Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology, and Teacher Education, 11(4), 382-397.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of using online social networks with preservice history teachers.
The authors addressed to the following research questions:
1. Is a professional online network such as the National Council of the Social Studies Network (NCSS) Ning a conducive environment for preservice teachers to develop an orientation toward praxis?
2. Do preservice teachers who are required to participate in an online, networked community of praxis in their chosen discipline value and express an intent to seek such opportunities in the future?
The authors conducted a design research study, which is a form of action research where researchers design a pedagogical intervention, conduct the intervention with a group of learners, and evaluate its efficacy.
The participants were 22 preservice teachers in a social studies methods class.
Data were collected through the content of all conversational threads on the Ning that the students initiated or participated in and follow-up interviews with 9 students after the methods course and practicum teaching had ended.
The findings revealed that the Ning was an environment that allowed for real-time discussions of praxis that engaged not only their students, but other preservice and in-service teachers from around the world.
The students had meaningful conversations concerning praxis online during the semester they were required to do so.
These conversations reinforced the learning occurring in this seminar and at students’ practicum sites.
Students also appreciated the chance to engage a diverse group of online conversationalists in reflective discussions about practice, pedagogy and philosophy.
The discussions drew together diverse voices from the students, preservice teachers in other programs, practicing teachers, and other education professionals.
The authors found that the NCSS Network Ning was conducive to these kinds of praxis-oriented discussions.
The students also expressed a clear intent to engage in professional learning networks and communities of praxis in the future, but the Ning was ancillary to these intentions.
The interviewed students were extremely positive about collaboration and colearning, in general.
They all valued the diverse resources around them—professors, fellow students, mentor teachers, department chairs, colleagues at their practicum sites, the advisory group—and all of them envisioned collaboration playing a central role in their careers ahead in the classroom.
Therefore, the interviews generally reinforced the authors' conclusions that online social networks represent a potentially promising venue for teacher preparation.
These findings hold both promise and cautionary guidance for other teacher educators who seek to help their students join and develop online professional learning communities and engage in praxis-oriented learning and teaching.
The authors recommend that other teacher-educators continue experimenting with moving elements of their courses into online, public venues.
They claim that this study contributes to this research by highlighting how preservice teachers can also benefit from online teacher networks and how these kinds of environments can be enriched by the active, facilitated presence of preservice teachers.