On-line version ISSN 2076-3433
Print version ISSN 0256-0100
S. Afr. j. educ. vol.35 n.4 Pretoria Nov. 2015
Adèle Botha; Marlien Herselman
CSIR Meraka Institute and School of Computing, University of South Africa email@example.com
This article draws upon the experiences gained in participating in an Information and Communication Technology for Rural Education (ICT4RED) initiative, as part of a larger Technology for Rural Education project (TECH4RED) in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The aim of this paper is to describe the conceptualisation, design and application of an innovative teacher professional development course for rural teachers, enabling them to use tablets to support teaching and learning in their classrooms. The course, as outcome, is presented as a Teacher Tablet Toolkit, designed to meet the challenges inherent to the 21st century rural technology enhanced teaching and learning environment. The paper documents and motivates design decisions, derived from literature and adapted through three iterations of a Design Science Research Process, to be incorporated in the ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development Course. The resulting course aims to equip participating teachers with a toolkit consisting of technology hardware, pragmatic pedagogical and technology knowledge and skills, and practice based experience. The significance of game design elements such as simulation and fun, technology in need rather than in case, adequate scaffolding and a clear learning path with interim learning goals are noted.
Keywords: classroom practice; gamification; mobile learning; teacher professional development; technology integration;toolkit
Teacher professional development (TPD) aimed at technology-enhanced rural teaching environment in a developing context has been identified as a specific challenge (Buabeng-Andoh, 2012; Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). Amid narratives documenting recommendations toward improving or changing teacher practice, there are very few examples that are specifically designed to enrich the rural teachers classroom practice in general, and more specifically, through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The aim of this paper is to describe the conceptualisation, design and application of a TPD course designed for rural teachers and to highlight the design decisions taken towards relevant teacher knowledge and proficiency so as to enable classroom practise to portray a 21st century technology enhanced classroom engagement in rural classrooms. The course, as outcome, is presented in the form of a Teacher Tablet Toolkit designed to meet the challenges posed by 21st century technology-enhanced rural teaching and learning environments. The main research question that guided this research is: how can a Teacher Professional Development intervention guide the development of a Teacher Tablet Toolkit to address the challenges of the 21st century rural technology enhanced teaching and learning environment? This study, undertaken in a rural South African context as part of a larger project, addresses a concern raised in literature about the availability, quality and rigour of TPD programmes in general, and specifically those aimed at teachers in rural resource constrained settings (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). The study envisages contributing to a broader understanding of TPD designed for rural resource constrained teachers. In addition, it aims to pragmatically facilitate educators' endeavours to integrate technology into their classroom practice within their challenging working environment. The study further highlights some very positive initial results, and offers a demonstrated innovative artefact, and methodology, for practitioners working in the field to adapt and use.
Design Science research methodology (DSRM) was applied to develop the TPD course. In DSRM one can develop ways of understanding and working with socio-technical systems, and to question existing structures and processes (Pirkkalainen, 2015). Due to the iterative nature of the DSR process, an artifact, as a solution, is emergent, and opportunities exist for it to evolve. The Design Science Research Process (DSRP) applied in this research is consistent with prior literature (Hevner, 2007; Hevner, March, Park & Ram, 2004; March & Storey, 2008) and include the following six steps: problem identification and motivation, objectives for a solution, design and development, evaluation and communication. The TPD course was developed as an artifact by applying the DSRM process of Peffers, Tuunanen, Rothenberger and Chatterjee (2007), and it evolved as it was evaluated and improved through three iterations or phases (viewed as case studies) in the ICT4RED initiative.
Gregor and Hevner (2013) indicate that evidence should be provided that the artifact is useful. A rigorous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the TPD course was done to track impact, indicate usefulness and improve the artifact. A variety of data sources were applied to improve the TPD course and included observations, interviews (both one-on-one and focus groups), audio-visual material (photographs, text- and video recordings), anecdotal stories, feedback from the M&E questionnaires, ethnographic reports, Twitter and WhatsApp feeds and from the implementation of the various components in each phase. Participants were purposively sampled and their feedback was analysed using a herme-neutic analysis. According to Gadamer (1998:169) hermeneutic analysis is "logically a circular argument in so far as the whole, in terms of which parts..." or otherwise put "we must understand the whole in terms of the detail and the detail in terms of the whole". The principle of the hermeneutic circle and multiple interpretations requires the researcher to understand and examine situations in parts, and as a whole, and to assign explanations to them.
Developing the Teacher Tablet Toolkit The understanding of the meaning of toolkit used in this study is adapted from Corcoran (2003) to include a repertoire of technology hardware, pragmatic pedagogical and technological knowledge strategies and practices that can be mixed, matched and modified to address a range of classroom issues.
There are two distinct, interrelated areas of concern. Firstly, the contents of the toolkit and secondly, the process followed to equip the teachers with the toolkit through TPD; the resulting artefact being the ICT4RED TPD course.
An appropriate meta-analysis of literature, focusing on the use and integration of ICT into the teaching and learning engagement, and the TPD activities that support this, was done to identify relevant commonalities regarding obstacles, strategies and best practice. The aim of the inquiry was to harvest experience, based on best practice, and to incorporate these experiences into the content and TPD process. The relevant findings from literature were grouped into themes, which were then regarded as elements, and these are outlined in the table below with relevant references to the literature. New literature was incorporated until a point of saturation was reached. These elements, which were identified from literature, became the foundation on which the design decisions were made, and are presented in Table 1 with the relevant literature reference. The elements are discussed in the rest of the paper in more detail, based on the development of the ICT4RED TPD course. The design decisions are statements that mitigate or speak to the elements identified from literature.
From Table 1 above, the following implications and resulting design decisions were made. The design decisions are related to the Teacher Tablet Toolkit and are directed towards meeting the challenges posed by 21st century rural learning environments and the ICT4RED TPD as an implementation process. These findings are interpreted as design decisions.
From the literature, TPD has been decisively established as a critical component to changing classroom practice as well as integrating technology into the classroom. This being said, there is an acknowledgement that teachers struggle to apply the learning gained in TPD courses into teaching practice (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). One of the reasons offered is that the level at which TPD is pitched is often too theoretical, and teachers fail to translate the theory into practical skills and strategies (Wang & Gu, 2014). Making sense, coping and using new ICTs call for a different set of teacher knowledge and skills than that which is currently operating in schools (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006).
The knowledge and skills needed by teachers, in order to facilitate a classroom change towards technology enhanced 21st century learning engagement, are derived from the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model(Koehler & Mishra, 2008, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Fishman, Marx, Best and Tal (2003:645) remark that the professional development of teachers should fundamentally be about teacher learning. They view this as the changes in knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of teachers that would then lead to the acquisition of new skills, new concepts and new processes related to teaching practice. Teacher professional knowledge is considered as knowledge of TPACK (Grossman, 1990; Magnusson, Krajcik & Borko, 1999; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Shulman, 1986).
During instruction, knowledge regarding content, pedagogy and technology interact with one another, and consequently produce other types of knowledge needed for the successful use of technology in learning (Abell, 2008; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). The ICT4RED TPD pragmatically applies the TPACK framework, as described by Mishra (Koehler & Mishra, 2008, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Based on the TRACK framework, the ICT4RED TPD adapted the framework towards an ICT4RED pragmatic TPACK framework, which is presented in the following table:
From the ICT4RED pragmatic TPACK framework for the Teacher Tablet Toolkit adopted for this study and outlined in Table 2, the following was adopted design decision:
Each TPD session would be facilitated through a specific learner-centric teaching strategy. For example, the Jigsaw teaching strategy would be introduced through the use of a jigsaw teaching strategy, storytelling as a teaching strategy would be introduced through storytelling etc.
Each TPD session would demonstrate different strategies to facilitate a 21st century learning environment.
Each TPD session would facilitate the attainment of new technology skills.
The positive attitude of teachers towards the adoption and integration of technology is significant to its successful integration. As such, this study acknowledged the complex, multidisciplinary nature of the domain and the myriad of aspects that influence the attitude of teachers to adopt and integrate technology. The study further acknowledges and notes the wealth of research that has been done in this field. Pragmatically, however, the engagement of the study could never address all of the richness of findings. Nonetheless, a recurring theme has been the voluntary engagement of the teachers in programmes, TPD activities and workshops (Bobrowsky et al., 2001; Buabeng-Andoh, 2012; Hew & Brush, 2007; Keengwe et al., 2008; Loughran & Gunstone, 1997).
This study adopted a design decision to ascribe to voluntary participation.
Teachers have been on the receiving end of many hours of workshops in the last couple of years. An example of this would be two major interventions, namely the introduction of Outcomes Based Education in 1997 (Department of Education, 1997) and the introduction to the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement starting in 2012 (Department of Basic Education, 2011). Teachers have thus had a fair idea of the nature of workshops and were reluctant to attend activities that would encroach on their afternoons. As they also often live far from the school, workshops would impact on their transport arrangements as well (Herselman & Botha, 2014). The ICT4RED TPD, however, had to take place in the afternoons. In an effort to mitigate possible workshop fatigue and to integrate other identified success factors for the integration of technology into classroom practice outline in the table, Gamification as a design strategy was selected to provide a more joyful, but focused engagement (Botha, Herselman & Ford, 2014a; Herselman & Botha, 2014).
As of yet, there is limited agreement on a single understanding of gamification. The most commonly used definition is that gamification is the application of game dynamics and mechanics into non-gaming environments, as defined and proposed by Deterding, Dixon, Khaled and Nacke (2011). Deterding et al. (2011) refer to the goal of gamification as making non-gaming products and services more enjoyable and engaging. Glover (2013) highlights the motivational and engagement aspect and Marache-Francisco and Brangier (2014 :205) contend that gamification "is about designing for an experience that drives the user through a journey". During this process, the main service is enhanced (Huotari & Hamari, 2012). This enhancement is co-created by the game designer and the player, as they progress towards a goal. Botha et al. (2014a) make a case for a Gameful Educational User Experience as a goal of Educational Gami-fication. The game elements for play, as outlined by Costello and Edmonds (2007), derived from a survey of play theories and were adopted in an effort to steer the TPD sessions (in the design for Gameful Educational User Experience) from an individual participant's or user's perspective. These game elements (which include creation, exploration, discovery, difficulty, competition, danger, captivation, sensation, sympathy, simulation, fantasy, camaraderie and subversion) were purposefully incorporated to facilitate the ICT4RED TPD sessions (Botha et al., 2014a). The principles that guide the ICT4RED TPD course were identified and adapted from Stott and Neustaedter (2013) as: freedom to fail, rapid feedback, progression and storytelling. They represent the Gamification design principles, heuristics or lenses used towards the Gameful Educational User Experience (Deter-ding et al., 2011; Shaffer, 2008). This study adopted a design decision to ascribe to:
• Freedom to fail. This is operationalised as a safe space to experiment and multiple opportunities to master skills and demonstrate proficiency.
• Rapid feedback. Structured as feedback on microgoals (such as mastering skills during the TDP sessions), meso-goals (such as progression badges) and macro-goals (such as completing the course, graduating and attaining South African Council for Educators (SACE) points). Each module's outcome is evaluated by means of clear goals that are assessed, and the teacher's attainment of the goals is then accredited with a badge (Botha, Salerno, Niemand, Ouma & Makitla, 2014b). Further interim goals were added, the attainment of which resulted in teachers earning technology hardware. The macro-goal of completing the course is accredited by a certificate and transfer of ownership of the tablet. The teacher, in addition, receives 10 SACE points on completion.
• Progression in both pedagogical skills and relevant content skills to facilitate a 21st century learning environment and technological proficiency.
○ In relation to the technology progression, the teacher is nudged into becoming an online learner, and encouraged towards becoming a lifelong learner and contributor in the digital world (Botha et al., 2014a; Herselman & Botha, 2014). The participant is assumed a novice and scaffolded to progress from:
■ being able to use the tablet as a personal device (I can work with a tablet); to
■ use as professional device (I can teach with a tablet); and
■ cumulating in the use of a tablet as a collaborative tool (I can collaborate through the tablet).
○ In relation to the pedagogical progression, the participant is assumed to have a single teaching strategy (lecturing) and through a series of badges as interim learning goals, additional teaching strategies (Botha & Verster, 2014).
○ For the content of relevant skills to facilitate a 21st century learning environment progression (Botha & Verster, 2014).
• Storytelling: the narrative is articulated as a learning path that is operationalised through the attainment of 13 compulsory badges that represent the 13 compulsory learning goals of the curriculum.
Collegial, facilitator and course material support help to translate integration of ICT (Al-Awidi & Alghazo, 2012; Malinowsky et al., 2014; Radaelli et al., 2014). This study adopted the following design decision:
• New skills are accompanied by paper based How To skill sheets.
• Each module contained classroom practice based ideas for different subjects. In addition, there are suggestions for applying the teaching strategy that the module focusses on for when the teacher has only 1 device in the class, for when the teacher has 5 devices and for when the learners each has his/her own device.
• Teachers were supported by means of a WhatsApp group. Most teachers already have access to and use WhatsApp.
• The schools' proximity to one another creates an opportunity to foster a larger support group.
• Facilitators must preferably be local. Teachers that have graduated from the previous iteration will be used to support and facilitate teachers undergoing the next iteration.
Technology access and hardware
Physical access to and availability of appropriate technology to integrate into classroom practice is essential, as indicated in Table 2 from the literature. It is advisable that the technology be used in school and at home. In addition, the teacher should know how to integrate said technology in order to reach curriculum objectives. To address these concerns, this study adopted the following design decision:
Technology needs to work for a teacher, in his/her private capacity, before it can work for them in their professional capacity. As such, the teacher have 24/7 access to the device, and should further be encouraged to use it in a personal capacity.
Technology for teachers would be 3G enabled and teachers would be helped to connect their devices to Wi-Fi hotspots.
The ICT4RED initiative would not fund access to the internet through sponsored airtime.
The course would not be dependent on internet access and would provide for an internet like experience, if and when needed, through a local server and Wi-Fi.
Technology should assist the teacher in reaching curriculum objectives.
To lower the barrier of proficiency, technology hardware will be chosen that resembles technology that teachers already own and are therefore familiar with. Tablets running with an Android™ operating system (OS) will be used.
Technology hardware is distributed in use rather than in case. This is operationalised through an "Earn as you Learn" strategy linked to the badges as interim learning goals. Teachers will thus earn the tablets by completing the TPD course and by showing evidence of how they have integrated the pedagogical, technology and content learning from the TPD session into their classroom practice.
It is assumed that 20% of teachers will not want to participate and change their classroom practice. This was based very loosely on the Parento principle and work by Hill, Maucione and Hood (2007).
The course is structured as scaffolded sessions and based on the Gradual Release Of Responsibility Instruction Framework (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Fisher and Frey (2013) note that this framework was originally developed to aid in reading instruction and that its origins are linked to several theories. They highlight Piaget's (1952) work on cognitive structures, Vygotsky's (1962, 1978) deliberations on the zones of proximal development, Bandura's (1965) work on attention, retention, reproduction and motivation and the work on scaffolded instruction by Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976). Fisher and Frey (2013: 2) reflect that "[t]aken together, these theories suggest that learning occurs through interactions with others; when these interactions are intentional, specific learning occurs". The idea of a purposeful shift of cognitive load from
the facilitation as a simulation,
to co-creation by the facilitator, badge collectors and teachers,
towards the independent practice and application by the teacher, underpins the TPD process. This gradual release is illustrated in Figure 1. The simulation aims to combine teacher specific knowledge and skills in a practical way to demonstrate their application to teachers.
To incorporate this understanding, the study adopted the following design decision/s:
The value of the strategies and skills will be demonstrated through student-orientated teaching strategies.
Teachers will be guided to become co-creators and apply the teaching strategy, technology skills, content skills and strategies in their own classroom.
Facilitators and badge collectors will support the teachers in their co-creation.
The school, as a system, will benefit from supporting teachers.
Opportunities will be created for the development of champions, within the school, through additional challenges (not simulated) and criteria for school advancement by "earning" shared technology hardware will be formulated.
Teachers should also be encouraged to create their own communities of practice amongst themselves. The purposeful facilitation of communities of practice (in which teachers can share best practices and newly created lessons in their subject areas) will be done through the facilitation of sessions at a single venue to afford teachers the opportunity to meet and discuss issues.
The Teacher Tablet Toolkit thus incorporated the teacher professional development course as well as other elements which resulted in specific design decisions. Elements like gamification and rewards informed the TPD course to evolve into a toolkit. This allowed for a new, innovative way to involve and empower teachers to become co-creators of their own environment and to be exposed to technology-enhanced 21st century skills enhancement.
The Innovation of the Teacher Tablet Toolkit This toolkit is innovative as it presents a practice and peer evaluated course and methodology of how teachers in rural, resource-constrained contexts can be empowered and supported to integrate technology to address 21st century teaching and learning challenges. Technology is not just earned, but teachers become innovative co-creators of content within their own subjects and grades. As the new knowledge, skills and strategies spill over into classroom practice; teachers become facilitators and thus demonstrate and lead learners towards creating and evaluating content and information on tablets to enhance their own learning.
The following presents an outline of how the design decisions were integrated into the Tablet Teacher Toolkit, through the ICT4RED TPD course and methodology, to equip participating teachers with technology hardware, pragmatic pedagogical and technology knowledge and skills and practice based experience.
Teacher Tablet Toolkit
The Teacher Tablet Toolkit, in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century rural technology enhanced rural learning environment, is a repertoire of technology hardware, pragmatic pedagogical teaching strategies, technological skills as mobile skills, and 21st century knowledge (content) and practices, which can be mixed, matched and modified to address a range of classroom issues.i Each module in the curriculum would be about relevant content through a teaching strategy using technology to facilitate the teaching and learning interaction.
Each TPD session is three hours in duration and facilitated in the afternoon at the school. In some cases, when the schools were either too remote or too small (one school only had three teachers), schools were grouped in clusters at a venue chosen by the teachers. The course lasted about one year, in order to accommodate the school calendar. During each phase, a Tablet Fun Day was held. The aim of this day was to afford teachers an opportunity to meet teachers from other schools and to practice some skills which were specifically linked to internet access.
The 21st century learning design of the ICT4RED TPD course was evaluated using the Microsoft Partners in Learning (n.d.) rubrics. These rubrics were developed and tested internationally for the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research project and the evaluation of the ICT4RED TPD Course was done by expert review. Each of the six Microsoft Partners in Learning (n.d.) rubrics represents an important skill, which the teachers need to develop and employ in their own classroom practice. These skills are collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problemsolving and innovation, and the use of ICT for learning and communication. The rubrics offer a guide to evaluate the 21st century learning design by assigning a number from 1 to 4 (1 being the least and 4 being the most) to each learning activity, according to how strongly it offers opportunities to develop a given skill (Microsoft Partners in Learning, n.d.). The full scope of the underpinning and evaluation is beyond the range of this paper, and only the results of the evaluation are supplied to validate the design.
Each of the 10 modules are linked to at least one badge as a learning outcome. The following table presents the Jigsaw badge, linked to Module 1. The table outlines the instructions, what the expectation is and what to provide as evidence.
There are 13 compulsory badges and five challenge badges, where the main difference is that the challenge badges are not facilitated. The compulsory badges are ICT4RED badge, jigsaw, storytelling, roleplay, learning stations, Educational content creator, mind-mapping, flipped classroom, game-based learning, filed trips, gallery walk, mobile skills and reflective practitioner. The optional badges are email, Twitter, application evaluation, assessment and blog collaborator.
The course is presented as a learning path where the teacher moves from a commitment (Module 1), to using the tablet for their own personal use (Module 2 and 3), to use for teaching and learning (Module 4 to 7), to use for collaborating and sharing (Module 8 to 10) (Botha, 2014). The learning narrative is presented as a pathway that the teachers follow to graduate and earn their tablet. Each module runs in the same way, illustrated in Figure 2.
Teachers, and their school, have the opportunity to add to their technology hardware by reaching certain objectives. The technology hardware teachers can earn is listed in Table 5. Technology hardware is linked to badges they need to acquire.
Also linked to the individual progression of the teachers is the hardware the school can earn as well as the criteria needed to qualify. The hardware and criteria are listed in Table 6.
The ICT4RED TPD Course was developed over a period of three years. The 26 schools that com-pleted the outlined courses results are presented below in Table 7. During this time, one teacher went on maternity leave, one teacher was hos-pitalised, three principals decided not to participate and one teacher passed away.
All teachers who opted in, and were able to, completed the course and earned their tablets. A total of 3,998 badges were earned, and 91 teachers completed more than half of the optional badges to earn a merit graduation. All these badges were assessed according to criteria supplied by assessors who were not directly involved in the facilitation process and were verified by an external party for quality control. In addition, all the schools earned their equipment and received tablets for the learners.
The ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development Course was licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-ShareAlike 3.0. and can be downloaded, changed and implemented free of licencing charges from http://www.ict4red.blogspot.com/p/about.html.
The creation of a course like this is not an easy undertaking. It is part science and part craft. The resulting design is by no means a perfect course, but initial results have suggested that it does equip rural teachers with a toolkit consisting of technology hardware, pragmatic pedagogical and technology knowledge and skills, and practice-based experience. The use of tablets has been a catalyst for teachers to use other forms of technology. In addition, the teachers demonstrated sufficient confidence to experiment with the use of software and hardware in their teaching practice. The course is also currently being translated into Afrikaans (for use in the Northern Cape).
The gamification of the course was no easy task, and it took two iterations to arrive at a point where it was not merely 'badges on leader boards'. We use the term gamification rather broadly and acknowledge that it is a contentious term. The flow from training experience to classroom practice was facilitated by the interim goals, articulated by the badges. The badge goal, achievement, assessment and the conferring of the badges served a number of functions:
It outlined clear transparent expectation;
It provides an opportunity for the teacher to demonstrate individual proficiency;
It acknowledges achieved competence;
It allows teachers to individualise and appropriate learning into practice;
It acts as a scaffolding environment for achieving the teacher development goal;
It allows the initiative initiators to acknowledge individual growth;
It acts as an early warning signal of teachers falling behind;
It allows for timeous investment in further technology needs; and
It allows for champions to surface and to be acknowledged.
Initial success is suggested when one regards the completion and participation rate. Technology was applied to support teachers in adapting their method of teaching. Instead of teaching learners with chalk and a blackboard, teachers are now teaching learners in small groups, armed with a tablet and assisting learners in groups to facilitate meaningful engagement with the content. The innovation of the course lies within unique combination of elements and the methodology used, to encourage participation and spill over into classroom practice.
TPD remains a costly endeavour, and these costs escalate when remote, rural areas are targeted. The investment that is made in monetary value is significant, but so is the opportunity cost for the teachers involved. As such, careful consideration needs to be made as to how the investment will be evaluated, and what the required short, medium and long-term changes will be. Technology in and of itself will not influence classroom practice and teachers that are not comfortable with the personal use of the technology will be very hesitant to use it in their classrooms. The TPD endeavour needs to bridge the gap between the potential and the teacher's reality in such a way that they are empowered, and remain in control of their classroom practice.
Although the specific application of the ICT4RED TPD course lies within a very contextualised area, there are many elements that could be replicated with due consideration to the nature of the course. As an available artefact, the opportunity is available for practitioners and organisations to adapt it to their own needs. An online connected iteration and success in other environments could be possible areas to investigate as a next step.
i. Module outline is attached as Appendix A.
This work acknowledges the TECH4RED Initiative, and more specifically the ICT4RED component, which was initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and supported by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the CSIR. The wonderful people in the Nciba district of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa and the support provided by the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Education, the ICT4RED core team, other outsourced companies and universities are also acknowledged.
The reviewers and editors of this journal are acknowledged for their hard work and effort on our behalf. This article remains a proudly South African tribute.
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