“is it getting worse?”

I defended my dissertation on Friday and passed with minor revisions. My plan is to get those revisions done this week and submit the document by Friday. That is my plan. We shall see how it goes.

The study I investigated for my research looked at the relationship between instructional discourse in a teacher education program and the subsequent emergence of teacher candidates’ disposition toward using ICT in practice.

My findings were counter-intuitive, in that, despite being offered a wide varieties of encounters with ICT during their first year of their teacher education program, the majority of the teacher candidates were not planning to use ICT on their extended practicum.

As part of the study, the teacher candidates were invited to commit to participating to take a more active role in the study. The teacher candidates who volunteered agreed to attend ICT learning sessions outside their regular teacher education programming.

This small sub-group from the main cohort all planned to use ICT on their extended practicum, and, by the end of the study, were in active lesson planning and production to do so.

The data from my study was collected in the 2007 – 2008 school year. One of the questions posed by my panel of examiners was, “Is the situation getting worse or better?” (with regards to educational engagements with ICT in the profession of teaching). And I was sorry to have to answer, “No.”

The reasons for my answer are gleaned from a variety of indicators that all point to a continuing problem in the field of education. These indicators were not collected as part of a study, but simply report my impressions from diverse sources:

  1. Access to digital technology, and the knowledge and skills to use it productively have been deemed a human right in a Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue;
  2. The CRTC is requiring all Internet providers in Canada to offer a basic Internet access package that does not exceed $25 a month;
  3. The Ministry of Education in BC is implementing new curriculum that is dependent on using ICT as integral to learning activities, however, teachers do not appear adequately prepared to implement the new curriculum eg. ‘personalized’ learning is really ‘technologizing learning’
  4. Parents are questioning the new curriculum, and are critical of the burden that is placed on their children and the teachers eg. Questions Parents Should Ask With New B.C. Curriculum;
  5. There are deep concerns about privacy and government legislation with regards to the protection of student data being collected in a province-wide data management system eg. Information about Bill 11 and Student Privacy;
  6. The inclusion of competency learning in the B.C. curriculum indicates a concerning relationship to the corporatization of education and standardized learning eg. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 8.37.52 PM.png
  7. There are still abiding issues with the use of ICT in education, in terms of learning ICT, learning to teach with ICT, and learning to teach ICT Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 8.33.53 PM
  8. In university settings, educators in higher education, including teacher education programs, are being forced to use online course management systems to track their teaching and student learning but they are not adequately prepared to utilize these systems, and, in some cases, are forming negative dispositions toward using ICT in their teaching and conveying those sentiments to their students (personal anecdote shared with me 2015 11 20);
  9. There is a pervasive and continuing discordant discourse pertaining to ICT in education, wherein it is referred to as a ‘tool’ that is part of a teachers’ ‘toolbox’, and thus, presumably, at the professional discretion of the teacher whether they use it or not; and; it is also implemented as integral to curriculum delivery, course management, pedagogy and assessment;
  10. Sherry Turkle, M.I.T. professor and best selling author on culture and technology was interviewed on CBC, with Anna Maria Tremonti for the Current, a national radio program, saying that ICT in education was a “failed experiment”.

I was able to compile all these examples of the difficulties facing educators’ engagements with ICT in the few minutes it took to write this blog post. In my opinion, the situation is getting worse and we must do something about. The good news is that there is plenty that we can do, and it does not involve throwing billions of dollars of technology at the problem.

There is a desperate need for educators to engage with ICT as a professional responsibility integral to practice, rather than considering it an add on that they can take or leave. Through substantive engagement, teachers could become the social leaders we need to help us, as a society, and within our families and communities, utilize the affordances of ICT to build and sustain productive, healthy lives, while, at the same time, critically examining the downside of our life with ICT. These are not mutually exclusive endeavours, rather, they are co-constructive and necessary to addressing the issues emergent in our time.

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