DS2 Research Proposal Part 3

Implications

            “Teacher educators are at the core of good teacher education” (Vloet & van Swet, 2010) yet research into teacher educators’ practices and literacies is a much needed area of focus (Crawley, 2018; Watt, 2019).  This research proposal will explore of teacher educators’ digital competencies as related to OEPr to determine the association between these two measures, since this could improve supports and sustainable professional development for teacher educators (Albion et al., 2017; Roberts et al., 2018). 

If there is a positive correlation between digital literacies as measured with the EU DigCompEDU and measures of OEPr using the OEF survey, then teacher educators in Ontario can benefit from efforts to develop both digital literacies and open practices knowing that improvement in one will support improvement in the other. For example, participation in the open educational activities shared with the eCampus Ontario Extend program (eCampus Ontario Extend – Home, n.d.), can support the development of OEPr. The ‘anatomy of a 21st century educator’ model (Bates, 2014) and a variety of openly available digital events and activities can be applied to faculty development in order to benefit the awareness and acquisition of both OEPr and digital competencies for teacher educators. Further, having a “common set of teacher technology competencies for teacher education faculty will provide a pathway for professional development” (Borthwick & Hansen, 2017) to develop the knowledge, skills, beliefs and attitudes required to “thrive in an interconnected, evolving global landscape (Watt, 2019).

Shifting teacher educators’ pedagogical beliefs toward OEPr will impact teacher education since teacher educators “function as role models for preservice teachers both consciously or unconsciously in their activities, preferences, and beliefs” (Taimalu & Luik, 2019, p. 108). If there is a correlation between digital literacy competencies and OEPr, then applying budgets and policy development toward OEPr can support a shift in teacher educators’ beliefs and willingness to take risks with digital competencies. Shifting beliefs through dialogue and conversation within open and shared communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) that reach beyond the academic silos of faculties or institutions such as the eCampus Ontario Extend mOOC, can change teacher educators’ habitus from traditional pedagogies toward open pedagogies (Hegarty, 2015). Teacher educators can create, share, connect and learn with other teacher educators from around the globe. Knowing that institutional efforts to develop OEPr will potentially also support the development of digital literacies with teacher educators’ teaching practices can justify the time and budget allocation to bring about meaningful and sustainable change.

Teacher educators have a dual responsibility to not only infuse digital literacies into their teacher practice but to also develop “preservice teachers’ professional digital competence” (Instefjord & Munthe, 2017, p. 37). If there is a correlation between OEPr and digital literacies, then teacher educators can leverage networks and collaborative projects acquired through their open practices to support and sustain preservice teachers’ professional learning with OEPr in order to impact digital competencies. There is added value for both OEPr and digital literacies when teacher educators build authentic experiences, contextualized curriculum from localized issues and events, and learner generated content within collaborative networks with local K-12 teachers. By looking for impact to student learning, beyond the barriers of four walls in a physical space, digital competencies and OEPr can shift the practices of not only teacher educators, but that of the preservice teachers, to one that is forward-facing and publicly visible.

 In the event that this research proposal results in accepting the null hypothesis, there is still much to be learned from the findings. If there is no evident relationship between digital literacy competencies and OEPr, then individual and institutional efforts in faculties of education need to become more focused and intentional in applying effective models for professional growth to develop digital literacies and open teaching practices, since OEPr is “complex, personal, contextual, and continually negotiated” (Cronin, 2017). This cannot and should not be done in isolation or alone. Selecting a researched and supported framework such as the EU DigCompEDU can increase teacher educators’ awareness, agency, and identity, and shift culture and teaching practices of teacher educators and preservice teachers towards future-focused innovation. Intentionally and strategically integrating the Open Educators Factory along with UNESCO’s Opening Up Education framework into faculties of education as part of the collected evidence for accreditation could build awareness and shift teaching practices within the dimensions of access, content, pedagogy, recognition, collaboration, and research, along with the transversal dimensions of strategy, technology, quality, and leadership. If there is no relationship shown between digital literacy and OEPr, then both need to become strategic and intentional foci across all areas of study within faculties of education in order to ensure sustainable change.

Ontario’s education system is recognized globally for innovative teaching and learning when infusing technology into classroom practices (Vincent-Lancrin & OECD, 2019), with “teacher training around critical thinking and problem solving” (p. 194) becoming very common. Combining digital literacy and OEPr professional development opportunities can support innovation in classrooms through a shared, networked, collaborative, and critical focus on design, content, teaching actions, and assessment practices (Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016; Paskevicius, 2017). Focusing research on teacher education programs, particularly in the area of digital literacies and competencies will ensure that new teachers in Ontario will continue to be recognized for innovative teaching practices. However, preservice teachers need to see transformational educational models that include visible, collaborative, networked, and shared teaching practices in order to “achieve a shift in habitus” (Albion et al., 2017, p. 804). In today’s educational environments it is essential that teacher educators become actively engaged with digital literacies while connecting and collaborating as leaders, teachers and learners within program wide and program deep OEPr in faculties of education (Borthwick & Hansen, 2017; Roberts et al., 2018; Watt, 2019). This is essential in order to reduce the invisibility of teacher educators (Albion et al., 2017) and realize teacher education programs as “a genuinely self-improving system” (Crawley, 2018).