Living online working online- part one.
The subject for my doctorate in education was the impact of professional learning on the online teaching identities of higher education lecturers. It struck me some years ago during a period during which I was employed as a teacher trainer, that engaging with students online was a very different experience from teaching in a face to face environment. Not only was the teaching experience different, but job satisfaction; feelings of ‘doing a good job’ were also substantially different from those experienced in a face to face environment. Drawing on the work of Gilly Salmon and Sherry Turkle (Jaques & Salmon, 2006; Salmon, 2002; Turkle, 1994, 1999; Turkle & Papert, 1990; Wilson & Peterson, 2002), I set out to explore the ways in which online teachers were working within their online contexts and more particularly what type of development activities enhanced their online identities and role performance (see Baxter, 2011; Baxter, 2012).
The study took three years to complete (Baxter, 2011) and during this time my own online interactions increased considerably as I engaged in blogs, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and other online applications; subsequently rejecting or increasing my use of them over time. My blog during this period juxtaposed my own online identity development with that of the online lecturers in my study, an element which proved to be very helpful in understanding the emotions engendered within online identity formation and sustenance.
The study offered a number of useful insights into the cognitive, affective and situative elements of online teaching, but one particularly useful insight was the link between participants’ social use of the internet and its contribution to their online teaching identities and confidence. This link, which proved far from incidental, revealed that individuals perceived that their online teaching identities developed and grew more rapidly depending upon the extent of their social immersion on the internet: that development for them was seen in much broader terms than the opportunities offered to them within their working contexts.
In terms of teaching, many of those teaching face to face would say the same thing: face to face teaching identities have long been seen as a trajectory, formed from past experiences, biographical in nature and formed via a complex mix of personal and professional interactions (Connelly, 1990; Maclure, 1992; Menter, 2010). But they are also often modelled on others and the online teacher has, unless they have undertaken online study themselves, little to go on in this respect. Many established professional development opportunities for online teaching now take account of this need but, in terms of the development of salient online teaching identities and ability to articulate them in a convincing and authentic manner, there is still much to be learned from the specific ways in which online teachers model behaviours from online interactions in their social as well as professional lives.
As online learning increases and points to future paradigmatic shifts in the ways that learning is conceptualised across the educational spectrum (Clark & Berge, 2012), it becomes ever more pressing to continue to investigate what makes and motivates good online teachers: who are they and what keeps them going? Particularly when the going gets tough.
“Online learning now depends more on the ability of educators and trainers to tutor and support learners online than on the technology itself.” Dr. Ian Heywood, 2000 World Open Learning Conference and Exhibition, Birmingham, England.
Baxter, J. (Producer). (2011). An investigation into the role of professional learning on the online teaching identities of Higher Education Lecturers CREet : The Faculty of Education and Language Studies. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/33928/
Baxter, J. (2012). The impact of professional learning on the online teaching identities of higher education lecturers:the role of resistance discourse European Journal of Open,Distance and E-Learning 1(2).
Clark, T., & Berge, Z. (2012). Virtual Schools Trends and Issues in Distance Education: International Perspectives, 97.
Connelly, M. a. C., J. (1990). Stories of Experience and Narrative Inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19(5 (Jun-Jul 1990)), 2-14.
Jaques, D., & Salmon, G. (2006). Learning in groups: A handbook for face-to-face and online environments: Routledge.
Maclure, M. (1992). Arguing for yourself: Identity as an organising principle in teacher’s jobs and lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19(4), 311-322.
Menter, I. (2010). Teachers – formation, training and identity Creativity Culture and Education Newcastle Upon Tyne: Creativity Culture and Education
Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning: Routledge.
Turkle, S. (1994). Constructions and reconstructions of self in virtual reality: Playing in the MUDs. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(3), 158-167.
Turkle, S. (1999). Cyberspace and identity. Contemporary Sociology, 28(6), 643-648.
Turkle, S., & Papert, S. (1990). Epistemological pluralism: Styles and voices within the computer culture. Signs, 16(1), 128-157.
Wilson, S. M., & Peterson, L. C. (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual review of anthropology, 449-467.