Digital technologies in teacher education: From mythologies to making

building-bridgesI am pleased to announce the publication of a new book edited by Clare Kosnik, Simone White, Clive Beck, Bethan Marshall, A. Lin Goodwin, and Jean Murray entitled Building bridges: Rethinking literacy teacher education in a digital era.

This book emerged from presentations made at a working conference in London in 2014. I was honoured to be a part of both the conference and this book. My own chapter provides a conceptual overview of some of the tensions and challenges of the concept of digital technologies in teacher education. It concludes with some ideas from my Maker Pedagogy project.

Sense Publishers always provides a free preview of the first chapter of books that it publishes, and that means anyone can download my chapter for free by clicking here.

My sincere thanks to the editorial team for their hard work and particularly to Clare Kosnik for inviting me to be a part of her research into digital technologies several years ago, even before this project started. You should check out her blog at: https://literacyteaching.net/

Bullock, S. M. (2016). Digital technologies in teacher education: From mythologies to making. In C. Kosnik, S. White, C. Beck, B. Marshall, A. L. Goodwin, & J. Murray (Eds.), Building bridges: Rethinking literacy teacher education in a digital era (pp. 3–16). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

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Maker Pedagogy at CSSE 2016

We were pleased to present some early results regarding data from teacher candidates who participated in the Maker Pedagogy at CSSE 2016 in Calgary, AB.

We presented in a session sponsored by the the Canadian Association for Teacher Education (CATE) and are grateful to all who attended. Our abstract:

The study applies experiential-intuitive frameworks on reflective practice to analyze the participants’ interactions in a maker lab. Schön’s (1983, 1987) conception of reflection drove the data collection and analysis of participants who were asked to analyse their experiences gained in our maker lab. We argue that the maker lab provides participants with a way to understand their teaching practice by enabling teacher candidates to engage in exploratory and hypothetical talk about how they are thinking about teaching and learning, particularly with technology. Furthermore, we uncovered that teacher candidates’ prior knowledge and frames of reference affect their making experiences and their shifting identities as developing science and technology teachers.

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Maker Pedagogy at AERA 2016

We were pleased to make our first public scholarly presentation about Maker Pedagogy at AERA 2016 in Washington, DC.

We presented in a session sponsored by the self-study of teacher education practices SIG and are grateful to all who attended. An excerpt from our paper:

Although the maker movement has become a part of the popular technological zeitgeist in recent years, it remains under-researched. A significant part of understanding pedagogies of making, in our view, will be to describe and interpret how our own pedagogies of teacher education are challenged by a focus on making things with future teachers. We see this paper as the beginning of an important conversation about not only the role of the maker movement in teacher education, but also the utility of self-study methodology to unpack its pedagogical features.

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What is maker pedagogy? Some early thoughts…

So what do we mean by “Maker Pedagogy”? Well, in part that is just what our research project intends to explore. Recent popular interest in the Maker movement is largely the result of affordable yet powerful technologies such as small, modular electronics, the open-source software movement, 3D printers, and a host of online, collaboratively created instructions for fixing and re-purposing common technologies. There is little academic literature on the topic, particularly with respect to role that Maker sensibilities might play in teacher education. My starting definition for maker pedagogy is:

Maker Pedagogy is an approach that utilizes the principles of ethical hacking (i.e., deconstructing existing technology for the purpose of creating knowledge), adapting (i.e., the freedom to use a technology for new purposes), designing (i.e., selecting components and ideas to solve problems), and creating (i.e., archiving contextual knowledge obtained through engaging in the process of making, as well as the actual tangible products) as part of an overall way of working with those interested in learning about science and technology. (Bullock, 2014)

This research project hopes to bring these principles of Maker thinking to the foreground in science teacher education, both in a pre-service program and in the early years of a career. I believe Maker principles need to be introduced more explicitly in K-12 science education and that science teacher education is a promising venue for beginning this work. Typically, school is focused on acquiring propositional knowledge, mastering skills, and sometimes developing particular habits of mind. Except for the comparatively few visual arts and broad-based technology courses that continue to survive despite repeated budget cuts, schools are typically not places where children make things. This situation is particularly strange in the secondary science classroom, given that many students enroll in science courses with the ostensible goal of enrolling in engineering programs in university. It is possible, indeed likely, that many first-year engineering and science students have never had a formal opportunity to “make” something.

In this research project, I hope to provide participants with the opportunity to construct and extend professional knowledge about teaching science by building technological artifacts in a Maker Space created in their teacher education program. Among other things, I hope that participants learn more about fields such as robotics, engineering, applied physics, and computer programming and consider the ways in which these fields might play a role in their pedagogy. Our Maker Space will be an ad hoc place where participants come together, at pre-arranged times, in a classroom to work through technological projects designed to introduce them to the Maker ethos. Our team will focus on how new science teachers construct knowledge from experiences in a Maker Space. My hope is that this space, introduced in the relatively safe context of a teacher education program, will provide a touchstone for pedagogy and professional development in the often-tumultuous early experiences of teaching.