Deep Dive: Purposeful integration of tech

Deep Dive: My approach to purposeful integration of technology as an emerging teacher

As a mature-aged student, I (reluctantly) identify with Howard and Mozejko’s (2015) image of “risk averse” and “resistant” teachers (p. 5). (More on this in my reflection and TPACK Self-audit here.) While their critical examination does reveal that a lack of support is often the culprit, they also outline some factors within my control. Individual attributes or attitudes include broad factors such as confidence, but they also emphasise that a sense of ‘pedagogical purposefulness’ to the technology are key to teacher engagement with technologies (Howard & Mozejko, 2015).

With a background in journalism and education research, I also identify strongly as an educator-researcher. Consequently, beginning with my discipline specific, or ‘signature pedagogies’ (Shulman, 2005) of additional languages education, I purposefully draw on my research into intercultural pedagogies developed by Australian researchers over the past two decades (Lo Bianco, 2009; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013).  These voices are complimented by frameworks developed by their European counterparts to respond to global, policy and curricular demand for the development of 21st Century skills like critical thinking, and ethical and intercultural understanding.

While all teaching involves language, I am in the socially charged situation of being a teacher of only languages (namely, French, Italian and English), and in a country characterised by high cultural hybridity (Casinader & Manathunga, 2019). Consequently, my pedagogical orientations begin and end with “the intense intellectual work” of constructing intercultural identity through education (Salter & Maxwell, 2018. p. 15). My role involves not only embodying intercultural skills and attitudes as a life practice, but also encouraging (and facilitating) my students to develop these behaviours as they negotiate their own plurilingual identities as intended by the Australian Curriculum: Languages and the GC for Intercultural Understanding (Scarino, 2014; ACARA, 2011).  

A key aspect of Mishra and Kohler’s (2006) discussion of TPACK — the meaningful integration of technology, pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge — was the requirement for integrated practices to be “situated” and supported with theoretical underpinnings. Arguably, their discussion was focussed on developing theory for “educational technology” in general (p. 1018). However, their emphasis on practice being “contextually bound” — and the idea that context will disrupt “myopic” and “unsystematic” research (Selfe in Mishra & Kohler, 2006, p. 1018) indicates that importance of discipline specific theory (Ling Koh et al., 2014).

I have therefore operationalised these pedagogical objectives by designing an interculturally orientated learning activity and recruiting technology as a vehicle and amplifier for application to a 21st Century Australian context. Click here for a full description of the learning activity.  

Ertner’s (2010) caution to avoid the use of technology “simply to support lecture-based instruction” (p. 257) aligns with the intercultural pedagogical notion that teachers need not be the font of all knowledge, and indeed that the ‘native speaker’ may not be considered the font of all knowing either (Byram & Wagner, 2018; Morgan et al., 2018). In intercultural pedagogies, students are encouraged to develop their own intercultural identities, rather than striving for ‘nature speaker’ proficiency, the definition of which is “essentially elusive” (Baker & Wright, 2017, p. 15). Students’ existing languages are valued and used as mediators in the classroom as part of the wider ‘language ecology’ of their lives (Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013).

My practice is being developed in rural secondary schools in Australia, a culturally hybridised country with Anglo-Australian linguistic dominance; which continues to be plagued by monolingual mindset (Clyne, 2004; Hajek, 2018). Click here for an explanation of monolingual mindset.

Nevertheless, even my monolingual students are intercultural, both through their emerging Italian and membership within a plurilingual country (Lo Bianco, 2009).  I therefore subscribe to the “language ecology” paradigm: Language use under this ecological distinction is understood not as an individual capacity or social situation, but, rather, as “a configuration of language spoken, heard, and identified with… to differing extents of for different purposes” (Simpson, 2019, p. 8).

This paradigm carries with it social justice implications, where speakers of marginalised languages, such as many EALD First Nations students, whose ‘English deficit’ has long been coded as a negative (Vass, 2017) become leaders of the plurilingual classroom, and their linguistic brilliance acknowledged (Fielding, 2021; Meakin, 2014).  Ertmer’s (2010) notion of “teachers as an agent of change” (p. 256) could be realised in two counts, by meaningfully integrating technology for pedagogical aims (Heijden et al., 2018) and to support the social justice goals of intercultural education (Simpson et al., 2009). On the one hand, the recoding of plurilingualism as a valuable 21st Century skill empowers those previously linguistically oppressed (Luke, 2013). On the other hand, the meaningful integration of technology serves to connect isolated students to language resources and intercultural experiences, an important notion when considering the digital divide noted for the disadvantaged students (Stahl et al., 2021).

A discussion of meaningful integration of technology for a teacher of simply languages cannot be separated from a deep discussion on pedagogical orientations and goals of intercultural education. The Australian Curriculum Languages demands that students engage with their intercultural selves (ACARA, 2019; 2022) and as “when integrating technology, the purpose of this integration should be on enhancing and supporting student learning” (Hamilton et al., 2016, p. 438), I have drawn on both intercultural pedagogical literature and TPACK literature to demonstrate that I have internalised (theoretically at least) the notion that my pedagogical purpose must lead, while the technology must be selected to scaffold my pedagogical aims (Mishra & Kohler, 2006). This understanding is crucial if I am to capitalise on the considerable affordances offered by technology in a 21st Century world (ACARA, 2011; ACARA, 2019; EC, 2019) — and not waste my time energy and resources, or that of my students.

Click here for a full reference list.