As anybody who has a GPS will tell you, to plan a journey you need to have a starting point and a destination in mind. That doesn’t mean that things won’t change along the way, that is why a GPS can recalculate, even if reluctantly. But without a starting point and a destination in mind, a GPS is relatively useless.
More often than not, when we talk about technology integration in schools, we know we have to take this journey, but we are not sure of either the starting point or the destination. The Teacher Change Frame developed by Isabel Tarling and Dick Ng’ambi from UCT gives us some direction to work with.
What is the Teacher Change Frame (TCF)?
The Teacher Change Frame plot teaching practices on a combination of two scales. The horizontal scale puts Teacher-centric Transmission pedagogies on the one side and Learner-centric transformative pedagogies on the other hand.
Going from Transmission pedagogies to Transformative pedagogies we go through a number of stages based on a revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
On the vertical scale, we move from using technology mostly for administrative work and Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) like surveys and quizzes to engaging with Emerging Technologies (ETs) to create a rich learning experience for learners that focus on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)
These two scales divide teachers into 4 quadrants. As is the case with most of these frameworks, you will find yourself in different quadrants at different times. But it is a very useful exercise to identify which quadrant best describe your current practices and where you want to be.
Ms Anderson – “I am an old-school teacher”
When she was at school, Ms Anderson always loved English lessons, and her biggest dream was to become a teacher like her English teacher. Her classes follow a predictable pattern where she will provide information which learners will copy down in their notebooks. When they are not copying down notes, the learners are doing worksheets, practising how much of the content she shared they retained. The majority of her lesson time is dedicated to Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) and Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) is only incorporated if time allows.
When asked about the use of technology in her class, Ms Anderson commented that Google is great to look up definitions and her classes go to the computer lab once every two weeks for a drill-and-practice lesson.
As to her own use of technology, Ms Anderson replied that she uses her laptop regularly, but she very seldom would turn it on at school, since she predominantly uses it to read emails, type tests & notes and calculate marks.
Mrs Brand – “Technology is great, but not for me”
Mrs Brand is also not big on the use of technology in her lessons. But her lessons are miles removed from the traditional lecturing model. While her learners seldom use technology in the class, they are often engaged in critical thinking and problem-solving activities. The majority of activities in her lessons focussed on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) and she actively fosters learner-learner and learner-content engagements.
Mrs Brand has got nothing against the use of technology in the class; she just very seldom makes use of it. Once in a while she might use emerging technology to grab learners at the start of a lesson, or if there is time at the end of the lesson learners are allowed to use technology as a reward. When asked why she does not make use of ETs more often she replied that it is too difficult to teach with technology and she is scared that things will go wrong.
Like Ms Anderson, Mrs Brand also use her laptop daily but in addition to her admin, she also uses her laptop to interact with her Professional Learning Network (PLN) and research best practices when it comes to teaching and learning and to find innovative ways to encourage HOTS in her classes.
Mr Damien – “The gadget guy”
Mr Damien is known in the school as the teacher who uses technology the most. Hardly a single lesson will pass without him using technology at some point. Like Ms Anderson, Mr Damien is a great lecturer, who spend a lot of time sharing content with the learners and focus on Lower Thinking Skills and rote learning of facts. However, Mr Damien loves to enhance his lectures with the use of Powerpoint and Youtube videos. He is also the first teacher in the school to go completely paperless and post all the notes and worksheets online.
Even though Mr Damien is well known for his use of technology in the class, learners spend the majority of the lesson taking down notes in their workbooks and very seldom get the opportunity to use technology themselves, except to access online notes and worksheets. On the odd day that Mr Damien allows them to use ETs, he gives them very strict instructions of what they should be doing and what they are allowed to use.
Mr Damien loves to play with new gadgets and use his computer for so much more than just admin. He has his own Youtube channel where learners can watch his lectures and his Powerpoints are full of fancy features and animation.
Ms Cambridge – “I use the best tool for the task”
Ms Cambridge has made ETs an integral part of her classroom culture. She is a big fan of allowing learners to use technology to develop Higher Thinking Skills by creating their own videos, podcasts and doing independent research. She also uses technology like quizzes and surveys for LOTS. Learners spend about the same amount of time using technology in class as Ms Cambridge does and would often introduce her to ETs.
Like Mrs Brand, Ms Cambridge designs her lessons to foster interaction between learners, and she makes use of a combination of teaching strategies, including direct instruction, to engage with her learners and ensure that she is not the learners only source of content.
While Ms Cambridge would often spend some time to try out a new tool or gadget to see if it would fit in with the learning outcomes, she sees her computer mostly as a way to connect with her Professional Learning Network (PLN) where she would share lesson plans, reflect on her experiences and get inspiration.
Who do you identify with?
And who would you like to identify with?
Like most things in life, there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Different personalities, subjects, learners and schools all play a role. The idea is to move comfortably between the quadrants.
But if you want to plot out a journey for your professional development, it is crucial that you take an honest look at where you are and decide where you want to be. Too often the training we attend as teachers aim to make a Mr Damien from us, while really we are interested in becoming Ms Cambridge. Or you are made to feel bad because your classes are not innovative, but in reality, you are a Mrs Brand, who incorporate lots of HOTS, you are just very light on the technology.
And yes, if you are Ms Anderson, you have to ask yourself, how you can be more effective when it comes to LOTS to free up more time for HOTS. And which route do you want to take? Do you first want to become proficient with the technology like Mr Damien or would you rather go Mrs Brand’s route and first focus on innovative teaching practices? And most important which route will get you where you want to be the quickest?
When planning professional development sessions, it is imperative to identify where the teachers fall on the Teacher Change Frame. Mr Damien needs training that focus on changing his pedagogies, while Mrs Brand needs training to give her the confidence to add ETs to her existing lessons. Ms Anderson needs to divide her focus between so-called “Button training” and pedagogy.
And while you might think Ms Cambridge needs no training, you would be wrong. For Ms Cambridge, PD should focus on assessing her current practices and deciding if they are the most effective ones she could use.
Education today is on a tipping point, things are changing at an ever-increasing pace, if you don’t want to get swept away with every new trend and tool, you need to pick your destination and plan your route.