SITE International Symposium – University of Canterbury

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the SITE International Symposium 2014
Future focussed teacher education: Inspiring with digital technologies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am grateful for support of SoTEEC and FoBELA for financial and logistical support for my attendance.

This was a small symposium with just 2 keynotes, 17 refereed presentations, and some posters and panel sessions. The proceedings will be available soon in EdITLib. My own immediate reflections on various presentations are recorded in my Twitter stream with the #SITENZ hashtag.

Most of the attendees were from New Zealand but there were 3 from Australia, and one each from Fiji, USA and UK. The small attendance made for focused conversation around the various presentations.

I presented a refereed paper, Pre-service Teachers’ TPACK Confidence in a Regional Australian University, which was an updated version of one that I had presented at SITE in 2012 using data from the first national survey conducted as part of the Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) project. This paper was able to include data from the second national survey conducted as part of TTF. The instrument used for TTF was based in part on one developed by Romina Jamieson-Proctor that was used by USQ and Griffith to collect data in 2009 and 2010. That allowed for longer term comparisons of USQ student responses on some sub-scales. On the first national administration in 2011, USQ students scored significantly higher than the national average on the measures of TPACK confidence and it was clear that there had been significant increases across the period from 2009 to 2011. As happened nationally, USQ had a further increase between the two administrations of the survey in 2011attributable to the TTF intervention but the major increase for USQ students had occurred prior to TTF implementation. The most likely explanation for the difference is the restoration of the ICT Pedagogy course (EDC3100) beginning in 2010 and the cross-program adoption of online and blended approaches from 2009. Exposure of students to explicit teaching about pedagogy with ICT and to its frequent application in their own learning appears to have increased their confidence for working with ICT in their own professional practice.

The first keynote on Monday morning was presented by Dorothy Burt, who is the eLearning team leader at Pt England School in Auckland and the facilitator of the Manaiakalani cluster of schools. The schools in that locality are mostly decile 1, that is, they fall in the 10% of NZ schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. A large proportion of students are from Maori and Pacifika background and average household income is as low as $19000 pa. Despite the challenges the schools have embraced a 1:1 digital technologies program following work that established $3.50 per week as an affordable cost for devices. The use of social networking and other approaches that open up learning to the community have been a good match for the cultural background and there have been substantial gains in learning for students in the schools. As the NZ assessment authority plans to move toward digital administration of tests the students from these schools may be ahead of the trend for once. Among the issues raised by Dorothy was the challenge of finding teachers with the appropriate preparation to work in the digital environment especially with students who have been working that way for a couple of years. Current approaches to teacher education are not ensuring that all graduates are prepared for working in that mode. The same challenge exists for us at USQ as more schools move toward 1:1 programs for younger children.

The second keynote on Tuesday morning was presented by David Gibson who is Director Learning Engagement at Curtin University. David is founder of simSchool, a simulation for teacher preparation, and spoke about games and simulations in teacher preparation. He began by presenting some material about the work he is doing at Curtin using cluster analysis with large data sets brought together from various university systems to investigate patterns with the immediate aim of reducing student attrition. That provided a basis for discussing the value of computer based games and simulations for collecting data that can be used to guide learning and teaching. There are certainly possibilities worth investigating in our programs, both for use directly in teacher education and for preparing our graduates to work effectively with games and simulations as they become more common in classrooms.

The other sessions also provided insights into how teacher preparation is being approached in New Zealand and prompted thoughts about what might be applied here and how.

A piece of news that may be of interest to colleagues is that the 17th Biennial ISATT Conference will be held at the University of Auckland from 13-17 July 2015.