Masters, Y., Gregory, S. and Grono, S. (2015). PST Online: Meeting the need for teaching innovation for virtual schools. Presented at AARE 2015, Fremantle, Australia, 29 Nov – 4 Dec. http://www.aare.edu.au/publications-database.php/10069/pst-online-meeting-the-need-for-teaching-innovation-for-virtual-schools.
Virtual schools are no longer a pipedream, they are already with us and our pre-service teachers need to be prepared for this alternate teaching medium. In New South Wales, Australia, the selective virtual high school, xsel, was the precursor to a new 7-12 virtual high school, Aurora College, which opened in 2015. Unlike blended learning in the classroom, where the teacher is physically present, the new virtual schools have no need for physical classrooms and students can be geographically distant from both each other and the teacher. This change in education delivery in schools will necessitate a new approach to curriculum design accompanied by a reshaping of discipline-based courses in higher education institutions in regard to teacher education. A complementary redefinition of the use of information and communication technologies will also be needed. Exclusively online teaching changes the dynamics between teacher and student and “necessitates a shift from a practice of controlling to engaging students’ attention” (Murphy & Manzanares, 2008, p. 1061). These researchers argue that there are contradictions in moving from face-to-face teaching in a conventional classroom to teaching online and that teachers “may benefit from opportunities to develop new skills, techniques and strategies” (Murphy & Manzanares, 2008, p. 1070). While there has been some online teaching for many years, Bull (2010) cautions that “for the most part, teacher education programs are not yet preparing preservice teachers to teach in this [virtual] environment successfully” (p. 29). The authors have received an OLT grant to explore what particular new skills will be required and to develop a suite of resources that can begin to redress the gap between current practice and the new skills that Bull argues will be needed. In this paper, the authors will briefly present the conceptual underpinning of the need for changes in teacher education and then report on the first phase of the project where they gathered the perceptions of pre-service teachers in terms of their preparedness for virtual teaching. This data informs the development of the online resources which will be reported as the project reaches its culmination.
Masters, Y, Gregory, S., and Grono, S. (2017). PST Online: Catering to a changing educational landscape through enhanced teacher education. Presented at The IAFOR International Conference on Education – Dubai 2017, Dubai, 26 – 28 February.
Change is constant, particularly in education; the crucial element is to embrace those changes that can lead to improved outcomes for students. Virtual schools, often wholly online with no physical space, are assisting students who might otherwise be restricted in their educational opportunities to access education in new ways in order to achieve better outcomes. These students include rural students, those in hospitals, those imprisoned and those from highly mobile families such as the military.
Teaching has been augmented for a long time by technology and pre-service teachers required a new range of skills to meet this change. While teaching ‘with’ technology is currently addressed in Australian higher education institutions, the different techniques required to teach solely online, where some students may be in the same space as each other or the teacher, but the majority will not, are not part of the teacher education courses. PST Online is a website developed to assist both pre-service and in-service teachers to gain an understanding of virtual teaching and the requisite skills for this form of education delivery.
In this presentation the conceptual underpinning of the need for changes in teacher education will be considered. The perceptions of pre-service teachers in terms of their preparedness for virtual teaching, ascertained through a survey, will then be presented, followed by a description of the development of the PST Online website, a repository of online resources that are part of a funded project.
Masters, Y., Gregory, S., and Grono, S. (2017). PST Online: Evidence of failed ICT impact or evidence to guide new policy? Presented at ATEA 2017, Brisbane, Australia, 5 – 7 July.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) are highlighted within the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL], 2011) and are also a specific priority area outlined in the New South Wales supplementary material for accreditation of initial teacher education programs (Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, 2014). The impact of measures to ensure ICT preparedness is evidenced in the 2015 Initial Teacher Education Data Report (AITSL, 2015) where principals ranked both primary and secondary graduates as well prepared in the use of ICT (p. 178). The question is whether this is good evidence of impact or misleading by what is not raised in either the Standards or the NSW supplementary material.
A gap in the area of ICT preparation was identified by the authors when a new virtual school, Aurora College, was announced in 2013. A virtual school is an online environment where the teacher and the students are generally in different physical spaces. While current teacher graduates are, reportedly, well prepared in the effective use of ICT in the classroom, these classrooms are those where the teacher and the students are in the same physical space and any online learning is guided by the teacher in the room. Online teaching, as many teaching academic can attest, requires a different set of skills and these skills are not part of the general teacher education curriculum. In 2015, the authors, funded by the Office for Learning and Teaching, commenced a project, Pre-service Teachers Online (PSTOnline), to ascertain the preparedness of teacher education students for the new learning environment and to develop a website repository of resources that could aid in the development of the requisite knowledge and skills for these students.
An exploratory survey was conducted as the first phase of this project and the results made clear that current preservice teachers felt ill-prepared to teach in an online environment. It was also apparent that some were sceptical about the online learning environment being a sound platform for student success. These results could be argued as evidence that the impact of ICT training in teacher education is low, but this would be to skew the research. It is better argued that the evidence shows that ICT education has not yet acted to meet the needs of new learning environments.
Based on the results of the survey, the authors developed an open-source, publically available website, pstonline.info. This website has been developed to provide a range of resources relevant to teaching in virtual schools. The impact of the project is currently being measured by analytics on the website and comments on a Facebook site. It is also hoped that evidence of impact can be the subject of a larger research project which is cross-institutional.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, (2015). Initial teacher education: data report 2015, Melbourne: Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. (Updated 2012). Melbourne: Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.
Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards, (2014). NSW Supplementary Documentation: Elaborations in Priority Areas. Sydney: Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards.