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Teacher Educators’ Instructional Strategies in Preparing Pre-Service Teachers to Teach with Digital Technology in the 21st Century
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The 21st century is characterised by an influx of information from various sources. This presents the education field with both a challenge and opportunity in the teaching practice. Technology advancements have made it increasingly easy to share and access this information almost instantly. This presents the education field with both a challenge and opportunity in the teaching practice. The challenge is that not all the available information is useful or even meaningful, therefore the 21st century requires that students acquire the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) on how to engage with the information and not just receive it. The mandate on educational institutions is therefore to make use of technology-enhanced practices to facilitate acquisition of these skills. The implications are applicable to teacher training institutions includes the equipping of pre-service teachers with higher level thinking skills. 21C teacher educators should be modelling instructional strategies that are relevant to the demands of the modern age, more importantly these strategies should be technology-enhanced. The technology-enhanced instructional strategies should be informed by contemporary teaching and learning theories as well as technology integration frameworks. To this effect, the researcher’s original contribution to the body of knowledge was formulated – the ConTis model as elaborated on further below. Teaching with technology in teacher preparation programmes in South Africa should respond to the 21C skill requirements. Alarmingly, research in this area has continuously reported that TrEds are falling short in their teaching with technology. There is a consensus on the importance of technology integration, however, TrEds continue to use it merely as a substitution for traditional means of teaching. Contributing to this problem is the continued use of lecture-centred teaching strategies. There is a substantial amount of literature advocating for TrEds to start to adopting student-centred approached as supported by contemporary theories that argue that the best way to learn is to actively engage with knowledge and not be passive recipients. It was on this backdrop that the researcher developed the research question of this study: What do TrEds need to effectively prepare pre-service teachers to teach with technology in the 21C? To better understand and explain this phenomenon the researcher developed a conceptual framework based on teaching and constructivist teaching theory as well as technology integration framework. To investigate this phenomenon, the researcher chose to design the research study following the interpretivist paradigm for its emphasis on social contexts and in-depth understanding of phenomenon of interest. On that, the researcher made use of qualitative data collection tools to – semi-structured interviews; non-participant observations as well as a focus group interviews. The research design used was a single case study as was data collection from TrEds of one teacher education institution in the Western Cape. The data collection was conducted over a period of eight months which allowed the researcher to intensively explore TrEds’ practices. The researcher made use of various sampling methods to ensure that the participants would be able to offer relevant information as they were constantly interacting with the phenomenon under study. The findings reveal that the majority of the participating TrEds were employing lecture-centred instructional strategies, whereby technology was used to support traditional teaching approaches. The participating TrEds, contrary to their perception on their technology integration skills as reported during interviews; were observed to be using the basic functions of mostly general technology applications. This use resulted in achieving low level teaching outcomes. The institution at which the study was conducted availed technology resources to the TrEds. However, there was a deficit on the relevance, maintenance and capacity of the technology which contributed to TrEds reluctance to integrate technology. From the findings, the researcher deduced that the failure to integrate technology effectively was due to the lack of a practical and holistic guide on how to teach with technology. The researcher, based on the data analysis and in response to this shortcomings, developed a model which the researcher coined “Constructivist Technology-enhanced Instructional strategies” (ConTIS) model which can be used as a diagnostic model for TrEds to self-assess their technology integration in their practices. The model is also useful to professional development intervention designers as they can use it to identify the gaps in technology integration. The researcher further argues that this be conducted at departments levels as the needs of TrEds may differ across teacher education institutions. The model is also useful as an evaluative model that helps educational technologist and TrEds continuously assess whether their currently adopted technology interventions are yielding the appropriate outcomes as per the teaching and learning theory employed by institution and or faculty. The implications of this study were to both TrEds’ practice as well as institutional policy development. The findings of the study highlighted the importance of institutions and the faculties within them to identify and adopt relevant contemporary teaching strategies as well as frameworks that are conducive to 21C teaching outcomes. The participating TrEds reported that their practice was not necessarily informed by any particular teaching and learning theory or technology integration framework, in fact some of them highlighted that they were not familiar with frameworks such as TPACK and PCK. Therefore, it is vital for institution’s policies to enforce that TrEds practice be based on prevailing teaching with technology developments. The limitations of the study were that the research study’s design was a single case study and therefore focused on one context which limits the generalisability of the findings as the phenomenon might be experienced differently in a different setting. A longitudinal case study may also be employed in order to conduct an even more in-depth exploration of the phenomenon. It is possible that TrEd practice may have been presented as differently over time and the researcher would have discovered other factors affecting the phenomenon. The researcher therefore suggests that for further studies, researchers should perhaps conduct a comparative study by investigating how the phenomenon manifests in different contexts. Future studies may also conduct a longitudinal case study to allow for an intensive study of teacher educator practices and perhaps analyse any changes that may occur over time with the introduction of other technology interventions. The researcher also encourages that future studies be conducted to evaluate the practicality and effectiveness of the proposed ConTis model.