Personalising the professional learning journey: A tale of computers, camaraderie, the clock, a compass and…. champagne.
Professional development activity is widely accepted as an effective means of effecting change and as such ICT-related professional development has been recognised internationally as a key factor in helping teachers acquire ICT proficiency. Despite mandates for its use, there is a significant body of literature attesting to low qualitative and quantitative use of ICT in schools. Evidence suggests many educators are reluctant to embrace the potential afforded by digital technologies and consequently their pedagogy has not been transformed. A complex web of often-interdependent barriers that impede teachers’ use is identified in the literature. External barriers such as access to resources, time, technical support and the school as an institution are frequently cited. Other studies suggest internal barriers, that is, teachers’ attitudes, beliefs and feelings, conceptualised as teachers’ ‘mental lives’ function to prevent deep and sustained changes in practice. Empirical evidence has already established the significance of beliefs for understanding teachers’ behaviour. Given this strong link, it is curious to note that most current forms of professional development neglect to acknowledge the 'mental lives' of participants and remain largely transmissive and impersonal in style. This paper draws on a longitudinal action research study in which participants’ 'mental lives' were revealed and explicitly addressed in order to support their ICT use and integration into the classroom. An alternative model for professional development that places emphasis on learning that is intentional, authentic, collaborative and reflective is advocated. The model offers a more holistic approach to learning; one that acknowledges teachers as individuals who bring to the learning experience an existing body of knowledge, skill set, attitudes and beliefs and the socio-cultural context of their work.