In order to improve the pedagogical approaches to that, on the one hand, they meet with the aspirations of a society involved in the information and communication technologies (ICT) absorption process, and on the other hand, in order to learn what educational research (Kerr, 1996) teaches us on learning, this paper proposes a model of professional development which gives more and more power to students and pedagogues making use of electronic equipment to inform, communicate, and collaborate.
This model is growing out of the author's participation in the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence, a major R & D project in Canada (http://fas.sfu.ca/telelearn). One of the themes, Educating the Educators, aims at taking advantage of those interpersonal skills, communication and collaboration, that computer technology can support. It aims at building a virtual community of learners, made up of well established partnerships, of learning activities involving high school learners, student teachers, teachers, and teacher educators.
The model is based on a logic which focuses on the development of participants' autonomy as well as that of the learning communities. The electronic network is looked at as an indispensable means to meet the objectives. But its integration in schools and classrooms relies mainly on the successful connection between conceptors' imagination and the users'. The teacher educators' role is a key element of success as they are at the forefront to explain the students how the ICT constitute one of the important tools they could use to meet their pedagogical goals and responsibilities.
Taylor Northrup & Little's study (1996) dealt with the Success Indicators as regards to the ICT integration into the programs related to the training of teachers. While referring to the needs and expectations formulated to meet training purposes and use of current practices in integrating the ICT, they make clear the fact that many university establishments are actually looking for appropriate ways to meet the new social demands (p. 214). From now on, we can see the importance of working in close cooperation with teachers, schools and school boards.
The Educating the Educators Team works on the development of strong university/school collaboration with special attention to: telelearning activities, harmonious combinations of face-to-face interaction, online communication between learners, teachers, student teachers, and teacher educators, virtual places for information and interaction, that is, areas in cyberspace where one member of a learning community and others could find relevant educational ressources, communicate with researchers and mentors, engage conversation in virtual groups, and contribute to the development of new online ressources, and state-of-the-art sites for leading edge Canadian telelearning technologies.
The present professional development model offers the image of a pyramidal structure which could be pictured as follows:
Phase I: Developing an Awareness of the Network Phenomenon. It consists in developing an awareness of emerging social expectations. For instance, informing teachers about network features, the W3, broad economic trends and difficulties related to information and communication technologies (ICT), teachers' role, turn of the Century learner's role (see SchoolNet's Vision Statement: http://www. schoolnet.ca), and about new working methods. It gives a new sense to the on-going implementation activities (changes needed because of new technologies, potential social impact on school practices, evaluation, and effectiveness in professional activity). Basic postulates: networks, a powerful phenomenon; active learning, the promising way; a culture to develop, collaboration. The working hypothesis is that the more a teacher is aware of the transition towards a knowledge society, of the necessity to confront new limits in the exploration, collaboration for and social production of knowledge, and of his/her role and that of the school in this endeavour, the more he/she may be willing to put in the extra efforts to access and master the technical possibilities of available new technologies.
Phase II: Mastering the Internet and Intranet Ressources. This consists in the ability to have access, to analyze and to make sense of the information as well as to be able to talk, to create and to communicate through ICT. Technical abilities are a must. To provide help and pratice time in the utilization of new support and applications. The search and evaluation of sites, choices in CD-rom tools, and so on. The use of the technological media made by teacher educators, students, teachers, undergraduates, and other persons involved, becomes of an intensive, diversified and inventive nature. Texts are exchanged as well as schemes, graphics and other visual messages. Teachers and teacher educators co-plan, and co-supervise student teachers' activities. Student teachers coordinate, through face-to-face and on-line interactions, their searches of relevant sites, lesson plans and learning materials. Joint activities for school-based teachers and/or university-based teachers on the use of new technologies for learning and teaching are taking place. Some participants communicate electronically to others the fruits of their accumulated knowledge and identified zones of inquiry.
Phase III: Seeing New Possibilities for Learning and Teaching. With the linking of a network of computers, a brand new field of possibilities becomes available to the teachers. The creativity of the first users makes room for the imagination of the pedagogue, the social actor. Without total mastery of the basic applications (word processors, spreadsheet programs, etc.), it is possible to explore a variety of available educational resources on the W3; - to develop an understanding of the methodology, and coming up with ideas and startling examples on how to make use of the W3 so that it provides the students with a more active learning model throughout curricular activities; - to know that cognitive psychology pays more attention to learners as solvers of complex problems; - to imagine possible collaboration schemes; - to outline new learning models; - to single out specific basic applications of interactive learning processes; - to give examples of the ways of creating an appropriate social context for learning: social interactions that lead to the creation of intersubjectivity spaces, to scaffolding within the student's zone of proximal development; - to be aware of the technical support that learners can bring to teachers in the implementation of computer-based collaborative learning activities.
Phase IV: Establishing New Classroom Management Routines. Identify various ways: - to manage one's own time (for example: x minutes a day for the e-mail; x hours a month to learn how to use a specific application); - to learn to live with new types of discipline problems raised by the use of the Internet or Intranet in a heterogeneous classroom; - to know what is available on the network (Intranet and Internet); - to apply the learning principles underlying any choice of specific projects, keeping in mind the use that can be made of them through the needs and characteristics of the students; - to link various online learning activities to existing school programs; - to create in the student environment, a cooperative learning atmosphere leading to the meeting of the legal and ethical requirements inherent to the nature of the school; - to reflect on the practical applications, informed-decision making processes, and modeling within the young people circles.
Phase V: Directing Project-Based Learning. The actual learnings, in general, take shape and form through itineraries of projects which have a certain scope and which call upon for some expertise in the area of a variety of knowledge, particularly of a fundamental nature and of all kinds of skills (planning, implementing and evaluating projects). Sense-making is key. Learners, teachers, student teachers, and teacher educators engage in projects which often combine with curriculum integration. They can make use of ICT in a variety of teaching and learning strategies, particularly of those calling for a high degree of participation by the students. They use specific technologies conducive to the reaching of higher levels of competence by the students. They have great respect for the social demand which requires the teacher to insure proper discipline and standards, and to sensitize students to both internal or external evaluation. With student teachers, much energy is devoted to the establishment of a clear and stimulating function, seen as necessary, between abstract concepts and theoretical frameworks and the hard facts and demands of classroom reality. They are encouraged to develop a healthy critical attitude towards the project on their experience as students in a university or as student teachers in a school.
Phase VI: Knowledge-Building Communities. The knowledge building which constitutes the goal of the whole TeleLearning Program, represents quite a challenge (see Bereiter & Scardamalia, " intentional learning environments ", http://csile.oise.utoronto.ca). It is rooted in a vision that participating in collaborative spaces means getting actively involved in progressive discourse and in the construction of one's own knowledge. Strong expectations are located at the very place where the capacities and performance of each person will be called upon to prevail. The potential is there for an entire communication process (between students, schools, undergraduates linked to different schools, undergraduates and teachers or university supervisors and professors, etc.) to create a system dominated by knowledge building and experience sharing, thus creating an environment imbued with continuous transformation.
Kerr, S.T., ed. (1996) Technology and the Future of Schooling. In Ninety-fifth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Taylor Northrup, P. & Little, W. (1996) Establishing Instructional Technology Benchmarks for Teacher Preparation Programs. Educational Leadership, 47, 3, 213-222.
Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec
City, Qc, Canada