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E. Santana Lisbôa, C. Coutinho

University of Minho (PORTUGAL)
The use of discussion forums in informal virtual spaces like social networks has become a widely recognized strategy to promote collaborative learning, to reinforce social relations inside online learning communities, strengthening ties between the teacher and the students and among peers (Lisbôa, 2010)
Based mainly in an asynchronous communication format, it allows to complement face to face classroom activities, as it enhances the development of the social, cognitive and teaching presence in an online scenario. This last one, the teaching presence, seen by several authors as the sustainer of the other components in online learning, has as main goal to promote an environment where knowledge sharing enhances the construction of meaning inside the community.
Archer and Garrison (2001) established three important roles for the e-teacher in the process of creating the teaching presence in a virtual learning environment. The first, refers to the responsibility of conceiving and organizing the learning process and happens both before the creation of the community and along the implementation process. Includes the process of selecting and organizing the themes that will be addressed and discussed inside the community as well as the design of the learning tasks and assessment. The second addresses the implementation and the activities programmed, verifying if all members get involved in the process. The third, known in literature as teaching presence goes behind the moderating the learning experiences and happens when the teacher adds value to the discussion group, allowing the debate to become richer and more intense, contributing both for socialization and for the construction of shared knowledge.
The study we present in this paper had as main objective to evaluate the teaching presence of a discussion forum of the PROEDI (Professores na Era Digital – www.proedi.ning.) social network whose title was: “ICT in Education”. The activity involver a group of 32 students that attended 2nd grade Bologne Masters in Teaching (Mathematics, Biology, Portuguese Language and Foreign Language/Spanish) at the University of Minho, Braga, Portugal in the second semester of 2010-2011. The participation in the forum of discussion was one of the strategies implemented in the “Educational Technology” curricular unit in order to complement the face to face sessions (3 hours/week, 15 weeks) and to develop ICT competences in the pre-service teachers.
For the content analysis of the forum interactions we used the theoretical framework proposed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000), as well as the learning strategies refered by Lowenthan and Parscal (2008). In this paper we will present, discuss and reflect upon data obtained in order to contribute to the