Meeting Teachers' Real Needs: New Tools in the Secondary Modern Foreign Languages Classroom

Meeting Teachers' Real Needs: New Tools in the Secondary Modern Foreign Languages Classroom

Carol Gray (University of Birmingham, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-715-2.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter uses a narrow geographical and subject-specific focus to discuss factors affecting teachers’ preferred use of Interactive Whiteboards in situ. It highlights tensions between political rhetoric concerning the power of ICT to transform teaching and learning, subject-specific pedagogy, and the industrial realities of teaching in the compulsory secondary sector in the UK. Case studies are used to investigate ways in which individual teachers maneuver their way through these tensions, identifying and developing uses of the new technology to meet their own immediate concerns in the situated reality of their classrooms. The chapter concludes that the popularity of the IWB may stem from the fact that whereas previous ICT applications encouraged greater freedom on the part of the learner, the Whiteboard by contrast can be used to increase teacher control of both content and behaviour, thus better meeting teachers’ immediate needs within their context. Although very specific in its focus, the chapter highlights the need for sensitivity to the sociocultural environment when introducing new technology into teaching and learning environments.
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Background

The Raising Standards Agenda

Like governments around the world, the UK authorities have over recent decades taken increasing control of education and its agenda as major tools for developing and sustaining a robust economy – plus, perhaps, as “easy” areas to demonstrate determined and effective political intervention and win public sympathy and votes. Since the early 1980s regulation has increasingly reduced the autonomy of higher education institutions in teacher education, and this has been accompanied by tightening control over content of the school syllabus. In the late 1990s a number of both compulsory and recommended “strategies” were introduced to exercise detailed control over the very act of teaching, their implementation supported by an inspection regime which might be said to make nonsense of any non-compulsory status.

A key refrain in government educational policy and directives since 1998 has been that of harnessing the power of ICT to provide wider opportunities for pupils as well as to create virtual national and regional networks of and for teachers. Standards for new teachers entering the profession from 1998 included a stringent set of requirements for ICT skills (DfEE, 1998a, 1998b), which were to be expected of all practicing teachers by 2002. Resources were created for experienced teachers to identify and address their training needs (Teacher Training Agency, 1999) and a range of training initiatives developed. The era of compulsory technology in the school classroom had begun.

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