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Mental models of digital video tools of teachers in training: An approach to the didactic integration of digital media in the classroom

Knowledge Exchange Lab




German Research Foundation (DFG), ScienceCampus Tuebingen


Interpreting web-based digital video technologies as (socio-) cognitive tools (YouTube Annotations, WebDIVER TM, or VideoANT) opens up new vistas for constructivist learning in formal education. This dissertation project poses the question, whether and how teachers perceive and mentally represent the (socio-) cognitive functions of such video technologies. Furthermore, we ask how such mental models of (socio-) cognitive tool functions influence the teacher’s planning for leveraging the potential of this technology in instruction. Based on the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework (Angeli & Valanides, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and other models of the professional competence of teachers (Baumert & Kunter, 2006; Bromme, 1992), these questions are investigated with samples of pre-service teachers while focussing on History and German Language Arts education.

On the theoretical level, the project aims at elaborating on the TPACK approach by integrating it with the concept of mental models (Johnson-Laird, 1980; Westbrook, 2006; Mohammed et al., 2000) in order to formulate more concrete hypotheses on the cognitive processes involved in teaching with digital media. Here, mental models are defined as representations of elements and their interrelations that are constructed based on prior knowledge and beliefs. With regard to their formal characteristics, mental models can be directly manipulated and tested. As such, they help to complete specific tasks by guiding the actor’s interpretations of and predictions about her or his environment. This project focuses on mental models of the cognitive and socio-cognitive functions of digital technologies of teachers. These models represent how a specific technology influences the affordances and constraints of a learning situation and, thus, the students’ individual and collaborative learning processes. In relation to the teacher-specific task of lesson planning, these mental models are assumed to play a significant role in determining whether and how teachers leverage the specific potentials of a technology by embedding them pedagogically and in a specific content. Overall, complex and adequate mental models should lead to more flexible planning for technology integration and to scrutinizing the specific added-value of the respective technology.

On the empirical level, this general hypothesis is tested using the example of digital video technologies. In correlational and experimental studies with pre-service teachers we investigate to what extent mental models of the (socio-)cognitive functions of a technology predict a teacher’s lesson planning for this technology and how to support the construction of effective mental models.