3.2.8 Teacher education and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

The possibilities offered by ICTs are essential to teacher education for two reasons: on the one hand, these technologies allow teacher training and CPD – both presence-based and delivered through distance training, including through Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs (Fyle, 2013) – to be coordinated and delivered either partly or wholly using electronic tools and media. On the other hand, teachers in the 21st century – where many learners are daily, or at least very regular, users of internet-based technologies – need to be aware of the potentials for ICT-based pedagogy in the classroom and conversant with the use of different educational tools. Evidence from middle- and high-income countries shows that teachers rate such training highly (OECD, 2014a: 107). The need for teachers to be able to support learners in using ICTs does not imply that such tools can replace teachers or substitute for traditional learning. On the contrary, the use of ICTs in the classroom requires thoroughly training teachers to use them and gain the skills to develop applications that are responsive to specific needs and over which they have ownership (IICD, 2007).

ICTs should be taught as a subject and embedded in subject teaching in initial and in-service teacher training (Latchem, 2010). A number of ICT competency frameworks for teachers exist, including the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (UNESCO, 2011). A review of national policies on ICTs and initial teacher education in 31 OECD countries reveals that many countries focus more on using them in continuing education rather than in initial teacher education. The review advocates increased integration of ICTs in initial teacher education, along with a clearer definition of the digital competencies required of teachers. More bottom-up development of national ICT policies and strategies for teacher education is needed, to avoid their being overly prescriptive and to ensure their credibility and ownership by the stakeholders who will implement them. Coherence is needed between the different ICT policies in areas such as curriculum development, teacher competency frameworks, and assessment frameworks and practices (Rizza, 2011: 40). UNESCO Bangkok presents case studies on integrating ICTs into initial teacher education programmes in Australia, China, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam (UNESCO, 2013).Footnote 13 Organizations with extensive experience and evidence on preparing teachers to use ICTs in the classroom include UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning (see Danaher and Umar, 2010, for an extensive review of country experiences and issues in open and distance learning and teacher education), the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia and OECD.

In addition to their use in initial teacher training, ICTs offer many valuable possibilities for CPD for distance teachers. Practising teachers can develop their professional skills and knowledge through exclusively electronic courses, accessed off- or online, or blended learning courses combining some presence-based training with autonomous study using digital materials. As well as facilitating the distribution of teacher education materials, the internet supports self-accessed CPD by allowing teachers to choose materials according to their own needs, aims and preferences, and caters to different learning styles and paces. However, teachers need to learn how to evaluate the available materials and tools critically and to make judicious choices, which usually requires some level of support. The internet also allows teachers to engage and communicate with other teachers and learn from one another within a wide community of practice. Technological developments mean that in many contexts, e-learning is now evolving into ‘m-learning’ (supported by mobile devices and wireless transmission), which offers greater accessibility to teachers in areas that do not currently have access to wired internet, but are covered by mobile phone networks (Mayes and Burgess, 2010).

3.2.9 Training teachers in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)