Community of Digital Learners: Embracing the Affordances of Online Teacher Education

Community of Digital Learners: Embracing the Affordances of Online Teacher Education

Elizabeth (Betsy) A. Baker (University of Missouri, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0206-8.ch012
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This study resides at the intersection of digital literacies (ILA Standard 5) and communities of learners (evidence-based practice). An examination of self-studies and awards packets collected during 14 years of online teaching indicated that the instructor intentionally sought to harness online tools to support the formation and development of communities of learners. Of particular interest were the use of robust introductions, small group discussions, and authentic assessments. Similarities were evident between literature that describes offline communities of learners and the online communities forged in these courses. This study indicated that online teacher education courses that embrace social learning theories may be fertile ground for additional research. As education extends into online venues, such research is needed.
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Welcome to the Nature of Literacy in a Digital World! Literacy professionals enrolled in a fully online graduate program for literacy education are greeted with a video introduction of the instructor and the purpose of the course.

Hi! My name is Dr. Baker. I will be your instructor this semester. Have you thought about the literacy skills that you teach as a classroom teacher? What does it mean to be a proficient reader and writer in a print environment? Let’s think about what it means to read and write in digital environments. If you are reading and writing email, text messages, informational sites, blogs, social media, even YouTube, what are the skills you need to be a proficient reader, writer and communicator? That is what we will be looking at this semester. Look through the syllabus and assignments. You will be in Small Groups where you can ask questions and get involved in fabulous discussions. There will be a whole class discussion board too. You can email me anytime. I look forward to working with you.

Graduate students are invited to introduce themselves on a class discussion board where I, the instructor, have posted my own introduction complete with a couple of family photos as well as links to my university web site and a professional podcast that I produce. Students share their reasons for taking the course, their current and previous teaching positions, where they live and their hobbies. Their introductions can be narrative descriptions with or without photos, videos and personally meaningful links (e.g., classroom web sites, personal blogs, favorite music, etc.). In the ensuing week or two, the instructor and students will reply to one another’s introductions and make connections.


Goal Statement

As a teacher educator, to reflect on my teaching and improve my pedagogy and courses, I conduct self-studies (Loughran, Hamilton, LaBoskey, & Russell, 2004). Since 2005, I have offered fully online courses for literacy graduate students. The purpose of this chapter is to draw on insights derived from these self-studies regarding two characteristics of these courses. One, the exploration of digital literacies as set forth in International Literacy Association Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals with particular attention given to Standard 5, Learners and the Literacy Environment (International Literacy Association, 2018a). Two, the incorporation of online affordances that support an evidence-based practice: the development of an online community of learners (Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999; Brown & Campione, 1994; Rogoff, Matusov & White, 2000).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Literacies: Reading and writing proficiencies requisite to communicate digitally.

Online Pedagogies: Methods and practices of teaching online.

Professional Development: Opportunities for professionals, such as teachers, to improve their practices.

New Literacies: Reading and writing proficiencies previously unexamined or minimally examined.

Online Learning Communities: Derived from the evidence-based practice community of learners in which a group of online learners have diverse and valued expertise, shared learning objectives, value learning how to learn, and have mechanisms for sharing what is learned.

Inservice Teachers: Teachers who currently teach students.

New Pedagogies: Methods and practices of teaching previously unexamined or minimally examined.

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