I presented my research yesterday at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) annual conference in London - you can find my presentation here: http://www.slideshare.net/holmebn/holmes-online-learning-communities-bera. It was a nerve-racking experience, but I survived and the reaction of the audience was positive. Phew.
The questions asked at the end were interesting. Here is what I remember (thanks to Barry and Moira for reminding me) with my answers.
o Were the teachers involved in the Learning Event (LE) participating in their own time or were they released from their teaching?
Most were learning in their own time and trying to applying what they were learning directly in their teaching practice.
o Could I comment on the quick learning we get from, for example, Google compared with the longer term learning suggested by my research?
The teachers had benefitted from being able to apply what they were learning in their everyday teaching practice, talk about it with their peers in the LE and reflect on it. However, this required time, opportunity and commitment from those involved.
o What was the age range of the pupils being taught by these teachers?
The teachers involved were teaching children from primary school level to upper secondary level. We used pupils' age as one of the criteria when splitting the participants up into small groups at the roundtables in the Staff room .
o Did the research show anything about how easy it is for pupils to learn about ICT compared with students in HE?
No, this was not part of my research.
o To what extent was critical discourse dependent on the tutors presence?
The results suggest tutor interventions provoked discussion, reflection and critical thinking. However, there were examples of them taking the initiative and of critical discourse being provoked by the teaching presence of the participants themselves.
o What are the next questions that I am trying to answer?
I have started writing up my thesis and if anything I am going through a process of reducing and distilling what I have, rather than adding to it. So the key thing for me at the moment is to confirm the research questions on which my research is based.
o What gap are you filling through your research?
Most research on online communities seems to focus specifically on one aspect - the cognitive, the social or the teaching aspects, for example. And a lot of research using the Community of Inquiry model is quantitative. My research addresses all three presences in a holistic approach and is mainly qualitative.
In talking about the future, I mentioned the potential to create an eModeration course for teachers on the basis of the LE and what we had learned.
The conference is continuing and I am enjoying listening to other researchers talking about their work, especially were it relates to teachers, their use of ICT and their professional development.
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.