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Collaboration, community and computers: A study of two computer classrooms

, University of South Florida, United States

University of South Florida . Awarded


For this research, I conducted ethnographic studies in two computer classrooms—a community college course that introduces students to the Internet and a junior-level technical writing course at a university. While conducting these studies, my concern was with ways that collaboration is cultivated in the electronic environment, ways that computer-mediated instruction (CMI) influences student autonomy, and ways that the spatial configurations of the computer stations influence community interaction. Data was collected using quasi-ethnographic methods and is presented as vignettes depicting ways students interacted. I attended both classes for the duration of the terms, kept notes of class meetings and of discussions with students, and made hard-copies of electronic exchanges. The instructor in Class A fits the description by Lawrence J. Clark in 1999 of the cyber-instructor who struggles to learn new applications and to alter his teaching strategies to suit the more complex electronic classroom. Examination of the electronic manuscripts of class discussions in Class B at a state university describes how students discuss and process information from each other. In her 2000 dissertation, Joanna Castner encourages teachers' seeding online discussions, highlighting important issues, variety of methods to make students comfortable enough to participate. The instructor in Class B successfully kept the online discussions on topic and lively. He also used various methods to include all students, yet four or five students dominated each of the online exchanges. In 1999 Barbara Blakely Duffelmeyer recognized that students exercise their agency when using computer technology, yet they can critically assess and use that agency wisely when guided by their instructor. Transcripts from a conversation in Class B reveal ways that students disagree, but continue to talk through their disagreements. These studies invite further investigation into strategies being used to adapt how we use electronic communication in the classroom. Teacher training also needs further exploration and innovation. Phenomenological studies allow us to scrutinize our strategies for ways that we may adjust our pedagogy and how those adjustments influence our students.


Nelson, D.M. Collaboration, community and computers: A study of two computer classrooms. Ph.D. thesis, University of South Florida. Retrieved October 14, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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