Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

A Working Typology of Intentions Driving Face-to-Face and Online Interaction in a Graduate Teacher Education Course

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

A Working Typology of Intentions Driving Face-to-Face and Online Interaction in a Graduate Teacher Education Course

Article excerpt

The study examined the intentions driving face-to-face and online interaction in a graduate online course from the meaning perspectives of the teacher and students. Participants in the study were eight students and the teacher of a graduate teacher education course at a southwestern university. The theoretical framework of the study was based on symbolic interactionism and the methodological approach was based on the canons of interpretive research as Erickson (1986) laid them out. Data analysis identified several intentions driving interaction. These included discussing and exchanging ideas, negotiating aspects of the course, providing feedback, gaining access and status in a setting, and socializing. The discussion and data excerpts clearly illustrate that underneath the surface of what, appear as ordinary day-to-day interaction, there are multiple meanings that are constructed and assigned when participants engage in joint action. Those meanings and intentions are what drive interaction.


The use of information technologies in teaching and learning is blurring the boundaries between traditional face-to-face and distance education. The use of the Internet in education is growing rapidly. According to the National Center of Education Statistics (2001), by Fall 2000, 98% of public schools in the United States had access to the Internet, in comparison to 35% of public schools that had access to the Internet in 1994. Furthermore, the ratio of students to instructional computers in public schools had decreased to 5 to 1, which is the ratio that is considered as the appropriate ratio for effective use of computers in schools. As computers and Internet invade public schools, opportunities for distance education and networked learning grow. There is a strong need to educate teachers how to integrate the Internet and other telecommunication technologies in their teaching. Educational institutions are encouraging, and at times requiring, teachers and faculty to develop online courses. As institutions bat tle for dominance in the area of online education, few would contest that online education is here to stay.

Several teacher preparation programs offer graduate and undergraduate level courses on the use of telecommunication technologies for teaching and learning. To meet the needs of preservice and inservice teachers, several of these courses are offered at a distance, allowing for place and time independence and at the same time offering the opportunity to students to experience first hand how it is like to be a student in a distance education course.

The study reported in this article examined the social organization and meaning of interaction in a graduate teacher education course delivered by way of a combination of online and face-to-face instruction. Interaction is one of the most important components of any learning experience (Dewey, 1938; Vygotsky, 1978) and it has been identified as one of the major constructs in distance education research (Mclsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Moore, 1989; Vrasidas, 2000; Wagner, 1994). The main question addressed in this study was the following: What are the intentions driving interaction in this course? Data analysis and the detailed descriptions included in this report will show how interaction unfolds in naturally occurring situations and how the meanings of interaction are constructed through social action. A working typology of meanings was generated which illustrates the intentions of the teacher and students driving interaction in this particular course.

Distance education researchers identified four kinds of interaction. Moore (1989) made the distinction between three types of interaction: (a) learner-content, (b) learner-teacher, and (c) learner-learner. Hil Irnan, Willis, and Gunawardena (1994) argued that past discussions of interaction failed to acknowledge the fact that for any of the three types of interaction to take place, the learner has to interact with the medium used for delivering distance education. …

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