Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

When will we no longer teach ICTs to pre-service teachers?

Earlier today I tweeted the following

It resonated with a few people so I thought I’d share the reference and ramble a bit about the local implications.

The origin

The broader context of the quote from Barton and Haydn (2006, p. 258) is

Kenneth Baker (1988) saw the development of a technologically enabled teaching force as straightforward, explaining to a conference of Education Officers in 1988 that from henceforth, such skills would be built into initial training courses: ‘the problem of getting teachers aware of IT will soon be phased out as all new entrants will soon have IT expertise’

It appears that Kenneth Baker is in fact Baron Baker of Dorking a British Conservative MP who was the Secretary of State for Education and Science from 1986 to 1988. Obviously Baron Baker’s prognostications were a little wayward.

Especially given the Australian Government’s funding last year of the Teaching Teachers for the Future project with the aim of

enabling all pre-service teachers at early, middle and senior levels to become proficient in the use of ICT in education

. Not to mention the fact that I’m currently largely employed to teach a course that is meant to help achieve the same end.

The difference between IT and ICT in education

Though, without knowing exactly the broader context of Baron Baker’s talk it’s easy to draw to broad a conclusion and make a false comparison. @BenjaminHarwood responded to my original tweet with

I wonder if Baron Baker was using IT to mean the ability to turn a computer on and other fundamental skills. 1988 saw Windows 2.10 released in May. So most people we’re still using MS-DOS. The TTF project is focused on the broader “ICT in education”. i.e. @BenjaminHarwood’s “pedagogical integration expertise”.

Will it ever go away

I have to admit to making a claim somewhat similar to Baron Baker’s over the last year. Generally wondering how much longer I’ll be employed to teach “ICT and Pedagogy” as a stand alone course. The though is that we don’t teach “Video and pedagogy” or “Written word and pedagogy” courses, so why are ICTs any different? Won’t the need for a separate course disappear once all the other courses are doing a wonderful job of integrating innovative examples of ICTs and pedagogy?

@palbion had a suggestion, which I think is one of the factors

The on-going change of ICTs does appear to have created some illusion of having to continually re-learn. Even though perhaps some of the fundamentals have stayed the same. But perhaps a large part of that is simply because much use of ICTs and pedagogy has never gotten beyond the substitution/augmentation level as per the SAMR model.

SAMR model image from Jenny Luca’s TPACK and SAMR blog post

While there are many reasons for this lack of movement “up the scale”, much of it would seem to come back to the formal education system and the nature of the organisations that underpin it. A nature that does not really enable nor encourage transformation of operation. Especially not transformation driven by the teaching staff. An inertia that is playing its part within both school systems and institutions of higher education responsible for teaching the next generation of teachers.

@s_palm pointed to the broader “digital native” myth

So maybe the need will never go away, or perhaps at least not until I reach retirement age or decide to move onto greener pastures.


Barton, R., & Haydn, T. (2006). Trainee teachers’ views on what helps them to use information and communication technology effectively in their subject teaching. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(4), 257–272. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2006.00175.x


BIM 2.0 – cleaning up issues – Part 1


BIM 2.0 – Cleaning up issues – Part 2


  1. The game will/can continue to the point when this work, the teaching can and will be delegated to machines. That is one scenario that most will pooh pooh. IMHO AI no longer the joke it has been for decades. Automation marches on lots of fronts. Education ain’t immune. The “when” in the question suggests scenarios to me, i.e. how could we get to the point when this would/could occur. Automation is just one. Lots of others.

  2. OK. It’s more slow hunch than specifics. And yes I know that today is important. Exhibit 1. Hod Lipson’s Eureqa – builds models from raw data. On some occasions the models are incomprehensible to humans – Lipson reckons, like teaching Shakespeare to a dog.
    Exhibit 2 Jeff Hawkins’ Grok. Just need to get real time feeds from the kiddies…. fancy pattern matching/predicting
    Exhibit 3. Philip Parker’s book writing system. e.g. The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats – produces a squillion books-
    Lots more. A lot of BS claims but there is stuff at the edges that look more than interesting… and no one yet has rescinded Moore’s law

    • Thanks. Just spent a bit of time reading up on all three of those. Have to say that while I’m amazed at what these tools are doing, I’m not sure what they are doing means that AI’s (and other forms of computational capabilities) can extrapolate out to perform some of the more messy cognitive feats of humans. Even while I retain a healthy respect for the possibilities of Moore’s law (and hence won’t be terribly surprised if I’m wrong), I retain my reservations.

      What I took from Eureqa was that it wasn’t really a scientist. It could perform a very important task that humans really couldn’t. Similarly, however, there are aspects of science that Eureqa couldn’t do.

      As it happens I was reading this today and “the missing Viola player” captures some of what I think AI etc. can’t do around teaching now and perhaps into the future.

      I don’t think Intelligent Tutoring Systems or similar are going to replace the need for some human involvement in teaching. I do suspect, however, they and similar will radically chance the nature of the human involvement.

      Perhaps I’m just getting old enough to become my Dad.

      • Lovely post – Feldstein’s but the logics being discussed are firmly rooted in industrial education logics. ITSs live there. And your assess is spot on. I read a lot of the AI “news worthy” hype as indicators – barely proof of concept stuff. I prefer to turn all this on its head because machines will be doing so much of what we currently teach students to do. For me always two key questions: what do kids need to know given what machines can do or soon will; and 2. how do you teach kids about how to wisely delegate work to machines. As someone recently noticed, we are already living in “their world”. We just have not noticed. 🙂

  3. My comment is too verbose to post here so I’ve blogged it at

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