University of Florence (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 4308-4314
ISBN: 978-84-09-45476-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2022.1047
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Informal learning and knowledge maturation are practices influenced by individual and contextual constraints and anchored in long-term and dynamic relationships between technologies, people and communities. Participation in communities of practice, a group that shares comparable interests, approaches and difficulties, serves as an informal training instrument for professional development and lifelong learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991). By engaging in online networks, teachers could foster connections between different contexts, find interesting resources and enable the generation of ideas (Macià & García, 2016; Ranieri et al., 2012). The use of digital media can also support professional development and collaborative processes especially when “bottom-up knowledge sharing activities and top-down guidance towards shared goals” are present (Ravenscroft et al., p. 236). As an example of a teacher training programme that balances orientation and autonomy, the eTwinning community is the main digital European professional network for teachers, with more than 1 million registered European users. While traditional approaches can examine the dynamics of small groups, research tools that allow for a comprehensive overview of communities should be used to study the characteristics of engagement and evolution occurring inside large networks.

Learning Analytics (LA) is an emerging discipline that utilises advances in data mining, interpretation and modelling to improve understanding of teaching and learning and to adapt instruction to students’ needs more effectively (Chatti et al., 2012). LA has previously been used as a tool for observing large online communities of teachers (De Laat & Schreurs, 2013) and some LA pioneering studies have been previously conducted in eTwinning on networks cohesion and users’ permanence (Song et al., 2011; Vuorikari & Scimeca, 2013).

The present study aims to analyse participation in the Italian eTwinning community through the monitoring of teachers’ activities to investigate possible co-occurrences between access, use of tools and other learning opportunities that the eTwinning system offers its members. Analyses of the online behaviour of 80.308 Italian teachers were undertaken using anonymized data extracted from the eTwinning platform for six months before the Covid 19 pandemic (01/09/2019-29/02/2020). The time frame was chosen in agreement with the Italian National Support Organisation to monitor trends in pre-Covid 19 activity. Information on platform logins, number of contacts, collaboration in students’ project-based activities and in informal groups, content creation and award of national quality labels were recorded. The quantitative analysis of the dataset was intended to identify associations between the program’s uses and to detect the possible consequence on the social networking and exchange practice between those who engage in professional project-based collaboration and those who do not. Pearson’s r coefficient was used to analyse the linear relationship between variables. Correlation analyses of the measures revealed a correspondence among the several dimensions of the eTwinning experience, showing positive and strong associations between different elements of active membership, such as the application of collaborative teaching through projects and involvement in thematic groups or the density of the contacts’ network and access to online resources.
Teacher professional development, virtual community, learning analytics, informal learning, in-service teacher education.