Professional development with ICTE

It is accepted that Professional Development (PD) refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement (Wikipedia).  In this framework the reader can be wondering how ICTE  can contribute to PD. I consider that P-type, C-type and A-type resources are opportunities from which any professional can benefit at the personal level, and that L-type and E-type resources become opportunities especially useful for the professoriate.  In the next paragraphs I will expand on this.

Personal growth with ICTE

The following illustration taken from Gray (2006) helps one to visualize an evolutionary perspective from which we can realize how different tools have helped human beings deal with each other and with our environment. Today, interactions with others and the expansion of personal potential are best manifested via technology. Many of our students were born in this era and, according to Prensky (2001), “they represent the first generation to grow up with this technology, they are Digital Natives that think and process information fundamentally different from their predecessors… Those of us who were not born into the digital world, but have at certain points of our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of new technology, are and will be compared to them, Digital Immigrants.”  

In the above context it is evident that a challenge to many teachers and faculty is to become “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) literate”. Definitely “ICT literacy” goes beyond “computer literacy”, an expression that deals with being able to use computers and related information processing with basic understanding. It also includes ‘information literacy’,  which the Glossary of Library and Internet Terms (USD) defines as “the skills necessary to locate, access, and use information in today’s society Given that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is an umbrella term that covers all advanced technologies in manipulating and communicating information (Wikipedia),  “ICT Literacy” should also include ‘digital literacy’, a term that the DigEuLit project (2006) defines as “an ability to 'identify… integrate, evaluate, analyze and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process”.

The point now is how to define and implement a good strategy for helping digital immigrants become ICT literate. My proposal is to build on their condition of adult learners, a state that requires taking into consideration the following assumptions formulated by Malcolm Knowles (1984).

[Adult learners]:

  • tend to become more self-directed as they mature;
  • have had rich life experiences;
  • want to learn and are internally motivate to do so;
  • want learning to be purposeful, practical, relevant, and immediately applicable; and
  • are more problem-centered than content-centered.

Taking into consideration the above premises, ICT literacy for adults should be constructed from their experiential field, identifying felt needs for improving information and communication processes in which they are or want to be involved. Felt needs are things that individuals consciously lack and desire. Some people know what they would like to do better, more effectively, and with less effort, and more creativity.  If a desired need can be satisfied with information or communication technologies, such can be the starting point for a new personal development cycle concerning ICT. The opposite approach also can be used, where one would begin with a review of potential technology tools within PLACE categories, and then decide about the usefulness and value to various activities In this regard, the following three types of ICTE  can be particularly helpful: P-type digital resources, i.e., ICTE  for improving individual productivity, C-type digital resources, i.e., ICTE  to support individual or group communications, and A-type digital tools, i.e., ICTE  that foster access to  cultural and intellectual wealth.. My suggestion is to explore each of these groups of digital resources wondering what could be improved or solved with it, and to give priority to those resources that can add greater value to each potential user. Relevance should drive the effort; in this way the experience will be self-rewarding and, as a consequence, expandable and sustainable. 

Career advancement with ICTE

In great manner our success as educators depends on the effective contribution we can provide to our students’ growth, in regard to required competences, knowledge, attitudes, or motor skills relevant at their educational level and/or field of study. However, teaching is not only what educators do. We also create and administer learning environments, develop or adjust curricula materials and/or assessment instruments, participate in learning communities and in communities of practice, among other things. With this in mind, as a complement to those ICTE that can help us grow personally, it may be good exploring two types of ICTE  that by their own educational nature may add value to us as educators: L-Type digital resources, those that help us build and dispose digital learning environments for our students, and E-type digital resources, those that help our students conjecturally explore learning objects that support the inquiry, construction, and expression of knowledge.

How to do it? As in the former case, I also suggest establishing educational needs to guide the process, consulting a wider range of sources (beyond felt needs), needs that may impact your career as a professional in a discipline and/or as an educator. Taking into consideration needs assessment categories cited by McGriff (2005), I would explore: 

  1. Normative needs, which can be derived from standards, some of which require using technologies in a discipline;
  2. Comparative needs, which can be determined from benchmarks that consider exemplary practices in our discipline, practices that can illuminate how ICTEs can be integrated in the educational process;
  3. Expressed needs can be established from focus groups that reflect on current practices and how to improve them, considering diverse type of technologies and their use to enhance processes;
  4. Future needs can be determined from context analysis by looking at opportunities and threads, needs which may lead to rethink curricula, curriculum materials and media;  and
  5. Critical incident derived needs, which can be determined from analysis of beliefs, values, attitudes or behavior that impact us or our teaching, with the corresponding openness (or closeness) to certain types of technologies.

Educational needs that can be satisfied with support of ICTEs and that are in our zone of proximal development (ZPD) as educators, should guide our exploration of opportunities to enhance what we do as professionals and educators with ICTE . Applying Vygotsky’s ZPD concept (1978), the idea would be to scaffold career advancement with ICTE by engaging educators in relevant activities that by themselves they cannot do, but that with guidance, or in interaction with others, can be developed. Project-based and problem-based learning are good examples of this strategy in action: people learn while they participate in relevant projects or while they solve problems of interest.