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E. Santana Lisbôa, C. Pereira Coutinho

University of Minho (PORTUGAL)
Knowledge construction in social networks is a critical issue for educators who research the opportunities and challenges those new environments offer for online education. In order to contribute to the debate we present in this article an empirical study whose objective was to analyze online interactions in a discussion forum of a social network that gathers a community of Portuguese speaking teachers who discuss online topics related to professional development in ICT. The theoretical framework is the Online Collaborative Learning Theory – OCL developed by Harasim (2012) as well as the concept of cognitive presence as presented by Garrison et al. (2001) who developed a grid to detect and evaluate the process of knowledge construction in online asynchronous interactions. The Theory of Online Collaborative Learning (Online Collaborative Learning Theory-OCL), by Linda Harasim (2012), has a basic assumption that the asynchronous student speech in virtual environment is the basis for creating knowledge and generating new learning. Through 3 stages or processes (Idea Generating, Idea Organizing and Intellectual Convergence), are the paths that allows the achievement of knowledge and that supposedly changing from divergent to convergent thinking as a result of negotiation and discussion among peers, supported by online e-moderator/instructor (Harasim, 1990, 2002). The cognitive presence is an essential component in an online community because in addition to providing evidence of the quality of the discussions it also allows a procedural assessment and continuous organization of critical thinking and thoughts of the members over time (to Garrison et al., (2001)

This model is still composed of four phases that here we'll call categories, which are:
i) Triggering Event;
ii) Exploration;
iii) Integration
iv) Resolution.

Considering the four stages of development of cognitive presence in an online learning environment, Garrison and collaborators (2001) developed a grid to evaluate this complex dimension; based on the original instrument, the authors of this article adapted and validated it to the Portuguese context.The study focused on the social network Proedi Forum ( entitled "Technology vs. Methodology", which was applied to a group of future teachers that are part of a master's degree in Teaching at the University of Minho (Philosophy and Geography/History). The empirical study is analytical or documental analysis (Coutinho, 2013a) by the fact that the research is based on a documentary analysis process in which the data sources have the written text format (contributions from members in a social network Forum PROEDI). The technique used was content analysis and, according to Coutinho (2013a) it is a quantitative technique for the objective, systematic, quantitative description of the manifest content of communication. The results show that in the analyzed social network forum of discussion it is possible to attain higher levels thinking and collaboration. The study also shows that Garrison´s grid to detect cognitive presence is useful to pursue and anatomize the process of knowledge construction in a social network. However results also show that there is a long path to go in order to enhance the processes of collaboration and the development of the so desired autonomy of social.