BUILDING MOBILE TEACHER IDENTITY DURING VOCATIONAL TEACHER TRAINING

M. Kärnä, P. Lehtonen

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
The proliferation of ICT and digitalization into teaching has lately profoundly changed the working environment of teachers. However, research on the effects of this change on teacher identity seems to lag behind. While the specific nature of the online teacher identity has been recognized, research on the effects of mobile teaching on teachers’ professional identity has remained scarce. This paper describes a longitudinal, narrative study following the development of mobile teacher identity of 21 vocational teacher students during teacher training of 1.5 years.

The aim of the study was to explore how updating learning environment with mobile learning tools and pedagogical instruction on mobile teaching affects the formation of students’ teacher identity. Data was collected before the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the training and it was analyzed using content analysis by two researchers.

Analysis of the first narratives showed that students’ understanding of the concept of mobile teacher identity, and teacher identity in general, was inchoate. Discussion on the mobile dimension of teaching was either non-existent or focusing only on technological aspects of mobility, such as devices or programs.

The second data revealed that integration of mobility into teaching seems to represent a conceptual gateway for the development of mobile teacher identity. Students had markedly entered a “liminal space” in their identity development. This space was characterized by a mimicking way of using the adopted professional language, which disclosed an immature understanding of the concepts. Another typical feature in the students’ narratives were expressions of emotions ranging from doubts concerning the added value of mobile teaching for learning to severe anxiety in front of the overwhelming task of integrating the mobile dimension into professional identity.

The results of the final study showed that part of the students had evolved towards the adoption of a mobile teacher identity. They had ample experience in mobile teaching and their approach to teaching was student-centered. The narratives contained abundant reflections on pedagogy. Writers mixed seamlessly together references to different approaches to teaching and they seemed comfortable to act both in traditional and mobile learning environments.

At the other end of the continuum there was a group of students who had a marginal experience in mobile teaching, and who continued to entertain strong links to their former professional identity. The majority of students, however, had gained some experience in teaching, in mobility or both. They discussed mobile tools, devices and applications without linking them to pedagogy. Mobility remained as an isolated topic in their thinking without a connection to the developing teacher identity.

The results indicate that building a mobile teacher identity is possible during teacher training. However, it is essential to ensure that students get abundant experience of teaching in authentic teaching environments during the training. Further, students should be encouraged to actively experiment with different mobile tools and applications. Through experimentation they will gain the necessary experience to feel comfortable to act in mobile learning environments. Together with students, teachers will be able to meet the challenges of the continuously changing digital world by testing and adopting new mobile tools into their teaching.