Bold new alphabet for teacher education: AI, VR, AR, MR… what? Dr Antonio Calderon

Recently, I attended a SITE conference. SITE stands for Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education and is an international, academic association of teacher educators, researchers, practitioners and collaborating organizations across multiple disciplines, which has as its sole focus the integration of instructional technologies into teacher education programs. Across four exciting days of presentations, round tables, keynotes and networking, people were talking about powerful learning, digital learning, collaborative learning, challenge-based learning, blended learning, creative learning, connected learning, personalised learning, informal learning, virtual learning, e-learning, game-based learning, augmented learning, technology-enhanced active learning and so forth… this amalgam of terms brings to mind some questions I want to share. Are there any differences among these ‘kinds of’ learning? Is it just learning what we mean, with no labels? Are we talking about the same thing? Why don’t we talk about teaching instead of learning?

I must admit that SITE blew my mind! I do actually need more than the eight-hour flight back to Ireland, to ‘digest’ these four days of conference. I would even say that I need a new mind-set after SITE, however, it is exciting! It is now time to reflect, to share and going forward on exploring pedagogies of digital technology for teaching and learning in (physical education) teacher education. Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago I moderated a live-chat with fourth year students about ‘the future of schools and physical education’. Some of the videos I used to prompt theirs thoughts were the one of the ALT-Schools and this other of a future classroom (really nice videos to kick-off the live-chat). Some of the comments the students made were for example: ‘If technology becomes a dominant tool in the PE setting and takes over the class, then the purpose of PE is lost’ or ‘The computer was invented long ago and it’s only now that some students are using tablets and computers in schools so whenever we get this type of technology, it won’t come into mainstream education use for a while after that’. I do agree with that. In fact, after many years of hard and enthusiastic work, Ireland has just launched the ‘Leaving Certificate Physical Education’ curriculum specification, and the role of ICTs is excitingly huge. ICTs are included in activities to enhance student learning and to facilitate collaborative work.

We must acknowledge that the potential of digital technology advances applied to education is massive and grows at a very high speed. However, its incorporation to daily school (quality) practice is not that fast and will take time, despite the optimism that arises from conferences like SITE. It is well known the educational uses of digital technology tend to be discussed in enthusiastic and often exaggerated terms (Selwyn, 2016). In addition, there are also different discourses around education and the digital era. While one of the motto of SITE was moving education into the digital age and preparing teachers to thrive in a digital world (Voogt, et al., 2018), others, are advocating about the emergence of a new concept – ‘the post-digital’. In a nutshell, ‘the post-digital’ describes an approach to digital technology that no longer seeks technical innovation or improvement, but considers digitization as something that has already happened and thus might be further reconfigured (Jandric, et al., 2018). I found much food for thought in this article.

The bold new alphabet for (teacher) education, includes Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), Simulations… and as I said, the potential benefits of these new educational tools is substantial. Actually, there are many schools and educators doing outstanding work. However, I do firmly believe (more than ever before) that a critical perspective is needed. Pedagogy first! The ‘Edu-Business’ market is now capturing the attention of the most powerful companies in the world and I don’t doubt their ‘pedagogical’ intentions, but we all have the responsibility to consider to what extent these neo-pedagogies (and others) will potentially improve the teaching, learning and assessment experience, either at schools or teacher education level. In any case, it is a remarkable moment to be an open-minded and passionate teacher educator ready for all that is yet to come. Meanwhile, I will stay close to my friends from Kibbutzim College of Education and MOFET Institute (Israel) as world leaders in the field of integrating technology into learning. SITE after all was great fun!

Dr. Antonio is a lecturer in Physical Education Teacher Education/Sport Pedagogy.  His  current research interests focus on student learning in physical education and on social media and digital technologies for learning and engagement in teacher education.  Contact Antonio via email on or view his research profile on Researchgate

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