ICT in teacher education

Ruben Vanderlinde and Fredrik Mørk Røkenes

[tabby title=”Introduction”]

Serious games, iPad classrooms, augmented reality, 21st Century Skills, MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) are concepts that are more and more used in a context of education. As such, these new technological changes impact the context of teacher education and teacher educators. The purpose of this text is to give a short introduction to the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) or educational technology in teacher education. The text is an introduction to why the use of digital technologies is of importance for teacher educators, and gives a short overview of some of the main issues related to this increasingly complex phenomenon.

Setting the scene

First, we want to start with some food for thought: What kinds of digital technologies do you as a teacher educator remember were used in your own primary and secondary schooling? What do you remember of some of the technologies used in higher education and in your teacher education? How were these technologies used? What kinds of digital technologies are used in present day schools to teach subject such as English, Mathematics and Physical Education, and how? How do these teaching practices related to the use of ICT in teacher education? You see, questioning the place and use of ICT in teacher education is complex, but also fascinating. We believe there are three reasons why this theme is of particular interest for teacher educators. First, we believe that ICT has the potential to improve the work and practices of teacher educators, and in turn can influence teaching and learning processes in education. Second, we see that the last five years a lot of innovative research has been conducted in the context of teacher education. We believe that we are dealing with a new research domain. Last, we see that researchers, policy makers, teacher educators, etc. not always agree on the use of ICT in teacher education. We are thus confronted with an interesting intellectual debate that influences our daily work as teacher educators, in combination with a rapid changing society where digital competences are becoming critical competences for the future.

Relevance/consequences for teacher educators

Today, teacher educators need to reflect on the kinds of questions posed above as they are responsible for preparing new cohorts of student (pre-service) teachers to teach their subject disciplines, to meet school and curriculum demands, and to engage with pupils in the contemporary school. How are student teachers supposed to approach teaching when classrooms are filled with digital distractions and temptations with 24/7 access to the Internet, mobile phones, tablets etc.? How is teacher education supposed to prepare the next generation of teachers in the use of ICT and promote 21St Century Skills? What can we do as teacher educators to approach these challenges when we are dealing with a so-called “moving target”, i.e., advancing technologies? How can teacher educators act as digital role models for student teachers who, in turn, are supposed to act as digital role models for their pupils? Can we learn from innovative ICT national projects from colleagues or from international educational research?

Main debates

Three key debates seem to be currently trending in the research on ICT in teacher education. The first – and perhaps one of the main debates in the research literature on ICT in teacher education – is about the lack of ICT-training including barriers and enablers in the preparation of student teachers. Research that focuses on the use of ICT in teacher education is critical for both teacher education institutions, teacher educators and mentor teachers involved with practice schools. Consequently, several literature reviews have attempted to synthesize findings across empirical studies on the use of ICT in teacher education. As a results, researchers have come up with a number of overall approaches, key strategies or overarching themes that might point out how teacher educators can promote ICT-training or digital competence in teacher education (Tondeur, van Braak, Sang, Voogt, Fisser & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012; Røkenes & Krumsvik, 2014). Colleagues from Ghent University (Tondeur, et al., 2012) present a model that comprises of 12 themes that need to be in place in the teacher education programmes to prepare student teachers for technology integration. These key themes are either related to the preparation of student teachers at the micro level (e.g. using teacher educators as role models, learning technology by design, scaffolding authentic technology experiences), or to conditions necessary at the institutional level (e.g. technology planning and leadership, cooperation between institutions, training staff). The themes locate at the microlevel are concrete suggestions for teacher educators. Røkenes and Krumsvik (2014, pp. 260-267) come with 8 similar approaches to develop student teachers’ digital competences in teacher education. The first approach, collaboration, refers to technology training situations where two or more student teachers work together for learning. The second approach, metacognition, regards tasks where student teachers must analyze, document and reflect on their actions about the use of ICT. The third approach, blending, refers to ICT-training situations with student teachers in which face-to-face teaching, online teaching and the use of different modes are combined to create meaning. The fourth approach, modeling, involves student teachers being exposed to and learning from demonstrations made by expert users of ICT such as teacher educators, mentor teachers or peers. The fifth approach, authentic learning, concerns situating the student teachers’ technology infused learning tasks in real-world teaching situations or contexts of future use. The sixth approach, student-active learning, involves a shift in the technological pedagogical control from the teacher educator or mentor teacher to the student teachers. The seventh approach, assessment, refers to situations where student teachers receive feedback on their technology use which they can use to modify their teaching and learning activities. Finally, the eighth approach, bridging theory/practice, deals with the often referred to tension between the theoretical arguments and research-based ideals of using technology in teaching versus the practical field experiences and realities of teaching. Can you detect any of these approaches in your department or teaching institution?

Another key debate is regarding the development of theoretical constructs or concepts that capture what it means to have ICT-skills or to be a digitally competent teacher/teacher educator. Here, several researchers have proposed conceptual frameworks and theoretical models that describe and assess users’ ICT-skills. If you study this from a theoretical perspective, Koehler, Mishra, and Cain (2013) argue to expand Shulman’s well-known construct of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) to include technology knowledge. They propose to develop TPACK (technological pedagogical content knowledge) by student teachers and teachers, and have developed a model to support their theoretical framework. Another theoretical model is proposed by Krumsvik (2014) who argues that teachers and teacher educators need to have a professional digital competence in order to meet the technological demands and expectations of the current generation of student teachers and pupils. He proposes that “Digital competence is the individual teacher educator’s proficiency in using ICT in teacher education with good pedagogical judgement and his/her awareness of its implications for learning strategies and the digital Bildung of student teachers” (Krumsvik, 2014, pp. 273-274). Based on his definition, Krumsvik (2014) has developed a digital competence model that teacher educators can use for making tacit knowledge explicit and for reflection-on-action. These are only a few of the many definitions and conceptualizations that you might encounter when researching technology in education. What do you think are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using these kinds of models when trying to explain ICT-skills?

The constructs mentioned above brings us to the final key debate which is related to how we can operationalize, assess and model phenomenon such as ICT competencies, TPACK or digital competence in teachers, student teachers, teacher educators and pupils. Currently, there exist several instruments, models and scales that have been applied to pupils and teachers in primary and secondary school settings (such as the one of Aesaert, van Braak, van Nijlen & Vanderlinde, 2015). However, few studies other than those using the TPACK framework have attempted to operationalize and measure these constructions in a teacher education setting. Also, when student teachers’ TPACK or ICT competencies are assessed in teacher education, the results do not seem to amount to significant changes in teaching practices with ICT at the respective institutions. In relation to this debate, for years now researchers have pressed for more longitudinal research on ICT in teacher education to see whether the ICT-training that student teachers receive in teacher education has an effect on their professional teaching practices after graduation. What do you believe is the result of teacher education institutions’ investment in technology-training of student teachers (if there is such an offer)?

It seems thus that over the last years, the research literature has been describing approaches and strategies, teacher educators can be use in their practice. We believe that it is up to the teacher educator to use ICT and technology as a role model making use of the best strategies that fits his or her idea about good education on the one hand, and the digital competences of students at the other hand. In this endeavor, teacher educators need to have a professional digital competence or TPACK.


Aesaert, K., van Braak, J., van Nijlen, D., & Vanderlinde, R. (2015). Primary school pupils’ ICT competences: Extensive model and scale development. Computers & Education, 81(0), 326-344.

Koehler, M.J., Mishra, P., & Cain, W. (2013). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)? Journal of Education, 193(3), 13-19.

Krumsvik, R. J. (2014). Teacher educators’ digital competence. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58(3), 269-280.

Røkenes, F. M., & Krumsvik, R. J. (2014). Development of student teachers’ digital competence in teacher education: A literature review. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 9(4), 250-280.

Tondeur, J., van Braak, J., Sang, G., Voogt, J., Fisser, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2012). Preparing pre-service teachers to integrate technology in education: A synthesis of qualitative evidence. Computers & Education, 59(1), 134-144.

Key words: Digital competence, teacher education, student teachers, ICT, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, educational technology.

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ICT and Technological Change (PDF)

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