Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Revealing Authentic Teacher Professional Development Using Situated Learning in Virtual Environments as a Teaching Tool

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Revealing Authentic Teacher Professional Development Using Situated Learning in Virtual Environments as a Teaching Tool

Article excerpt

[Abstract]

The purpose of this study was to demonstrate if and how pre-service teachers form pedagogic identities while participating in simulated professional development activities using two Internet-based virtual environments, Second Life and Skype. To reveal the pre-service teachers' pedagogic identity development, an exploratory case study (Yin, 2008) was conducted through which data were gathered from 4 interactive episodes as well as from face-to-face debriefings and personal reflective statements that occurred between the episodes. The findings of this study suggested the positive potential of using virtual environments to enable pedagogic transformations among pre-service teacher participants with appropriate considerations acknowledged for teaching audience, developmental goals, and venue of instruction.

[Keywords] Pedagogic identity; professional development; teacher education; virtual teaching tools;

Introduction

The most effective learning within a professional community occurs when said learning is highly situated around social interactions in which authentic practice takes place (Bell & Morris, 2009; Lave & Wenger, 1991). In terms of pre-service teacher education programs, a gap between what a pre-service teacher internalizes and alters by way of reflective practices and what is left unaltered continues to generate significant discussion among educational researchers (Freeman, 1996; Wallace, 1996). These discussions focus around discovering how it is possible that, when most of their professional development activities are face-to-face, these teachers become self-regulated- a topic curiously missing from the existing research and scholarly discourse. Concomitant to the discussion is how collaborative and in-the-head learning among teachers engaged in these development opportunities becomes cognitively unpacked through interactive collaborative practices (Erben, 1999, 2001).

Simulations or opportunities to practice new instructional techniques are most often conducted peer-to-peer: professionals are engaging and practicing with each other rather than with students who might represent their classroom demographic. Thus, teachers will often dismiss the information or training as impractical and unrepresentative of their authentic teaching climates. Relocating the face-to-face training to a virtual classroom, then, could provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to use a simulated instructional setting to apply practically specific ESOL competencies while simultaneously interacting with other pre-service teachers. In theory, this type of scaffolded interaction could potentially enable internalization (and later application) of the pre-service teachers' ESOL training by using Second Life (Linden Labs, 2004) and Skype (Skype Limited, 2009) as facilitating instructional tools to reveal authentic pedagogic identity development. Second Life is a Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) in which participants interact using a digital representation of themselves (called an avatar) (Ducheneaut, Wen, Yee, & Wadley, 2009). Skype is an Internet-based video conferencing program with live chat and instant messaging capabilities.

Re-Conceptualizing Teacher Training in the 21st Century

Emerging technologies such as Second Life (Linden Labs, 2004) and Skype (Skype Limited, 2009) have enabled the development of training programs that digitally mirror what a teacher might encounter in the real world. These digital realities have been made possible by advancements in multimedia as seen in Internet- and non-Internet-based programs. Better and more realistic graphics, more user-friendly interfaces, and mobile technologies have contributed to the popularity of using virtual programs for training (Haugen, Ask, & Bjoerke, 2008). However, when faced with providing teachers with real-world scenarios, instructors must frequently contend with providing situations so detached from the teacher's reality that it renders their future application almost useless (Shulman & Hutchins, 2004). …

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