility of creating some big, simple, “building block” diagrams that could help speed teachers through the process of developing their own mental model of “how Glow works”. We talked, for example, about maybe showing Glow as an iceberg, with just a little bit – the web publishing facility – above the waterline and in public view.

edubuzz blogs help build East Lothian’s learning community

An East Lothian teacher I met tonight mentioned how odd it seemed that, in her few years teaching here, she felt that she knew so many staff in the other authority schools, and so much of what was going on.

She’d been in a city school in a previous life, and had felt much less in touch with what was going on despite the relatively short distances between them.

She didn’t put forward any reason for this, but went on to mention how her class had been:

  • using blog stats from other school’s blogs for data handling exercises
  •  stealing ideas from other class and school blogs to use in class
  • enjoying publishing their own blog and getting comments back

She had been actively involved, too, in publishing the work of a project for others to share, and enjoyed browsing staff blogs.

Of course, this doesn’t in any way prove cause and effect, but more and more of this kind of anecdotal evidence is emerging to suggest that this spider’s web of connections between schools, classes, students and staff is gradually creating a strong sense of a single learning community.