Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Initial thoughts on an ICT and Pedagogy course

In a little under a month’s time I am meant to be in charge of the course EDC3100 ICT and Pedagogy at the University of Southern Queensland. The first time I’ve taught a course since in almost 6 years, should be fun. This is one of the responsibilities of the new job that I haven’t quite yet started. For various reasons, however, I can’t help be start thinking about the course.

As part of my thinking, I’m going to try and blog. To some extent as an attempt to model what I preach. The following is a quick overview of the little I know about the course, the direction the course appears to be taking and some questions I have for you and for reflection.

The course

The course is taken in the third year of a four year Bachelor of Education. The students have a 2 or 3 week stint of prac-teaching towards the end of the course. To some extent the course is the fairly standard “how to teach with ICTs” course found in many education degrees.

The course is offered a couple of times a year. The largest offering has up to a couple of hundred students spread across three different physical campuses and studying via online/distance education. It appears that each cohort gets the equivalent of lectures and tutorials (more on this in the questions).

The key sentence from the course synopsis seems to be this one

Students will engage with the design and delivery of learning experiences for individuals and groups employing a range of developmentally appropriate and flexible teaching, learning and assessment strategies and resources in ICT enriched environments.

The other point made is that students will be able to qualify for the Queensland Department of Education’s ICT certificate.

I’m yet to see a weekly schedule. That and getting access to previous resources, course sites etc is a priority.

Course objectives

The following is my summary/revision of the course objectives. Feel free to insert the appropriate higher level Bloom’s verbs and other verbiage.

  1. past and present (inter)national policies around ICTs in education.
  2. theories and frameworks that inform ICT pedagogies.
  3. ideas about knowledge generation and the knowledge economy and implications for curriculum and pedagogy
  4. role of ICTs in curriculum, learning, and teaching
  5. personal beliefs and practices that impact on the use of ICTs in L&T
  6. design worthwhile student experiences where ICTs are integral to the curriculum and where learners use ICT for higher order thinking
  7. students develop strategic pathways to continue their learning journey and professional recognition.
  8. spell good and use grammar good etc.

If one applies Bigg’s (1996) concept of constructive alignment, then the last outcome would seem to suggest that the course provides students the opportunity to learn about good spelling, grammar, referencing etc.

I wonder if you can read anything into the fact that actually teaching with technology is left until objective 6.

No changes…yet

My plan was (and still is) to essentially teach the course as it stands. Mostly because there are only four or so weeks between when I start work at a new University in a new discipline and when the term starts. This potentially creates three problems:

  1. Not allowed to make changes?.
    I didn’t think University policy would allow me to change anything this close to the start of term. A course this complex usually has lead times for the production of materials, assessment etc. I expect USQ – as an institution with a history in industrial distance education – to have policies preventing willy-nilly changes to courses in the last four weeks before the start of term.
  2. Ignorance.
    USQ is a new university for me. I’ve never taught within a Faculty of Education before. This combination does not provide a firm foundation of informed insight upon which to make changes. I want to know a lot more about the students, the course etc before making changes.
  3. Laziness.
    I’ve just moved town. My kids are settling into new schools. My wife is preparing for a career change. We’re still playing around with real estate and I’m trying to make my way in a new job. I don’t want to complicate that with the task of radically changing a course.

The TTF changes

As it happens, USQ’s Faculty of Education – like all the other Australian university Faculties of Education – are using Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) funds to examine and improve the use of ICTs within their teacher education programs. As part of this the USQ TTF project folk are keen to make some changes to EDC3100 before it’s next offering.

One of the rationales for these changes is influenced by one of my broader questions below about the role of ICTs in education (not to mention more generally). i.e. it is expected that the use of ICTs should become embedded throughout the courses taken by student teachers. If this is the case, why then have a separate course like EDC3100 that teaches ICT and pedagogy? Haven’t the students gotten this already? What does/should EDC3100 add?

The folk pushing these changes are good people with a lot of experience. It’s a great opportunity to listen and observe. Even if the situation challenges my ignorance and laziness explained above.


The brief discussions I’ve had with a couple of USQ staff and the TTF project staff and some skimming of the set text for the course are starting to raise a few questions and remind me of a few others. These are the types of questions I’m keen to engage with when I eventually get around to making some changes to the course.

An initial list includes

  1. Engaging the students.
    Apparently this course and other Faculty of Ed courses suffer the traditional attendance/engagement cycle. i.e. everyone attends the first week, no-one attends subsequent weeks, except for the odd week where an assignment is due. I’m not sure this is a problem I can solve, but it certainly seems to indicate a mismatch somewhere between the course and students.
  2. Treating it more like a design course and less like a theory course.
    The first chapter of the set text focuses on topics more related to the first three or four learning outcomes described above. I can see how this could seem to students to not help them with the main crux of the course. How to use ICTs to teach.

    If the aim is to get students designing effective learning experiences with ICTs, then I’d want them doing lots of designing, examining and critiquing lots of different learning designs with ICTs. Starting from the very start. This experience can then be used to talk about national policies etc.

  3. Modelling good practice.
    One way to do this is to make the design of this course and its various learning experiences transparent and use those designs as part of the critiquing process. One of the aims here would to show that the course doesn’t always model good practice and provide students with the ability to offer modifications. But also for them to be aware of and reflect upon the constraints and different perspectives that influence the idea of what “good” practice actually is.

    One of the barriers to this approach would appear to be the significant difference between the context/practice within a University course and within a school setting. One has lectures/tutorials, the other has 40/50/70 minute lessons. At least one (in theory) expects pre-prepared lessons plans while the other doesn’t. I do wonder whether having parts of this course (or even the whole course) outlines in a set of lesson plans that students can examine and modify as part of the assessment might offer some interesting possibilities (and difficulties).

  4. The question of transformation.
    The set text talks about the transformation of learning enabled by ICTs and yet discussion of lectures and tutorials feature heavily when talking about the course. The course doesn’t seem to show much evidence of transformation.
  5. The need to know more about the nature of technology?
    It appears that there isn’t much talk about the nature of technology and its impact on society. This sort of thing could quickly become boringly theoretically pointless, but could be useful. Wonder if this would be revisiting a previous version of the course?
  6. Making it public and authentic.
    The course seems to have a bit of group work. But it’s all presented within the virtual or physical class. I’m keen to see this go outside the class. What can these students do for assessment that would be valued by their mentor teachers, other student teachers and the broader
  7. Why is ICT and pedagogy still separate?
    I’m escaping the information systems (IS) discipline and moving into education. In part, because it appears that information systems is shrinking due to ICT becoming part of everyday life. Instead of there being a separate discipline (IS) examining the integration of technology and organisational/social life, the organisational and social sciences are examining technology.

    I can see echoes of this in this course, as mentioned above. If technology is part of every day learning and teaching, why have a separate ICT in pedagogy course? Shouldn’t it be part of all the courses?

    The obvious answer at the moment is that it really isn’t embedded in many of the other courses and there may remain some useful experiences to provide in this sort of course.

  8. How can I get the Pre-Service Teacher Networking (PSTN) project connected with this course.
    There are some good folk trying to get an interesting project up and going. I’m keen for this course, or at least some of the students within it, to engage with the project. I need to figure out how/if this can be done.
  9. Read more about the TTF.
    It’s a big thing in the sector/discipline at the moment.


Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32(3), 347-364.


Teaching computer science considered harmful?


Reflections on understanding context


  1. Re TPCK – their argument is still premised on “integration”, i.e. don’t touch the classroom, schooling – we need to integrate… or as my Darlek would say: domesticate, domesticate…. πŸ™‚

    The only good think about TPCK is that it aims for holism but still works to retain the boundaries it supposedly squishes. The original papers are well intentioned but badly argued.

    For me the problem goes back a bit further than where TPCK or PCK sees the problem.

    What I think matters most for kids is access to mature insider forms of practice (MIFP), not folk passing it on 2nd hand. The net now does a lot of 2nd hand passing – i.e. Khan – YouTube etc. I think there are instances where kids have access to MIFP in schools, more often in the arts, i.e. a music teacher who actually plays music professionally, a sports teacher who plays sport etc. Generally science teachers don’t do any science, maths teachers no maths. Do any English teachers write? I think induction into the various forms of cultural expression and forms of knowledge is really important and teachers, to me, are looking a lot like bank tellers in the 1970’s. I think teachers, given the appalling difficulties they face do a brill job – but they could be freed from the crap and attend to the stuff they do really well and get away from the silly guarding of schooled forms of knowledge.

    Phew. πŸ™‚

    So that is my beef with things like TPCK. It simply misses the point. They keep things much as they are. The planet has changed. That change will get uglier – those pesky exponentials are a real bugger. We don’t need folk telling other folk about their certainties. We need folk help folk to learn how different groups of folk tackle this weird planet. In one of the KPS sites some years back – junior 2nd stuff. The kids became interested in indigenous star signs (I did not even know they existed!). Teachers knew little of astronomy. So they got online -connected to MIFP – kids ended up grinding precision lenses, building their own telescopes, running star watching nights for primary kids etc etc. The teacher remarked. I’m just a flunkie for the kids, they drive me, tell me what to do. Of course he was not just that but it captured nicely a role that does not appear in any of the teacher ed manuals. πŸ™‚

    To me it gets back to those rough mind sets in one of those chapters – i.e. 1. sure world has changed – it’s just been made more digital – we know what is going on – trust us. All we need do is apply/integrate this stuff and all will be well. (TPCK fits here).

    2. World has changed. Schools are post-Gutenberg organisation. They will die a slow death. This is the digital Illich, de-schooling line.

    3. World has changed. We don’t have a bloody clue about what will happen next we need to help kids develop competences, confidence in their abilities to do real stuff in the world. This is where KPS fits and the various other schooling at the edges stuff. They all have these rough characteristics: access to MIFP, they produce products that are valued by audiences bigger than Mum, Dad and their teacher, they develop a good sense that they can have agency in the world.

    Good luck amigo!

    • A lot of stuff there to ponder, query and respond to. Hoping to do that in the coming week. The kids are off to school and we should get some decent net access at home. So I should have some time.

      Chris, really appreciative of you taking the time to comment and share.

  2. mikecosgrave

    I deal with the attendance problem by aligning elements of my portfolio based assessment to in class activities. For example. I have set reading, which the students post responses to on our VLE, and I use them as the starter for in class discussion each class. Some of the forum posts are submitted in the assessment portfolio.

    In another class, the major essay is based on an in-class simulation which we do in the second and third last weeks of term, so to do anything in the essay, you need to participate in the simulation.

    • G’day Mike,

      And that works well for you? What sort of course do you teach? An “ICT and Pedagogy” course? Interested in hearing more.

      This sounds like it’s approaching the idea of “constructive alignment”, which is a good idea in theory. For some reason, however, I’ve always felt a bit uncertain about it. To some extent constructive alignment forces the student to engage in the learning activities you want. The element of force has always made me uneasy.

      Speaking with the optimism of someone who hasn’t taught a University course in 6 years, I like the idea of students engaging in the activities/course because they want to, not because they are forced.

      The question is how long this thinking will last in the crucible of a course.

      The other uncertainty I have is the whole notion of essays. I had to do essays in my year-long diploma in teaching. Many of my fellow students and I didn’t see a lot of connection between the essay and the tasks we were being asked to perform in schools. In my context, I’m wondering if there is assessment that I can set which is realistic/authentic.


  3. A fun little debate about essays and other modes of writing has bubbled up in the US.

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