Disruptive Innovation–A Virtual School Created for Teacher Education

Faulkner, J., & Latham, G. (2010). A virtual school for rethinking learning. In David R. Cole and Darren L. Pullen (Ed.). Multiliteracies in motion: Current theory and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Article Review (book chapter)
Drawn on Kress’s (1995) multimodal theory and the multiliteracies theory (e.g., New London Group, 1996), Faulkner & Latham presents a case study of the development of a virtual primary school as a digital tool to disrupt norms of teaching and learning in teacher education programs. The School of Education in RMIT Unviersity, Australia, created a virtual school called Lathner Primary to have preservice teachers experience pre-programmed simulations in an interactive virtual space and seek reflective ideas around what schools and teachers need to respond to new learning challenges. The virtual school also serves as teachers’ affinity space to exchange innovative ideas and concepts of teaching.

All novice teachers get placements in the virtual school, where Maxine Greene’s (1973) concept of “teachers as stranger” was enacted to lead teachers to a “critically conscious” experience that an anthropologist might encounter in a new environment. The researchers pre-create different stories and scenes (via simultions) in the virtual school and encourage generative topics from new teachers to discuss toward re-conceptualizing teaching and learning via role-playing in the online space. Beginning teachers form an “affinity space” via such an online school and a face-to-face community as well. Teachers’ changing viewpoints of teaching and learning were found in their personal narratives on blog sites within the virtual space. The space offered a collaborative thinking place, via online storytelling and roleplaying, for beginning teachers to investigate their previous beliefs and to brainstorm on future teaching practices.

This case is significant in enlightening reformers and scholars to consider a potential (blended) model for new development in teacher education, and in contributing ideas to teacher education in distance learning. It narrates in detail the development of a virtual project and student teachers’ experiences. Instead of the conventional model of sending student teachers to various physical sites, the virtual space not only serves as a student teaching placement site but also creates an “affinity space” for all student teachers to share and discuss their teaching practices collectively.

EdLab Connection

As the EdLab has been interested in developing tools to support teaching and learning at Teachers College, is it possible for researchers and developers at the lab to think about creating a simulation-embedded virtual teaching and learning space in the near future? This space might incorporate NetPosse, Critter, Pressible, etc. In addition to supporting novice teachers at TC in general, this space will potentially benefit the future distance learning programs in teacher education.