Finally held 9 interviews using Skype on Sunday and received 46 contributions by email. A wonderful response and a lot of data to process, so I will not start until the end of the first intensive period of the Learning Event (LE).
The LE itself has started in earnest and the staff room is buzzing with activity. In addition to the usual hellos and welcome messages, I am already seeing evidence of reflection and critical thinking. People are posing questions, replying with possible answers and relating it to their own experience. Wonderful.
My role is to facilitate and act as a catalyst in these forums. It is a delicate balance between stimulating and encouraging with challenging questions/comments, and allowing the community to develop naturally. I am currently following the approach advocated by Salmon (2000) that moderators should be active at the beginning of an activity and gradually step back as the collaboration takes off. But I also have Dillenbourg whispering in my ear that I should be orchestrating learning, rather than simply being a 'guide on the side'. I hope I have the balance right.
My concern is that the flurry of postings in the staff room represents a temporary interest and that as participants settle down to the cognitive activities, they will forget to visit the staff room. As in the physical world, one has to decide how best to use one's time and going for a chat with colleagues is something that sometimes has to come second place to marking homework, etc. I only hope that people see the value of the social contact and of the meta-cognitive discussions, and make an effort to keep this aspect going.
Tiina and I are sharing our thoughts as we go along and I realise that this will be very important data for my subsequent research analysis.
Dillenbourg, P. (2008) 'Integrating technologies into educational ecosystems'. Distance Education, 29 (2), pp.127 - 140
Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online, Kogan Page.
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.