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PST Online: Meeting the need for teaching innovation for virtual schools

Masters, Yvonne | Gregory, Sue | Grono, Stephen

Year: 2015

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract: Virtual schools are no longer a pipedream, they are already with us and our pre-service teachers need to be prepared for this alternate teaching medium. In New South Wales, Australia, the selective virtual high school, xsel, was the precursor to a new 7-12 virtual high school, Aurora College, which opened in 2015. Unlike blended learning in the classroom, where the teacher is physically present, the new virtual schools have no need for physical classrooms and students can be geographically distant from both each other and the teacher. This change in education delivery in schools will necessitate a new approach to curriculum design accompanied by a reshaping of discipline-based courses in higher education institutions in regard to teacher education. A complementary redefinition of the use of information and communication technologies will also be needed. Exclusively online teaching changes the dynamics between teacher and student and “necessitates a shift from a practice of controlling to engaging students’ attention” (Murphy & Manzanares, 2008, p. 1061). These researchers argue that there are contradictions in moving from face-to-face teaching in a conventional classroom to teaching online and that teachers “may benefit from opportunities to develop new skills, techniques and strategies” (Murphy & Manzanares, 2008, p. 1070). While there has been some online teaching for many years, Bull (2010) cautions that “for the most part, teacher education programs are not yet preparing preservice teachers to teach in this [virtual] environment successfully” (p. 29). The authors have received an OLT grant to explore what particular new skills will be required and to develop a suite of resources that can begin to redress the gap between current practice and the new skills that Bull argues will be needed. In this paper, the authors will briefly present the conceptual underpinning of the need for changes in teacher education and then report on the first phase of the project where they gathered the perceptions of pre-service teachers in terms of their preparedness for virtual teaching. This data informs the development of the online resources which will be reported as the project reaches its culmination. References: Bull, G. (2010). The always connected generation. Learning and Leading with Technology, 38(3), 28-29. Murphy, E., & Manzanares, M. A. R. (2008). Contradictions between the virtual and physical high school classroom: A third-generation Activity Theory perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6), 1061-1072.

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