Using apps for e-TLA

This week our blog post is written by Leo Morantes-Africano, from the Newcastle School of Education

Leonardo.Morantes-Africano@ncl-coll.ac.uk @lamorantesa

Teachers’ digital skills development in ITT: apps for e-TLA

#ITE #technology #apps #experientiallearning


I am an Initial Teacher Trainer (ITT) at the School of Education in Newcastle College. I recently created an action research project for PGCE trainee teachers to critically evaluate their use of resources for teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) through an experiential learning process. The loop input approach (Woodward, 2003) was used to question current practices, discuss theory and enable their digital skills development on the use of technology in education through active experimentation. The purpose of this article is to share practical advice on how to support teachers’ digital skills development on the use of apps in the classroom.

Pedagogical considerations and practical advice:

  1. Experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) informed the strategy to create a meaningful experience for trainee teachers to critically evaluate resources, including e-resources. Theory and practice was blended in the delivery, e.g. theories of e-learning, e. e-teaching, e-learning and e-assessment (Andrews, 2011) and underpinning principles for the effective implementation of technology in education (see Developing Digital Literacies (Beetham and Sharpe, 2010, in Jisc, 2014)) supplemented with a practical use of apps during the delivery (loop input, Woodward, 2003) to relate theory to their personal experience of the use of VR cardboard, QR codes, Kahoot, Socrative and Plickers. The practical advice here is to explain theory through an experiential model of learning; bring resources, try them out with your groups and consider how theory fits in, Beetham and Sharpe’s (2010) elements of access, skills, practices and identities was highly pertinent here.
  2. A critical evaluation of the advantages and limitations of various resources is important (not only technology-based). For example, we carried out an analysis of what makes PowerPoint presentations (PP) effective (see Gurrie and Fair, n.d.) and I witness during teaching observations how trainees were shifting their use of PP for teaching to a more useful resource for learning (critical questioning of the purpose and effectiveness of resources; this was evident by their new embedding in PPs of extra links to articles and wider readings (extension activities), references to their sources of information (improved academic accuracy) and more visual illustrations and videos to use PPs as a learning tool outside of the classroom (flipped-classroom).
  3. Encourage the development of digital skills by putting in place access to resources and support to create / adapt e-resources (see again Beetham and Sharpe’s pyramid of digital literacies). In this respect the modelling of apps (including VR cardboard) during the delivery of this module motivated them to see potential applications in own teaching contexts. The whole process was highly effective through peer support and collaboration; a community of highly enthusiastic e-adopters was formed, though some ironing out had to be done before they felt confident with the use of apps in own classrooms; reflections and evaluation were key part of the process.

Further advice:

  • Fully consider the practicalities for the effective implementation of technology in the classroom, i.e. aspects of access to resources and access to support are fundamental to enable digital skills development, e.g. Wifi, smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, apps, storage, 4G, a More Knowledgeable Others (MKO’s, see Vygotsky, in McLeod, 2014) for peer support, etc.
  • Embed in lessons an experiential learning approach (Woodward, 2003) for students and trainees to develop familiarity with the use of apps (don’t assume that they can develop digital skills intuitively, they need support and access to resources to develop such skills, already mentioned but a bit of nagging helps to reinforce key messages)
  • Incorporate evaluation of resources that aids improvement of future practice, for example with the use of online polls and surveys (explore the value of using technology to capture student feedback to use in improvement and development of own practice).

The author can be contacted via email: Leonardo.Morantes-Africano@ncl-coll.ac.uk  or Twitter @lamorantesa. Teachers’ digital skills development is a key area of interest and views from like-minded peers would be welcomed.



Andrews, R (2011) Does e-learning require a new theory of learning? Some initial thoughts. Journal for Educational Research Online. 3 (1), 104-121. [Also online] Available at: http://www.j-e-r-o.com/index.php/jero/article/viewFile/84/108  [Accessed: 22 Sep 2017].

Jisc (2014) Developing digital literacies. [online] Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies [Accessed: 22 Sep 2017].

Gurrie, C, & Fair, B. (n.d.) Power Point–from Fabulous to Boring: The Misuse of Power Point in Higher Education Classrooms. Journal of the Communication, Speech & Theatre Association of North Dakota.

McLeod, S (2014) Lev Vygotsky. [online] Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html [Accessed: 29 Sep 2017].

Woodward, T. (2003) Loop input. ELT journal. 57 (3) pp.301-304.





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