Tools and Processes for Online Knowledge-Building Communities: A Research-Based TPACK Learning Trajectory

Tools and Processes for Online Knowledge-Building Communities: A Research-Based TPACK Learning Trajectory

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8879-5.ch003


Knowledge-building communities exploit the combination of inquiry experiences, discourse, and critical reflections. They facilitate learning through collaborative explorations and investigations where the explorations might involve using new and more robust digital technologies as learning tools. Such communities have the potential for supporting teachers in transforming their technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) as they explore new technology-infused experiences. The challenge for this researcher team was to identify and implement a plan for establishing knowledge-building communities that effectively transformed inservice teachers' TPACK through online instruction. Using a design-based research methodology, a social metacognitive constructivist instructional lens was used to frame the online learning trajectory for organizing the course content and experiences by interweaving descriptive inquiry tasks with specific pedagogical strategies. These strategies included discourse and critical reflections for encouraging a transformation in teachers' knowledge through experiences in knowledge-building communities. The resulting trajectory provided a dynamic interaction of key tools and instructional processes for scaffolding the content for transforming TPACK understanding. The resulting researcher-conjectured, empirically supported online TPACK learning trajectory provided guidelines for teacher educators in the design of new online coursework for guiding teachers towards understanding the pedagogical challenges involved in orchestrating and managing knowledge-building communities as they integrate multiple technologies in their classroom instruction.
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Online learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing. ~ Donna J. Abernathy, 1999

The digital technologies of the 21st century has clearly shifted how students learn as they now have more opportunities to use multiple robust inquiry, communication, and collaboration applications. These educational opportunities with digital technologies (hereafter referred to as technologies) support students in deeper and more thoughtful learning in reformed educational settings referred to as knowledge-building communities. The notion of knowledge-building communities (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006; Zhang, J., Scardamalia, Reeve, & Messina, 2009) reflects a more global society where individuals access knowledge far richer and in more depth than that available in the previous century. In knowledge-building communities, students learn by actively doing rather than watching. They use multiple technologies to gather information quickly, they function best when networked, they multi-task and like teamwork for solving tasks collaboratively (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2016). In essence, knowledge-building communities that incorporate 21st century technologies facilitate students in learning content and thinking skills through more collaborative and interactive explorations and investigations.

The implementation of knowledge-building communities, however, requires that their teachers implement new pedagogical strategies vastly different from the predominantly teacher-directed pedagogies of the 20th century, where teachers imparted knowledge and students practiced and confirmed their understanding through worksheets and other activities. Today’s teachers now are challenged to identify, orchestrate and manage activities in their content areas in ways that successfully support students through activities such as engagement in knowledge-building communities. The task calls for a teacher knowledge that demands more than just an understanding of the subject matter content. It ultimately necessitates a robust pedagogical knowledge along with knowledge for teaching with a vast array of technological innovations. This task calls for a transformed knowledge called Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Angeli & Valanides, 2005, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Niess, 2005), or TPACK (Niess, 2008; Thompson & Mishra, 2007). This envisioned knowledge reflects a complex interaction among content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge leading to strategic thinking of when, where, and how to guide students’ learning with technologies.

An important quest for today’s teacher educators is in understanding how TPACK is transformed in ways that adequately prepare teachers for establishing and supporting pedagogical strategies for establishing knowledge-building communities. From the research results described in Chapter 2, teachers need experiences that recognize them as adult learners with a basic knowledge for teaching and who now must challenge and transform their pre-existing frames of reference. These experiences require more than simply adding strategies to their instructional repertoire; they need to gain experiences that actively engage them in learning through knowledge-building communities (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1993). Communities combined with practical teaching experiences provide opportunities for teachers to confront their current pedagogical conceptions for integrating technologies as useful learning tools in the process of developing reformed understandings for teaching in the 21st century.

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