Understanding Primary Teachers’ Use of Learning Technologies: a positioning theory approach

Year: 2016

Author: Blannin, Joanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

From around age 10, today’s primary school students are seeking to engage and collaborate with their peers online (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2013). As these students prepare to enter the middle years of schooling, their out-of-school learning experiences begin to diverge from their in-school classroom experiences. This disconnect presents a growing and ever-changing challenge to teachers seeking to educate today’s youth. Teachers are now required to integrate new digital technologies (DTs) into teaching in ways that are often outside their own experiences and practices. Significantly, teachers require targeted professional learning and support to achieve this change. A number of research projects have sought to provide different types of support, with varied impact (Chen, 2008; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Hramiak & Boulton, 2013). The reasons why some professional support interventions succeed and others fail is not clear. This doctoral research project has sought to understand the factors involved in teachers’ choices to use DTs and sees the teacher as the key factor in increasing the integration of DTs into the classroom. This has included investigation into both internal (personal) and external (socio-cultural) factors. Analysis of the participants’ contributions to the research was conducted using a grounded theory approach and has been heavily influenced by positioning theory (PT) (Harre & Langenhove, 1999). PT provides a framework for understanding the social and contextual factors that may be influencing teachers’ use of DTs. With its focus on discourse analysis to uncover teachers’ stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 1996), PT provides a way to triangulate the range of data and explore the local moral order and inherent rights and duties within each social context (Langenhove & Harré, 1994). This paper will explore the initial findings of the study as well as the usefulness of positioning theory to this type of theory-generating educational research. It will also consider grounded theory and PT and the ways in which both approaches, taken together, give strong insight into the social, personal, institutional and organisational factors that are impacting on teachers’ integration of digital technologies in the primary school classroom.