The anatomy of practice in the use of mailing lists: A case study
AbstractThis paper reports the main findings from a study of two mailing lists or listservs: Oz-Teachers and UK-Schools, used by teachers in Australia and the United Kingdom to communicate electronically with each other. Typically, communications were characterised by text messages that posed questions or offered answers; by 'threads' of discussion based around single or combined themes; and by statements of information. The content of these messages was almost always either technical or educational, the former centred on hardware or software issues; the latter on concerns with the use of technologies in teaching and learning.
The study found that there is a possibility in the use of mailing lists, to create vital, energetic and occasional communities for professional development activities, building curriculum and information resource libraries and facilitating informal communicative networks, serving the social, professional and personal needs of teachers. The type of lists investigated here were unmoderated, self serving and self censoring, and they appeared to work well for a majority of the list membership. Topics of postings and the willingness to engage them fluctuated as the list communities matured. In particular, some dialogue displayed elements of a critical dimension - a necessary precursor to developing serious, reflective, engagement with practices, theory and research that should accompany any professional development process.
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