Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Keeping Connected

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Keeping Connected

Article excerpt

An Asynchronous Communication System to Support Student Teachers

Kristin:

Hi everyone! For my new assignment, I am teaching social studies to sixth graders. I am beginning a unit on Latin America. I need some ideas for things I can do with my enriched class. I don't want them to be bored.

Kara:

These kids are crying for a project. Have each student or group pick a Latin American country and do one of the following things:

1. Create a map of the country with geographic and cultural features as well as natural resources.

2. Pick a country again and have the students research the food of the area -- have them bring the food in, and it's goodbye cafe food for the day.

3. Study the economy of the country and develop a nationwide plan on what the country could do to help its economy.

4. Spend a whole class or half of a class on the music, dress, location, culture, and lifestyle of a country -- have students coordinate the time and find the resources.

Kara:

I have a 12th grade American Government and Law class. I have complete control of the class and can do anything I want. I'm having a great time, but I need some help injecting some fun into my unit on the legislative branch. Any ideas?

Kristin:

Thanks for the ideas on Latin America. And now to return the favor, I have a possible idea for your government class. Have the students mimic Congress. Present them with a bill (or have them think of one) that needs to be voted on by Congress. Make sure they get the true flavor of Congress by having them make speeches and filibusters, and let them add irrelevant details to the bill. You could also modify this to work on the state level. It might be fun. Good luck.

Drawing on diverse backgrounds and hungry for exciting ideas to bring into their classrooms, student teachers across the country have conversations like this on a daily basis. The atypical part of this dialogue is that it was conducted through electronic asynchronous communication.

The East Stroudsburg University Department of Secondary Education established an Internet user group for student teachers to communicate with peers and university professors via electronic mail. Each student teacher was required to join the user group and communicate at least four times with other teachers throughout the semester. Communicating asynchronously through the user group allowed students to dialogue with colleagues at any time convenient for them.

Problem

East Stroudsburg University, located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, is part of the State System of Higher Education, where first-generation college students make up a high percentage of the student body. The university also attracts a significant number of mid- and second-career adult learners. These characteristics affect the connections students have to other students, teachers, and the university community.

Development of the user group was prompted by two problems students reported in formal and informal evaluations of their student teaching experiences. The first, isolation from peers and professors, is a function of the geographic area served by the university. Student teachers at ESU are placed throughout a large region in eastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey. Each semester 35 to 45 students are placed in 20 to 35 different school buildings. Student teachers, therefore, are relatively secluded from peer support groups during an especially stressful time in their education (Wittenberg & McBride 1998).

Secondly, student teachers also experienced difficulty obtaining personal and professional support. Practicum, the accompanying on-campus seminar designed to provide students with ongoing support, was scheduled too infrequently to meet their need of ongoing and immediate feedback. Phone calls to supervisors often were long distance, thus posing a financial deterrent for some students. …

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