Faculty Reflections on Decision-Making and Pedagogical Use of Online Activities in Teacher Education

Faculty Reflections on Decision-Making and Pedagogical Use of Online Activities in Teacher Education

Swapna Kumar (University of Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0011-9.ch612
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Abstract

Teacher educators preparing their students for 21st century schools are increasingly using online technologies in on-campus courses. While some teacher educators have used such activities for almost a decade and have migrated from learning management systems to wikis and blogs, others still struggle to structure and facilitate online activities effectively. Ten teacher educators’ decisions to use online activities in 23 face-to-face courses based on several criteria (class size, instructional goals, course type, students’ prior knowledge, and the content of classroom instruction) are described in this chapter. Faculty members’ reflections on their decisions, practical examples from different courses that they taught, and strategies they refined over time illustrated their focus on pedagogy as they migrated to newer technologies. The structure, design, and implementation of online activities discussed in this chapter could be useful to beginning educators, teacher developers, and instructional designers engaged in the integration of new technologies in higher education.
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Research On Asynchronous Online Communication In Higher Education

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) posited that communities of inquiry, both face-to-face and online, consist of three elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence, all three of which, they argue, are “crucial prerequisites for a successful higher education experience” (p. 87). In studying the effective use of online interactions for student learning, they also asserted that a participant’s cognitive presence is the most important factor that influences his/her learning. They defined cognitive presence as “… the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication” (p. 89) and stated that learners construct experiences and knowledge by analyzing the subject matter, raising questions, challenging assumptions, and integrating diverse ideas. In a later article, Garrison and Kanuka (2004) claimed that just as oral critical discourse can facilitate critical thinking, the reflective and explicit nature of online text-based communication is extremely conducive to higher-order cognitive learning. The process of writing helps to facilitate reflective thinking about problems, to formulate and clarify ideas, to organize thoughts, and to develop critical thinking, which is fundamental to communities of inquiry (MacArthur, 2006).

Benefits of Asynchronous Online Communication in Higher Education

The use of asynchronous online discussions or computer-mediated communication (CMC) in on-campus courses has been reported to increase student participation and interaction, to provide increased opportunities for engaging with course content, expose students to multiple perspectives, contribute to a better understanding of course concepts, and facilitate the application of new and existing knowledge (Angeli, Bonk, & Valanides, 2003; Biesenbach-Lucas, 2003; Dietz-Uhler & Bishop-Clark, 2002; Fauske & Wade, 2003; Gorski, Heidlebach, Howe, Jackson, & Tell, 2000; Hara, Bonk & Angeli, 2000; Kumar, 2007; Meyer, 2002; Schaff, 2003; Slavit, 2002; Vaughan & Garrison, 2005; Young, 2002). Teacher education researchers have concluded that asynchronous online communication fosters reflection on teaching and learning, student engagement with course concepts, and increased student communication (Barnett, 2006; Ferdig & Roehler, 2004; Kian-Sam & Lee, 2008; Hough, Smithey & Evertson, 2004; Jenning, 2005; Jetton, 2004; Lee-Baldwin, 2005; Lord & Lomicka, 2007; Maher & Jacob, 2006). In addition to enabling students to reflect on their teaching beliefs and teaching styles, and exposing them to multiple perspectives, integrating asynchronous online discussions in teacher preparation provides pre-service teachers with technology skills that can be useful to them later in their teaching practice (Jetton, 2004; Lord & Lomicka, 2007). Further, Ferdig and Roehler (2004) stated that, “students who used discussion forums… were more likely to achieve understandings of teaching and learning that went beyond just a surface level” (p. 131).

The research reviewed also indicated that interactions in the classroom can be positively influenced by online interactions (Vess, 2005). While Dietz-Uhler and Bishop-Clark (2001) concluded that online discussions can be beneficial to “subsequent face-to-face discussions with the same people, assuming that the two discussions are temporally close” (p. 271-272), Kumar (2007) reported on a professor’s creation of a synergy between online and classroom discussions leading to enhanced student understanding of course topics in an undergraduate course. Garrison and Anderson (2003) argued for a blended learning environment that has a creative and well-designed discussion board. They claimed that instructors can best achieve higher-order learning by combining the energy and social interaction in a classroom with the increased response time and the resultant reflective dialog of an online discussion environment.

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