Volume 1, Issue 1, Summer 2002
Creating a Community of Learners Online and Offline in Teacher Education
This study focuses on a university college program in special education using Internet groupware to establish a community of student learners’ on- and off line. The study focuses on one group of four students, while it gives attention to a larger group of 35 students, during their six weeks intensive project work. Data sources were: transcripts of students’ Internet exchanges related to the task; the students’ assessment reports; and an interview with one subgroup. The analysis revealed five phases in the students’ progression towards developing a community. Each phase comprised the nature of the task, the media used in communication, and the relationships that were established. The findings show that each phase scaffolded the learning process, and the creation of community and how each phase structured the conditions for subsequent phases. The analysis reveals how the online interactions gave rise to meaningful face-to-face conversations that in turn facilitated more reflective and sophisticated online exchanges. These online and face-to-face interactions assisted each other and enabled the students to claim their voices from the multiple voices from diverse special education practices that were sounded through the whole process. The end result is a community of learners in special education whose individual voices pulsate through a collective process.
Utilization of Communication Technologies to Facilitate Follow-up to On-site Professional Development
The primary research objective of the hypotheses-generating study focused on the viability of the communication technologies (Internet, e-mail, phone, and fax) as effective media for professional development. The central research question was: What impact does communication technology have on the facilitation of follow-up sessions to traditional on-site professional development? First, the study explored the facilitation of follow-up professional development for teachers in rural and underserved areas. Second, the research considered the type of communication technology that is best suited to the needs of teachers in rural and underserved areas. Third, the study investigated the impact of various factors, including technical skill with computer and related technologies and adequate equipment, on the utilization of communication technology as a means of continuing education. The findings indicated communication technologies were useful for follow-up to on-site professional development. However, inconsistent access to the Internet and e-mail at school was a barrier to their effective utilization. The participants indicated e-mail was the preferred mode of communication with other professionals. Differences in technical skill did not appear to negatively impact dialogue via communication technologies during the study. On the other hand, there were some equipment and server problems noted by the participants as barriers to consistent access to the Internet and e-mail. As a result of the research, the following hypotheses were generated: (a) e-mail is the most viable method of follow-up to on-site professional development to meet the needs of teachers in rural and underserved areas; (b) the actual typical availability of communication technologies to teachers in rural and underserved areas is less than is reported by administrators; and (c) access to the Internet is more problematic for rural and underserved teachers. Additional research should be conducted to develop distance professional development that fosters collaborative, reflective practice.
Requiring Independent Learners to Collaborate: Redesign of an Online Course
“Technology in the Language Arts Curriculum” is an elective course that falls midway through the eleven-course sequence for the Masters of Education in Technology in Education at Lesley University. When the course was prepared for online delivery it incorporated a major collaborative writing assignment that featured the use of networking and peer feedback in the writing process. Data collected during the first two sections of the course indicated serious problems with the collaborative writing assignment. The problems experienced by students and instructors were similar to those reported in the emerging literature about online teaching and learning. The course was redesigned to adjust for these problems. Data was collected for three additional sections, and the lessons learned will be useful to other online course designers and instructors. We point out faulty assumptions in the course design regarding student preparedness, and we recommend that, early in the course, instructors teach and test for mastery of technical and other skills normally assumed in graduate students. We emphasize the need for instructor-to-student and student-to-student trust prior to major collaborative assignments. We propose a thoughtful approach to options and accountability for collaborative assignments.
Online Resources for Teacher Education Early Field Experience Courses: A Case Study
The development and use of online resources for early field-based teacher education experiences can offer many challenges. This case study outlines the three-year period of development and implementation of online resources for two such courses, one for freshmen and one for sophomores.
Comparing Technology Skill Development in Computer Lab versus Classroom Settings of Two Sixth Grade Classes
Preparing elementary students for online learning begins with basic computer competency. Computer competency skills were taught using integration of learned skills in the regular academic curriculum to sixth grade students under two conditions: (a) in a classroom with four computers, and (b) in a computer lab. Students of mixed ability (N = 53) were given pretest and posttest measures of technology skill development based on school district curriculum before and after eight weeks of instruction. Results showed that the group using the computer lab had higher overall scores in computer skills when compared to the classroom integration group. Higher scores for the lab were interpreted as the result of efficient and enhanced academic-engaged time inherent to the lab setting. An attitude survey given to all students indicated no significant differences between groups on perceived fear of computers, attribution of learning through computers, or enjoyment derived from using computers.
Telementoring: A Teacher’s Perspective of the Effectiveness of the International Telementor Program
The purpose of this study is to inform the reader how K-12 teachers perceive the idea of using telementoring in their classrooms. Teachers in this study evaluated the effectiveness of the International Telementor Program (ITP), which is one of the world’s largest formal telementoring programs. The International Telementor Program creates matches between industry professionals from ITP sponsor companies and students (4th grade through college) targeting specific communities around the world. The ITP program creates project-based online mentoring support for students and teachers in classrooms and home environments with a focus on serving a diverse student population. Since 1995 over 11,000 students have been served throughout nine countries. Teachers provided their insights of the benefits and challenges of working in the International Telementor Program in the K-12 setting. Teachers gave responses using both quantitative and qualitative formats.