Teaching with the Internet

Wallace, Raven McCrory. (2004). A Framework for Understanding Teaching with the Internet. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 447-488. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3699373. 2004.Summer.

The article explores a key question: why has teachers’ use of the Internet not resulted in the “deep and engaging activities” promised by research. Wallace first argues for the importance of pedagogical content knowledge–the intersection of discipline-specific knowledge and general pedagogical knowledge. He then argues that we have been slow to research how to use technology to teach and how that usage might differ across  subjects. We have concentrated on helping teachers become technically literate, while we should have used resource metaphors familiar to teachers–for information (although teachers don’t know what is available on the Internet, requiring more preparation time), for communication, and for collaboration–to show teachers how to use the Internet to develop pedagogical content knowledge.

Wallace posits technological affordances as the possible uses of functions tied to pedagogical content knowledge. While Wallace mentions three different views of Internet affordances, he doesn’t list them but does provide the references:

  • Owston, R.D. (1997). The World Wide Web: A technology to enhance teaching and learning?. Educational Researcher, 26(2), 27-33.
  • Wallace, R.M. (1996). Digital libraries in the science classroom: An opportunity for inquiry. D-Lib Magazine.
  • Windschitl, M. (1998). The WWW and classroom research: What path should we take? Educational Researcher, 27(1), 28-33.

Wallace’s research studied three teachers using a grounded theory approach (using  multiple data sources in a recursive process until new data begins to confirm previous results rather than shed new light). The classroom observations used five coding categories (phase of teaching, content, context, actions, and challenges) which evolved to three meta-categories (tasks, challenges entailed by the tasks, and affordances that support or inhibit teaching).

The analysis of the observations showed four challenges:

  1. knowing the subject matter
  2. knowing what students know
  3. keeping track of students
  4. developing a coherent progression

which led Wallace to propose a five-dimensional space of affordances in which Internet activities can be located:

  1. boundaries
  2. authority
  3. stability
  4. pedagogical content
  5. disciplinary context

Each activity can be evaluated (from unavailable to maximally available) along each of these five affordances and provide teachers with a blueprint for lesson plan development.

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