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An ITiS teacher team as a community of practice

By Mia Karlsson


In many countries around the world there have been initiatives to promote the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools, both as a goal in its own right and as a means to enhance the pedagogies in the classroom. A core issue in these initiatives has been the development of teachers´ competencies in using ICT. In Sweden, there have been a number of initiatives that include in-service training of teachers. Most of these have been focusing the “theoretical and practical” training of teachers outside schools, typically organized as courses for individual teachers. One exception is the most recent Swedish National Action Program, ITiS (Information Technology in Schools), aimed at pedagogicallyoriented in-service training for teachers in teams. Individual teachers in the teams receive a personal computer, they are to carry through a student project using ICT, and they meet with a facilitator (15 hours) and other teacher teams in seminars (20 hours), all in order to support pedagogical development. The overall aim of this research is to enhance the understanding of how a teacher team functions as a vehicle for the development of competencies in pedagogical use of ICT. More specific research questions are asked about what characterizes the teacher team how do the team and the teachers in the team use the resources offered by the ITiS program as well as other resources in their environment; what issues and concerns about the pedagogical use of ICT, do the teachers raise; and what are significant dimensions and content in their learning? In addition, there is a perspective at drawing conclusions for design of teacher competency development and in-service training, in particular of learning how to use ICT and developing pedagogical awareness of such use. Etienne Wenger´s theory of Communities of Practice (CoP) provides a framework. This theory takes as a basic premise that learning should be understood as changing participation in changing social practice. The theory argues that in a CoP, participants have a mutual engagement for a negotiated joint enterprise and over time, they develop a shared repertoire. In the empirical study in this work, a case-study approach has been used. A teacher team consisting of eight teachers, one woman and seven men, teaching grades 6-9, have been followed during a period of ten months. The case is chosen from a number of teams studied. The methodology is mainly ethnographic and data has been collected through observations, informal conversations, documents, and focus group conversation. An overall result is that the team is a community of practice on all accounts, where the teachers are accountable to each other and to their joint enterprise. Important resources in fulfilling this joint enterprise are the members of the team; the facilitators; other teams; and the technology in itself. As a resource, ICT becomes a catalyst for pedagogical discussions. It is noteworthy that ICT is secondary to the pedagogical agenda where teachers raise many different issues, for example infrastructure, instructional models and design, and students’ learning and development. When it comes to the teacher’s learning processes, they expressed different epistemologies with respect to learning how to use ICT, where they want someone to tell them exactly what to do, and learning about pedagogy. In the latter case they do not want someone else to set the agenda. The conclusion from this study for in-service training is that, ITiS is a working model for school development concerning ICT. The organization in teacher teams as a basis for the work is highly functional and the inclusion of facilitators to scaffold the learning processes is important, besides offering the technological infrastructure with private access to computers

Topics: ICT, community of practice, teacher teamwork, in-service teacher training, school development
Publisher: Göteborg : Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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