Finding Our Way While Leading the Way

Finding Our Way While Leading the Way

Gloria Latham (RMIT University Melbourne, Australia) and Julie Faulkner (RMIT University Melbourne, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-899-9.ch009


ABSTRACTThis chapter will follow two teacher educators at RMIT University in Melbourne in their quest to lead and enable others to lead as they capture and critically reflect upon the constructs that frame the creation and implementation of a virtual primary school for pre-service teachers. The school is now six years old and has moved through numerous iterations, but remains guided by theories of Christensen (1997) and Boler (1999). That is, pre-service teachers, through their interactions with the virtual school, are challenged to question and rethink assumptions through sustained innovations and the disruption of habituated practices in learning and teaching. As the school has evolved, the authors have also had to rethink assumptions and build strong theoretical frameworks to support change.
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Framing Questions Within A Multimodal Environment

As our pre-service teachers encounter new kinds of learners in traditional classrooms on their teaching placements, they are presented with difficult teaching challenges. Disengaged learners struggling with content which has little connection with their worlds require approaches beyond ‘one size fits all’ pedagogies. The pressures of standardised testing add to a perceived gap between learning theory and learning realities. Within the context of needed change and pre-service teacher anxieties over establishing the teacher role, we created a new context for addressing some of these issues – a virtual school called Lathner Primary ( Password: Explore). Unlike many existing digital versions of schools, this was not a space intended to replace or simply complement university teaching. Simulations as learning environments are often being used in teacher education (Risco, 1995; Gibson, 2002; Ferry, Kervin, Cambourne, Pulisi, Jonassen & Hedberg, 2004). Existing simulations seek to replicate school settings in order to have pre-service teachers study them in some detail through discussion and role play. In 2001 America had 14 virtual schools that appear to replicate existing schools. However, as these simulations are pre-programmed, they often become static representations of schools. Our virtual primary school was to differ in that we wanted this school to be dynamic and reflect ideas around what schools might become in response to New Learning challenges.

To realise our aims, we underpinned the design of the virtual classroom with the theories of Christensen’s ‘disruptive innovations’ (1997) and Boler’s ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ (1999). Schools have changed over the past two decades to respond to some of the current and emerging demands on learners, yet it the very nature of these changes that require greater attention. Clay Christensen argues that the changes that have been undertaken are sustaining innovations; changes that better support the present system and make it more effective. Christensen advocates far more radical change that he terms ‘disruptive innovations’. Innovations of this kind are systemic and dramatically alter the existing culture.

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