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Thanks for the iPads, but what are we supposed to do with them? Integrating iPads into the teaching and learning of primary mathematics November 18, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education.
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from Dr Catherine Attard

The fast pace of technology development has seen a rapid uptake in mobile technologies such as the iPad computer tablet. Although not originally intended for use within educational settings when introduced in 2010, the iPad has fast become the ‘must have’ item in today’s classrooms.

One result of this is that teachers are often expected to integrate iPads or similar technologies into teaching and learning without the support of appropriate professional development, particularly in relation to using the technology to enhance teaching, learning and student engagement. While some claim iPads and other similar mobile devices have the potential to revolutionise classrooms (Banister, 2010; Ireland & Woollerton, 2010; Kukulska-Hulme, 2009), there is little research informing teachers exactly how the iPads can be integrated to enhance learning and teaching, and whether their use will have a long-term positive impact on student learning outcomes.

So what do we do when we are given a set of iPads and told to use them in our classrooms? Since my last blog post on the use of technology in July 2011, I have been involved in two research projects investigating the use of iPads to teach and learn mathematics in the primary classroom. These projects have given me the opportunity to observe a variety of pedagogies and make some interesting observations regarding practical issues relating to the management of iPads.

In each of the projects, teachers had been provided with iPads for their classrooms with little or no professional development that related to integration into teaching and learning practices. The teachers involved experienced a ‘trial and error’ process of using different strategies to integrate the iPads into their mathematics lessons, a task they found harder to do than with other subject areas. The iPads were used in a wide variety of ways that appeared to have differing levels of success. The success of each lesson was determined by the observed reaction to and the engagement of the students with the set tasks and the teacher’s reflection following the lesson.

Several lessons that incorporated iPads utilised a small group approach where students worked either independently or in small groups of two to three students on an application that was based upon the drill and practice of a mathematical skill. The challenge with this approach was that it was difficult for the teacher to know whether the students were on task, if there were any difficulties, and whether the chosen application was appropriate in terms of the level of cognitive challenge. Often when this pedagogy was implemented it was done so without student reflection at the conclusion of the lesson. Without discussion of the mathematics involved in the task, students did not have the opportunity to acknowledge any learning that occurred.

The pedagogies that appeared most effective were those that were based on using the technologies to solve problems in real-world contexts. When used this way, the iPads were used as tools to assist in achieving a set goal, rather than as a game. An example of one of these lessons was in Year 5, when students were asked to plan a hypothetical outing to the city to watch a movie. The children were able to use several applications on their iPads ranging from public transport timetables to cinema session time applications to plan their day out. The lesson resulted in rich mathematical conversations and problem solving, and high levels of engagement due to the real-life context within which the mathematics was embedded.

The integration of interactive whiteboards with iPads was also a common element in the observed lessons, illustrating how such technologies can enhance teaching as well as learning. In several instances teachers projected the iPads onto interactive whiteboards to demonstrate the tasks set for the students. In other examples, it was the students’ work on the iPads that was projected for the purpose of class discussions and constructive feedback.

The variety of ways in which the technologies were used demonstrated their flexibility when compared to traditional laptop or desktop computers. All of the teachers involved in both projects found it challenging to integrate the technologies into mathematics in contrast with other subject areas such as literacy.

This challenge led to the teachers expressing a need for professional development in relation to integrating the iPads into existing pedagogical practices and a desire to have a platform from which ideas can be shared amongst peers. The incorporation of the iPads led to the teachers becoming more creative in their lesson planning and as a result, tasks became more student-centred and allowed time for students to investigate and explore mathematics promoting mathematical thinking and problem solving.

Overall, the use of iPads appeared to have a positive impact on the practices of the teachers and the engagement of the students participating in the projects. Benefits of the iPads included the flexibility in how and where they could be used, the instant feedback for students and the ability for students to make mistakes and correct them, alleviating the fear of failure and promoting student confidence.

The disadvantages of the iPads were mostly management issues relating to the sourcing and uploading of appropriate applications, the difficulties associated with record-keeping and supervision of students while using the iPads and the number of iPads available for use. The interactive nature of the technologies was engaging for the students at an operative level. However, when the tasks in which they were embedded did not include appropriate cognitive challenge, students were less engaged and became distracted by the technologies.

The incorporation of iPads in the two projects emphasised their potential to increase student engagement and the importance of providing professional learning experiences for teachers that go beyond learning how to operate the technologies. Rather, continued and sustained development of teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that builds on their understanding of mathematics content, ways in which students learn, the misconceptions that occur, and ways in which technology can enhance teaching and learning is required.

 References:     Banister, S. (2010). Integrating the iPod Touch in K-12 education: Visions and vices. Computers in Schools, 27(2), 121-131.     Ireland, G. V., & Woollerton, M. (2010). The impact of the iPad and iPhone on education. Journal of Bunkyo Gakuin University Department of Foreign Languages and Bunkyo Gakuin College(10), 31-48.     Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2009). Will mobile learning change language learning? ReCALL, 21(2), 157-165.     Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Catherine Attard is a Lecturer in mathematics education in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She has a strong interest in the application of learning technologies to effective learning and teaching in mathematics, and teaches in our Master of Teaching (Primary) program. You can search for her other blog contributions by typing her name into the search the facility at the top of the page.

I need some support! Mentoring in 21st century schools. November 13, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Dr Maggie Clarke

In her first post, Maggie Clarke positions mentoring for teachers in a new light by focussing on the collaborative nature of schools and how new models and processes of mentoring need to be explored.

Can you remember your first day as a teacher? I clearly recall being told as I was given my classes, “let me know if you have any problems” and that was my support! Teaching can be an isolating profession where you are left on your own to get on with your teaching in your classroom. What many of us craved in our early teaching careers was someone who could be a “shepherding hand” who could help us in our workplace knowledge, our classroom practice and professional relationships. Emerging more recently in schools is the introduction of these ‘shepherding hands’, in the form of mentors. Mentoring is not a new concept but it has not been fully implemented in the teaching profession, unlike many other professions. If mentoring practices are evident in some schools, the models and types of mentoring have changed little over the last thirty years. In the schools of the 21st century there is a need to provide mentoring that is collegial and is based on a mutual relationship.

Raza and Mosca (2002) in their research explored ideas of changing employee-organisation relations. They posited that the ‘new age employee’ expects to be treated in a more equitable manner than previous generations. They believe that contemporary organizations need to provide opportunities for employees to have feedback on their progress and “proper tools to assist them achieve their goals” (p.2). Organisations, in an attempt to provide these opportunities, are turning to mentoring as one means of providing professional learning for their employees. Increasingly, managers in organisations are seeing mentoring as an important source of professional learning for less experienced employees. Many organisations are recognising that facilitation and support of a mentoring process is an effective strategy to build the organisation.

Over time there has been a plethora of definitions of mentoring and often these definitions have been defined in terms of the type or form of mentoring. Usually, mentoring has been defined in terms of either informal or formal mentoring. Mentoring can be recognised by the type of relationship that is evident in each mentoring process. It can be a formal or an informal relationship and within these boundaries the relationship can be reciprocal or non-reciprocal. It is the construct of the development of the relationships that is important in 21st century schools.

Formal mentoring relationships are generally designed for a predetermined length of time and are usually of short duration. Many managers implement formal mentoring programs as a strategy to induct new employees into their organisation (Douglas & McCauley, 1997). Within these programs the protégé is allocated to a mentor by the management of the organisation and usually, there is little or no involvement of staff in the selection process of matching the mentor and protégé by either party. These programs are purposefully developed, monitored and evaluated by the management in terms of expectations and goal attainment. There is an inequality of status in this relationship with communication often being one-way. The mentor directs and drives the communication down to the protégé with little opportunity for the protégé to have input or respond to the communication from the mentor. The one-way communication in formal mentoring can result in the protégé being unable to ‘connect’ with the mentor. This type of mentoring is probably one that some teachers have experienced in their own employment situations.

Informal mentoring relationships, on the other hand, are spontaneously formed through people getting to know each other in the work environment. The relationship is usually voluntary and is often based on mutual professional identity and respect. The relationship is of a more personal nature and while communication can often flow from the mentor to the protégé, it takes place in a more informal manner. This informality is derived from the fact that the management of the organisation does not initiate the relationship but rather the relationship often forms through social contexts such as meetings ‘over coffee’. The communication in this relationship is more relaxed and has little structure.

Evidence from the literature indicates that there are fewer limitations in informal mentoring than formal mentoring. The two major areas of difference between formal and informal mentoring are in the levels of career guidance and psychosocial support. Informal mentors usually provide a higher level of coaching and increase the protégé’s visibility in the organisation. They also provide counselling, social interaction, role modelling and friendship.

The co-mentoring relationship has been a development reported in the literature in the last ten years (Jipson & Paley, 2000; Mullen, 2000; Kochan & Trimble, 2000; McGuire & Reger, 2003). Terms such as “mutual mentoring” (Fritzberg & Alemayehu, 2004), ‘reciprocal mentoring” (Gabriel & Kaufield, 2007) and “synergistic mentoring” (Goodwin, 2004) are used interchangeably in the literature to describe the practice of co-mentoring. Co-mentoring recognises the contribution that each person brings to the relationship and is based on reciprocal benefit. In this relationship the status of each person is equal and the communication pathway is one of reciprocity with each person mutually benefiting from the relationship. What is important in this type of mentoring relationship is that the relationship is of mutual benefit.
As our experiences with mentoring develops and evolves in contemporary workplaces so too will the types of mentoring processes change and develop. A new model of mentoring that involves informal and co-mentoring experiences has emerged in the research. Clarke (2004) reported on a layered model of mentoring that involves three stages. These stages are:

  • collegial friendship
  • informal mentoring and
  • co-mentoring.

This model is a new conceptualisation of mentoring and portrays mentoring as a series of overlapping experiences. This layered model does not conform to any previously documented form of mentoring. It is a new way of thinking which recognises the contribution each person brings to the mentoring relationship, and is based on reciprocal benefit.  The process is not contrived by the organisation but develops somewhat serendipitously between the mentor and in essence, this approach to mentoring recognises the significance of friendship, the contributions and equal status of each involved and the mutual benefit inherent in such a partnership. It emphasises that personal, professional relationships form a vital part of mentoring.

Mentoring approaches vary and can have their place in different contexts andalthough many organisations use formal mentoring programs to achieve organisational and individual goals, it is evident that more informal mentoring practices such as a layered model of mentoring can achieve extraordinary professional development and growth. Organisations should set themselves the challenge to explore new styles and forms of mentoring that are conducive to the 21st century workplace!

References:    Clarke, M. (2004). Reconceptualising mentoring: Reflections by an early career researcher. Issues in Educational Research, 14(2), 121-143.      Douglas, C., & McCauley, C. (1997). A survey on the use of formal developmental relationships in organisations. Issues and Observations, 17(1B 2), 6-9.    Fritzberg, G.J. and Alemayehu, A. (2004). Mutual mentoring: Co-narrating an educative friendship between an education professor and an urban youth. The Urban Review, 36(4), 293-308.    Gabriel, M.A. and Kaufield, K.J. (2008). Reciprocal mentorship: an effective support for online instructors. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnerships in Learning, 16(3), 311-327.    Goodwin, L. (2004). A synergistic approach to Faculty mentoring. Journal of Faculty Development, 19(3),145-152.    Jipson, J., and Paley, N. (2000). Because no one gets there alone: Collaboration as co-mentoring. Theory into Practice, 39(1), 36-42.   Kochan, F. and Trimble, S. (2000). From mentoring to co-mentoring: Establishing collaborative relationships. Theory into Practice, 39(1), 20-28.    McQuire, G., & Reger, J. (2003). Feminist co-mentoring: A model for academic professional development. NSWA Journal, Spring, 15.    Mullen, C. (2000). Constructing co-mentoring partnerships: Walkways we must travel. Theory into Practice, 39(1), 4-11.     Raza, A & Mosca, J. (2002). The new age employee: An exploration of changing employee-organisation relations. Public personnel Management 31(2) 187-201.

Maggie Clarke is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.  Her research interests are in professional learning particularly related to the practices of mentoring and reflective practice. Her research on mentoring has been acknowledged through publications in a number of published international and national journals.

Building communities of practice: Opportunities for pre-service and early career teacher professional learning October 31, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Denise Fraser

In her first post, Denise Fraser examines the ‘communities of practice’ model of professional learning which successfully builds the understandings of students teachers and their supervisors in early childhood settings.

The move from pre-service teacher to graduate teacher can be daunting for many entering the profession of teaching. Understanding the realities and complexities of work as a teaching professional takes time; however many early career teachers don’t have that time – they are expected to hit the ground running, taking responsibility for a class or group of children very quickly after graduation. The transition, as described by Flores and Day (2006, cited in Mantei & Kervin, 2011), is ‘sudden and sometimes dramatic’.   For some the challenge is too great and they leave the profession before they really begin their career (Johnson, Down, Le Cornu, Peters, Sullivan,Pearce & Hunter 2010).  How best can we support pre-service and early career teachers as they learn the craft of teaching?

Research indicates a number of areas in which early career teachers in the school sector struggle. These include areas such as understanding the culture of teaching – the realities versus the ideological motivation to become teachers, as well as the structures that dampen enthusiasm and creativity; and grappling with the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to meet the demands of the classroom and in particular classroom management and a lack of induction and ongoing mentoring (Johnson et al, 2010; Mantei & Kervin, 2011). While the development of Professional Teaching Standards in NSW (NSW Institute of Teachers, 2005), which aims to enhance the ongoing development of teachers, is a positive move for early career teachers in the school environment, there is a need to ensure that any professional development undertaken by such teachers is contextualised and that there is adequate support to make the links from theory to classroom practice. In the early childhood sector, issues for early career teachers are similar to their counterparts in the school sector. While teacher accreditation is yet to be addressed by government in the early childhood sector, the introduction of the Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2009) has been a step in the right direction in articulating early childhood pedagogy. Despite this, professional development opportunities for this group of teachers are often fragmented and for many early career teachers there may be very limited access to appropriate mentors to support them as they learn their craft.

A growing body of research supports the use of learning circles (Collay, Dunlap, Enloe & GagnonJr, 1998; Johnson et al, 2010; Mantei & Kervin, 2011;Mackey & Evans, 2011) or the development of professional learning communities (Pella, 2011) as a means of supporting the ongoing learning and development of teachers. So what are these learning circles or professional learning communities and how can we use them to advantage for both pre-service and early career teachers?

The learning circles concept emanates from the social theory of learning posited by Lave & Wenger (1991) and more recently the situated learning theory described by Lave (1996). In this theory, learning is a situated process that occurs as individuals engage or participate in social interactions in a community of practice. The learning circles model draws small groups of teachers “together intentionally for the purpose of supporting each other in the process of learning”( Collay, Dunlap, Enloe & Gagnon Jr, 1998, p.2). Teachers or pre-service teachers, or a combination of both, meet on a regular basis to discuss issues, ideas, research and practice matters. The topics are chosen and agreed to by the participants or may be set in advance.  The group that meets needs to build a sense of trust and openness with one another so that all members feel comfortable with sharing their experiences and ideas. This can take some time and so is ideally suited to those in a workplace or place of study where individuals build those relationships over time.

The learning circles process allows the opportunity to negotiate new meanings and to realign competence based on engagement with others and exchange of understandings of similar experiences ( Pella, 2011). Research findings indicate positive outcomes for learning when these methods are employed, for example Pella (2011, p113) reports that “participants experienced transformations in their perspectives and pedagogy” as a result of the sharing of experiences and knowledge. Likewise in Mantei and Kervin’s research (2011) participants were able to identify with one another and could see a shared journey in developing their professional identities.

Learning circles suit models of teaching and learning where students are expected to be involved in and take responsibility for their own learning as well as to share rather than hoard knowledge – a heutagogical approach (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). Teacher education programs provide an ideal site for learning circles as such circles provide the opportunity for students to share their growing understandings and to develop their reflective skills. The reflective process is supported in a non- threatening environment that supports learning and development. In schools and early childhood communities learning circles offer opportunities for that same reflection and a sharing of experiences. Undertaken regularly and with specific topics generated by members of the group learning circles support the early career teachers to explore research and its application to practice and adjust pedagogy accordingly.

The learning circles concept can be enhanced when partnerships are built between  universities and school or early childhood settings and opportunities are developed for joint learning circles to take place. In this case pre-service teachers can learn from the practical wisdom of current teachers while teachers can gain more up to date knowledge of current research and thinking about practice. In the 21st century, with its ever changing technologies, opportunities for this form of collaboration and learning are increasing. Connected classrooms, facebook, as well as online discussion sites provide opportunities for teachers to share their culture and practice with those who are beginning the journey. It shouldn’t matter whether the meeting is physical or virtual, what is important is that a community of practice develops and supports the learning of all involved.

Our forays into this building of learning communities for pre-service and early career teachers is in its early stages but there is a good future if there is a recognition  that professional development is an ongoing process which requires social engagement to explore ideas, discuss dilemmas and share experiences. Building a community of learners through the use of learning circles is one way of supporting and developing pre-service and early career teachers so that they continue to learn and develop and become great teachers.

References:  Collay, M., Dunlap, D., Enloe, W. & Gagnon, G.W.Jr (1998). Learning Circles: Creating Conditions for Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, California. Corwin Press Inc.     Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (2009). The Early Year Learning Framework for Australia. Commonwealth of Australia.    Flores, M.A. & Day, C. (2006). Contexts which shape and reshape new teachers’ identities. A multi-perspective study cited in J. Mantei & L. Kervin (2011) Turning into teacher before our eyes. The development of professional identity through professional dialogue. Australian Journal of Teacher Education. Vol 36. Iss 1 p. 1-17.     Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2000). From androgogy to heutagogy. Retrieved on 5/9/11 from  http://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm.     Johnson,B.,  Down,b., Le Cornu, R., Peters,J., Sullivan, A., Pearce, J. & Hunter, J. (2010). Conditions that support early career teacher resilience. Refereed paper presented at the Australian Teacher Education Association Conference, 4th-7th July, Townsville, Qld.    Mantei, J.& Kervin, l. (2011). Turning into teachers before our eyes. The development of professional identity through professional dialogue. Australian Journal of Teacher Education. Vol 36. Iss 1 p. 1-17.     Mackey, J. & Evans, T. (2011). Interconnecting networks of practice for professional learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol 12.3. March.     NSW Institute of Teachers (2005).  Professional Teaching Standards. Retrieved 5/9/11 from  http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/Main-Professional-Teaching-Standards/.     Pella, S. (2011). A situative perspective on developing writing pedagogy in a teacher professional learning community. Teacher Education Quarterly. Winter . p.107 – 125.

Denise Fraser is a Lecturer in early childhood education in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney. She coordinates professional experiences for early childhood programs and has a strong interest in the quality of relationships and learning developed at the centre-school-university interface.

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