English/Language Arts Education
This paper describes an experimental exploration of special procedures used in a game-like online expository writing experience that was designed to help preservice language arts teachers develop descriptive writing skills. Participants were asked to describe a target picture within a picture set to their cohorts in an online discussion in order for the cohort to correctly identify the target picture. Cohorts’ responses provided feedback about the effectiveness of participants’ descriptions. It was predicted that participants’ descriptive text would improve over repeated trials by having received this feedback from their cohorts. Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to analyze writing samples.
Two teachers participating in an online study group provided the foci for in-depth case studies. Transcripts of conversations they had with colleagues about issues related to reform-oriented pedagogy were analyzed from both acquisition and participation perspectives on learning. Both teachers exhibited mainly marginal changes to their pedagogical reasoning structures and were generally resistant to adopting ideas posed during online debates. At the same time, the text-based environment provided a setting for both participants to structure their emerging thoughts about changes to their existing pedagogical reasoning structures. It also served as a forum for them to identify gaps in their personal knowledge and to obtain further professional development to address them. The methodology and theoretical perspective employed in the report provide a foundation for further research on teachers’ learning in online environments.
The role of technology has an increased emphasis in the PK-12 classroom and in the preparation of teachers. The wide support for the integration of technology in day-to-day instruction is evidenced at many levels and through many organizations. The current study focused on examining and describing the experiences of faculty and interns as they relate to the use of the PDA. Results indicate that a clear and effective purpose for technology that matched specified outcomes was key for all of informants in this study. Results also indicated that the simplest, most efficient technology for a particular task was essential.
Social Studies Education
Two current themes in social studies education — the inclusion of technology and the emphasis on “doing history” — intersect with the use of Web-based or digital primary sources in the classroom. Digital libraries make these resources available to students and teachers interested in accessing rare primary documents in order to study the past. One such digital library, Documenting the American South (DocSouth), offers teachers and students the ability to download firsthand accounts related to United States and southern history. This research study focuses on six social studies teachers in an attempt to understand the extent to which they use DocSouth resources in their classrooms. These interviews reveal great potential for teachers to use DocSouth in their classrooms since both they and their students have the requisite technology skills, teachers already use the Internet to plan instruction and for research, and most importantly, part of their perceived goal for teaching history is to present multiple perspectives. Although these teachers find DocSouth a valuable resource, they are limited in their use of the digitized primary sources by the standard course of study, content requirements, time constraints, and equipment issues. Suggestions are given for ways DocSouth can help teachers circumvent these hindering factors in the classroom.
Web-based learning has been proposed as a convenient way to provide professional development experiences. Despite quantitative evidence that online instruction is equivalent to traditional methods (Russell, 2001), the efficiency of this approach has not been extensively studied among teachers. This case report describes learning in an online biology course designed to help teachers prepare for science certification exams. A mixed methodology approach was utilized to analyze the manner in which course participants learned and how the online environment influenced this process. Concept maps scored by two different methods and objective pre- and postcourse examinations were contrasted as representations of assimilated knowledge, while unstructured interviews reflected participants’ perceptions of their experiences. Findings indicate that participants experienced gains in declarative knowledge, but little improvement with respect to more complex levels of understanding. Qualitative examination of concept maps demonstrated gaps in participants’ understandings of key course ideas. Engagement in the use of online resources varied according to participants’ attitudes toward online learning. Subjects also reported a lack of motivation to fully engage in the course due to busy schedules, lack of extrinsic rewards, and the absence of personal accountability.
Within the Master of Teaching Program at the University of Calgary, two teacher educators collaborated in facilitating an inquiry-based project with a group of preservice teachers in examining real-world issues related to English as Second Language students. A learning environment was created and modeled, where preservice teachers were challenged to think about teaching and learning with technology, the relationship between technology and learning, and to become designers of learning with digital media and network technologies. This article describes one teacher educator’s perceptions of the project and presents her insights into planning and facilitating a learning environment that purposefully integrated technology to foster a rich, deep learning experience.