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.

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SITE 2012 Day 1

Our hotel breakfast was simple, bagels and cream cheese, but slower than anticipated and traffic was heavier than on Sunday so we were late for the SIG meetings which started at 7:30 am.

Welcome and keynote followed at 8:30. Jim Bower, a computational neuro-biologist from University of Texas at San Antonio, provided the keynote. He pitched at the conference theme about exponential change and ran through some of the usual material about rates of change in population, computing power, and other technologies. He made strong points about the unsuitability of lecturing as a mode of education, originally introduced to solve problems of scalability in medieval universities but no longer relevant when information is so easily accessible from the Internet. The final part of his presentation dealt with the educational website, Whyville, he has developed for kids. The site provides for learning by working independently with simulations to collect data for analysis to drive the learning. There were some interesting examples of how kids, faced with the implications of the data they had collected, could learn through solving problems in the simulated world.

In the first parallel sessions I attended the first part of a symposium about TPACK investigations conducted in various parts of the world. The session was coordinated by Petra Fisser from Twente and included presentations about TPACK research from Ghana and Tanzania. In the next session before lunch I was part of a panel in a discussion with intending authors for the Journal of Technology of Teacher Education.

Over lunch I attended the meeting of the SITE Consultative Council as incoming editor of JTATE. The meeting discussed international initiatives of SITE and the appointment of new Associate Editors for JTATE.

Following lunch I presented my first paper for the conference – Looking for evidence of change: Evaluation in the Teaching Teachers for the Future project. The paper presented some comparisons of national data from the first 2011 TTF survey and data from USQ collected in that survey and in previous work from 2009 and 2010. The analysis found that USQ had significantly higher scores than the national means on most of the measures in 2011 and that there had been some significant increases on common items from 2009 to 2011. That seems to be reason for optimism about the work being done in our program and may have resulted from the reintroduction of an ICT pedagogy course (EDC3100) and the introduction of online offers exposing students and staff to more work with ICT with a resultant increase in confidence. I was fortunate to have the paper recognised by awards in the TPACK SIG and the general conference awards.

For the balance of the afternoon, before the SITE Executive Board meeting at 3:45 pm, I was able to catch presentations about evaluating the use of interactive whiteboards in Pennsylvania schools, a classroom observation tool for assessing ICT integration, a description of ICT use in a cohort doctoral program at Arizona State, and the use of video activities for learning literacy and content in Dutch primary education.

After the Executive meeting we had time to join the participants in SXSWEdu for an open air reception in Brush Square Park in downtown Austin. By the time that was done we had completed another 12 hour day and it was time to rest and recover.

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Microsoft TEI at SITE 2012

I spent Sunday at the SITE – Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative meeting. It was a very full day, beginning with breakfast at 7:30 am and concluding with dinner at 7:00 pm. We arrived back our hotel after that around 9:00 pm.

The formal program began after breakfast, at 8:30 am, with a short introduction from Mike Searson (SITE President) and Jim Ptaszynski (Microsoft Senior Director, World Wide Higher Education). That was followed by an introduction to Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) provided by Punya Mishra and a sample teaching case with video clips being developed for teacher educators by Mark Hofer.

Those presentations were followed by a sequence of three parallel sessions presenting ideas for workshops in specific areas – Social Studies Education (Cheryl Bolick & John Lee) and English Education (Melanie Shoffner & Marshall George), Mathematics Education (Joe Garofalo & Robin Angotti) and Science Education (Janice Anderson & David Slykhuis), Games & Simulations (David Gibson & Robin Angotti) and World Languages (Yan Zu, Gregory Shepherd & Mike Searson). I landed in the A series – Social Studies, Mathematics, and Games & Simulations. Each session ran for 90 minutes and included varying degrees of audience participation. Each was condensed from a fuller version and had sufficient content to make a full day workshop with material that highlighted the possibilities for making ICT integral to learning in the relevant area.

As incoming Editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education I was a member of a panel of journal editors moderated by Gerald Knezek. Discussion focused on the research objectives and approaches that might be appropriate for evaluating the TEI and how the work should be disseminated. In addition to JTATE the panel included representation for ETR&D, TechTrends, JDLTE, Computers in the Schools, and CITE.

Following a wrap up by Jim Ptaszynski and Mike Searson the day ended with social interaction and dinner.

This was the first trial of the proposed package for the TEI workshops. It is to be trialled again at University of North Carolina in May and then launched at ISTE in June. The package appears to have real potential and might be a good follow on from the Teaching Teachers for the Future project in the Australian context. I’ve suggested that possibility to Jim Ptaszynski and will contact him with information about the TTF so that he can brief Microsoft representatives in Australia.

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