What are your thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in your own context? How will your learning influence your practice?

When I first started teaching English language in schools almost 20 years ago, I had already realized that traditional literacies like reading and writing will continue to be crucial skills, but on their own they are not sufficient to achieve success in today’s globally digital environment. Fast forward all these years, I do believe that indeed, for educators to equip learners with today’s equally crucial 21st century competencies, appropriate learning and teaching approaches which are supported by emerging technology-enabled pedagogical models need to be developed. Research has shown that harnessing the affordances of technologies has the potential to revolutionalize the advancement of 21st century skills (and competencies) such as new media literacies, collaboration, communication and global awareness (eg. Ching, Shuler, Lewis, & Levine, 2009).

With the conclusion of ONL202, I recall designing curricula based on the Activity Theory as a conceptual model (Engestrom, & Miettinen, 1999). Activity theory builds on the work of Vygotsky (1978) and is a way of considering learning using three features – involving a subject (the learner), an object (the task or activity) and tool or mediating artefacts. Its central tenet is that human behaviour is situated within a social context that influences their actions. The meanings of actions are mediated by the rules of their community and the division of labour within the community influences the ways in which we behave (Scanlon, Jones, & Waycott, 2005). The emphasis that Activity Theory places on tools, including computer-based tools in the way activities are mediated is very helpful as I look towards improving my future practice in teaching English and Communication Studies at the under and postgraduate levels. This would shift my attention away from simply the interaction between the technology and learner to the activity as a whole. The following figure illustrates the interplay of the subject (learner), tools (learning tasks), and object of learning as it relates to the framework affordances in designing learning tasks.

Drawing on Activity Theory can help in the design of learning tasks that can reflect the authentic practices of the wider community of learners in the class, incorporate and build on learners’ identities and provide diverse scope for engagement of learning. However, it may not be enough to account for the contextualized leveraging of technologies in language and communication studies instruction. Puentedura’s (2006) SAMR model of the Levels of Technology Usage which consist of four levels – Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition could also be helpful for me as I consider the affordance of a particular tool in enhancing the learning outcomes of my lessons. For example, how will the use of Sutori and Padlet help my students to collaboratively deepen their understanding and internalise the concepts of Engineering Leadership through the use of critical thinking tools? At the very least I would need to consider how the use of these tools would allow me to modify my task design in such a way that would not have been possible if I had merely used the tools to replace the whiteboard in student presentations.

These reflections lead me to the all too familiar ‘potential-practice gap’, which potentially poses a challenge to the further emancipation of technologies as a viable option for, in my context, language or communication studies learning and teaching. Scholars have argued that that knowledge about technology cannot be treated as context-free, and that good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content. Thus, I have always fallen back on Koehler and Mishra’s (2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework. It serves the foundations for argument on the need for pedagogically informed ways of learning and teaching with technologies. Central to understanding Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK framework is the capacity to separate the three components (i.e., content, pedagogy, and technology) while at the same time understanding that they co-exist in a dynamic transactional relationship. True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. This kind of understanding provides a foundation for new pedagogical outcomes that will enable educators to effectively teach especially in the unprecedented times of emergency remote teaching. It is also with this understanding that I will continue to use TPACK as a framework for assessing effective use of the technologies integrated to achieve the specific learning outcomes of my redesigned instruction.

In conclusion, I believe that the implementation of technology-enhanced learning and teaching, particularly in my context of language and communication instruction, involves establishing frameworks of language learning and teaching on the basis of which decisions about technology use can be made. Mishra and Koehler (2006) assert with the TPACK model, just knowing the technology or having technology content knowledge is inadequate for applying technology effectively and helping students learn new literacies.

Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components.” (p. 1030).

Lots indeed for me to think about when it comes to improving my practice!

Lessons learnt – future practice