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.