Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 51, No. 2, 207–217, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article has examined the case of one particular learning activity and the design, development and implementation of that activity to address the particular needs of pre-service teachers in one teacher education programme in New Zealand.
The learning activity discussed in this article is part of a one-year Graduate Diploma-level initial teacher education programme for secondary school teachers at one university in New Zealand.
Students were tasked with working in groups to investigate a contemporary educational issue and to produce a 10 min docudrama that was to be presented to the whole programme cohort.
At the end of the year, students were surveyed about their experiences to review the effectiveness of this new activity.
The findings of the survey are organised around three design principles.
a. Sociocultural approaches
The first design principle was to allow students to experience a community of practice situation consistent with sociocultural principles of learning.
One of the features of the activity was that students were not given direct instruction on how to approach the activity, or on any aspects of the technology they might use, prior to the commencement of the activity.
A number of the students had personal experience of editing software and the authors specifically asked them to teach other students how to use it rather than doing the editing themselves.
The authors noted that students from other groups were often asking these ‘experts’ to help them, rather than the teaching staff, thereby assuming responsibility for their learning as a group.
The second design principle for the activity was that it would highlight the value of an authentic context for learning by examining a problem currently facing schools: namely, how to develop key competencies in their students.
The authors had intended students to recognise the potential of the activity by experiencing the learning themselves.
Many of students commented on the development of these key competencies in themselves, particularly ‘relating to others’ and ‘participating and contributing’.
This approach resulted in increased sharedness in the ownership of the various parts of the activity and of the resulting presentation.
Students shared responsibilities for each part, often taking on multiple roles within the team.
c. Use of technology
The third design principle was that the activity should demonstrate the potential of educational technologies as a pedagogical tool by giving the students an authentic learning experience which allowed them to learn through working with the various technologies involved in the task to develop knowledge and skills via experience.
A key feature of this principle was to demonstrate the power of educational technologies as disruptive to established (or familiar) ways of working.
Students with experience editing digital video were able adopt the role of the peer teacher within the community of learners.
Results from the survey indicate that students found that the use of technology was either ‘effective’ (E) or ‘highly effective’ (HE) at facilitating a learning environment that: encouraged collaboration, encouraged knowledge construction or challenged them.
Furthermore, 83% of the students felt that the design of the activity enabled them to interact creatively with the material.
This activity served as a positive experience of overcoming such anxieties, potentially enhancing efficacy generally and particularly enhancing efficacy in the use of technology as a pedagogical tool.
This article has taken the position that thoughtful design and implementation of learning activities which integrate an authentic, experiential approach to the use of educational technologies has the potential to create contemporary educational environments that support alternatives to traditional teaching and learning methods.
There are important implications for teacher education in similar contexts.
The authors have argued for an experiential dimension in teacher education and the use of authentic situations and problems drawn from teachers’ work in schools to illustrate the transformative potential of educational technologies.
The particular learning activity described in this article was designed to be disruptive to pre-service teachers’ conceptions of teacher and learner roles, and active approaches to learning in authentic contexts.
To achieve this, three core principles were adopted in the design of the docudrama activity:
(a) to provide pre-service teachers with an experience of educational technology as an integral part of the learning;
(b) for students to experience an example of what ‘student centred learning’ might look like; and (c) to highlight the value of authentic contexts for learning.
Results from the evaluation survey indicate that the design of the docudrama activity contributed to participants’ learning about how educational technologies help support alternatives to traditional teaching and learning practices.
The student-centred design of the activity helped to create a learning environment where social engagement and co-construction provided an effective context for learning.
The use of an authentic context in the learning activity was seen as a relevant and engaging way of illustrating the potential for educational technologies as pedagogical tools, helping to create learning environments consistent with sociocultural principles of learning.
Toward this end, educational technologies are powerful pedagogical resources, potentially allowing teachers to help students learn in fundamentally different ways.