Providing a platform for 'what works': Reconstituting teacher professional learning and expertise through Apple Teacher and PISA4U

Year: 2019

Author: Lewis, Steven, Di, Gregorio, Elisa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Our aim in this paper is to address how emerging modes of educational governance are being constituted by and through new online platforms for teacher professional development, collaboration and certification. Specifically, we focus here on two recent examples: 1) the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) PISA4U Network(‘PISA4U’); and 2) Apple Inc.’s Apple Teacher. Both programmes have emerged alongside demands for increased accountability and transparency in public schooling, which have in turn produced new urgencies around finding ‘evidence-informed’ solutionsto putative problems of policy and practice. At the same time, this desire for solutions has produced a new market for policy populated by new providers of services, with efforts to identify ‘what works’ occurring in tandem with the increased presence of non-governmental organisations in education more broadly, and teacher professional learning more specifically.

Here, we explore how PISA4U and Apple Teacher help forge new connections and proximities between otherwise distant schooling spaces and actors, as well as how these relations can displace more traditional, and professionally-grounded, forms of teacher knowledge and expertise. We situate this research in relation to the emerging field of policy mobilities, in order to better understand not only how policies are increasingly dynamic and in motion (i.e., their ‘flows’) but also, importantly, the contextual embeddedness of their uptake, contestation and enactment (i.e., their ‘frictions’). Bringing together recent thinking around policy mobilities with Robertson’s (2019) insights into ‘platform capitalism’, and drawing on policy documents, audio-visual materials and social media posts associated with PISA4U and Apple Teacher, we suggest both platforms reflect a shift towards teacher learning as a possible site of significant policy relevance, intervention and impact. In particular, the no-cost nature of the programmes and their virtual ‘presence’, combined with the ready availability of free learning resources and certification, position PISA4U and Apple Teacher as especially attractive prospects to educators who would otherwise struggle to access such professional development opportunities, including those based in developing countries, remote locations or lower socio-economic communities. We conclude by suggesting that PISA4U and Apple Teacher, rather than simply providing online forums within which so-inclined teachers and schooling leaders can come together to share ideas and collaborate, are primarily concerned with consolidating the authoritative status of the OECD and Apple, and provide platforms for suffusing their policy discourses and expertise throughout the teaching profession globally.