|Archive article #0006
Pre-service Teachers Experiences using Hypermedia
Recently, the term "ill-structured" has been coined by Spiro and his colleagues (Feltovich, Coulson, Spiro, and Dawson-Saunders, 1992; Jones and Spiro, 1992; Spiro and Jehng, 1990) to describe work in disciplines that require the application of conceptually complex knowledge to diverse and unpredictable situations. Thus far, they have studied medicine, history, film criticism, and military strategy as examples of ill-structured disciplines. We believe that teaching qualifies as an equally ill-structured domain of human activity. We often liken teachers work to "thinking on their feet." Daily teaching brings with it many unknowns. Teachers are constantly taking account of signs in the classroom that might help them decide upon their next move, revise a current strategy, or rethink long-range planning. They continually compile and interpret their students body language, facial expressions, questions, accomplishments, and needs, their own ability in the content and method of instruction, and their knowledge of theories of learning into a complex analytical web that informs both immediate and long-range decision-making.
As teacher educators in the field of literacy, we prepare pre-service teachers to teach reading and writing through daily engagement in the complex analyses just described. Preparation programs are grounded in three areas: general education, subject matter concentrations, and pedagogical study (Lanier & Little, 1986). Students learn about pedagogy in three distinct situations: in the college classroom where they interact with professors, peers, and texts, through observation opportunities in schools, and through an internship or practicum with a collaborating teacher (CT). Balancing and coordinating student learning through coursework, observation, and internship is a challenge.
The challenge is exacerbated by the predispositions of the preservice teachers we serve. They often express reservations about their early coursework in pedagogical foundations and cognitive theory primarily because its delivery through articles, books, and lectures is viewed as disconnected from real practice. Students arrive in preservice programs with many diverse and deeply held beliefs about teachers and schooling, and themselves (Lortie, 1975; Evertson, 1990) and look to student teaching or internship as the only learning experience that will prepare them to teach. Preservice teachers think that they need to see models of this teaching in action and practice teaching early in their education, as Richardson (1996) summarizes:
If we honor students anxiety and allow them to experience teaching early in their preservice education, we run the risk that students will fail to encounter different theoretical perspectives on teaching and learning. Instead, they rely instead on long-held beliefs, derived from their apprenticeships of observation as students (Lortie, 1975), to shape their views and experiences in teaching.
There are several obstacles to accomplishing educative observation and participation opportunities in teacher preparation programs. Some (Feiman-Nemser and Buchman, 1986; Lanier and Little, 1986) argue that early in their careers, students do not possess tools to transform observations and practice into instances of deep reflection and action. The argument here is that that foundational coursework provides students with tools to help them reflect deeply about the practice they observe and eventually enact. However, even if they do gain these theoretical tools, preservice teachers may end up in sites in which they never get a chance to observe the subject matter of interest (e.g., Dunkin, Precians, and Nettle, 1993). Even if they do manage to observe the target subject matter, they may observe teaching examples that do not align with the pedagogical and theoretical focus of the university preparation program (Goodman and Fish, 1997; Zeichner and Liston, 1987).
What is needed in teacher preparation programs is a context in which the students can witness, analyze, and critique the theoretical perspectives learned in the college classroom as they are illustrated in rich portrayals of the complexity (and ill-structuredness) of classroom practice, preferably with the guidance of a knowledgeable instructor. We have developed a hypermedia learning environment, Reading Classroom Explorer (RCE), in the hope that it might serve as one easily accessible and readily analyzable resource for meeting the need for rich classroom cases of exemplary teaching. We believe that RCE has this potential because it allows students to study, at their own pace and depth of analysis, many different approaches to excellent teaching and, in the process, might also help students grapple with the ill-structured nature of teaching before they enter the classroom.
Theoretical Underpinnings of Our Work
Learning in ill-structured domains
Students ultimate application of knowledge is very different than that which they are familiar, as Feltovich, Coulson, Spiro, and Dawson-Saunders (1992) summarize:
In recent years, we have seen an increasing call for the use of "cases" in teacher education as a way of helping students come to grips with the complexities and situated character of teaching (e.g., Sykes & Bird, 1992; Shulman, 1992). Most often, cases are written documents which have narrative-like qualities with a beginning, middle, and end and are situated within a specific context or event (Shulman, 1992). Cases are especially helpful in promoting a sense of reform-oriented teaching, when no exemplars exist. Sykes & Bird (1992) explain:
Indeed, other researchers have examined the use of video cases on teacher learning. Bransford, Kinzer, Risko, Rowe & Vye (1989) and Kinzer & Risko (1998) found that their use of video resources in teacher preparation programs provided a context-rich anchor from which students drew examples and explications, asked more higher-level questions, became more flexible in their analysis and application of teaching methods, used video content as models for teaching, and retained more vivid recollections of the video content.
Shulman (1992), though, warned that when using too few cases, students may mistake case content as a prescriptive, rather than as an exemplary set of possibilities. This is particularly dangerous in ill-structured domains where applying ones knowledge draws upon a complex set of experiences rather than a pre-developed solution. In examining three ill-structured domains (medicine, literary criticism, and law), Spiro (as reported in Shulman, 1992, p. 26) found that instructors who used single case examples "permitted single representations to reign unchallenged." We share Shulmans opinion that teaching truly qualifies as an ill-structured domain, characterized by increasing content complexity and irregularity in applying knowledge across cases (Spiro and Jehng, 1990). Therefore, we promote the use of multiple classroom cases in teaching. We could have used, as many have done, published videotape-cases of many different teachers teaching literacy. However, we wanted to investigate the possibility that a new form of technology, hypermedia, might offer students greater accessibility, control, and flexibility when considering these multiple cases. Thus we deconstructed our cases into clips that could be examined separately from the entire case, and recompiled across cases in ways that informed particular questions, purposes, or interests. We have witnessed the successful development of hypermedia instantiations of case-based teacher education (e.g., Lampert, Heaton, & Ball, 1994; Kinzer & Risko, 1998) as a way of rendering case-based instruction a more viable option for teacher educators and novice teachers in preservice methods classes. Ultimately, we decided to develop a hypermedia learning environment called the Reading Classroom Explorer (RCE) that catered to learning in ill-structured domains by using multiple, rich, video cases of classroom teachers teaching reading to diverse populations.
Unique Strengths of Hypermedia
Hypermedia in Teacher Education
Lampert, Heaton, and Ball (1994) observed that traditional approaches to teaching prospective teachers about reform-oriented approaches to mathematics instruction was ineffective in changing teachers beliefs. Central to their approach to teacher education was the use of hypermedia technology that allowed prospective teachers to confront real-time mathematics teaching "rather than presenting prospective teachers with ideal methods derived from academic theories" (p.277). The hypermedia environment includes video of Deborah Ball teaching mathematics for two years, accompanied by student work, student and teacher journals, and classroom discussion transcripts. Hypermedia provided opportunities to stop, rewind, and revisit teaching and learning episodes and provided rich contextual materials for further study.
In Lampert, Heaton and Balls (1994) work with preservice teachers, assignments prompted students "to assert their understandings of teaching and learning by linking together pieces from the data base and challenging one anothers assertions with other evidence from the project database" (p. 284). Assignments pushed students to think broadly and diversely when considering an issue. These broad and diverse perspectives are facilitated through the availability of multiple sources of data. In addition, authoring tools built into the hypermedia environments allow students to organize and manipulate information in ways unavailable in print, including links to supporting data within the environment.
Work at Vanderbilt University (Kinzer & Risko, 1998) provides another example of the deep analysis that multimedia cases provide for users. Kinzer and Risko observed that the preservice teachers with whom they worked (a) "did not feel comfortable in modifying these [instructional] procedures to meet specific instructional situations or specific students needs", (b) felt "field experiences and practicum components of our courses were often the most valuable" and (c) "had little or no experience in making up-front decisions that are critical to successful classroom instruction" (p. 186. To meet the needs of these preservice teachers, Risko and Kinzer developed eight multimedia cases targeting remedial and developmental reading. The theoretical basis of their work is the concept of anchored instruction (Bransford, Kinzer, Risko, Rowe & Vye, 1989), which involves providing common experiences for instructors and students, thus mitigating differences in background knowledge and rendering instructional examples more relevant by virtue of their connection to a common knowledge base. Also, because the anchor is experienced both by the teacher and the students in a class, shared knowledge develops as part of the classroom community. They found "increased class discussion (and correspondingly, less instructor talk), increased participation by a greater number of students, increased higher level questioning, and increased student-initiated questions and discussions" (1998, p. 190).
Kinzer et al. (1998) identified advantages of video-based cases over print-based cases. Video-based cases are real-time recordings of classroom happenings whereas print-based cases are written from one or few peoples perspectives about a teaching period that already occurred. In their words, "A video case allows the student the chance to become the observer rather than the third-party listener or reader. The raw data of a video-based case are preserved and presented, allowing for a more powerful, real-time analysis of embedded data rather than consideration of recalled data" (Kinzer et al., 1998, p. 192). In addition, print-based cases tend to focus on a particular aspect of teaching that the author decides is important. Video cases, though, offer the capability for preservice learners to explore one aspect of teaching but also to return and review other aspects of the classroom environment again and again. Further, the rapid random access capabilities of hypermedia are advantageous over traditional video-taped cases, in which searching for segments can be tedious, bulky and inaccurate. To honor the richness that video offers, the Vanderbilt cases include the many factors they believe interact to influence classroom instruction: teachers "doing instruction," interviews with teachers (exploring instructional decisions), teacher colleagues (continuity of student learning), parents (views on teachers instruction, student learning, homework), students (their own learning), and administrators (placing classroom in larger context), discussant perspectives on case issues, students work, teachers lesson plans, students test scores, and social interactions. For pre-service teachers exploring issues in teaching and learning, these sources provide a more complete sociocultural picture of the classroom and are easily accessible through hypermedia technology, yet would be cumbersome to navigate and consider in print form.
As the benefits of hypermedia in teacher education appear, development of other systems to support various aspects of teacher preparation have begun. van den Berg (1998) has developed multimedia cases in elementary science that are aimed "to stimulate prospective teachers pedagogical reasoning in elementary science and technology by situating learning in the complexity of classroom teaching" (p. 4). Fitzgerald and Semrau and colleagues (Fitzgerald, Nichols, and Semrau, 1998; Fitzgerald and Semrau, 1998) have developed hypermedia environments that assist professionals in learning observational skills for measuring childrens behavior. Baker and Wedman (1999a; 1999b) have developed an extensive digital literacy portfolio series that display six elementary students reading and writing samples across eight months. These portfolios support viewing childrens literacy from a developmental perspective.
Rationale for the Current Study
Table 1: Summary of Six CSR Classrooms Features
Note: Information for this table summarized from the Viewers Guides accompanying the "Teaching Reading: Strategies from Successful Classrooms" video series (Center for the Study of Reading).
We digitized portions of the CSR videotapes into video clips. Technological constraints (which have since been overcome) limited clip length, and they ranged from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The authors viewed the tapes together and chose natural transitions to delimit clips. Since the CSR tapes are edited, the content had already been shaped into short sections showing classroom teaching and learning with voice-over explanations from the teacher. If a particular section proved too long for digitizing, we split the excerpt into two video clips. The authors also chose a name for each clip that best represented the content. RCE also cross-references clips by theme and keyword categories; a group of literacy teachers and researchers watched each clip and identified as many themes and keywords as were applicable to each. The authors also developed at least one open-ended, theme-based question for each clip (i.e., clips categorized into more than one theme would have more than one question). The clip names were closely associated with reading/writing approach in the videos, as indicated in Table 1. By brainstorming keywords, themes, and open-ended questions for each clip, we tried to acknowledge as many alternate interpretations of the video content as possible.
RCEs video clip database is searchable by school, theme, and/or keywords. Searching by school, the broadest approach, lists all clips for a particular school. Recently, we adopted Schwabs (1978) commonplaces of teaching the teacher, student, curriculum, and context as overarching themes for organizing and searching through video clips in RCE. Sub-themes under each of these four themes further delineate a search. Finally, the list of keywords offers very specific literacy instruction search terms, such as phonics, concept maps, guided reading, and the like.
For each video clip in RCE, a user can read theme-based questions and identify research articles that relate to a given topic. At the time this research was conducted, RCE had few citations for related research. In the past year, three members of the research and development team identified pertinent articles from The Reading Teacher, Language Arts, and Primary Voices, dating back to 1988. As these journals make back issues available on the web, we will create hyperlinks so users can immediately access articles online. In addition to watching video and reading transcripts and theme-based questions, a user can use a personal interactive notebook in RCE. The interactive notebook saves text and hyperlinks to video clips for the individual user. In this way, a RCE user may compose and attach text and links to a given video clip that may serve as a sort of hypermedia evidence of their thinking at one moment, related to that clip.
While the work reported in this paper came from the CD version of RCE, it is important to note that our RCE research and development group is not only incorporating web-based communication technology into the environment, but also moving the entire (formerly CD-based) system onto the Web. Therefore, all video clips, transcripts, questions, citations to articles, and notebook files, in addition to a collaborative notebook and chat area, are accessible to students across the world (http://reading.educ.msu.edu/rce).
Transforming video of exemplary reading teachers into a video-based hypermedia learning environment requires a great investment of time and resources. One resounding and important question we ask ourselves (and that other technology-skeptic individuals ask of us) is: why hypermedia? Are there limitations of VHS tapes in the video series that inspired us to invest in this new technology? Of course, videotapes and hypermedia similarly transport preservice students to these classrooms to see the diversity in action. However, we wanted to allow them to visit, revisit, analyze, critique, compare, and contrast a set of diverse classrooms in the rich, flexible, and idiosyncratic manner that hypermedia might provide. In addition, because we intend to expand the repertoire of classroom cases rather dramatically, we wanted to evaluate the degree to which our hopes are shared by the clientele for whom these materials are intended. These very real informational needs guided our search through the data.
RCE training session
Context of use
The videotapes (on which RCE is based) were shown to the whole class, usually at a point in the semester at which some salient feature of a particular videotape was under consideration. During the initial viewing students were asked to reflect on the content by listing insights, questions, and concerns which they later discussed in both small and large groups. Though we made the videotapes available for checkout from the media center in the Education building, no one used them outside of class. With the first training session as an exception, students used RCE exclusively outside of class. RCE was available in the media center for use in that lab. Assignments for which the videotapes (and/or RCE clips) were relevant were given due dates far enough in the future so that students would have time to go back and review the videotapes or use RCE as a resource in completing them.
Data Sources and Analysis
Students participated to varying extents; each decided what combination of paper collection, interviews, surveys, and video-taped working sessions we could use or collect. Ten students provided two or more sources besides the course papers (see Appendix A). The multiple sources from each student provided opportunities to triangulate data and look longitudinally at an individual student instead of at one fixed point in time. Due to large differences in the amounts and types of data that participants agreed to share with us, much of our analysis focuses on the subset of students (N = 7) from whom we were able to gather the broadest array of evidence from the bulleted list presented earlier. The evidence from other students was used to test the generalizability of hypotheses generated from the analyses of the smaller group of seven. These data provided a strong base from which we could begin our analyses of role of video and hypermedia in a broader learning context that includes many other learning resources, such as texts, class discussion, written assignments, and fieldwork.
It is important to note that the data for these analyses were collected over a two year time span, beginning with the semester in which students took the course and culminating with their internships in the teacher education program. It is also important to note that we had analyzed some of these data for other purposes, such as the nature of student learning and students use of media to support their views of teaching and learning (Hughes, Packard, Reischl, & Pearson, 1998). As we conducted these other analyses, we noticed that students frequently compared what they learned through RCE with other learning opportunities in the course and in their broader teacher preparation program, specifically coursework, observation in schools, and teaching internship experiences. These serendipitous discoveries prompted us to re-examine all the data to further study the possibility of systematic relationships between RCE and these broader learning opportunities (coursework, observations, and internships). In fact, this trio of opportunities became the analytic framework for our re-examination. We reread all the data, searching for statements in which explicit (or implicit) comparisons were made between RCE (or the videotapes) and one or more of the trio of broader learning opportunities. While we would not claim that we conducted an ethnography, we did employ tools from the ethnographic tradition (e.g., the constant comparative approach and the development of emergent categories). Basically, particular instances prompted us to add a potential category of comparison to our growing list of categories; we constantly refined the list (expanding, contracting, collapsing categories) as we attempted to classify new instances. We continued in this fashion until we felt we had a complete account of all the data in our corpus. At that point, we attempted to explain these comparative relationships. These attempts are documented in our results section.
Results and Discussion
Learning within the Methods Classroom
Modes of Conveying Information.
Both Barbara and Jessie highlight the limitation of course readings and even instructor examples, and they emphasize the power of visual and auditory formatted information -that which RCE provides the user.
Bringing to life.
Being knowledgeable about the practice of teaching reading was of utmost importance to Ruth. She often felt that the in-class learning opportunities still left her wanting more, and yet, she soon tired of reading. She explains, "I dont feel like I have enough information. It wasnt until the third [paper] that I also realized that I get tired of reading most of the time I stopped [using RCE] was because I didnt have enough time. I wish there were 10 more of them it kept me awake" (Ruth, spring interview). Ruth had to tear herself away from RCE while she tired easily of reading. It appears that another benefit of RCE is its compulsion to motivate students to explore these exemplary models at length.
The clips left an imprint in these students minds. Dan explained, "Yeah, somebody could sit there and sputter off, Ok, the kids did this, the kids did that, but to actually see it, it makes more of an impression I think you retain more and get more out of it than just having someone sit there and tell you that this is what you can do." This ability to see and remember issues and practices of literacy afforded them the possibility to more easily compare and contrast across instances, due to the simple fact they could remember the content!
Opportunities for Discussion
This opportunity not only afforded them a chance to discuss issues presented in their coursework in more depth but also provided them time to ponder issues that appeared unrelated to their specific task at hand. Jessie also highlighted how processing new information was an important part in her learning process. She felt that having time to write about or discuss ideas was essential for her to learn about the concepts. Her assignments for the class and discussions with her work partner, Nina, provided this opportunity. Jessie explained, "Im seeing it, but for me until I have to write it down or talk about it, then Im not processing it or learning about the concept as much as if I was looking at it for a second [time]. So, I think it is important to have to reflect on it or process it by some writing or like, more further discussion about it" (spring interview).
In both of Barbara and Jessies reflections, the role of partnered explorations seemed prominent and essential in promoting deep engagement and thinking. Barbara imagined what her work and preparation could have looked like if she had not worked with Ruth:
Exploring RCE with a partner appeared to promote students discussion of literacy issues. In the future, examining the use of RCE for in-class group exploration is one way we can learn about the impact of partner-based exploration on students learning.
Barbara also was impressed by the ways in which her work with Ruth expanded her ideas about literacy. She explained, "I think if I had done it by myself...it would not have been as much fun. And I would be stuck with my own interpretation of things, only the things I thought were interesting, and not anyone elses opinion" (spring interview). Meanwhile, Ruth acknowledged how sharing ideas helped each develop their own ideas for their course assignments, but did not channel them into possessing the same perspective on issues. Ruth described the process:
They fed each other ideas but individually assessed the ideas applicability to issues they were considering, and each student developed different stances towards issues of literacy.
Participants also identified another encouraging result of RCE use in this course. RCE promoted exploration, independent of course assignment topics. Ruth described her rationale for looking at particular clips and themes in RCE:
Through use of RCE, Ruth was genuinely interested and excited about exploring the instances of reading instruction to the point that her own inquiries took her off her course assignment task.
Ruth described the random nature of learning when observing. Ruth was never quite sure what she might gain from observing on a particular day. She explained, "If I go out and observe on my own, like on Tuesday, I dont know what theyre going to be doing, and maybe thats more realistic, but its not gonna give me the things that I maybe need to learn" (spring interview). Further, Ruth lamented that observation opportunities can only occur while schools are in session:
Not only did the timeframe constrain her current observation opportunities, but Ruth also foresaw a drastic decline or even elimination of such opportunities during her subsequent teaching years. Yet, RCE could provide such an opportunity, after school hours.
Virtual observation opportunities.
Jessie appreciated RCEs capabilities, unavailable when viewing live practice. She describes:
The ability to stop, review, and replay instances of classroom interaction and teaching was crucial in their observation experience.
Learning within a Practicum Setting
In our admittedly small sample, the most common complaint was that collaborating teachers spent little time teaching reading and, more often than not, did not teach in ways that aligned with the progressive focus of the teacher education program. For example, Barbara described her experience with her collaborating teachers (CT), "Its been OK. Its not, shes not doing spectacular things with literature" (spring interview). Other students appeared more frustrated with their placements. Ed describes, "my field placement has been very disappointing to me. A very traditional classroom. Its a place that I really havent been able to see a lot of the ideas put into practice" (spring interview). Participants, especially those who were disappointed with their CTs teaching practice, appreciated RCE multiple models of exemplary teaching.
Exemplary Teaching Models
Without access to these models, some of our preservice teachers would have doubted the actual existence of teachers out in the field who used the progressive teaching practices that they were learning in their certification coursework, and doubted their own ability to implement such teaching approaches in their own future classrooms as well. Barbara explains the role that the videos and RCE had in increasing her self-confidence:
In summary, seeing even one of the video exemplars from RCE was a powerful experience for participants because it provided an additional model to their repertoire of teaching examples, often primarily consisting of their CTs teaching practice. Observing these additional models boosted students self-confidence that they, too, could identify progressive teaching methods and work towards implementation of these in their own classrooms.
Ed also identified that the variety of methods presented through the classroom cases helped him learn about the adaptability and flexibility of classroom instruction to support student success.
Other students claimed that they learned about flexibility in teaching, especially when dealing with diverse classroom populations, from exploring the videos. Jessie explained, "I think it made me broaden my awareness [that] what works for one teacher isnt going to work for another teacher, not only because of your own personal styles, but there are all these other factors that you need to take into consideration" (spring interview).
It is not surprising that these multiple models of teaching became an important resource for those students who worked with CTs who had little variety in teaching methods. Ninas exploration of these models enhanced her understanding of reading and writing instruction. She explained:
Students came to believe that they did not have to align their own teaching strategies to one particular model. Rather, they could combine successful approaches for the needs in their classrooms from the many models. Sandy described how the models impacted her future teaching methods, "What I have valued most about visiting these classrooms via videotape and hypermedia, is the opportunity theyve given me to observe a variety of good teaching practices... Ive also learned that it is really possible to combine the best of several different approaches, and do some skill instruction, if its what the students need" (paper 3). The variety of models and methods supported students explorations of the many ways to teach. These explorations revealed that there are many good ways to teach. Elise and Rhonda described RCEs role in their learning about the teaching of reading and writing:
This metacognitive reflection indicates the high regard that Elise and Rhonda held of the RCE in its ability to educate them about literacy.
In summary, students conceptions of teaching and becoming a teacher were supported by their interactions with the videos and hypermedia. Students who were looking for examples of progressive, excellent teachers found RCE especially helpful. The models in RCE presented hope for these preservice teachers - showing that some teachers do teach in a manner highlighted in methods courses. The multiple perspectives gained from looking across the six classroom cases in RCE helped students learn about the variety of teaching methods and the adaptability and flexibility teachers need to support student learning.
Specific Teaching Ideas
Likewise, others vividly recalled an example in the San Antonio classroom, where the teacher took children on a field trip to the supermarket, demonstrating the powerful use of ones local environment.
Not only did students collect and remember these teaching perspectives and ideas, but some even tried to implement them during their internship teaching like Jack who felt "these videos have provided me with a wealth of ideas to try during my internship year" (paper 3). Other students used the teaching methods as a way to revisit their own teaching philosophy and natural inclinations. Stella described how her perspective on "tracking" changed:
RCE provided an additional resource for students to gather ideas about teaching that they could analyze and consider using in their own teaching.
Thinking about Teaching
Excerpts of teachers teaching students with diverse needs influenced Melinda to revisit her own preconceptions about teaching students with diverse needs. She describes:
Exploring the six classrooms also pushed many of the students to reconsider a previously held belief that smallgroup instruction was always better than whole class instruction. After viewing some of the innovative ways that the teachers used wholeclass instruction, students refined their view. Barbara describes her reconsideration:
In summary, RCE provided the resources and access for students to reconsider and refine their views on teaching. Strongly held beliefs and views on teaching were challenged by the innovative approaches demonstrated in the video exemplars.
Durability of RCE Images
Explicit durability describes students who directly linked their current teaching philosophies and practice to RCE models. RCE images were more explicitly durable in two situations. First, two students did not see their collaborating teachers as models of exemplary teaching or as supporting their reform-minded philosophies during their internships. Jessie described her situation; "I felt that [literature groups] supported my philosophy and I wanted to get the practice in it so that when I would be on my own I could feel more comfortable. That didnt happen"(summer interview). Fortunately, RCE images served as virtual models. The following is one example of many images that Jessie recalled a year later, "Well I do remember little snippets of them. That teacher wanted to marinate her children in literature. She coined that phrase and I thought about that all throughout the year how important that is to have all different kinds of literature"(spring interview). Jessie used teaching exemplars from RCE to guide her in developing a reform-oriented approach to the teaching of reading. The second situation involved two students likening their collaborating teachers to the exemplary models in RCE. Ruth reported that her collaborating teacher reminded her of the New York teacher in the video.
Ruth was pleased to find that her collaborating teacher did complement the ideas she read about in preservice courses and saw in RCE.
Tacit durability describes students who regarded RCE as an ancillary educational resource. RCE images were more tacitly durable in instances where students had rich experiences with collaborating teaching in their internships. Melinda found similarities between her philosophy and that of her mentor teacher. RCE, then, became one of the many resources Melinda drew from. She describes:
The RCE images, in these instances, blended with other experiences and knowledge sources.
It is encouraging to find that RCE models served a major educative role for students who felt they were not exposed to exemplary models of literacy instruction in their practicum placements and a supporting role for students who had enriched experiences in the internship.
Flexibility in revisiting
Students exposure and access to RCE provided just the right solution: the ability to easily review and revisit parts of the videotape content. Melinda explained the benefit of the hypermedia in the spring interview, "it [hypermedia] helps you review the video if you missed something or [if] you want to see something again." Jack, in the fall interview, described the advantage of navigating through the hypermedia system over the videotapes: "I liked that a lot better than if we had to watch another videotape. And you would think, which one was that? Rewind and fast forward. When it was on the computer you could go specifically to a certain point about a certain subject." Being able to access key points in the video quickly and efficiently in RCE became a significant benefit over traditional VHS access.
This ease of use actually inspired students to use RCE to revisit clips. Don, in his fall interview, explained:
Don indicates, unfortunately, that the awkwardness and hassle of locating excerpts on videotapes dissuades students from accessing it again. Without the option of retrieving video clips in RCE, students may have relied on their memories of the video seen once in class, sacrificing the inspiring and thoughtful, "Oh yeah, remember this part?" moments.
Ruth used RCE as an opportunity to get to the heart of each teaching approach, an educative experience she might have missed without access to RCE. Don also attributed better retention and consideration of issues and content to use of RCE. He described:
As a student, knowing that you will have access to RCE for later revisiting of school sites reduced the pressure in class to simultaneously watch the video, take notes, consider literacy issues covered in class, and develop and redefine their own teaching philosophiesæan insurmountable task all at once. Melinda described how RCE freed her from these pressures that access to VHS videos did not:
Providing preservice teachers the time to enjoy and appreciate the profession that they are preparing to enter into seems to be another auxiliary, yet significant, benefit of RCE.
While participants revisited these schools using RCE to observe again, they also acknowledged another feature of RCE that helped them analyze the content-the notebook feature. Ed explains the role the notebook can play in analysis, "I think you could really look in much greater detail at different aspects of the classroom. You can just zero in on a specific part of the dialogue, and there is that whole notepad thing where you can sort of take notes on it, and I think it can be a very effective tool and a very convenient tool, too" (spring interview). Jessie also spoke of the notebooks role in her ability to analyze classrooms and issues in greater depth, which she could not do while the video fled by in class viewing sessions. She described, "We got more detailed information because we could stop and write notes on that notebook...I thought it was good because you could get isolated information and spend more time than when youre watching a video with the whole class, youre not pausing it..." (spring interview). Because few students allowed us to videotape their work with RCE, we have limited information about our participants actual use of the notebook. In other work (Hughes, Packard, Reischl, and Pearson, 1998), we specifically examined students collaborative exploration and development of inquiry-based arguments composed in the notebook feature.
Other participants agreed with Barbaras view of the advantage of RCEs access to video across the classroom sites. Ed visualized the clips as "some sort of a whole...that made me think more about the different videos and try to find points of similarity between them or differences." Like Barbara, he feared that viewing the videos serially would have made "just one or two of the videos [stick] out in my mind" (spring interview).
In addition to supporting cross-classroom analysis, Barbara also indicated that using RCE to view excerpts of the video again allowed her to revisit and, most important, reconsider instructional methods in teachers programs that otherwise, she might have dismissed or forgotten after watching the video the first time. She explains the possibility:
Barbara identifies and elucidates a tremendous advantage RCE provides for preservice teachers learning. In Barbaras course assignments we see how, through careful revisiting and re-evaluating classrooms by using RCE, her first-impressions of certain classrooms as "phonics-based" or "whole-language" or "one that uses whole class instruction" begin to change over time (for further explication of this see Hughes, Packard, & Pearson, 1999). She considers classroom behavior and instructional practices in more detail, and her first impressions and stereotypes crumble when she realizes advantages and disadvantages of certain methods, based on various and changing factors. Without the opportunity to reconsider and revisit these classrooms, she most likely would have ignored all methods and practice in particular classrooms; whereas with the help of RCE, she began to appreciate certain aspects of teaching and learning she observed.
Limitations to Reading Classroom Explorer
Until teacher preparatory programs consider increasing the amount of time available for learning about literacy instruction, we are not sure how to address Jacks concern. One possibility is making a resource like RCE, only with many more classrooms and issues, available on the web for preservice and inservice teachers to access on their own. Providing access to RCE over the web and by expanding the exemplars available in RCE may be one way in which more inquiring minds can continue to learn about issues of literacy and instruction.
As Barbara indicates, she made herself aware of and considered this "limited" view of the classroom. Other participants also acknowledged their awareness that the brevity of the tape could not capture the full complexity of the classroom. Ed explained:
This "keyhole" perspective made it difficult for students to assess how typical the classrooms were. One way to respond to this limitation is to include much more contextual information in RCE. We are currently videotaping and developing new cases with this in mind.
Students noted that the video exemplars were exemplary teachers. Ruth worried, "Maybe I have this too idealized version that they're really doing this great stuff every day and maybe theyre not..." (spring interview). This limitation, however, motivated students by providing long-term models of teaching they wished to work towards.
Limitations to the Research Study
Educational Importance, Lingering Issues, and Implications
We have explored how preservice teachers view a virtual set of classrooms and how they engage in observation and analysis using it. In particular, our participants indicate that this hypermedia learning environment has provided a needed resource that enhances their learning. Readily available, user-controlled access to these multiple approaches complements and extends the resources available in teacher education programs and classrooms. This environment appears to have enriched their classroom learning by providing opportunities to "see" the progressive models of teaching they learn about in their coursework, provided opportunitiesunconstrained by the hours of the school day nor by geographic locationto observe, reflect on, and analyze teaching practice, and expanded their virtual internship experience by providing multiple approaches to literacy instruction. In short, Reading Classroom Explorer appears to hold great promise as a complement to other learning experiences that have stood the test of time. However, there are many future directions for this research.
The question of what constitutes a case is unresolved in our work. On the face of it, we conceptualized a "case" in this version of RCE as a literacy classroom. The six CSR classrooms illustrate each teachers approach to literacy development in her classroom. In development of new cases, we have expanded our notion of case. For example, we use an instructional unit to frame the classroom case, yet this larger instructional unit is subdivided into mini-cases where, for example, a learning activity is portrayed through a series of video clips. Though the largest frame is the literacy classroom, we acknowledge that an individual video clip could be a case, or the aggregation of clips on a certain theme or topic could constitute a case. Based on the logic and spirit of cognitive flexibility theory (Spiro & Jehng, 1990), identifying a case is entirely a functional question. A thing (or a set of things) is a case if this instance or set of instances reveal information about the topic of inquiry. The question of what constitutes a case is entirely dependent upon the inquiry and cannot be answered independent of a particular context and purpose. Hopefully, future work will shed more light on the notion of cases.
In this study, we tapped only one of many ways to use RCE in preservice education. We have since used RCE as resource in other preservice education courses. In one course, the instructor modeled how one could use RCE to develop and explore ones own questions about literacy teaching and learning. Her students used RCE in small groups to develop and explore their own questions, and used RCEs interactive notebook as a presentation tool to share their results with their peers and the instructor. Another instructor used a new web-based version of RCE and designed online "chat" topics for her students to explore in pairs. We are now studying the use of RCE across very distant sites and considering ways RCE could be used as a professional development tool. Thus, there are various ways RCE could be integrated into preservice education in order to support students learning about literacy instruction. We are looking forward to learning from these future iterations of RCE development and research and others explorations of how hypermedia can support preservice education in the area of literacy and beyond.
a Paper 1 Assignment (2/4/97): Use of Reading Classroom Explorer Optional. Teachers struggle with how to organize their classrooms in a way that supports student learning. For example, educators debate whether whole-class, small group, or independent work is most beneficial for student learning, and teachers must decide for themselves the set of organizational strategies they will use to accomplish their goals. Use the various information sources (e.g., observations, personal experiences, video, hypermedia, readings etc.) encountered thus far to come to an informed opinion about classroom organization strategies and their impact on student learning. Communicate your views in a paper of approximately 500-1000 words in length. This assignment may be completed individually or in pairs.
b Paper 2 Assignment (3/25/97): Use of Reading Classroom Explorer Required. For decades, educators have been discussing the benefits and disadvantages of skill-based and whole-language approaches to literacy. Using two or more classrooms, examine the role of literature, skill instruction, and students prior knowledge in building a literacy program. Communicate your views in a paper of approximately 500-1000 words in length. This assignment may be completed individually or in pairs.
c Paper 3 Assignment (4/16/97): Use of Reading Classroom Explorer optional. In your view, has the intellectual, socioeconomic, and ethnic/racial diversity in these classrooms affected the way these teachers approach teaching and learning? Explain. Has viewing these videos (either in video or hypermedia format) changed your perspective on teaching reading and writing? Explain. Communicate your views on these questions in a paper of approximately 500-1000 words in length. This assignment may be completed individually or in pairs.
d May 97 Interview. Focus on student experience with RCE component of coursework.
e October 97 Interview. Focus on if participants made any tie between their work with Reading Classroom Explorer to their accomplishment of technology proficiencies for teacher certification.
f Summer 98 Interview. Focus on students experiences in internship experience. Assess if participants mention RCE in discussion of internship.
g Video taped Work Session. Some students agreed to allow us to videotape them while they used Reading Classroom Explorer. We set the video camera on and left the students to work in a quiet office.
h Survey. A survey was administered at the end of the class asking students to evaluate the media component of the course including its benefit to learning, course content, and ease of use. It also inquired about RCE features used (e.g., search mechanisms, transcript, questions, notebook, etc.).
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This research was conducted as part of CIERA, the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement, and supported under the Educational Research and Development Centers Program, PR/Award Number R305R70004, as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents of the described report do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment or the National Institute on Early Childhood development, or the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.