We have now registered 210 participants from 19 different countries for the Learning Event (LE) that starts tomorrow. Yesterday I contacted by email those who had indicated in the registration process their willingness to be interviewed - in reality I also contacted several who had said No, due to a mix-up with my email lists. Oohps, but they were very supportive in their replies.
I had intended to interview just a few, but as so many replied positively, I have finally arranged for 12 interviews today by Skype or telephone. Plus 45 participants have offered to email me a reply to my questions.
Having started the process, I can see that I get more in-depth answers through a conversation than I do by email. Mainly because with the former I can test my understanding and prompt the person to continue with their thoughts, whereas by email people have a tendency to be brief. On the other hand, the advantage of getting replies by email is that it is already written-up.
Learning English is emerging as a main motivation for participants. This may be a challenge, a catch twenty-two, as one needs to be capable of participating in the discussions in order to share and learn. Indeed, a desire to share and learn from others is also emerging as a common expectation. People seem to recognise the importance of social contact and are looking forward to meeting new friends. On the other hand, few have yet to come to terms with the implications of the community as a whole and how it may evolve.
Several people have expressed concerns about their availability and ability to contribute to the LE, as they have busy schedules. Hopefully as the LE progresses they will see the advantage of asynchronous online collaboration precisely for its flexibility in terms of time and place.
We shall see. It's all very exciting.
About my research
My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.
I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.