Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 15(2), 106-125.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examined how prospective teachers engaged in class discussions within a synchronous, online environment.
The participants were seventeen prospective middle grades and high school mathematics teachers were enrolled in a technology methods course at a large public university.
The online class met synchronously using Elluminate as the online classroom environment so that live interactions and technology demonstrations could take place. During each class session, prospective teachers could participate in class through the use of emoticons, interactive whiteboard tools, typing a message in the chat window, or speaking with their microphone.
Furthermore, three prospective teachers also participated as members of a focus group.
Data were collected through recordings of each online class meeting and face-to-face interviews with individual members of the focus group.
The findings reveal that the prospective teachers used variety of ways to participate in the online discourse. They spoke using a microphone and typed comments and questions in the chat window during whole group discussion. The participants also responded to the instructor with quick affirmations through the use of the green check and other emoticons. The authors argue that these interactions provided the instructor with formative assessment data throughout class sessions. Furthermore, the instructor used the online setting to know when prospective teachers were naturally and openly self-assessing—data that is not always available to a face-to-face instructor.
In addition, the participants also answered surveys, controlled the instructor’s computer mouse during demonstrations, and typed ideas on the interactive whiteboard. They moved into breakout rooms within the online class meetings in Elluminate during small group discussion. They shared ideas by talking, chatting, and typing on the interactive whiteboard.
The authors found that many of the participants commented on how they appreciated viewing live technology demonstrations and the opportunities to discuss issues related to content, technology, and pedagogy with one another.
The authors conclude that it seemed that the interactive nature of Elluminate, was especially appealing. They argue that prospective mathematics teachers need opportunities to develop their ideas and learn from one another, regardless of the environment in which they are learning. Hence, they recommend that teacher educators must continue to find ways to apply what has already been proven effective in face-to-face environments and appropriately modify them, if necessary, to online environments.