Knowledge-Building Communities: Blending Online and Face-to-Face Experiences

Knowledge-Building Communities: Blending Online and Face-to-Face Experiences

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8879-5.ch006


Inservice teacher preparation must balance theory with practical experiences to support teachers for integrating their theoretical knowledge into their teaching practice. Online instruction provides the potential for practical education experiences but questions how classroom observations might be conducted in the teachers' classroom practices, particularly where teachers are geographically dispersed. This chapter describes a research-based application of a teacher education course framed by the online TPACK learning trajectory using the systems pedagogical approach and guided active participation for blending online and practical experiences in a course directed toward enhancing teachers' TPACK. This multiple case descriptive study of an online analogue to traditional classroom observations examines the use of the Scoop Notebook for gathering classrooms observations. The online observation technique gathers the inservice teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), more specifically their TPACK-of-practice. The Scoop Electronic Portfolio development process describes teachers' active engagement in their classrooms, transitioning their scholarly theoretical knowledge to practical knowledge accompanied with in-depth, rich reflections on classroom actions and artifacts. The course blends their practical experiences through the Scoop process with asynchronous community of learners' explorations and discourse around instructional strategies for integrating technologies. The benefits of this blended work with the Scoop Electronic Portfolio with an online community of learners' collaboration and inquiry about instructional strategies demonstrates the participants' thinking about teaching with technologies in ways that transformed their TPACK. The results describe the teachers as engaged in action research using Scoop artifacts as objects to think with for ultimately transforming their TPACK-of-practice.
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In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is. ~ Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut

Preparing preservice teachers for teaching initially incorporates multiple theoretical courses to develop the knowledge for teaching and learning. In these courses, they learn that effective teaching involves an alignment of objectives, instructional activities, and assessments. They learn theories of classroom management such as Glasser’s choice theory, Kohn’s student directed learning, and Canter’s assertive discipline. Behaviorism, constructivism, cognitive constructivism, and social constructivism are some theories for explaining how students learn. After teacher-candidates have amassed the theoretical knowledge, they are ready for student teaching – their official practical experience for applying the knowledge they have gained at that point. However, their student teaching reveals the gap between theory and practice that van de Snepscheut (, n.d.) alludes to in his quote, a gap between theory and practice that requires supervisors and cooperating teachers to assist in traversing the path in their practice teaching.

Upon successful completion of the coursework and student teaching practice, they gain a license to teach. In their first teaching position, they have primary responsibility for everything in the classroom where they are faced with the increased responsibilities for linking theory to practice. At this point, they have less support than they had in student teaching for managing the gap between theory and practice. Ultimately, they seek ways to build on their knowledge for bridging the gap. As inservice teachers, they see the importance of continuing to learn about teaching, to build their knowledge for teaching with an eye on today’s students who are learning in more complex social, cultural, educational environments saturated with dependence on multiple digital technologies (hereafter referred to as technologies) in the 21st century.

In essence, inservice teachers are confronted with expanding their knowledge for teaching with the multitude of current and emerging technologies, technologies with which they have limited experience, and in reality much less experience for integrating them as teaching/learning tools in their classrooms. To address this lack of experience and knowledge, they actively search for opportunities to assist in reframing their knowledge for teaching with technologies. This knowledge is described as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), a dynamic, theoretical construct for designing, implementing, and evaluating curriculum and instruction with technology.

The challenge for teacher educators is to design appropriate professional development experiences for inservice teachers, experiences where they are able to engage in relearning, rethinking and redefining teaching and learning as they confront their current conceptions of teaching. To reframe inservice teachers’ knowledge that adequately reflects the ideas described by TPACK requires systematic inquiries about teaching, learning, subject matter and curriculum, and schooling much as described in Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s conception of knowledge-of-practice as a “transformed and expanded view of what ‘practice’ means” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 276). This conception assumes that knowledge is “socially constructed by teachers who work together and also by teachers and students as they mingle their pervious experiences, their prior knowledge, their cultural and linguistic resources, and the textual resources and materials of the classroom” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 280). This conception of teacher learning necessitates incorporation as an inquiry community where reflection is a central component (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Loughran, 2002, Schön, 1983).

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