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5.2.4 Case Study 12. Supporting digital technologies in initial teacher education for Primary Teachers

 524 reviewing case studiesThis case study was led by Julia Myers, a Senior Lecturer in Primary English at Sheffield Hallam University, who worked with a group of six PGCE students from the Primary PGCE Course. The focus for this case study was for the students to review the school-based Case Studies within the DeFT project and to reflect on their learning from the practice of others.

The aims of this enquiry were:

  • To explore the case studies in the context of the newly qualified teachers’ own practice, reviewing and reflecting on the resources for future development
  • To provide a resource that invites students to reflect on digital literacy issues in their university-based training and to suggest activities/opportunities for extending their experience
  • To suggest ways in which students’ future practice could be supported in ITE and later in schools
  • To encourage sharing of good practice with digital technologies in a supportive context.
5.2.4 Case Study 12.... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Context

Sheffield Hallam offers initial teacher training courses at primary and secondary level. The Ofsted report (2010) rated the primary provision as ‘good’ with outstanding features commenting the excellent centre-based training programme which enables trainees to provide highly effective learning opportunities for themselves and the full range of pupils they teach.

5241 case study 13 students editing filmsThe Primary PGCE course is for graduate emphasise the core subjects of English, mathematics and science and is designed to prepare students to meet the demands of recent developments in primary education. School experience is an integral part of the course, and students work with pupils in key stages 1 and 2 in partnership with local and regional primary schools, which play a key role in the teaching and assessment of professional competence. The case study was led by Julia Myers, PGCE tutor in Primary Education at Sheffield Hallam University, and involved students from the 2011/2012 cohort who would go onto to be teachers during the course of the study.

A primer was produced to introduce the concept of digital literacy and to support the use of the case studies in the project.

A group of students were asked to review the Case Studies to gain a clearer and better understanding of term ‘digital literacy’, how literacies are changing and how in they can be incorporated into the curriculum in order to reflect on their professional practice, It was also envisaged that the students would gain an understanding of the challenges and barriers that they might face when embedding digital literacy into their own practice.

The second part of the Case Study involved the students reflecting on their learning, as teachers, to have a better perception of their continual professional development needs in the area of digital literacy, a clearer idea of the resources needed and ongoing dialogue about the digital literacy and open educational resource (OER) issues.

The work is shared via blog posts ‘Panel of experts’. Context Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Digital Literacy Practice

The PGCE students were asked to review the role of digital technologies in education, specifically the Case Studies within the DeFT project and later, as newly qualified teachers, to reflect critically on the presentation, value and accessibility of the case studies.

‘The development of appropriate teaching and learning techniques and strategies requires teachers to be conversant with and able to apply knowledge of the subject and its associated pedagogy’ (See

Exploring the practice of others: student teachers needs

While the case studies were being put together, six PGCE students shared ideas to decide what they would find useful in developing their own pedagogies in the context of digital literacies.

5242 iPadsThey felt they needed guidance in identifying the educational affordances of digital technologies, and welcomed the idea of producing resources that would support this. It was made clear that, although they used the technologies in their private lives, it could not be assumed that they would know how to translate this into professional practice. One student said:

Because it is embedded, IT, in so many things, people have this assumption that  maybe we don’t need sessions on that because everyone can do that … but knowing how to do it, knowing  how to translate that into classroom practice, is a different thing. Student comment.

Although they were not familiar with the term open educational resources, they described how they shared resources on Facebook:

Quite often you find yourself stuck for an idea, somebody might have found something on TES (Times Educational Supplement), or give links.

It’s like an online very large staff meeting, where you bounce ideas off each other – rather than just having 15 people there, you will have 200 people, it will be, if we continue to use it (with) schools from around Sheffield and the country.

The benefit is rather than being in a staff meeting for 15 minutes, you … can contribute any time, when the idea hits you!

5242 Halfway school using computersThey stated that they would appreciate time to experiment and ‘play’ with technologies before having to ‘perform’ with them in front of a class, and indicated that it would be useful to view how other teachers use technologies in their practice. At the end of the discussion, they outlined a few elements they would find useful in a case study:

  • the ‘Blue Peter effect’, where the children’s work was displayed alongside the lesson plans, to enable them to see what the outcomes should look like
  • All the ideas and  information are in one location
  • Clarity clear, precise, have a picture to grab your attention
  • the title and two or three bullet points in bold or red
  • to hint at what the findings were at the beginning
  • instructions on how it could be adapted.

Exploring the practice of others: peer review and team teaching

Each student in the group examined four or five case studies against specific criteria reflecting on their potential for student/teacher use:

  • Accessibility – is the subject matter immediately evident?
  • Clarity – is there clear evidence of digital practice?
  • Process – are the aims and outcomes of the case study identified and is there a clear structure within the process?
  • Digital literacies – is the use of digital technology is successfully embedded in practice and how the images, audio, video clips support this?
  • Application – are the reflections helpful?
  • Relevance – Is it useful/relevant to your situations in school?

The student teachers worked through the Case Studies focussing on the intended format and content for each one as it would appear in the Open textbook, using the project website at this stage to access information and materials. At this stage student teacher could not access all the video and audio recordings, however, they found the website well set out and easy to use.

5242 Magna Science Adventure CentreThe case studies are delivered in the following sections: a project summary, which gives a brief outline of the content; the narrative – a description of what happened; teacher, learner, researcher and digital literacy reflections, giving different perspectives on the work; outcomes, dissemination and repurposing, which include suggestions about how the case study can be adapted. Each case study also has a link to a section on relevant information about digital literacy, and a gallery that houses video, audio and image files from the project.

The case studies (1 – 14) are now available from the open textbook and through the links to the project website; users can choose to either download them as a single Word/pdf document or access them online, allowing access to rich media related to the case studies. Digital Literacy... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Teaching

As a method for student teachers to engage with digital literacy, this proved very effective. The student teachers were able to reflect on the value of the case studies to inform their own practice.

Style and layout of case studies:

5243 Sheffield Children's FestivalAlthough it was noticed there were different styles of writing, it was agreed that they were well written, and their identical structures ensured that they were clearly presented and easily accessible.

The bullet points and the tagging at the beginning of each case study were appreciated, as was the summary at the beginning. One reviewer commented:

I liked the way the case studies started ‘backwards’: You could see what the end product was going to be, and you could decide whether this was something that you were interested in doing.

They all indicated that they enjoyed reading them: some said that they had been inspired by the studies and planned to use some of the ideas in their own school setting.

The themes and tags are shown in the table:

Theme (See also Chapter 3) Case Studies in School Settings Comment
Digital Literacy in School Settings: sets out the context of the school curriculum (in England and Wales) and how digital literacy is addressed All case studies


Case studies 6/7/8

Case Study 5

Case Study 4

Examples throughout of relationship with digital literacy in context of curriculum


EYFS Curriculum

Cross curricular


examines the complex relationship between technology and creativity and how this is socially determined

Case Study 5


Case Study 1

Cross curricular; engagement


Distributed cognition; engagement



considers how assessment of digital literacy is evolving

Case Study 5
Case study 1/Case study 3
Difficulties of mapping learning to assessment criteria

Stealth reading and writing

Barriers and Enablers: addresses the elements that promote and restrict practice with digital literacy All Case Studies Examples of barriers and enablers throughout – teacher and pupil reflections
Relationships and Digital Literacy: explores the concept of participation in digital contexts including partnership and collaboration. Case study 4
Case Study 7

Case Studies 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8

Partnership with community and local business


Community & parent partnerships

Communication and Activity: introduces the concept of multimodality and considers the implication of this for learning and teaching Case Study 7

Case Study 8

Case Study 2/Case Study 5

Case study 6, Case Study 7, Case Study 1, Case Study 3

‘digital reporters’

Use of Twitter by class teacher

Mobile technology used to enhance learning

Multimodal; choice and control

Knowledge and Learning:  identifies key issues to do with children’s immersion in media technologies and how the implications of this for consuming and producing digital texts Case Study 4
Case Study 6

Case Study 1/ Case Study 3

student-produced open educational resources (OERs).

Programming and co construction


Comments from the students teachers:

Images and content:

5243 Scratch programming from Monteney SchoolViewing the material helped me to more clearly understand how the digital technologies had been utilised. This is a benefit that you don’t often have with studies which have taken place in the past and the study is in retrospect … Perhaps more photographs could have been included in some of the studies

Examples of a  ‘closed’ project is helpful though, as a teacher, as it illustrates how to use digital literacies in ways that cover various National Curriculum and EYFS objectives

What might be good from a teacher perspective is a table of some sort showing exactly how the scheme of work was laid out. That would encourage more teachers to integrate this sort of practice into their own teaching, as they would be able to take on the actual scheme which was used.


I think the case studies highlight some interesting points about the conflict between using social networking sites for learning and in children’s personal lives.

No doubt the children were more engaged, but was the work they produced of a higher standard than usual? Was the intended outcome achieved?

Clarity of purpose

Was the aim to improve digital literacy competence or to produce the work of art? I imagine the objective was the former and the purpose the latter.

Knowledge and skills

Being from a fine art background myself, and mainly self-taught in digital technology, I related to the teacher’s practice and can imagine doing something similar to this myself, on a scale that would suit my key stage.

The use of QR codes is something that I wanted to use in our integrated resource/continuous provision planning, but our ICT resources do not support it. If I get my hands on some tablets from the CLC I’ll be doing something similar to this, most definitely.

The concept of using technology to support children with additional needs is one that I would be interested in exploring further.

Links to practice

5243 students filming at the Digital Bloom eventIt is useful to have the reflections of the learners as well as the teacher’s to present a balanced view: This section would be particularly useful to student teachers, as they are often asked to make links between their classroom practice and pedagogical theories/research. The section could be highlighted as useful for putting theory into practice?

Yes, this is definitely ideas to try with my class; we have iPads but don’t often use them as much as I feel I could do.

As a two form entry infant school, we do not have a huge budget for ICT and have a scheme of work that I feel is dated. We are soon to have access to loan 12 tablets, so this kind of project would be a fantastic starting point, and really show the leadership team/governors what the school is missing out on. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Learning

To gain benefit from using the professional development Case Studies one reviewer suggested it would have helped to have a clear explanation of the technology applications used within the Case Study, in the opening section.

The use of Moodle (Case Study 9) really interested me; to assist teachers new to Moodle, some print screen shots of Moodle would have been of assistance to gain an understanding of what this VLE looks like, to teachers and students alike.

5244 TUOS Sheffield in the Rain filmI feel with projects such as this (Case Study 13), a lot of valuable ideas and resources are left behind when you leave university, as the support is not there to take these ideas in to the classroom, and as a trainee/NQT you are often nervous to do so. Before you have chance to use your skills they are obsolete, or diluted by time; would be useful to have more information about the range of hardware and software.

The group did feel however, that the case studies were a useful insight into how digital technology could support professional practice – and personal needs:

Yes, I particularly liked the comment from the teacher returning from maternity leave (Case Study 10) who emphasised that the OER had allowed her to share resources and ideas, especially with other departments.

The same reviewer appreciated the social media aspect of the case study:

I  feel this would be really useful, particularly as I feel the school could become more involved with digital literacies, this would give people the opportunity to discuss the technologies and resources as and when without having to meet face to face.

When considering professional development in terms of Teacher  Education, the group felt it was important to provide opportunities that would open up the dialogue about digital education in HE settings, especially the ‘agony aunt’ idea:

I think it is important to explore the use of digital technologies for PGCE students as the experience gained in this field is so varied and it is such a huge part of life. I feel that it would be beneficial to discuss technologies and be able to use them more during the PGCE year.

Digital technology is something that I would really like to become more embedded in my practice as I develop and become more experienced as a teacher. I think the digital agony aunt for PGCE students would be a really beneficial tool for sharing and discussing digital technologies as a PGCE student.

It was felt, however, that the Case Studies needed to have ‘transferability’ to practice and this was not always recognised: no-one, for example, commented on the potential to set up a dialogue as part of a staff discussion in their school setting. Perhaps this points to making clearer links between study and practice. However one reviewer did indicate Case Study 13 had encouraged her to look into the possibility of networking with City Learning Centres.

One of the students in the study, now a Y1 Class teacher in small rural Infant School reflected on the impact that involvement in the Case Study has had on his thinking:

…..the case studies have not had any impact on my practice yet, but ‘bells have started ringing’! We have very little equipment here and there appeared to be a lack of enjoyment

He has already started a school blog, and many of the Case studies, specifically Case Study 4 inspiring as it resonates with his own backgrounds.  He was interested in seeing multiplatform use of web 2.0 applications and intends to try to set up partnerships with CLCs to borrow tablets and cameras to supplement the lack of equipment available in school.

Issues around copyright were discussed, especially when considering the open sharing of resources ‘dragged off the internet’ as this might cause problems when it came to open sharing.

Another student found the Case Studies that focused on primary practice useful: and noted specifically issues around e-safety:

5244 Magna Science and Adventure CentureToo often we shy away from using technology with younger children; they are much more competent than we give them credit for. When I was on teaching practice, I had encouraged children to email children in another class. It was very difficult to monitor because each email had to be sent to me first for checking before it could be forwarded to the intended recipient. It was time-consuming and it put me off using emails. Now I am in school, I use the schools new website with a blog attached.

One former student, now employed as a teacher says she still uses the Facebook group they set up as PGCE students, although not as much as she did when she was a student. She found it useful when applying for jobs.

The user reviews address some of the pressing issues that challenge ITE. By seeking the perspectives of students, a frank and informative discourse has been initiated that can only benefit both users and providers in this burgeoning field of education. The suggestions cannot be taken up in the lifetime of the project, but because this is an OER others can implement the changes when they reuse, repurpose and remix these resources. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Digital Literacy

Guiding and supporting digital literacies in ITE

A primer, in the form of a PowerPoint slideshow, was produced to introduce the concept of digital literacy and to support the use of the case studies in the project. The targeted audience was primary and early years student teachers, but it can be used with a wider audience in the context of exploring meanings of digital literacy. Some of the questions it addresses are:

  • How do you encourage trainees to make opportunities for embedding DL in their teaching practice?
  • How do you use case studies effectively to engage PGCE students in a meaningful way so that they are able to reuse them in their own context?
  • How do you engage teachers from a range of educational phases and ensure there is provision for transferability of resources from case studies across different contexts (e.g. from early years to secondary)?

5245 Richard JohnsonIt is designed to start at the foundations of ‘digital literacy’ and offer an invitation to reflect on different visions of digital competencies and can be used as a teaching resource in its entirety or by focussing on  one of the selected themes from within the prime:

  • the widening definition of literacy
  • the links between the uses of literacies in home and school environments
  • how and why educational settings can exploit a variety of literacies
  • how literacies are changing
  • role of digital literacies in the curriculum with regard to critical thinking, creativity and home–school links
  • the challenges of bringing digital literacies into school

By asking clear, concise and carefully staged questions, it probes and challenges understandings of literacies (digital and otherwise) and digital practice in educational settings. It invites readers to examine their own pedagogical practice, and offers signposts to different strands and emerging themes of digital literacies that are developing in education as well as links additional resources.

It is becoming increasingly evident that there is a relationship between teacher identity and digital literacies (Burnett 2011), and that it can be important for teachers to reflect on the relevance of their own digital literacies in the context of their roles as educators. Consequently, ITE establishments need to recognise and address the rapidly changing role of digital technologies in education. This has wide-reaching implications for teacher educators, who need to create supportive spaces where trainee teachers are able to reflect, experiment and contextualise their knowledge and understanding of these new technologies (Graham 2008). The PGCE students in this case study have defined themselves as ‘people who are interested in the new technologies’ and are aware that this interest defines the extent of their involvement with digital technologies in their practice. These students, now teachers, would be, as Livingstone and Helsper (2007) define, quite high up on the continuum of digital inclusion, but it cannot be assumed that all students would have the same level of digital competence or interest. As one said, they perhaps know about the new technologies, and are comfortable using them in their private lives, but would like to have guidance on how to translate this knowledge into pedagogy.

5245 iMac and Digital Bloom websiteThis review indicates that learner and beginner teachers are mindful of the fact that they, as educators, must build on the digital practices that their students engage in out of school (Hull 2012). It also demonstrates how teachers and students are proactive in finding ways to turn ‘powerful technologies’ to educational use. In the vacuum left by the changing curriculum, many educators indicate that they are having to take the initiative and are actively seeking information about new technologies. These reviewers have proposed that these case studies can be used not only to inform and guide teaching but also to use as examples of good practice to persuade gatekeepers of the relevance of using digital technologies. They prove to be easily accessible ways of disseminating information about important educational resources, which can open up new opportunities in schools.

The initial conversation with the students revealed that they often shared their resources in their group and used online teaching materials from teaching resource banks such as TeachFind and Teachernet. Their reviews stressed that accurate tagging and labelling is essential for ease of access. Some also mentioned that they would like to be able to filter the search results according to assessment objectives, levels (e.g. primary/secondary) and provenance (UK v non-UK). They also wanted an indication of whether the resource was visual/auditory/kinaesthetic so they could best adapt it to their teaching needs. Given that lack of description is one of the key barriers to reuse of OERs (Conole and Adams 2010), these issues should be addressed as a matter of priority to improve their uptake in the school sector.

5245 Digital Bloom eventAs students, the group indicated that they were reluctant to share their own resources with the wider community. They were quite open with colleagues and other students and had set up a dedicated Facebook account where students could post their concerns/tips and successful lesson plans. They felt ‘safe’ in this space, but they did not want to expend time or energy to expand their sharing openly. One student stated that he was aware that the major barrier to open sharing would be difficulties with copyright issues, as he would use downloaded images from the internet regardless of their copyright status. They felt that, as students, they had enough to do preparing and planning lessons without having to think about the complex issues related to open sharing.

However as the students reviewed, engaged with and contributed to the OERs produced during the project, they became more aware of the issues surrounding open sharing. One stated that he would like to become involved in any future production of OERs and would research CC licensing.

The PowerPoint primer section of the case study reflects the complex nature of the subject and the many levels at which students are expected to engage with digital literacies. As well as providing a base for further study, it puts into context some of the issues raised by the other case studies. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) References/Links to Further Information

Burnett, C. (2011). Pre-service teachers’ digital literacy practices: exploring contingency in identity and digital literacy in and out of educational contexts.  Language and Education, 25(5) 433-459.

Graham, L. (2008). Teachers are digikids too: the digital histories and digital lives of young teachers in English primary schools. Literacy, 42(1): 10–18.

Hull, G., (2012) Understanding Language: a broad view of literacy [video]. (Accessed 6/11/12)

Myers, J. (2011) A primer for digital literacies, produced as part of the DeFT project (Accessed 6/11/12)

Livingstone, S., and Helsper, E. (2007). Gradations in digital inclusion: children, young people and the digital divide. New Media & Society, 9(4): 671–696. (Accessed 6/11/12)

Further Resources

CC Licensing (2012) Free and easy to use copyright licences; these are not used instead of copyright but rather work alongside copyright. (Accessed 6/11/12) References/Links to... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private)