critical inquiry and question development

Teachers face a daunting challenge when it comes to integrating ICT into their professional teaching practice. Historically, the challenge has been largely considered an instrumental problem: teach the teachers computers and they will use them in their teaching. This logically led to using a professional development model for training teachers to use digital technologies in their teaching: a workshop once or twice a year to introduce them to a software application or use of digital devices that might make learning more interesting, and send them back to their classrooms to implement these new techniques. However, the reality of teaching with digital technology is that it demands a philosophical, pedagogical, and instructional approach that is very different from traditional, or even constructivist, teaching models. Consequently, despite massive expenditures into ICT infrastructure for schools, and efforts to resource schools with digital technologies through PACs, teachers’ adaptations to ICT learning cultures and commensurate changes to pedagogy and instructional design have been extremely limited.

The current situation begs the questions, “How have professional educators’ ICT perspectives and practices have been developed? Why do educators continue to believe the use of ICT in their professional practice is an add-on, or something extra? Why do educators continue to discuss the use of ICT to improve learning existing curriculum? Why is there a profound lack of discussion about what it means to incorporate ICT into the profession of teaching as an ongoing discussion?”

I suggest government policy and initiatives, administrative responses, and school based cultures constitute a system of ICT perspectives and practices that will continue to isomorphically reproduce pre-digital cultures of learning and professional practices. This isomorphic reproduction is not specifically articulated, in fact, examining speech acts associated with ICT, especially with regards to the BC Ministry of BC Education Plan, suggests educators are aware of the need to incorporate ICT and ICT cultures of learning into educational institutions. Isomorphic reproduction is taking place in the absence of critical inquiry into existing contextual conditions, and the lack of opportunity for educators and stakeholders to engage in critical discourse about the meanings associated with incorporating ICT into education (much less the logistical, ethical, and technological complexities that attend this effort).

There are infinite examples of ways digital technologies can be incorporated to enable, enrich and enhance learning. There is a continuous emergence of social learning networks online, whether they are taking place on websites, discussion forums, blogs, email lists, micro-blogging, etc. These activities are taking place outside institutions and proliferating at an unprecedented rate. Our collective access to information and technology is changing learning paradigms and learning relationships on a global scale. Any teacher that wants to take advantage of these resources has ample access to learn about, develop, design, and implement ICT pedagogies and active learning instructional designs.

What gets missed, and what needs attention, is the step between existing educational ICT perspectives and practices, and the individual and collective momentum of taking up the challenge of engagement. I argue this preliminary step, of creating opportunities to have the difficult discussions about what it means to become ICT pedagogues and on-the-fly digital media instructional designers, continues to be neglected. Without the opportunity to have these discussions, to formulate the questions and critically inquire into the contextual conditions these changes will take place within, educators will continue to struggle, and will, inevitable, revert back to familiar, if archaic, solutions to these tensions.

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