The following case reports on the involvement of children in online discussion with student teachers within initial teacher education in New Zealand. The focus is on listening to children, with wider implications for listening as a professional capability extending beyond the teaching profession. In this case, student teachers and pupils communicated online, exchanging ideas, debating, and engaging in co-construction of understandings around the place of Information and Communication Technologies in teaching and learning. The case explores the interaction and social dynamics observed and mutual learning experienced, with links to theoretical perspectives including constructivist and democratic pedagogies. Implications for improved practice are considered. It is argued that there is a need to explicitly teach listening skills and to encourage professionals in training to listen to clients. It is argued that the online environment is an excellent training ground for developing effective listening skills as it lends itself to reflective practice and to meta-listening awareness.
Setting The Stage
As a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Professional Studies in Education, I have taught in the Mixed Media Programme (MMP) since 2002, coordinating classes focused on professional practice in the context of teaching, learning theory, pedagogy, assessment, and learning through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
This case represents an authentic educational example, stemming from an initial experience in 2004, when I first invited 12-year old pupils to join the MMP teacher education students in online discussion. As a result of the success and mutual learning experienced during this initial trial, I have involved children (aged between 10 and 15 years) in online discussion at least twice a year during the past five years.
The case focuses on one instance in which middle school children were involved in online discussion with first year teacher education students. The objective of the exercise was to encourage the class of fifty-seven teacher education students to listen to a group of nineteen year 8 pupils (12 year olds). The focus of the discussion was on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), how ICT can be used to enhance learning both within the classroom and outside of school as we know it, and how teachers and children might learn together through ICT. For two weeks, the student teachers and pupils communicated online, exchanging ideas, debating and engaging in co-construction of understandings around the place of ICT in teaching and learning.