Learning to connect: Professional learning networks and the pre-service teacher findings
Ms Jacqueline Batchelor
University of Johannesburg
Training institutions experience growing pressure to increase the competencies in the existing teacher workforce and at the same time train future teachers with the relevant knowledge and skills to affect change when deployed within the education system. Current mechanisms to meet these demands are not always well articulated and the design of course modules and material to train pre-service teachers become challenging where students are sourced from an education system that is experiencing serious challenges. This may be due to the fact that the average student teacher within the developing world context does not hold sufficient mental models of best practice.
One of the challenges to negatively affect student teachers is the lack of good quality teacher role-models, specifically teachers who integrate technology into their daily teaching and learning practice. When confronted with unfamiliar teaching strategies they struggle to grasp the relevance of such interventions. Encouraging them to develop their own professional learning networks facilitate their access to some of the best teachers in the world and in the process help them to adjust their inadequate mental models.
This intervention documents the development of pre-service teachers’ professional learning networks that become useful as they prepare to enter the teaching profession. Continuous professional development can thus be offered in both formal and informal ways to allowing for self-direction and self-organization. Pre-service teachers are encouraged not only to lurk and consume resources but rather to become active members in these networks and in this way increase not only their confidence but also their pedagogical content knowledge in specific disciplines. Pre-service teachers significantly draw on their knowledge of enabling tools and services increasingly moving to cloud-based productivity tools allowing for the creation, curation and aggregation of resources. These networks continue to evolve as handheld devices and applications gain in popularity enabling the ease of servicing and maintaining various nodes of participation.
Jacqueline Batchelor is a Senior Lecturer in Mobile Learning in the Department of Science and Technology Education at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. This university is part of the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century: Universitas21 and is recognized for their transformation, social cohesion and the elimination of discrimination. Her particular research endeavors, thus far, are aligned with the strategic goals of the education faculty focusing on the use of mobile technologies to drive research and innovation within the developing world context. As a practitioner-researcher with strong national and international ties, I conceptualize and execute learning events that pilot new technologies in formal teaching environments in collaboration with research institutes and partners across the world. I also facilitate under- and postgraduate programs and supervise Med and PhD research. I am a member of my institutional ethics research committee and served on the Pearson mLearning Think Tank as well as the Education for All crowdsourcing challenge as part of the Ideas Project. I am particularly interested in developing alternative models for continuous professional teacher development.