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Innovation in open and distance learning and teacher education : the case of pre-service secondary vocational education and training at an Australian regional university
Debate continues about the appropriateness ofopen and distance learning as a delivery mode for teacher education. Nevertheless, as with other manifestations of open and distance learning, there a growing recognition that the potential flexibility afforded by new communication technologies can be aligned with new approaches to curriculum, pedagogy teachers who would otherwise not be able to attain such opportunities. Despite these distinctive advantages, the pressure on open and distance learning approaches to teacher education is undoubtedly greater than with face-to-face models, not least because the latter constitute the default mode offormal education. UNESCO's recent report Teacher education guidelines: Using open and distance learning: Technology, curriculum, cost evaluation (Perraton, Creed Robinson, 2002) provides a useful synthesis of the main elements ofthis pressure. This paper takes up that challenge in relation to a program of pre-service secondary vocational education and training teacher education (itself often considered marginal to 'academic' or 'general' secondary teacher education) at Central Queensland University, an Australian regional university. The program is interrogated from the perspective of three of the UNESCO report's principal concerns: planning; technology; and teaching practice. Denning's (2004) recent distinction between innovation as a novel idea and as a transformation ofpractice is used to argue that the program is an educational innovation in both of Denning's applications of the term, with significant implications for understanding and valuing open and distance learning and teacher education in the early 21'" century.