One of the unintended consequences of remote schooling during the Coronavirus pandemic have been the leaps made with different uses of technologies.
While much has been written about the different ways that different schools have used technologies, as a school leader or teacher you will have also seen a range of different approaches within your school.
One of the opportunities ahead now is to unpick the variance across your own team – to understand why different teachers do different things with the same technologies.
Importantly, you can then use this understanding to bring greater alignment between your school vision for technology and the realities of practice. This might be about increasing consistency within practice, or it might be about identifying and building upon the different strengths across your team.
I have recently published a doctoral thesis which unpacks the relationship between teacher’s pedagogical beliefs and uses of technologies in their teaching and learning practices. Here are some of the headline findings and what they might mean in your school.
- Teachers who talk about their awareness of the importance of technology in children’s lives do not necessarily then incorporate technology meaningfully into their teaching practices. But this difference is not about their relationship with the technology itself. It’s about what they believe teaching and learning should look like and what they perceive technology offers or threatens in relation to that.
- Teachers’ use of technology amplifies their existing pedagogical beliefs. In other words, while our practices may change when we use technology, our pedagogical beliefs do not. This is important because language and behaviours adopted by the teacher and their learners may not change even when technology is used – which sometimes conflicts with the intentions of adopting the technology.
- Using technologies can act as a catalyst for supporting children’s wider learning needs, but this stems from the teacher’s pedagogical beliefs not the technology. It is important for school leaders to be aware that schools will have staff with a range of different pedagogical beliefs, even within a culture which has one overarching school ethos.
- Teachers working within the same school, supporting the same vision and ethos, and using the same classroom resources (including technologies) can have different pedagogical beliefs – even if it might not look that way on the surface. Therefore, teachers using what appears to be the same technologies in their teaching practices can be enacting very different pedagogical approaches. Therefore, technologies cannot be thought of objectively (transferable across classes or lessons). Their use is socially constructed (class/lesson/teacher dependent). This is an important point to bear in mind when thinking about ‘rolling out projects’ or ‘sharing best practice’.
- Due to teachers enacting different pedagogical approaches, or framing their pedagogical beliefs differently, learners will experience learning differently even when engaging with ‘the same’ technologies processes or resources. Therefore, learners may not be experiencing in practice what the school vision intends them to experience. This is really important to consider when cascading policy or practice across a school or trust.
- Most guidance around the use of technology in teaching practices emphasises the importance of focusing on ‘how’ it is used. However, most guidance does not clearly define what ‘how’ means and inadvertently deviates attention back onto how the ‘what’ is used. If you want to understand how technology use is experienced by teachers and learners, and what difference it is making you need to look at their behaviours, language and relationships, not the technology. The impact will be seen in how those involved conceive the idea of what it means to be a teacher or what it means to be a learner.
Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith is Director of One Life Learning specialising in strategic education research and consultancy. If your school or trust would like to be involved in further research which builds upon the findings above, please contact Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith at email@example.com.