Digital Learning and Curriculum (DLC)
The cohort provides K-12 teachers with educational professional development in an area of tremendous need in the Province of British Columbia,1 bridging “digital,” “learning” and “curriculum” as both conceptual and practical challenges and research issues of pedagogical, technological, and content knowledge for teachers.t
The DLC cohort will focus on the pedagogical practices that provide obstacles and opportunities for teachers (cohort students) to develop better understandings of what they already know and seek to enhance their knowledge specifically about learning and curriculum as mediated through and with the use of digital technologies [i.e., information and communication technologies2(ICT). Cohort courses will engage teachers in digital learning and curriculum not by studying more about computer hardware or software, but by unpacking digital and educational concepts such as learning, teaching, assessment, ethics, curriculum, etc. in the contexts of virtual education settings (i.e, face-to-face, blended, and distance education).
Our operational definition of digital learning and curriculum will encompass what Koehler and Mishra (2009) call “technological pedagogical content knowledge.” This term attempts to capture some aspects of knowledge required by
teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of this framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). http://www.tpck.org/tpck/index.php?title=Main_Paget
Koehler and Mishra (2009) note,“by their very nature, newer digital technologies, which are protean, unstable, and opaque, present new challenges to teachers who are struggling to use more technology in their teaching” and by implication, curriculum.3 It is no wonder then why one of the most active topics of research at the moment, Digital Learning (over 84 million hits on google) is spurred by the recent realization by educational researchers that, when it comes to technology, disciplinary (or content) knowledge of effective teachers is more a matter of in-depth understandings among the contextual relations of technological, pedagogical, and -content knowledge than it is about taking more advanced courses in technology skill building or studying about these forms of knowledge in isolation.
The call for and need of educational professional development with regards to integrating digital technologies within educational contexts in BC is not new. In the 2001 the 1st Quarterly Report of the Premier’s Technology Council (PTC) stated, “Future competitive advantage in all industries, from mining to biotechnology to tourism, requires the increased use of advanced information and communication technologies.” The report stated, E-learning4 can “bring the classroom to the student. Distance should not be a barrier to accessing any educational program. K-12 students, college or university students, companies retraining workers, or lifelong learners seeking new skills, can all be aided through distance learning on-line”. In the 6th Report (July 28, 2004) the Council stated, “The PTC began its examination of e-learning in the 4th Report in early 2003 and later made a number of recommendations in the 5th Report. Due to the complexity of the subject, the Council felt a need for a more in-depth review to identify key actionable items for government.
Consequently, the PTC decided to host an e-learning roundtable. In support of that event, it conducted an extensive round of prior consultations to identify major issues and obstacles to the growth of e-learning.” The 6th PTC Report called for the Ministry of Education to conduct education programs for teachers to provide them with the skills necessary to utilize e-learning technology. Three years later, the 10th PTC Report included a specific section on “Learning and Technology.” Under the header of Professional Development in the Learning and Technology section, the Council stated, “New technology is here and is being integrated into the system as it becomes mainstream. Current teacher education does not train them to deal with the rapid emergence and potential of new technologies. Given the speed with which technology is evolving in schools and industry, familiarity with its use should become a requirement for teacher certification.” The Council had eight recommendations in the area of “Learning and Technology.” The fifth recommendation stated, “That the Ministry of Education develop an independent certification program that rewards teachers for expanding their professional qualifications to include technology-supported learning” (Digital Learning). In 2009, the PTC’s 12th Report indicated that “The resulting changes in BC’s educational landscape have been dramatic. The number of students taking courses and programs on-line has risen from just over 16,000 before the legislation was introduced to almost 50,000 in the 2007/2008 school year.” This Report continued to recommend that the Ministry of Education: Conduct education programs for teachers to provide them with the skills necessary to utilize e-learning technology and promote the use of technology in school districts. Unfortunately, a vast majority of BC teachers have never received instruction during their teacher education program or through professional development in using ICT for teaching, learning or curriculum development.
The Digital Learning and Curriculum Cohort will be designed for those teachers who are seeking to enhance their professional practice by developing their pedagogical, technological and content knowledge through professional development and collaborative study. On a practical level their study will include in-depth study of familiar concepts such as: teaching, learning, curriculum development, curriculum theory, inquiry, role of the teacher, engagement, classroom management, etc. Let us consider for example the concept of classroom management. How is classroom management in hybrid and online spaces different from and/or similar to face-to-face settings? Entering a digital course management systems (CMS) i.e., moodle, desire-to-learn, webct, and/or elluminate is very different from physically walking into a school classroom. Where does one go to be “with” the students in the course? How does the teacher ask questions? How do different course management systems provide a space for teacher/student, student/student interactions? In an online space, communication can take place both in realtime and asynchronously mediated through technology. What are some of the conditions for using one communication mode rather than another form of communication? Student work will be stored in digital spaces rather that in their physical desk. What systems are available and what are some of the privacy and security issues? This Digital Learning and Curriculum cohort will help to fulfill the need for educational institutions to conduct education programs for teachers to provide them with the skills necessary to utilize digital technology. It will also help to address the Province’s need addressed in the PTC report “to invest in professional development in-service to accommodate this new development in instruction: course development and instruction.”
1 See BC Premier’s Technology Council (PTC) Reports 1 through 12 from 2001 to 2009.t
2 The definition of ICT from Statistics Canada states that “ICT includes technologies such as desktop and laptop computers, software, peripherals and connections to the Internet that are intended to fulfill information processing and communications functions” (Statistics Canada, 2008). Within an online document The UNESCO ICT in Education Programme, stated a more comprehensive definition of ICT, which is: “The phrase information and communication technologies (ICT) refers to forms of technology that are used to transmit, process, store, create, display, share or exchange information by electronic means. This broad definition of ICT includes such technologies as radio, television, video, DVD, telephone (both fixed line and mobile phones), satellite systems, and computer and network hardware and software, as well as the equipment and services associated with these technologies, such as videoconferencing, e-mail and blogs” (UNESCO, 2008). The most significant differences between the two definitions are: the UNESCO definition broadens the scope of ICT to non-digital information and communication technologies, such as radio and fixed line phones. More importantly, the UNESCO definition surpasses the limitation of conventional understanding of ICT and extends them to not only hardware and software, but also to services associated with these technologies. This definition implies sophisticated technologies and social relationships. Both, the BC Ministry ofEducation and the BC Premier’s Technology Council use ICT to refer to digital technologies. (Note: However, other related terms these two government organizations, BC businesses and industries use include: digital media, new media, e-learning, virtual education and the list goes on and on….).t
3 Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfmt
4 E-learning is referred to in the twelve PTC reports as education via the Internet, network, or standalone computer. E-learning basically means learning that is facilitated and supported via information and communications technologies (ICT). E-learning is industry’s and business’ preferred terminology.Online and Distance education are used primarily in higher education and distributed learning and blended learning is used by the Ministry of Education to refer to K-12 virtual education. There is no common terminology among different sectors. Some related terms include Distance Education, Online Education, Distributed Learning, Internet Education, Computer-based Training, Computer-Mediated Communication, Computer-Assisted Instruction, Virtual Education, Cyber-Learning, Asynchronous Learning, and Multi-modal Instruction. “The meaning of these terms are starting to converge. Where there is a difference in usage is explained by place (same place, any place, on-campus, off-campus); time (same time — synchronous or not at the same time — asynchronous); interaction (learner to computer; learner to instructor; learner to other learners); use of the computer (presentation, interactive, collaborative, generative); type of technology (text, audio, video, multimedia); and absence or presence of face-to-face interaction” (http://cbdd.wsu.edu/edev/kenet_tot/unit1/WhatseLearning.htm).