IT capability in primary initial teacher training

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<ul><li><p>]ournal of Computer Assisted Learning (1992) 8,7949 </p><p>IT capability in primary initial teacher training P. Wild and K. Hodgkinson, Education Deparhnent, Loughbomgh University of Te~hnology </p><p>Abstract All courses in initial Primary teacher training are now required, through the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CATE), to provide information technology (IT) capability across primary school subjects as well as providing for those elements of IT that are specified within the National Curriculum Documents. As a starting point for this process at one institution, a survey of students on the %week Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) primary course showed that their initial capability and awareness was very low. A restructured course programme was monitored by means of pre- and post- course surveys of capability, by students' own records and by the tutor's subjective field notes during teaching and student IT activities. This paper includes a description of the course together with the results of the surveys and suggests that increasingly individualised learning strategies will considerably enhance this aspect of initial teacher training. </p><p>Keywords: Primary; Teacher training; Infoma tion technology; Computers. </p><p>Introduction </p><p>Currently there are many pressures to include IT in all aspects of initial teacher training (I") so that new recruits will be able to contribute effectively to the IT capability of their pupils. Chief amongst these pressures are: </p><p>the inclusion of IT in all aspects of the National Curriculum (NC) for England and Wales, which for primary schools means its application in all nine specified subject areas; the IT capability across the cumculum in Attainment Target 5 of the Technology NC; </p><p>~~~ ~ </p><p>Accepted: 16 July 1991 </p><p>Corr ndence: h. P. Wild, Education Deparhnent, bughborough University of Technology, Lou@Trough, Leices td i re Ell 3Tu. </p><p>79 </p></li><li><p>80 P. Wild and K. Hodgkinson </p><p>the recommendation of the Trotter report (DES, 1989a) that it should be a condition of approval for all I'IT courses that they provide students with at least a minimum training in IT capability and the endorsement of this recommendation by UTE. (DES, 1989b). At the same time students are required by other CATE criteria to acquire </p><p>an understanding of many broad and crosscurricular issues in education. There is no new time available to implement all these aspects as extras so integration into existing practice must be achieved as far as possible. </p><p>Comments within the Trotter report also have implications for the type and timing of students' acquaintance with IT techniques. </p><p>'At this stage in their careers the ability to use a limited range of packages and devices with confidence is more important than a superficial acquaintance with many.' (DES, 1989a, para 15). </p><p>'The critical test of what students have learned is their ability to put it into effect in teaching a class. It is important that their first use of computers in this situation should be while they are still receiving support and encouragement from those responsible for their initial training rather than during the probationary year. Wherever possible this should involve each student using lT in a school classroom and within a normal teaching programme.' (DES, 1989a, para 17). </p><p>The support from tutors to implement this has consequences for the IT capability of the tutors themselves and for the pedagogic and organizational structures within the training institutions. This paper will address this last issue by describing the structural and pedagogic strategies which are most likely to lead to effective learning by student teachers. </p><p>Technical innovation and teacher change </p><p>The literature on the problems associated with changing professional practice in technological fields is concerned primarily with those faced by serving teachers rather than by those in initial training. It focuses on three aspects of resistance to change. The first factor is the response of the individuals themselves: fear and anxiety are major features of a11 personal change and a major cause of resistance to professional change. The risk to survival increases as change reaches the 'swampy areas' on the boundaries of professional expertise (Plant, 1987) and teachers must 'desert the familiar for the unknown: a psychological barrier must be surmounted' (Howson &amp; Wilson, 1986). Eraut's description (1982) is more precise: </p><p>'Changing one's teaching style involves de-skilling, risk, informa tion overload and mental strain, as more and more gets treated as problematic and less and less is taken for granted.' </p><p>The result is a growth of feelings of incompetence, uncertainty and anxiety which may be moderated if and when individuals see a meaning for themselves in being involved in change and when there is congruency </p></li><li><p>IT capability in primary teacher training 81 </p><p>between their values and the values and goals of innovation (Dalin, 1978). Teachers will ask 'cost-benefit' questions before embarking on change (Doyle &amp; Ponder, 1977) but unfortunately it is in the nature of innovation that positive and credible answers to those questions are rare. </p><p>A second mapr source of resistance lies within the institutions. Change threatens authority structures and, in an educational environment, pedagogical strategies and assumptions. Students are the recipients of messages from their tutors who may well exhibit the kinds of personal characteristics outlined above, and course structures and assignment demands may reflect similar pre-IT conditions. The schools in which students are placed may also play a significant role in the IT profile presented to students. Some schools and teachers may prevent or resist access to IT for their students and may well pass on their own fears and ignorance while denying the potential of student contributions to change within their own institution. A detailed analysis of the such processes is to be found in Heywood &amp; Norman (1988). </p><p>The third factor is the lack of organizational support for change. There is a clear need for an institutional change policy with in-house training and professional/ technical support, with financial support or incentives. </p><p>The implications of this research background for PGCE primary courses is obvious especially as many students come from pre-IT educational and cultural environments. Furthermore, the time pressures on primary PGCE students require them to prioritize competing demands on the course so that 'cost-benefit' questions become very acute indeed. The risks of overload and rejection by students are thus considerably increased: there is a real danger that students will see IT as just another subject to be added to the nine already required by the National Cumculum. </p><p>On the other hand the novices have some advantages over their more experienced colleagues. To the extent that their primary school careers are now at least ten years distant, the past does not impinge upon the present. Their expectations of change are enhanced for they are or should be familiar with the challenge of living and learning at the cutting point of intellectual innovation and they may anticipate their role as innovators. They have fewer and less well developed professional skills to be de-skilled, and they have less scepticism about change imposed by outsiders. Their motivation is high. They will be aware that their credibility with their cooperating teacher-tutors will be increased by their new-found knowledge and skills in an area which is seen as a problem by many teachers who qualified in the pre-computer age. </p><p>The Initial Capability of Students </p><p>A survey carried out at the start of the PGCE course at bughborough University for the 1989-90 intake (41 students, 100% return of questionnaire) shows the low level of starting competency in using computers, especially in the applications packages relevant to the implementation of the National </p></li><li><p>82 P. Wild and K. Hodgkinson </p><p>Cumculum. The results are shown in Tables 1 and 2 in the categories of p e r ~ o ~ l and professional use and use of application packages based on a scale of 1 to 5. </p><p>Combining the personal and professional use responses at level 1 or 2 in both categories show that 36% of this cohort of students had very little or no previous use of computers. In most cases the previous use was simply on system terminals or on links to mainframe computers. </p><p>Table 1. Use of IT by Primary Students prior to the PGCE course. 96 of student3 </p><p>Personal use Pmfssional use Response level (Education or Industry) </p><p>1 Neverused 2 3 Sometimes 4 5 Regularly </p><p>34 39 20 0 7 </p><p>20 17 32 10 22 </p><p>Table 2. Competency with basic applications packages before PGCE course. </p><p>~~ ~~ </p><p>Response level % of Students Wordprocessing DTF' Database Spreadsheet </p><p>lzen,USe 37 76 63 63 2 27 17 16 16 </p><p>22 7 14 14 10 0 6 6 5 0 2 2 5 Fully profiden t </p><p>YOmeuse </p><p>Providing for the needs of the PGCE students Within the situation described above it is necessary to specify some achievable objectives for the students' IT development during the PGCE course as a whole. Taking into account the Trotter report and the requirements of CAE, at Loughborough the course objectives have been specified such that at the end of the initial teacher training course all students should, as a minimum: </p><p>be able to use a wordpmcessor for personal and professional use with confidence, maintain files and back-up copies of discs and produce </p><p>have used packages for the production of teaching resources, presentation of assignments or in classroom-based work. For example, in the production of O W transparencies and worksheets; have evaluated a range of software and computer applications of specific relevance to their main and subsidiary subjects on the basis of educational aims and objectives, integration into workschemes, </p><p>printed output; </p></li><li><p>IT capability in primary teacher training 83 </p><p>consequences for classroom management and the implications of the use of IT in changing teaching and learning; be aware of the IT requirements of the National Cumculum within and across subjects, concentrating on relevant Key Stages (Primary - KS1,2; Secondary Main - KS3,4; Secondary Subsidiary - KS3); have used IT at some stage of their teaching practice in a planned way. (This will vary between schools but is becoming easier to arrange.) </p><p>The primary students and an appropriate learning programme For PGCE primary students the list of objectives in IT looks particularly daunting simply because the range of student variables is so wide and relatively uncontrollable. Students are much more likely to be mature in age and consequently to have a more varied background in basic computer/ keyboard skills and confidence. They bring many more kinds of degree subjects and they need to develop the competence to apply IT across all nine National Cumculum subjects. Hitherto a didactic approach was pursued but this proved to be quite counter-productive, for the following reasons: </p><p>It exaggerated the knowledge gap between tutor and student especially when technical terminology was used. One student from the previous year expressed this most-clearly when she wrote 'You were using language which I just didn't understand.' It delayed progress towards a hands-on experience. At the start of the course students were particularly well motivated especially when offered the chance to use any new 'toys', An enforced 1 hour gap between idea/inspiration and try-out was unacceptable, and 1 hour could rapidly develop into two or three as students asked questions in their frustration. Murphy's Law operated. There was a high dependency on foolproof technology which was inappropriate for two reasons. First, a public breakdown of the equipment (or the tutor!) merely confirmed students' apprehensions about technology and raised the question, 'If they can't get it right, how can we be expected to ?' Secondly, students needed to develop the skills of setting up the equipment and the strategies for coping with breakdowns. For primary students at least, an inappropriate model of classroom teaching was being presented. The integration of IT into normal primary school practice and workschemes as required by Trotter (see point 3 above) should be encouraged by the adoption of individualized and flexible tutoring on the training course itself: </p><p>There was clearly a need to abandon didactic teaching in IT and to adopt the general principle that the students themselves should identify the point at which help is needed while the tutor should act in a consultancy capacity, as a guide, facilitator and back-stop. Even then, the students should lift themselves over each hurdle, not so much that each hurdle is quickly surmounted but that the nature of the hurdles and the notion of self-help is </p></li><li><p>84 P. Wild and K. Hodgkinson </p><p>accepted and tolerated. As one of them said last year, 'It's no use just telling us. You really do need hands-on experience.' And another : 'It's no good you standing behind me telling me what to do when I get a problem. I have to sort it out myself.' Thus the best way for a tutor to offer help is to wait until it is requested, then to ask Tell me what you're doing/what you did ... what's the problem ...' and if the response is still not constructive, 'Have you tried x...?' - in other words, good primary teaching. In our experience most of the hurdles arise from a student's own problems which are often quite personal and emotional. Tutors need to deploy a human relations approach rather than a technical and expert emergency service. </p><p>Designing an appropriate course </p><p>Until recently opportunities for students to use IT were very limited in the Education Studies course and variable on the Professional Studies Methods courses. During the latter, tutors tended to demonstrate software or more rarely the applications of hardware and there was little time for individualized learning. However, in 1989 an Open Learning Centre containing numerous and varied computers was commissioned with open access to students and tutors. The hardware and software was provided specifically to reflect both current and, hopefully, future practice in schools. The next step was to find a way of encouraging a pattern of regular and routine practice in using these resources as a natural part of the education process. </p><p>At the very beginning of the course and after a brief demonstration all students were asked to use a simple word processing package to write a summary of their previous experience in IT. The intention was to signal the significance of IT in their training and to rapidly build up confidence in a versatile application. They were encouraged to work in pairs, and for one hour there was intense activity - a sense of excitement encapsulated by one comment, 'Fantastic - day one and we're into micros already !'. The tutor was soon able to spot those needing little help, and they were quickly moved onto simple desktop publishing. Shrieks of laughter confirmed its value...</p></li></ul>


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