Department of Educational Psychology
University of Illinois
1310 S. 6th St.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA
v: (217) 244-0537
f: (217) 244-7620
Education, K12; Education, higher; Research, academic;
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Leverage of public funding; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Other: electronic mail messages
This story was collected as part of the “Teaching Teleapprenticeships” research project at the University of Illinois, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
I want to talk about the use of computer networking in a pre-service teacher education course. The class is actually two classes that are combined–one in content area reading methods and one in secondary English methods course co-taught by two C & I professors. Eleven students are enrolled in these classes. Each participant was loaned a PowerBook from early November in 1992. The hard drive in the PowerBook contained a word processing program (Microsoft Word 5.0) and a communication software (Eudora 1.3), so that s/he can write, send, and receive electronic mails whenever and wherever s/he likes. The participants were given instructions on how to use PowerBook and Eudora to write and exchange messages. A tutorial document on Eudora and the manuals of PowerBook and Microsoft Word were provided. In the class, the instructors gave the students the assignments of writing and sending to the class three kinds of messages. The first were reflective journals in which they were expected to write whatever they thought during the past week. The second were summaries of the assigned readings, in which they were asked not just to summarize the readings but to write their opinions on them. The third were lesson plans for their student teaching. Besides these assigned tasks, they were encouraged to communicate with the peer students and the professors freely via electronic mails.
Just after starting using their PowerBooks, one student said in her message to one of the professors that “I really like my new PowerBook. I don’t know how I ever lived without one.” But as is usual with any attempt of starting using something new, these students were not free from problems and troubles. Some problems were due to the lack of students’ knowledge (or lack of instructions) about how to use the computer and the software. Some problems were due to the unkind error messages which the students couldn’t understand and were made nervous. Some problems were due to the hardware and software. In most cases, the participants didn’t know what was wrong, what was really a problem, and of course what to do. The instructors and the researchers involved in this project collected the problems the students had, so it is expected that things went more smoothly in the future.
After going through a “warming-up” period during which the students played with the PowerBooks and tried to get used to them, they started exchanging substantial messages, including reflective journals, reactions to the readings, and lesson plans. In an message one student sent to one of the instructors about a month after starting emailing, she stated her initial observation about the networking: “I think that the full benefit of e-mail will become more evident as soon as our class gets to know each other a little better and we have more “scholastic” material to discuss. Nonetheless, the possibilities with E-mail are endless and I feel that this “project” was a great idea!” Her “prediction” that emailing would be more beneficial once they started discussing more “scholastic” material seems to have turned out to be correct. The students have sent a lot of messages, most of which are quite long, although they are busy every day doing student teaching in schools.
The project is still continuing, so I cannot tell the effects of this project. But I hope the participating students not only have been enjoying electronic communications but also have received many benefits their experiences of reading and writing email.
Finally, one of the professors of the class said “the professors team teaching is also made possible by the use of e-mail. We both read all of the students’ work, but they do not need to xerox copies.”