Discourses with teachers via World Wide Web
Maor, D. (1997) Discourses with teachers via World Wide Web. In: ASCILITE 1997: What works and why, 7 - 10 December 1997, Curtin University, Perth.
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This presentation describes the development and implementation of a postgraduate 'Computer Education' Unit that utilises Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) via a graphical World Wide Web interface. The Unit was designed to be used by science and mathematics teachers from different places in Australia.
Various categories of Computer Mediated Communication, including specific characteristics of distance education CMC and on-line classroom communication paradigms, such as activity room, were used to achieve purposeful interactions amongst the students involved in the Unit and between the students and the lecturer. These interactions focused on the major content areas of the unit which included examining theories of teaching and learning with computers, and evaluating educational software using the 'perspectives paradigm model' (Squires and McDougall, 1995). Students also presented their action research activities on a project page which provided extra resources for the other participants.
My personal aim in conducting this unit on the Web was to create a community of learners where the common goal is learning with computers. I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to facilitate conversations with the students and expected students to be engaged in discussions, collaboration and reflections which is best suited to Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). My research agenda was to investigate the opportunities that learning via the Web provide for distance education students (ie teachers) who will conduct action research in their own classrooms and introduce it to the other learners in the group via the Web. This created opportunities to discuss problems associated with the use of computers in the classroom and provide the other students with additional on-line resources. I anticipated that the regular feedback provided by the individual in the group, together with the instructor feedback, would provide a great contribution to the participants which is one of the primary advantages of this unit.
This on-line teaching and learning experience was new to the me, the lecturer, and for all of the postgraduate students who participated in the Unit. As a university researcher and lecturer, the use of internet for communication with colleagues and students was a familiar tool for me, however, talking "in public" through the 'net' was a new and somehow threatening experience for me. Subsequently, it became more dynamic because I responded to students' comments regularly, and slowly the students became more involved and engaged in the discussions. This unique experience for me and for the students created a new situation, sometimes caused tension because of uncertainty, and sometimes was pleasurable as a result of a feeling of achievement and discovery learning. In this paper, I describe my personal experience as I progressed during the semester and the advantages and disadvantages of teaching this unit through the World Wide Web. I discuss students' perceptions of the Unit as well as my own perception.
Evaluation of the Unit was conducted formatively in the unit in the Activity Room discussion and summatively via a questionnaire at the end of the semester. This on-line distance education Unit is currently available through the Science and Mathematics Education Centre and the Teaching Learning Group.
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