Digital Discourses in Early Childhood Educator Online Learning
Hoffman, Emily Brown
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Active, dialogic participation is a necessary component of high quality teacher professional learning (Dunst, Bruder, & Hamby, 2015). However, logistical problems arise when implementing cooperative learning opportunities for early childhood educators, as preschool teachers are habitually separated from peers both institutionally and geographically. Accordingly, early childhood educators are uniquely positioned to benefit from online learning as digital technologies can connect people previously restricted by physical space. This 10-week descriptive, single-case study employed virtual ethnographic methods and applied the Community of Inquiry Framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) and the Multimodal Theory of Communication (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2001) to investigate a synchronous online learning community of currently practicing early childhood educators. This study explored the opportunities the course afforded for participants to engage in multimodal communication around content and pedagogical knowledge by focusing on how practicing preschool educators discussed the teaching and learning of literacy and language in settings through the online platform. Constant comparative (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and multimodal discourse (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2001) analyses revealed the necessity of technology preparation and a technology relaxed atmosphere for successful implementation and identified two active engagement paths of collaborative learning. Analyses also emphasized how multimodal communication was not innate to the platform, but reliant on teaching presence to facilitate effective collaborative active engagement. Findings provide a foundation for future research and practice regarding early childhood online professional learning, as they highlight the potential of synchronous online platforms.
Subjectearly literacy, online learning, professional development, teacher education, multimodal discourse analysis, early childhood education, digital technologies