This paper provides a broad overview of the papers presented in this symposium. It purports to make some tentative inferences from the early findings and weave these emergent themes into a coherent pattern. In creating these ‘fuzzy generalisations’ (Bassey, 1999), the purpose is to add to the growing professional discourse that is taking place around the pedagogies of new technology. The paper therefore focuses on four issues that have arisen within and across the subject design initiatives: the tension between teaching about or teaching through ICT; the persistence of pedagogical style; the centrality of confidence and competence; and the curriculum contradictions that arise when ICT is incorporated into established subject cultures. The paper also grapples with the thorny issue of the relationship between teachers’ epistemological and personal theories and the use of ICT in their practice. Finally, the overview highlights the sorts of professional development implications that might accrue from the increased use of ICT in classroom communities. INTRODUCTION
The literature dealing with technology and pedagogy attests to the powerful impact ICT can have on the teaching and learning process. In terms of generic learning, the research indicates that levels of collaboration and communication are enhanced by the use of computers as are knowledge building and thinking skills (Sandholz et al., 1996; Howe et al., 1996; Light et al,. 1996; Knight and Knight, 1995; McFarlane, 1997). In various subject areas, there is also evidence that new technologies afford a range of opportunities that can transform teaching and offer improved possibilities for learning (Vaughn 1997; Barton 1997; Selinger, 1998; Haydn, 1998). It has also been claimed that using technology well in classrooms can even enable teachers to be more successful in helping students to be more effective citizens. While there may be some questions surrounding the methodology of these studies as well as some ex parti extrapolation, it is certainly true to say that incorporating ICT into classroom situations can and does alter the traditional balance between teacher and learner. Whether this effect is ultimately ‘good’ or ‘better’, however defined, still depends on a host of variables, in particular, the way in which ICT interacts with teachers’ epistemological and personal theories and the concomitant challenges it presents to the established subject sub-cultures of schools. The purpose of this paper is to provide some broader understanding of these challenges and thereby provide more theoretical contour to the various subject design initiatives already presented in the symposium. First, a brief explanation of some of the key theoretical perspectives underpinning the professional development strand of the project and the ways they have been used to inform both the construction and continuation of the subject design initiatives.
In their analysis of the contribution new technologies can make to teaching and learning, Gregoire et al (1996) provided the following with respect to student learning:
• New technologies can stimulate the development of intellectual skills • New technologies can contribute to the ways of learning knowledge, skills and attitudes, although this is dependent on previously acquired knowledge and the type of learning activity
• New technologies spur spontaneous interest more than traditional approaches • Students using new technologies concentrate more than students in traditional settings
These positive images are, however, balanced by two further observations of genuine significance:
• The benefit to students of using new technologies is greatly dependent, at least for the moment, on the technological skill of the teacher and the teacher’s attitude to the presence of the technology in teaching.
• The skill and this attitude in turn are largely dependent on the training staff have received in this area (p.18)...