Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A reflective note

Technologies have been integrated into instructional practices to help learners learn more deeply. For better integration, the use of technology is inseparable from the subject matter being taught and instructional strategies (pedagogy) applied to achieve learning goals. In other words, the three components-content, pedagogy, and technology-must align with one another or the so-called Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (TPACK). Research findings have revealed the benefits of such technology integration in the classrooms, but in some cases these findings could not be implemented due to several factors, such as availability of facilities, knowledge and skills of teachers to use such technologies for better learning. This lack of knowledge and skills was the underlying background for our professional development program designed for 30 natural science teachers from ten schools at Pekanbaru, Indonesia.

The process of designing professional development as an educational designer: Some critical aspects
Two choices were available and we chose professional development program for our design project. This professional development for in-service teachers was designed by our group consisting of three members. Since designing TPACK professional development is not an easy job, working in a group was really helpful. For me, a good designer is the one who can work collaboratively. It means that two heads are better than one in which a designer needs to function collaboratively.
When we first began working with the design of teachers’ TPACK professional development I was anxious to find out as much as possible about the field of in-service teacher education. Perhaps the article and the book that most impressed me at that time was Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge by Mishra and Koehler (2006) and  Desinging professional development for teachers of science and mathematics by Loucks-Horsley, et al (2010). We then decided to design TPACK PD for natural science teachers in Pekanbaru-Riau, Indonesia. This choice was made based on our agreement because in designing a PD program, we should know the context. However, it was impossible for us to conduct such analysis because it would have taken time and a lot of money, and we finally based our analysis upon our experiences, especially my own experience when I was participating professional development in Pekanbaru. We tried to describe the context as real as possible.
With regard to this context, the success of education can be measured by its effectiveness and efficiency. According Davies (1984) as cited by Tessmer and Harris (1990), effective is when students learn right things, while efficient is when students learn things right. To achieve those two components, many people are involved and contribute to the success of education, such as teachers, principal, supervisors, parents, and community at large. Among all, teachers are central in this issue. Fullan (2007) states that “educational change depends on what teachers think and do”. This statement indicates teacher prominent role in bettering education. Therefore, their professional development must be maintained.  For this purpose, the most common professional development in our context is conducted through training. Unfortunately, I often found teachers complaint with the training they attended because the training was not based on their real needs in the classrooms, or the so called solutions-seeking-a-problem syndrome. This phenomenon really challenged us in order that we could design a TPACK PD on the basis of performance problem encountered by the teachers. Since finding problems for the basis of our TPACK professional development was crucial, this aspect became the starting point for our design. Without problem, PD would be useless either for the teachers or designers. The problem must be real and the TPACK PD should be aimed at solving it. At this stage, we discussed a lot to find out the real problem faced by the teachers, and found many problems, but we could not work with those problems and finally agreed to focus on lesson material problem.
The analysis was done and problem was found. What did we do with the problem? This is also another challenge for us. I read several literatures about professional development and then I shared with the other group members. Determining the best strategy to solve the problem took some time for us. In this stage, we wanted a strategy that best engage teachers in learning. We did not want to give a fish to the teachers, but to teach them how fish. Constructivist approach was adopted for our TPACK PD. The idea is that they already have prior knowledge particularly in content and pedagogy, and the spoon-feeding approach that has always been implemented in our context was unsuccessful for teacher development. The only aspect with which teachers have low knowledge and skills in the integration of technology for their instruction. Finally, we decided to organize a two-day workshop and lesson study for the real implementation in the classrooms. The most difficult part was to integrate TPACK into our professional development design. When we thought and worked in isolated part, say for example when we only focused on the technology, we failed to address the others, pedagogy and content or vise versa. Aligning content, pedagogy, and technology was totally difficult, and it was even worse when we worked with difficult content with limited technology available. At first, we tried it, but we failed because it was only the use of technology, not the integration. We did this several times while the time was approaching the deadline at the time. However, this difficult time has made me aware of the important view of a holistic approach when designing TPACK in general. We should not focus on one aspect, but the three aspect. What I could say is that if we want to work serially, then we have to think content first, then pedagogy, and technology. But, what I have noticed is that technology approach did not work. It means that when we first started with the technology for the design, we failed to address content and pedagogy. Relevant with this issue, Mayer (2001, p. 8-10) argues that technology-centred approach focuses on how we can use technology in our design. The focus is generally on the cutting-edge technologies. Learner-centred approach, on the other hand, begins with an understanding of how human mind works by asking how we can adapt it to enhance human learning. The focus is on using technology as an aid to human cognition. Mayer does not agree with the former, but the latter. In this case, I fully agree with Mayer and we in the group have already experienced it when we started with technology and then failed to address the other important parts. Gooden also (1996) suggests that the most effective way to benefit from technology is to integrate it into the curriculum as opposed to integrating curriculum into the technology.
What I thought we failed to address in our design is budgetting. It’s not really difficult since I have experiences in budgetting. Because the time allocated for the TPACK professional development was short, we forgot to include the budget estimation. I first remembered about it and had an estimation about 4 to 4,5 thousand euros. Unfortunetely, it was not mentioned and detailed in our report.
The last but not the least, the success of design is not ultimately measured from how systematically we undertook the design process, but how well we can also convince stakeholders about the design and then participate during design and implementation process to establish the external consistency (Kessels & Plomp, 1999). Having a good design for teachers’ TPACK professional development is not enough; unless it is implementable. Implementable here means both the design is logical for real implementation and the money to conduct such program. Therefore, it is highly necessary to engage stakeholders, especially the local government, in allocating some amount of money to run the program. This would happen as long as we can convince them, and I am sure we can do it. Another involvement of stakeholders, such as principals and other teachers, is shown in our implementation phase of the professional development program. Principals and other teachers are invited to see the program, and they can also give suggestions for better implementation.
In conclusion, designing a TPACK PD is complicated for me. We have to provide time to do it. We also have to find problem, formulate goals, and at the same time select the best strategy and materials. We need to adapt into teachers’ needs and level of their proficiency and design activities and tasks that are workable to the teachers. We had to answer a sort of questions, such as: Is the design effective and useful for the teachers? Do we formulate clear aims and make good stages in the program? How do we measure it? How do you implement it? And some other questions...

Working with TPACK
At first impression, I assumed that TPACK framework was just about how to include technology in classroom, but it’s not so; it’s not just a matter of putting the three domains in one lesson. It’s about integration. A fully integrated technology combines the three domains (Content, Pedagogy, and Technology) in a synergistic manner that makes the knowledge of one domain inseparable from that of another domain. Thus, Harris and Hofer (2009) indicate that planning for students’ curriculum-based learning that integrates appropriate and pedagogically powerful use of the full range of educational technologies is challenging, my experience with it gives me a lot of insights: the road for understanding from inclusion to integration. I have refined my understanding about TPACK.
Furthermore,designing a TPACK PD poses particular challenges, particularly when integration the three domains and when addressing TPACK for schools with limited technology and teachers with low knowledge and skills about technology. At the end we made it. For teachers with cutting-edge technologies available in their schools, our program might be simple, but in our context it’s profound. Context makes a difference. In other words, what is good in a certain place may not be good at the others. Moreover, a good working-relationship with stakeholders is essential and the ability to take on board feedback and criticism. A design product without support from stakeholders would probably be difficult in its implementation. In order to minimize the possibilities of failure, we had to design a TPACK PD carefully, obtaining input from the context, and making sure that the concerns of teachers and students have been addressed as the aims of the program.
 Overall, I enjoyed the opportunities for designing a TPACK professional development for science teachers. With other two members in our group working with TPACK professional development for natural primary school science teachers we shared and worked together to design a good TPACK PD program based on several perspectives. I was actively involved as were the others in the discussion, design process, and writing the report. To conclude my remark, I never heard the term “TPACK” before the course on ‘Pedagogies for flexible learning supported by technology’, but currently I know it and has experienced it in a real practice for the design of TPACK PD.

How to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education 
Talking about how to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education is inseparable from teacher change, and it is crucial in the field of teacher education. In my opinion, there are two approaches to stimulate teachers for technology integration: bottom-up approach and top-down approach. Through bottom-up approach, schools or designers should focus on teachers as the main actors of the change, focusing on knowledge and technical competence, beliefs, attitudes, understanding, self-awareness, and teaching practices. In other words, teachers should be introduced to the benefits of educational technology and involve them in real practices in order that they understand more deeply about it. As I have noticed in our context for TPACK PD, the teachers possess technology such as laptops, but they have never been taught how to effectively use it for instruction. Consequently, technology is not integrated into science lesson. In this regard, Hew and Brush (2007) said that the lack of technology knowledge and skills would be a major barrier to technology integration. Furthermore, teachers should be involved in school vision planning. When teachers are not included, change fails to happen (Hopkins, 2005) because teachers only make use of contents that they think useful for learning.
For the top-down approach, schools should provide relevant technology with which teachers can get advantages of such technology in their classroom practice. If there are no technologies, what can teachers integrate into their lesson? Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the government, schools, and other stakeholders to facilitate it. Moreover, technology integration is difficult to establish in which people work individually; it must be in partnership with all school members where teachers can share, discuss, and determine their success. Therefore, it is necessary to create a mechanism which could better facilitate communication between teachers and stakeholders, and to establish school learning community where teachers can share, learn from each other, and reflect on their TPACK practices.
In conclusion, the abovementioned examples are not the only examples for the two approaches. There are more examples...


1 comment:

Petra Fisser said...

Hi Fauzan, thank you for your reflection and for participating in my course! interesting that you say that "Having a good design for teachers’ TPACK professional development is not enough". And you are right of course. Next to designing good professional development programs this actually is our major challenge I think...