Guiding and supporting digital literacies in ITE
A primer, in the form of a PowerPoint slideshow, was produced to introduce the concept of digital literacy and to support the use of the case studies in the project. The targeted audience was primary and early years student teachers, but it can be used with a wider audience in the context of exploring meanings of digital literacy. Some of the questions it addresses are:
- How do you encourage trainees to make opportunities for embedding DL in their teaching practice?
- How do you use case studies effectively to engage PGCE students in a meaningful way so that they are able to reuse them in their own context?
- How do you engage teachers from a range of educational phases and ensure there is provision for transferability of resources from case studies across different contexts (e.g. from early years to secondary)?
It is designed to start at the foundations of ‘digital literacy’ and offer an invitation to reflect on different visions of digital competencies and can be used as a teaching resource in its entirety or by focussing on one of the selected themes from within the prime:
- the widening definition of literacy
- the links between the uses of literacies in home and school environments
- how and why educational settings can exploit a variety of literacies
- how literacies are changing
- role of digital literacies in the curriculum with regard to critical thinking, creativity and home–school links
- the challenges of bringing digital literacies into school
By asking clear, concise and carefully staged questions, it probes and challenges understandings of literacies (digital and otherwise) and digital practice in educational settings. It invites readers to examine their own pedagogical practice, and offers signposts to different strands and emerging themes of digital literacies that are developing in education as well as links additional resources.
It is becoming increasingly evident that there is a relationship between teacher identity and digital literacies (Burnett 2011), and that it can be important for teachers to reflect on the relevance of their own digital literacies in the context of their roles as educators. Consequently, ITE establishments need to recognise and address the rapidly changing role of digital technologies in education. This has wide-reaching implications for teacher educators, who need to create supportive spaces where trainee teachers are able to reflect, experiment and contextualise their knowledge and understanding of these new technologies (Graham 2008). The PGCE students in this case study have defined themselves as ‘people who are interested in the new technologies’ and are aware that this interest defines the extent of their involvement with digital technologies in their practice. These students, now teachers, would be, as Livingstone and Helsper (2007) define, quite high up on the continuum of digital inclusion, but it cannot be assumed that all students would have the same level of digital competence or interest. As one said, they perhaps know about the new technologies, and are comfortable using them in their private lives, but would like to have guidance on how to translate this knowledge into pedagogy.
This review indicates that learner and beginner teachers are mindful of the fact that they, as educators, must build on the digital practices that their students engage in out of school (Hull 2012). It also demonstrates how teachers and students are proactive in finding ways to turn ‘powerful technologies’ to educational use. In the vacuum left by the changing curriculum, many educators indicate that they are having to take the initiative and are actively seeking information about new technologies. These reviewers have proposed that these case studies can be used not only to inform and guide teaching but also to use as examples of good practice to persuade gatekeepers of the relevance of using digital technologies. They prove to be easily accessible ways of disseminating information about important educational resources, which can open up new opportunities in schools.
The initial conversation with the students revealed that they often shared their resources in their group and used online teaching materials from teaching resource banks such as TeachFind and Teachernet. Their reviews stressed that accurate tagging and labelling is essential for ease of access. Some also mentioned that they would like to be able to filter the search results according to assessment objectives, levels (e.g. primary/secondary) and provenance (UK v non-UK). They also wanted an indication of whether the resource was visual/auditory/kinaesthetic so they could best adapt it to their teaching needs. Given that lack of description is one of the key barriers to reuse of OERs (Conole and Adams 2010), these issues should be addressed as a matter of priority to improve their uptake in the school sector.
As students, the group indicated that they were reluctant to share their own resources with the wider community. They were quite open with colleagues and other students and had set up a dedicated Facebook account where students could post their concerns/tips and successful lesson plans. They felt ‘safe’ in this space, but they did not want to expend time or energy to expand their sharing openly. One student stated that he was aware that the major barrier to open sharing would be difficulties with copyright issues, as he would use downloaded images from the internet regardless of their copyright status. They felt that, as students, they had enough to do preparing and planning lessons without having to think about the complex issues related to open sharing.
However as the students reviewed, engaged with and contributed to the OERs produced during the project, they became more aware of the issues surrounding open sharing. One stated that he would like to become involved in any future production of OERs and would research CC licensing.
The PowerPoint primer section of the case study reflects the complex nature of the subject and the many levels at which students are expected to engage with digital literacies. As well as providing a base for further study, it puts into context some of the issues raised by the other case studies.