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.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Being 'competent' in applying Web 2.0 tools in teaching practice

In analysing the response of the teachers to the final questionnaire after the Learning Event (LE) on web 2.0 tools and collaboration, I realised that I was asking their opinion about whether or not they felt more competent without asking them what they meant by being competent. To remedy this omission, I recently asked those who had answered the questionnaire and had kindly given their email addresses to answer a few additional questions. I had a terrific response with 25 teachers replying.

My first question was 'In your opinion, how would you describe being 'competent' in applying Web 2.0 tools in your teaching practice? I coded the replies, grouping them around several keywords. The following table summarises the responses (note that the answer from a teacher may have several keywords associated with it, but a keyword may be used only once per teacher):

Attribute of competence (keyword)       Occurrences
Knowledge of teaching practice                          20
Knowledge of web 2.0                                        7
Confidence                                                        5
Aptitude and attitude                                          5
Skills                                                                 3
Experience                                                         2
Autonomy                                                          1

So when the teachers talk about feeling competent in the use of web 2.0 tools, these results suggest that they are mainly referring to having the necessary knowledge about the pedagogical use of the tools in their teaching practice. They also think that knowledge of the tools themselves is important, as is feeling confident and having the right aptitude and attitude for their use. Being skilled in the use of the tools, whilst mentioned, seems less important.

I find this result to be interesting as it reflects the focus of the LE on teaching practice rather than the tools, per se; though one could argue that being skilled in the latter is a prerequisite for being good at the former.

In subsequent questions I asked the teachers to say what skills, knowledge, aptitude and attitude are associated with using web 2.0 tools in teaching practice. I linked aptitude and attitude together as I find the difference between the two to be too subtle to warrant separate answers.

The coding of the answers for skills yielded the following keywords:

Skills needed for use of web 2.0          Occurrences
in teaching practice (keyword) 
Design, plan, organise and teach                     12
ICT and technical                                           10
Language and communication                          5
Learning, researching, creativity                       5
and innovation
Critical thinking and metacognition                   1

The answers confirm that whereas technical skills in the use of web 2.0 are important, equally important is having the pedagogical skills to use them effectively in one's teaching practice.

The coding of the answers for knowledge yielded the following keywords:

Knowledge needed for use of web 2.0         Occurrences
in teaching practice (keyword)
Teach, collaborate, use tools in practice                 11
Web 2.0 and ICT                                                   9
Languages                                                            2
Own capabilities                                                    1

Here again we see that knowledge of web 2.0 tools and ICT in general is important, but equally (or perhaps more) important is knowledge of how to use them to teach and collaborate.

Finally, the coding of the answers for aptitude and attitude yielded quite a variety of answers as the following keywords show:

Aptitude and attitude needed for use            Occurrences
of web 2.0 in teaching practice (keyword)
Collaborate, cooperate, share, teamwork                  6
Open to change, flexible                                           6
Creative, innovative, desire to improve                      5
Desire to be competent, to learn                               4
Believe in ICT                                                          3
Listen, communicate                                                2
Serious, dedicated, committed, responsible               2
Patient                                                                    2
Help and support pupils                                            2
Leadership                                                              1
Global perspective                                                   1
Safety conscious                                                      1
Culturally sensitive                                                   1
Courageous and self-confident                                  1

There are some overlaps between these keywords and it was not easy to allocate them. Nevertheless, they reflect the importance for the teachers of having the aptitude and attitude to collaborate, share and work with other teachers; to be open to change in their teaching practice; to be creative, innovative and have a desire to continually improve; to have the motivation to continually learn; and to believe in the benefits of using technology.

In their final comments, the teachers reflected on the importance of competence in the wider context of lifelong learning and the forever changing world in which we live. They recognised that it is a never ending challenge to be competent and that it is very time consuming. They mentioned the importance of having institutional support for their professional development and how such Learning Events are invaluable.

Last but not least, the teachers expressed interest in knowing the results of my questions and that is why I am being so open about them here. I hope this analysis will provoke further thought and discussion, and I wish to thank everyone who replied.

I leave you with this final thought, is having competence in something the same as being competent? As one teacher indicated: 'Is nice to have a competence but is more important to be competent'.


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