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Future language teachers’ pedagogical landscapes during their subject studies



Lecturer, University of Jyväskylä Language Centre, Finland

juha.jalkanen@jyu.fi

This article examines the experiences, attitudes and perceptions language students have regarding the use of ICT in language teaching. In addition, the article analyses the key characteristics of language students’ pedagogical designs. The data come from a pedagogically oriented subject-studies course that focuses on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the European Language Portfolio. The data, which consist of language students’ reflections and course plans, have been analysed using qualitative content analysis. The findings imply that language students’ pedagogical landscapes reflect their own experiences as learners. Furthermore, the literacy practices in language students’ designs are mainly static and do not respond to the needs of the knowledge society.

Keywords: Pedagogical designs, literacy practices, language teaching, ICT use

Introduction

It has been posited that there is the danger of a vicious circle within teacher education. If the education of future teachers does not challenge the practices teachers are socialized into during their formal studies, they will easily end up repeating these practices in their own classrooms without critically reflecting on them (Ruohotie-Lyhty & Kaikkonen, 2009; Taalas, Kauppinen, Tarnanen, & Pöyhönen, 2008). In the case of ICT, the issue is that student teachers may lack, as teachers and as learners, experiences of systemic pedagogical designs in technology-rich environments.

The current technology-rich environment affords a multitude of ways in which the pedagogical setting can be orchestrated using the tools and spaces available within different contexts. Pedagogically meaningful use of these artefacts requires an understanding of the roles and processes that constitute the pedagogical event and an informed design for them that is in line with the learning objectives (Lund & Hauge, 2011). Biggs (1996) uses the term constructive alignment to make a point regarding the importance of a systemic view of the pedagogical setting. In this line of thinking, objectives, modes of working, available (social and material) resources and assessment practices are aligned, that is, they support each other.

This article examines the pedagogical landscapes of language students. It attempts to illuminate the trajectories of pedagogical design practices in technology-rich environments. The motivation for the study stems from the need to develop the expertise of future language teachers in what Taalas (2005) calls multimodal pedagogy. In other words, language teachers need to be able to build the learning tools, working modes and the use of different media around the learning process – not around the learning content – in order to address both individual and group learning needs.

Language teacher education in Finland consists of subject studies (organized by the subject department) and pedagogical studies (organized by the department of teacher education). Due to the fact that so many language students become teachers, the trend has been, to some extent, to incorporate the pedagogical approach to language and language learning in the subject studies as well. The study reported in this article is based on the data collected from a pedagogically oriented course organized by the subject department. The data consist of language students’ reflections and course plans. The article’s aim is to map the participants’ pedagogical landscapes1 by first examining the language students’ experiences, attitudes and perceptions of ICT in language teaching and then by analysing the students’ pedagogical construction of course plans. The research questions are as follows:

  1. What kinds of experiences, attitudes and perceptions do the language students have regarding the educational use of ICT?

  2. What are the key characteristics of the language students’ pedagogical designs?

The exploration is begun by discussing policy and research perspectives in the development of pedagogical designs in technology-rich environments. Next, the collection and analysis of the data are described, followed by a discussion of the results. Finally, the key issues emerging from the results are highlighted.

Background

Great expectations meet reality

On a policy level, national and international strategies have, for some time, recognized the need to rethink and redesign education to match changing societal conditions. For instance, from the European perspective, the EU strategy Rethinking Education (2012) calls for a fundamental shift in education and stresses the role of technology and teacher education as change agents. The OECD Innovation Strategy (2010), in turn, envisages curricula and pedagogies that would develop the capacity for learning new skills and take full advantage of information and communication technologies. Nationally, in regard to the use of ICT in education, the development plan for education and research in Finland for 2011–2016 (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2012) states:

Information and communications technology (ICT) is an essential part of education, working life and the operation of the whole society. The use of ICT makes for more flexible and personalised learning and renews instruction. Care will be taken in both initial and continuing teacher education to make sure that teachers are able to use ICT in education. (p. 18)

Building on the illusion that the use of ICT will renew teachers’ practices, the quotation above paints a vision of a dynamic education system. It states teacher education will ensure that teachers are able to use ICT in education. To date, a great deal of training for teachers has focused on developing their technical skills, but a link to pedagogy has been lacking. In part, this explains why many studies report a low level of renewal in education. As Cope and Kalantzis (2009) provocatively put it, ‘digital technologies arrive, and almost immediately, old pedagogical practices of didactic teaching, content delivery for student ingestion, and testing for the right answers are mapped onto them and called a “learning management system”’ (p. 4). On the basis of recent research, the lack of new thinking in regard to pedagogical practices seems, however, to be the status quo (Ilomäki & Kankaanranta, 2009; Kankaanranta & Puhakka, 2008; Luukka et al., 2008; Taalas, 2005). Unsuccessful training has been accompanied by large investments in technological resources in schools, leading to a situation where technology in education is, in Cuban’s (2001) famous words, oversold and underused. Future teachers play a key role as change agents. This role, however, requires that the vicious circle in teacher education is broken.

Rethinking language and literacy practices: confronting complexity

Language education, like education in general, is under pressure to change, renew and rethink its practices, structures and learning goals. New forms of language use emerge, and new competences are needed to cope with the diverse literacy and language practices of contemporary society (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008; Gee, 2004; Kress, 2010; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). For instance, the spread of technology and globalization have shaped the way people use languages in their everyday lives in terms of where, why and how: ‘As the communicative landscape grows in possibilities, so the artefacts and media are taken up by people in different and diverse ways in order to take and make meaning, communicate and do things through meaningful activity’ (Ivanič et al., 2009, p. 15). This means that both students and teachers need tools to structure, guide and conceptualize different types of processes in often multilingual, multicultural and multimodal environments of language use and learning. Moreover, continuously evolving forms of participatory publishing, often linked with the concept of Web 2.0 (O'Reilly, 2005), such as blogs, microblogs, image and video services as well as environments based on peer production, blur the boundaries of ownership and authorship, and the roles of producer and consumer merge (Drotner & Schroder, 2010; Jenkins, 2006).

At various times, literacy has been considered to be a manifestation of power. It has enabled access to knowledge as well as to the processing and production of it. Knowledge, in turn, is central to the ways contemporary society operates. Many of today’s jobs, therefore, are knowledge-intensive: practitioners search, process, evaluate and produce information for various purposes. Against this background, it appears that the literacy developed during today’s formal education does not sufficiently correspond to the social, cultural and multimodal nature of information in contemporary societies (Brown & Duguid, 2002; Kress, 2010; Lantolf, 2000). As Erstad (2011) suggests, there is a need to reorient the approach to literacy:

The different literate worlds that young people move between, online and offline, relating to different ways of getting access to and interpreting information (‘reading’) and producing content in different modalities (‘writing’), informs us about how we need to reorient what we mean by ‘being literate’ in our culture. (p. 100)

Ideally, the future citizen would skilfully employ various linguistic resources combined with digital competence in order to cope with information-rich processes associated with the knowledge society (Kern, 2000; Taalas et al., 2008).

Designs for teaching and learning in technology-rich environments

From a pedagogical standpoint, the many new technologies make possible a variety of activities that support the learning process, including publishing, sharing, discussing, constructing knowledge, and networking (De Freitas & Conole, 2010). Although the emerging technologies offer new possibilities for orchestrating the pedagogical setting, they also increase the complexity of teaching and learning. This phenomenon calls for new ways of making sense of pedagogical complexities.

In recent times, many researchers have pointed to the need for conceptual models that would structure the pedagogical design process and support the analysis of the resulting learning activity for further enhancements (Conole, 2013; Laurillard, 2012; Lund & Hauge, 2011). This interest in pedagogical designs has led to the development of new design methodologies as well as of new frameworks for evaluating and enhancing designs.

In this article, design is seen as a concept bridging theory and practice. It thus encompasses ‘both a systematic approach with rules based on evidence, and a set of contextualized practices that are constantly adapting to circumstances’ (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007, p. 6). In addition, the article adheres to Lund and Hauge’s (2011, p. 263) definition of didactics as ‘the design of social practices in which learners, teachers and (social and material) resources are configured and re-configured in activities that make knowledge domains and knowledge advancement visible, and that continuously create opportunities for reflective participation in such activities’. In this line of thinking, the teacher is seen as a designer who creates a blueprint for action, which functions as a roadmap in complex pedagogical situations. This roadmap unfolds in the pedagogical situation as the learners bring their own life worlds into play (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Lund & Hauge, 2011).

Development of pedagogical designs is, however, a multidimensional issue. According to, for instance, Fullan (2007, p. 30), there are at least three dimensions or levels of new when introducing a change: the use of new materials (instructional resources such as curriculum materials or technologies), the use of new teaching approaches (i.e. new teaching strategies or activities), and the alteration of beliefs (e.g. underlying pedagogical assumptions and theories).

The degree of change within these levels is related to the change in the modus operandi of schools. All of the dimensions are needed to bring about a systemic change, but very often the change takes place on the first level only (e.g. when introducing new technologies). However, according to Woods and Luke (2012, p. 313), a pedagogical innovation ‘amounts to an attempt to reframe and reconstitute knowledge in classrooms, to alter and shift the social, interaction and discourse work that teachers and students “do” in face-to-face relations’. In other words, it means a profound alteration of the traditional roles in the classroom. The role of technology can be examined through Twining’s (2002) computer practice framework, which consists of three modes: support for the learning process, extension of the learning process, and transformation of the learning process.

Table 1. The two mindsets (Lankshear & Knobel 2006).

Mindset 1

Mindset 2

The world is much the same as before, only now it is more technologized in more sophisticated ways:

– The world is appropriately interpreted, understood and responded to in broadly physical-industrial terms

– Value is a function of scarcity

– An ‘industrial’ view of production:

- products as material artefacts

- a focus on infrastructure and production units (e.g., a firm or company)

- tools for producing

– Focus on individual intelligence

– Expertise and authority ‘located’ in individuals and institutions

– Space as enclosed and purpose-specific

– Social relations of ‘bookspace’; a stable ‘textual order’

The world is very different from before and largely as a result of the emergence and uptake of digital electronic inter-networked technologies:

– The world cannot adequately be interpreted, understood and responded to in physical-industrial terms

– Value is a function of dispersion

– A ’post-industrial’ view of production:

- products as enabling services

- a focus on leverage and non finite participation

- tools for mediating and relating

– Focus on collective intelligence

– Expertise and authority are distributed and collective; hybrid experts

– Space as open, continuous and fluid

– Social relations of emerging ’digital media space’; texts in change

Finally, Lankshear and Knobel (2006) have described the transition from industrial society to post-industrial society as continua between the various dimensions of two mindsets. The first mindset builds on the assumption that the contemporary world is essentially the same as it has been, only now it is more technologized. This world relies on the same economic, cultural and social principles and routines. The second mindset, conversely, takes the stand that the world is different in many respects from industrial times. The change is related to new ways of doing and being in the world made possible by the new technologies. These mindsets serve as a lens for the interpretation of this study’s results.

Pedagogical context and data

Pedagogical context

The empirical analysis presented here is based on qualitative data collected at one Finnish university between 2009 and 2010. The data were collected on a course which was targeted at language students in the Department of Languages. The objective of the course was to familiarize students with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP). During the course, each student created a course plan for a vocational school programme of his or her own choosing.

Table 2. Structure of the pedagogical context

Theme 1: focus on perceptions and previous experiences

 

Theme 2: focus on ELP, curriculum and goals

 

Theme 3: focus on media choices

 

Theme 4: focus on assessment

 

Reflection on the process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature, discussion and blog reflections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First version of the course plan

 

Second version of the course plan

 

Third version of the course plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lectures and face-to-face meetings

To support pedagogically meaningful use of ICT based on the core ideas of CEFR, the course structure (Table 2) incorporated a virtual learning environment (VLE), which was structured into four themes: perceptions and previous experiences; the ELP, curriculum and goals; media choices; and assessment. The purpose of the first theme was to orient the participants to the theme of teaching and learning in technology-rich environments as well as to make them more aware of their perceptions. In this part, the students were asked (1) to reflect on their experiences of ICT use in language teaching as learners and (2) to position ICT in relation to their teaching philosophy as future teachers.

The second, third and fourth themes aimed at supporting participants in creating their course plans. These themes therefore functioned as checkpoints in which the course plan was examined critically from the predefined perspective. After each checkpoint, the participants uploaded a revised version of their course plan to their personal folder in the VLE. All of the themes included a section that provided participants with relevant literature. To reflect on the ideas presented in the literature, participants wrote personal blogs and participated in group discussions on topics related to the literature.

Data collection and analysis

An extensive corpus of data was collected in three sets during the research period. The data corpus consists of web discussions, blog reflections and the course assignments of the twenty-eight students that participated in the study. For this paper, two of the course assignments have been analysed: reflection (in theme one) and the final version of the course plan that the participants created during the course. All data are in written form.

Table 3. Participants per each period of data collection

Period of data collection

Participants

 

 

Male

Female

 

Autumn 2009

2

8

10

Spring 2010

0

7

7

Autumn 2010

1

10

11

 

3

25

28

The number of participants in each period of data collection is presented in Table 3. The strong representation of females is a typical gender distribution in language teacher education in Finland.

The analysis of the data builds on the operational framework created for the Towards Future Literacy Pedagogies (ToLP) project (Taalas et al., 2008). The framework consists of the core elements of a typical pedagogical situation, that is, objectives, working modes, materials, media choices, and assessment and feedback. The operationalization of these elements is shaped by various sets of motivations, attitudes, beliefs and values. For the purposes of this study, the framework has been slightly modified. Materials and media choices have been combined as a single element and motivations, attitudes, beliefs and values have been replaced with experiences, perceptions and attitudes.

In the first stage of analysis, coding schemes for participants’ reflections were developed inductively. In a further stage, the coding schemes were refined through connecting them with previous research. As a result, five themes were developed: experiences of technology use, add-on use, add-in use, gap between two domains, and preservation of the tradition. The course plan documents have been coded using the ToLP framework mentioned above. Thus the codes referring to the elements of pedagogical design have been assigned to the corresponding parts in participants’ course plan documents. Next these parts were analysed part by part, and subcodes were assigned to units in the plan that represent a certain theme. The purpose of this phase was to identify the themes that emerge within each part of the course plan document. In the analysis of both participants’ reflections and their course plan documents, the consistency of coding has been assessed throughout the process as well as after coding the entire data set (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

Discussion of results

In this section, the question of the vicious circle is explored in two parts. In the first part, the participants’ experiences and perceptions of ICT use as well as their attitudes towards it are described. In the second part, the course plan documents are analysed with a focus on the themes discussed above.

Experiences, perceptions and attitudes

In order to examine ‘the design of social practices’ (Lund & Hauge, 2011, p. 263), the fact that social practices, such as teaching and learning, are the result of a long historical development needs to be taken into account (Säljö, 2000). During their formal education (primary, secondary and university), the participants in this study have been socialized into certain practices that are part of this development, and these practices have most likely shaped their experiences and perceptions of using ICT in the educational context as well as their attitudes towards such use.

Experiences of technology use

The experiences of the participants paint a monomodal picture of the media landscape: encounters with digital technologies for learning in language studies have been minimal. For a majority, the most common use of digital technology in language teaching has been in the form of web-based drills focusing on grammar and vocabulary. The view of language use and learning attributed to the use of digital technologies is rather narrow. Even though most of the experiences draw on the notion of schooling as ‘completing tasks’, it appears that there are also experiences characterized by interaction, creativity and collaboration:

At the university I’ve used different programs, such as Optima and Moodi, in language studies. They provide possibilities for considerably more diverse and creative ways to study languages. With their help, studying and completing tasks are more interactive and one often gets new thoughts and ideas from other students. (SL-09-T1-A-002N)

In the experiences of ICT use, the teacher and learner roles are mainly predefined. From the perspective of learning environments, a joint aspect of the experiences is that the use is situated within a specific place, in many cases a language lab or a computer lab. Furthermore, the tools and environments used are mainly institutional.

Add-on use

The participants are aware of the spread of technology in society and thus refer to technology as a trend that has found its way to the domain of formal education. As one participant puts it:

I do however think that even though ICT use in language lessons is almost a trend these days, it’s still better that these kinds of enhancements appear in lessons in small, refreshing doses. (SL-10-T1-B-010N)

As an indicator of the participants’ relationship to technology, the notion of technology use as ‘refreshing doses’ is related to add-on type of integration, where technology ‘is used only as something extra, a dispensable supplement to the teaching setting, and is only accessible when the timeframe or the teacher favours the use’ (Taalas, 2005, p. 62). This type of technology use is also described as a reward for the students if they study hard enough. A common denominator for the add-on type of approach is the amount of use. One participant representing this view comments on the ‘overuse of technology’:

I myself have experienced the use of technology as part of teaching to be good in teacher-led learning. I also see a variety of possibilities for more independent study with the help of computers (e.g. blogs, language portfolios, learning diaries, international friends, Skype conversations, sister classes), but in my opinion real communication situations can’t be allowed to suffer due to the overuse of technology. Students should also practice interaction skills and not just sit in front of a computer, because language skills include interaction skills as well. (SL-10-T1-B-009N)

The participant clearly perceives technology-mediated action distinct from face-to-face activities that she considers as ‘real communication situations’.

Add-in use

Participants perceive digital technologies’ transformative effect on ways of teaching and learning, but for many, the role of technology in teaching appears as an issue of contradictions: on one hand, its advantages are acknowledged, but on the other its use is problematized. The difficulty of positioning ‘themselves around the ICT potential on the basis of their own pedagogic coordinates’ (Taalas, 2005, p. 186) seems to be challenging:

I have to admit that technology fits into my teaching philosophy a little problematically at this point. I continually think about it – I get it that you can’t in any way escape from it, nor do I want to. (SL-10-T1-B-002N)

Yet, it is clear that some of the participants consider the role of the technology in relation to the change in the pedagogical culture, which is reflected, for instance, in the observation of one technology replacing another without a notable change in the practices:

I’ve noticed that things like document cameras are used in much the same way as overhead projectors used to be, so I’m not sure that this technology, for example, has brought anything meaningful to teaching. Another example is the teaching of multimodal texts, in which technology is without a doubt an essential teaching tool. Technology therefore sits in my own teaching philosophy in a kind of grey area, which is a continual process. For me, processing issues is a long-term thing, so I have to try and go easy on myself. Not everything has to be liked right away. Using technology could make the relationship between the student and the teacher more interactive, more discussion-oriented and more open. This effect is one of technology’s luxuries. With few exceptions, technology is, for example, something young people know and can use, so it’s at least reasonable that in the school system the available possibilities are considered – that’s the way to close the gap between school and free time at least somewhat. (SL-10-T1-B-002N)

The participant also mentions multimodal texts, which can be interpreted as a reference to digital literacies. In this transformative or add-in (Taalas, 2005, p. 62) approach, the use of technology is tied to a change in the roles of teacher and learner toward a more interactional, conversational and open relationship. This kind of approach is, however, unusual in the data.

Gap between two domains

The participants often describe the role of technology as a bridge between the domains of school and free time. At the same time, they also construct and maintain the borders of these two domains. As one participant puts it:

In my view, ICT use is definitely an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. The possibilities of using it in language teaching are almost limitless. IT has benefits for teachers as well as students. It can help make teaching and learning more diverse, more enjoyable and it can bring students’ lives inside and outside of school closer to each other. (SL-09-T1-B-005N)

This view represents a positive attitude towards technology as a possibility, but it also either implicitly (as above) or explicitly (as below) builds on the assumption that the pupils live in the digital world. Technology is also seen as a link between the life worlds of teachers and students:

I think it’s great that information technology solutions have brought new dimensions to today’s classroom. It’s especially good because computers are, for most of our students, an everyday thing and in this way we teachers can get closer to them too. (SL-10-T1-A-101N)

The gap between the domains is also reflected in the amount of technology use:

ICT should be used enough in teaching. What is enough is the teacher’s own decision, but in my opinion a good amount would be one that reflects, in a realistic way, the use outside of school. This means students wouldn’t come to school thinking they are entering some vacuum that doesn’t relate to their lives outside of school. In this way ICT could create meaningfulness for students in the subjects and issues that are being taught. (SL-09-T1-B-007M)

As the quotation implies, technology use has value in itself, so the focus is not on what is done with technology or why it is used.

Preservation of the tradition

Finally, the participants often discuss the notion of preservation in relation to something that is referred to as ‘traditional’. Through this discussion the participants construct the notion of a tradition, which is most likely the way the participants themselves have been taught and thus the culture of teaching and learning that they have been socialized into:

I myself use a computer daily to communicate with my friends, to check email, to read news, etc. I want to include information technology in my teaching because for young people these days it’s a way of life. Information technology brings variation and fun to learning. I don’t, however, see a future in which IT would marginalize traditional books and traditional classroom instruction, but that in itself presents a problem. For example, it’s very difficult to get students to concentrate on certain tasks instead of surfing the web. I don’t have any experiences with online courses, but in my teaching I’d like to utilize them, maybe in process essay writing at the start. (SL-10-T1-B-008N)

The example above draws on change in the modes of being and doing, but it also emphasizes the problem of shifting students’ focus from surfing on the Internet to the task at hand. This concern is related to the notion of predictability and reflects the challenge of navigating the complexities of learning in technology-rich pedagogical settings (see Lund & Hauge, 2011). Interestingly, this challenge is related to the use of technology only. The added value, in turn, seems to be emerging from the aspects of fun and variation that the technology brings to learning.

Summary

Overall, the participants have had only a few encounters with digital technologies during their formal language studies. The use has mainly been based on individual rather than collaborative ways of learning and represents a rather narrow view of language use and interaction. Furthermore, the use has been situated within a specific place in an institutional domain. The participants’ relationship with technology appears to be multivoiced: digital technologies are seen as an externally imposed element (‘a trend’) as well as a normalized part of everyday life. Some participants recognize the gap between media practices at school and during free time, which implies that normalization has not yet taken place in schools. Furthermore, the voices also echo a certain culture of learning, which is referred to as traditional. In this type of learning culture, technology has an add-on role, and the roles of teachers and learners remain fixed.

Construction of pedagogical design

How then will future language teachers construct their pedagogical designs? This second part takes a look at the course plans created by the participants. The focus of the analysis is on the description of objectives, working modes, materials and media choices, and assessment as well as feedback. Table 4 summarizes the key results as they relate to each focus of analysis.

Table 4. Foci of analysis and key results

Focus of analysis

Key results

Objectives

– National curriculum as the basis

– Strong role of teacher’s personal experiences and principles

– Description of learning activities rather than outcomes

– Emphasis on grammar and vocabulary

– Defined by the teacher (learners not involved in the construction and/or negotiation of the learning objectives)

Working modes

– Strong orientation towards teacher-led approaches

– Expertise a quality of the teacher

– Learners portrayed as tabulae rasae

– Activity sequence of presentation, practice and production

– Strong role of teacher’s preconceptions

Materials and media choices

– Materials selected and/or developed by the teacher

– Learners seldom given the role of content producer

– Central role of Internet: access to multimodal texts

– Internet: access to multimodal texts

– Learning spaces and tools, often associated with a specific time and place

Assessment and feedback

– Feedback depicted as a continuing process

– Benchmarks or descriptors not often used

– Assessment descriptions lack the means to evaluate group processes

– Peer feedback used regularly, but not systematically

Objectives

Objectives create the overall space for activities and define the horizon towards which learners navigate on their learning path. In light of the data, the curriculum functions as the basis for defining the objectives, but the teacher’s personal experiences and principles have a strong role too: it is ultimately the teacher who decides what is important. Thus the role of the learner in defining and negotiating the learning objectives is downplayed in most cases. The focus of the objectives is, in many cases, on grammar and vocabulary, and the formulation of the objectives often refers to course activities rather than to outcomes. In addition, there are more general objectives, such as supporting lifelong learning, developing awareness of (language) learning, preparing for working life and supporting students in becoming autonomous learners.

Working modes

As for working modes, the data show that there is a strong orientation towards teacher-led approaches (similarly to Luukka et al., 2008, p. 153), especially in situations where a new theme or content area is introduced. Expertise thus appears as a quality of the teacher and learners are portrayed as tabulae rasae. In terms of practices around texts, most of the writing tasks are carried out individually, but in some plans the formulation of working modes leaves open the possibility of collaboration. This possibility is usually related to less common text types such as posters, advertisements and websites. In small groups, students present, for example, dramas. Dialogues and some writing tasks are also conducted as pair work. While there is a variation in terms of text types, the activities around texts mainly repeat the same sequence: presentation, practice and production. In many cases, students have the possibility to produce different types of texts, but the qualities of these texts types are seldom explored. A teacher’s preconceptions of the learner cohort also play a role in how the pedagogical setting is organized. The participants position the learners within a certain frame of interests and attitudes. Then, based on the expectations of the students, the pedagogical setting is organized in a certain way so that, for instance, the students conduct their work under the teacher’s supervision at a certain place and time. In many cases, these preconceptions and assumptions are related to learners’ digital competence.

Materials and media choices

In addition to national and institutional curricula, teaching materials have a significant impact on classroom-level activity, because they create the pedagogical and textual space within which the teachers and learners work (Luukka et al., 2008, p. 90). Thus materials are related to the modes of working. According to the data, it is most often the teacher that creates or selects the materials to be used. To enrich the repertoire of materials, the Internet is described as a central source of multimodal texts. Again, it is usually the teacher who expands the textual landscape using the Internet as well as other media as a source of exploration. The role of the Internet is also visible in offering students links to websites in the target language. Perhaps due to the nature of the portfolio-based course (ELP), the textbook does not have such a strong role in these data, a trend that has become evident in other studies regarding classroom practices (Luukka et al., 2008; Pitkänen-Huhta, 2003). In addition to websites, the word list still seems to be the most typical text that is produced. The plans subscribe to process-like writing to some extent, but the texts are usually submitted to the teacher for feedback (see the next section on assessment and feedback). Students are provided with learning spaces and tools which are often associated with a specific time and place, such as the classroom and the computer lab. The physical space is occasionally expanded into a virtual space that is often somewhat consistent with the container metaphor, but activities in the digital domain are sporadic. In addition to the portfolios, learners are seldom given the role of content producer. Neither other studies nor other teachers are framed as resources.

Assessment and feedback

Assessment practices have an immense role in socializing students into certain views of learning, language and knowledge, which has also been noted in relation to the use of technology (Selwyn, 2007). The data show that it is the teacher who primarily carries out the assessment. Neither benchmarks nor descriptors are mentioned as part of the assessment process. In the course plan documents, feedback is often depicted as a continuing process. Peer feedback, as one form of feedback, is used frequently, but there is often no explicit reason why it is used in a certain phase of the learning process. Also, the assessment descriptions lack the means to evaluate group processes or the trajectories of certain skills and competences mentioned in the objectives (e.g. awareness, autonomy). All in all, the descriptions of assessment procedures in the course plans vary in both quantity and quality.

Summary

In a nutshell, the participants’ pedagogical designs create a teacher-centred view of the language classroom. Learners are not given an active role in any phase of the pedagogical design process: the teacher defines the objectives, materials and media, the working modes and the assessment and feedback practices. In other words, there is a lack of space for learners to select the tools, environments and ways of working around a type of content that is meaningful for them. In line with the results described in the previous section on experiences, perceptions and attitudes, the learner’s role is often that of a recipient. As for content, grammar and vocabulary play a central role, which resonates with the participants’ own experiences as learners that were examined in the previous section. Different print-based materials dominate the literacy practices, which are rather static despite the variation of text types.

Contrary to Bigg’s (1996) principle of constructive alignment, the objectives, materials and media choices, the working modes, and the assessment and feedback practices are not in line with each other. In other words, technology is often adapted to the design without changing anything else in the pedagogical setting. Looked at through Fullan’s (2007) three dimensions of pedagogical change, it appears that the change is mostly occurring on the level of materials, but not so much in practices or beliefs. However, there are many assumptions about, for instance, students’ motivation and digital competence underlying the pedagogical choices. Assumptions such as these highlight the importance of understanding how perceptions affect the construction of the pedagogical design.

Conclusion

Policy documents lay out high expectations for the use of ICT in education and put pressure on teacher education to ensure the pedagogical transformation. The results presented in this article imply that language students’ pedagogical landscapes reflect their own experiences as learners. Combined with results from other studies conducted within the school context, the results of this study support the existence of a cycle of repetition within teacher education. In other words, language students are socialized into certain ways of teaching and unless these ways are challenged during their studies they will repeat them in their own teaching. Instead of ‘just putting into place the latest policy’ (Fullan, 2007, p. 7), pedagogical transformation requires re-culturing in classrooms, schools and universities. Teaching is, as Hargreaves (2003) puts it, becoming a young person's profession again and therefore the culture of learning that future teachers adopt during their education will have an immense effect on the future of schools.

Policies as well as research literature echo the importance of digital competence as a component of full participation in society (Ilomäki, Taalas, & Lakkala, 2012; Lankshear & Knobel, 2008). As the results of this study show, the discussion of language students regarding ICT is more oriented towards whether or not to use it in teaching than it is towards educational objectives and the development of digital literacies. Neither the objectives nor the activities in language students’ course plans provided much evidence of practices that would support the development of such competence. Many of the participants built on the assumption that their learners live in the digital world, whereas it has been pointed out that adolescents’ capacity to confidently act and move across digital spaces is not directly associated with their ability to use these spaces for learning purposes (Erstad, 2010; Watson, 2010).

The literacy practices represented in the course plans are static and reflect, in Lankshear and Knobel’s (2006) terminology, the industrial mindset. This may be due to the fact that the language students do not have the means to design, enact and analyse dynamic and multimodal pedagogical settings in a formal context. Thus, from the perspective of language use and learning, there appears to be a need for pedagogical design models that would assist both teachers and students in structuring and analysing the interaction and literacy practices that take place in technology-rich settings. And yet, pedagogical design models that would encourage reflective practice in technology-rich environments remain rare.

It is clear that models and practices that build on the post-industrial mindset are needed for educating the teachers of today as well as of tomorrow. Furthermore, discussion is needed regarding the implications of these models and practices on various levels. Finally, research on pedagogical design practices can help not only student teachers but also teacher educators to critically reflect on the current practices that are being mediated to the future generations of teachers.

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1The notion of pedagogical landscapes was chosen because the exploration is situated within the context of subject studies.

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