Monday, April 3, 2017

Digital Literacy for New Teachers

Jane Hunter A report on Digital Literacy and Learning in Initial Teacher Education, has been released by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA, March 2017). But as Dr Jane Hunter from UTS points out, in "The four challenges Australia faces to improve the digital literacy of new teachers" (3 April 2017), the report is full of jargon.

It seems to me, as a non-expert in the field of school teacher education (my book is on "Digital Teaching In Higher Education"), that the solution is quite simple: e-learning and blended learning should be used for basic teacher training. In this way computers in teaching will become normal and natural for new teachers and not something to be feared. These new teachers can then go out and educate their colleagues.

Dr. Hunter lists four challenges, which I suggest are not that challenging, if the new teachers are trained and equipped for digital teaching:
  1. Connectivity:  To overcome a lack of consistent connectivity in schools, I suggest equipping the student teachers with a $400 mobile broadband touchscreen laptop, so they are not reliant on school infrastructure. The new teachers can then be sent out (like those in the film "Blackboards"), to provide a WiFi hot-spot for their class, even if the rest of the school lacks connectivity.
  2. Funding for professional development: The new digitally trained and equipped teachers can provide PD for their colleagues as part of the new teacher's training.
  3. Develop digital fluency: In the absence of any officially mandated framework, the digital curriculum provided to the new teachers can define what all teachers should know.
  4. Educators involved with initial teacher education need continuous hands on experiences in schools: The trainee teachers will need placements in schools, as part of their training. Rather than their instructors sending these students out to fend for themselves on placements, the educators can provide advice to the trainee teachers on-line, via their mobile broadband laptops. This will connect the educators to the trainee teachers in real time and through them to the school community. I am helping do something like this as a tutor for ANU Techlauncher. Teams of students undertake real projects in industry and, as a byproduct, the students provide a path for academia to interact with business.

The NESA report makes seven recommendations, but these are aspirational, rather than actionable and unlikely to result in any tangible improvement in education:
  1. NESA, in consultation with ITE providers and employing authorities, will review current ITE requirements in ICT to identify how the broader concept of digital literacy can be incorporated. The work will consider what digitally literate graduate teachers should know and be able to do.
  2. NESA will advocate to AITSL, the need to review and revise the National Priority Area for ICT to reflect the concept of digital literacy. This review will also consider a revision of the NSW Elaborations in Priority Areas – ICT to include the knowledge of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and online content accessibility guidelines in line with international standards.
  3. NESA will advise NSW ITE providers on including knowledge and understanding of the AITSL ICT Statements in their ITE programs. This may be through course accreditation documentation or as a self-assessment tool to enhance teacher education students’ understanding of their own capabilities.
  4. ITE providers should ensure that the provision and approach to the teaching of digital literacy, ICT skills and capabilities of teacher education students is supported in all relevant ITE units by contemporary research.
  5. NESA, in conjunction with employing authorities and ITE providers, will identify exemplar materials that can be used by teacher education students during their professional experience placements focusing on digital literacy best practice.
  6. NESA, in conjunction with employing authorities and ITE providers, will lead the identification of targeted professional development that aims to improve the digital literacy skills for supervisors supporting and assessing teacher education students on professional experience placements and mentors of beginning teachers.
  7. NESA will undertake, in partnership with the NSW Council of Deans of Education, a project to share exemplary work by final year teacher education students on the integration of ICT within capstone teaching performance assessments.

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