TEACHERS AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES: THE NARROW PATH BETWEEN TRADITION AND INNOVATION
This paper intends to contribute to the debate about professional updating of teaching staff, in particular focusing on training to the use of information and communication technology (ICT), as a tool both for in presence didactic purposes, both for mediating instrument in the training process of teachers. This is a living matter considering that in 2002, in the framework of Lisbon’ s Strategy, Education Minister European Council arranged a work programme, called “Education and Training 2010”, whose first objective concerns the improvement of initial teacher education and continuous professional development, in the awareness that they are called to play the leading role in the educational and training system’s innovation. Besides, other European Commission documents have underlined the necessity that teachers acquire basic competences in the use of computers and new online working and communicative tools, as well as advanced competences on the link between teaching activities and new technologies. This means that their confidence in using ICT should allow them to integrate it effectively into learning and teaching, matching, thanks to their own experiences, a wide range of strategies toward the needs of learners, preparing them to become autonomous lifelong learners.
Under the above considerations, the paper presents an evaluative study referred to “PuntoEdu Apprendimenti di Base”, a blended training course, addressed to teachers from secondary school and early upper school, focused on three disciplinary areas of Italian, Mathematics and Science. The project, born in reply to Italian students’ lacking of basic learning exposed by OECD Pisa Survey, aims to provide teachers tools and didactical-methodological competences in order to support the learning experience of young people as well as to improve and personalize their individual professional competences.
Integrating results deriving from questionnaire and focus group with learners and e-mail-interviews to forums’ moderators, the paper presents the evaluation on PuntoEdu’s platform, regarding the efficacy and the efficiency of the course, the online communication tools (forum, chat, breeze live, virtual class) and the periodicity between in presence and online encounters. The aim is to identify which online tools and which learning methods should have facilitated teachers in attending the training course, as well as which ones should have made difficult learning’ objectives attainment. The evaluative study allowed to identify some improvement factors in order to design a blended course suitable to the specific needs of these users, taking into account their professional profiles, cultural context and individual differences. This issue leads to consider the relationship between theory and practice as a problematic aspect, being these inseparable binomials in the present perspective on teachers’ professional development, confirming the significant benefits resulting from learning by doing. Contradicting commonplaces about dehumanized effects of technology and frequent charging teachers of “rigidity” (for professional standardized habits and autocratic management of personal professional and training path), PuntoEdu’s experience shows, instead, the desire of teachers of experimenting alternative teaching styles, efficiently cooperating and using online tools adequately to construct and act relationships, till the opportunity to become a member of a knowledge building community.