This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Schools, teachers, and students are increasingly able to access and apply assistive technology to enhance inclusion within mainstream classrooms. The assistive technology may take the form of simple, easy-to-use, low-tech devices, or they may encompass more sophisticated, highly complicated devices that require training and greater levels of support to manage. To ensure that a classroom is truly inclusive, the teacher and other professionals involved in supporting children with disabilities and using assistive technology require appropriate knowledge and skills to bring potential to reality. The knowledge concerning what is available in the field of assistive technology is merely the starting point. Inclusive educators also require expertise in selecting devices and services, including the student in decision making, implementing the assistive technology within an inclusive setting, and assessing the effectiveness of the assistive technology to meet the needs of the student and the classroom.
There are many successful examples of assistive technology being successfully embedded into the practices of inclusive settings, but there is still some way to go to ensure this is a seamless approach and one that is universally informed by practice. While legislation can go some way toward mandating the use of assistive technology, teachers and schools are really at the forefront of implementation. There are many benefits and difficulties associated with adopting assistive technology to support students with disabilities, particularly in developing countries. While the challenges may be great, the potential for assistive technology to impact significantly on the educational, social, and recreational outcomes for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms is immense.
Initial teacher education is increasingly happening online, both formally and informally, within networks that are commercial, institutional, governmental, and research-driven. These networks make use of the capabilities of the internet and related technology to better support teachers. The scholarship of teacher learning within online networks can be divided into four main strands: network design, outcomes from network participation, agency within the network of networks, and critical perspectives on online networks of teachers.
Online networks are designed environments, and there are design decisions involved in developing different types of teacher network. Research into networked learning provides a common language for talking about these networks that allows for articulation of transferable design principles and comparison between networks.
Some studies of networks of teachers are conducted with a focus upon the forms of social support that teachers provide for each other. These studies look to understand the role of online networks within the profession, and to contribute to growing and testing the base of theoretical knowledge about how teachers can be better supported through online networks.
There is a growing strand of literature that focuses upon how teacher agency can be developed so that each teacher can take advantage of a world in which online networks are prevalent and can use them to flourish within the profession. Teachers can learn to develop their own professional learning network that makes use of existing online networks.
While there is much optimism about the potential of online learning networks to support teachers and serve the profession, there are also perspectives that are critical of the widespread embrace of online networks by teachers and the way in which this development is changing the profession.
Erica Sharplin, Garth Stahl, and Ben Kehrwald
Teaching in the early 21st century is subject to a high degree of scrutiny around effectiveness and competence. It has been argued that teachers effect student learning most positively when they take ownership of their own craft. Coaching models provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to do just that, specifically, to engage in purposeful learning activities, receive and provide feedback, and reflect on and discuss their practice.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences between coaching and mentoring. The National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching defines mentoring as a structured process for supporting professional learners through career transitions, whereas coaching enables the development of a specific aspect of practice and the embedding of specialist knowledge. Coaching for in-service teaching has been accepted practice since the early 1980s, but its adoption in pre-service teacher education is relatively new. As research on the potential of coaching has developed, interest in it continues to gain momentum in higher education. Pre-service teaching coaching models often incorporate training in coaching and/or instructional techniques, behaviors and technology, feedback and reflection. Also, models usually follow a cycle comprised of pre-conference, observation and post-conference, although technological innovations are seeing a shift from deferred (asynchronous) feedback to immediate (synchronous) feedback, which is arguably more effective. To date, coaching in pre-service education has been non-evaluative. Generally, pre-service teachers value the results of coaching, which include rapid skill development, the promotion of reflective practice, growth in self-confidence and improved student learning. However, the time-consuming nature of coaching, particularly with synchronous models, is a barrier to adoption.