a slight bit of traction

I have been writing my Chapter 1 for two years. I have written the first introductory paragraphs to this chapter uncounted times. My problem has been identifying the purpose of this study. The problem is not that the purpose is narrow and obscure. It is that it could be so many different things and I have to discern what purpose I am going to explicate with this writing. I think I have finally settled on something that finally makes sense.

Our study investigated teacher candidates’ experiences with information and communication technologies (ICT) in a teacher education program. We studied the professional educators in the program (teacher educators, faculty advisors, elementary sponsor teachers, elementary sponsor administrators) to learn how they interpreted ICT policies from government and institutional levels. We were interested to learn how these policies become curriculum and pedagogy in teacher education.

Next, we studied the ICT experiences of the teacher candidates in the teacher education program, to learn how they interpreted their ICT experiences. We were interested to learn how ICT policies, perspectives and practices from the teacher education program translated into teacher candidates’ ICT perspectives, and plans for teaching.

We developed a research intervention based on a two year pilot study we conducted from 2005 to 2007. This pilot study investigated mentoring ICT in teacher education. It involved participants in critical analysis of ICT in education to prepare them to examine their own practices with ICT. Research participants work through reflexive processes of  instructional design, deliberation, problem solving, and revision to improve their instruction with ICT.

We applied what we had learned from this pilot study to develop our mentoring approach with a small group of teacher candidate researchers in this research intervention. Our revised mentoring approach was based on a theory of social ecologies of cognition. Rather than implementing traditional mentoring relationships based on hierarchical organizational structures and knowledge transfer, we developed mentoring as networked, knowledge generative relationships. In our mentoring approach, any participant may provide leadership, based on their ability to provide mission-critical information on an as needed basis.

My problem with writing up this research has been trying to figure out a particular purpose for its application. Is it to improve democratic education? Is it to prepare students for knowledge-based society? Is it to improve educators’ uses of ICT investments in schools? Is it to foster cultures of life-long ICT learning for teachers? Is it to bring 21st century pedagogy into schools through ICT? Is it to address the socio-economic inequities that are being amplified by access to ICT and the cultural capital to take advantage of it?

What I realized this week is that it is any and all of these purposes. At the base of any of these possible purposes is change. What I have been studying is change processes in education. I have been studying the ways change in education can foster resilience as resistance to change and opposition to change. I have also been studying how change can serve as a catalyst for improved practice.

Bringing ICT into educational institutions is a change. There are numerous facets to this change, many of which are being studied and written about. What I find missing from the literature and from the discourse, is research on the ways educators affected by these changes can develop an approach to make sense of these these changes and become efficacious participants in the possibilities of these changes. How educators can actually improve their experiences of these changes through participating in social ecologies of cognition.

That is the purpose of this research. We are all dealing with change on a daily basis, and some of these changes are destructive to life. Our uses of technology are implicated in these changes on multiple levels. As a society, we have not had a consistent practice of examining our uses of technology and discussing the complexity of our technological lives. Discussions about technology tend to be reduced to ideas of whether technology is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But this is a simplistic attitude toward a difficult, challenging, and possibly life-saving problem.

As educators, we have an opportunity to provide models for meaningful engagement, for discussion that makes sense of our uses of technologies, particular in the current situation of proliferating digital technologies taking a ubiquitous role in everything from food production, to voting, to finding and nurturing relationships. We need to evolve our ways of interacting with, and about, technology, particularly ICT. That is what this study is about.

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