Virtual School Meanderings

March 5, 2012

SITE 2012 – Situated Online: Theoretical Underpinnings of Field Experiences in Virtual School Settings

The first session from the Virtual Schooling SIG at the annual Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference was:

Situated Online: Theoretical Underpinnings of Field Experiences in Virtual School Settings

Leanna Archambault, Arizona State University, USA
Kathryn Kennedy, Georgia Southern University, USA

This paper describes the historical, practical, and theoretical underpinnings behind an essential component of teacher preparation, the field experience. It explores the theory of situated cognition as it applies to online teaching and learning which advances the notion that learning requires a contextualized, authentic setting with the participant engaged in direct interaction and reflection (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). Discussed is the basis for the development of field experiences in K-12 virtual schools. Various models that have emerged to address the need for teacher preparation within K-12 online settings are described, and implications for teacher education programs are also addressed.

Kathryn began with some background on how student teaching experiences came about and became a standard aspect of the teacher preparation program. She mentioned that teacher education accrediation organizations have not paid any attention to online student teaching to date, but organizations like ISTE, SREB, and iNACOL have taken an interest and, in some instances, become advocates for online teacher education experiences. Kathryn transitioned to providing some background into the preparation of teachers for the online environment – including the TEGIVS project, the online student teaching experiences that Florida Virtual School has with several universities, her and Leanna’s dissertation work in this area – as well as the online teaching endorsements in Georgia and Idaho.

Kathryn transitioned to a brief mention of their national survey they presented on last year – which basically found that only 1.3% of teacher education programs actually had experiences specifically for preparing teachers for K-12 online learning. Note that the article on this study should be appearing in the Journal of Teacher Education in the next month or so. One of the important developments that have push Kathryn and Leanna to look at possible models and theory that could support virtual school field experiences is because more and more recent graduated teacher education students are getting hired by K-12 online learning program (as opposed to teachers with 3-5 years of experience, which used to be the case).

In terms of the theory that can help inform online teacher education experiences, Leanna spoke of:

  • situated cognition – allowing online student teachers to monitor and be mentored by an experienced online teacher in an authentic environment
  • experiential learning – online student teachers can be engaged by questions, engaged by doing
  • TPACK – allowing online student teachers to be mentored and engage in pedagogically sound strategies, specific to their discipline, in this technology-mediated environment; and many of the self-regulated learning strategies that are needed to be successful in the online environment are embedded in the PCK aspect of TPACK

As TPACK is one of Leanna’s other interests, she spent most of her time on this one. One of the bullets on her TPACK slide read:

“To learn to apply TPACK in the online classroom, preservice teachers must be provided with authentic learning environment in which their cognitive apprenticeship can be situated.”

At present, most of the existing examples of pre-service teacher education programs that focus on K-12 online learning preparation are in Florida (and in partnership with the Florida Virtual School).

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