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Editorial: Academic communities and the nature of academic discourse.

In 1990 Jerry and Dee Anna Willis founded the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) to provide an academic home for those working to integrate educational technology into teacher education. The Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE) was subsequently established to support SITE. Jerry Willis took on the editorship of the journal and expressed the hope that "all of us will look back on the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education as a publication that helped define the field of information technology and teacher education."

A decade later as the new millennium began, Jerry Willis was instrumental in helping conceive Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), an electronic counterpart to JTATE. An electronic journal was a natural step for an educational technology organization such as SITE for a number of reasons. As its name, "Contemporary Issues," suggests, information of immediate interest to readers can be made available in a more timely fashion than is possible with print media. In addition, CITE Journal provides an opportunity to include multimedia materials such as sound, video, and animation and incorporates a commentary function to allow readers to respond to published articles.

After serving as founding father and nurturing the journal through its infancy and early childhood, Jerry Willis has determined that the time has come to step down as editor of JTATE, although he will continue to serve as co-editor for CITE Journal and senior advisor to JTATE. Debra Sprague has agreed to serve as Jerry's successor as the next editor of JTATE.

Debra, a long-time active SITE member, is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. She has published in JTATE, as well as other technology journals, such as the Journal of Computers in Teacher Education and Learning and Leading with Technology. She is the author, with Priscilla Norton, of a text titled Technology for Teaching, which addresses effective integration of technology into classroom learning.

Debra has been active in the U.S. Department of Education Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) program, and is principle investigator of a PT3 grant at George Mason University. Her technological interests are varied. She has served as co-principle investigator for an Office of Naval Research grant titled "Developing Virtual Environments for Training," as well as a related U.S. Department of Education grant, "Designing Environments for Virtual Immersive Science Education (DEVISE)."

Most importantly, Debra will bring many of the same qualities of innovation and curiosity to the editorship of JTATE that have made it successful under Jerry Willis's stewardship. Her interests in use of scholarly publications and research to foster dialog within the academic community parallel similar interests within the editorial board of the CITE Journal.

Consequently, this time of transition for JTATE seemed an appropriate time to rethink the relationship among all of SITE's print and electronic publications. We see several opportunities to help build community among our members, capitalize on the potentially synergistic relationships among our publications, and expand our collaborations with our counterparts in other teacher educator associations.


Jerry and Dee Anna Willis established SITE in order to foster a sense of community among academicians who were exploring the new task of preparing teachers to incorporate emerging technologies into teaching practice. During the early days of SITE, it was possible for every single member to know and interact with every other member. As SITE has grown and achieved success, some of this early sense of community has been less feasible through direct personal contact and interactions at the SITE conferences and meetings.

In the early days of SITE, Jerry Willis was a familiar figure walking through the SITE conference halls seeking out innovative ideas. The size of SITE precludes this mode of interaction today, at least in a form that directly affects every member. However, if any group should have the capacity to build a virtual community that incorporates these same values, a professional association of educational technologists might be expected to be able to achieve this.

We envision a SITE web site that serves as a "portal" for all of the organization's print and electronic publications as well as discussion and scholarly dialog associated with them. This portal would become an access point for digital scholarship related to technology and teacher education.

This portal would include a link to an integrated submissions process for both JTATE and CITE Journal. This common online submission screen would include a brief overview and explanation of the print and online journals and their functions, with options to submit an article to either of the two. A third option of "unsure" or "doesn't matter" would allow authors to request that the article be submitted to the most appropriate venue, to be determined by the editors. This would imply a coordinated editorial board, which should benefit both authors and association members.

Also available from this portal will be access to newly established SITE interactive discussion groups. The primary purpose of these discussion groups will be to help re-establish a sense of community and allow every SITE member to be directly connected with the common community and have input into it. Debra Sprague has agreed to take the lead on establishment of these discussion groups.

The discussion groups would also serve to encourage scholarly dialog initiated in our publications. Currently, readers of CITE Journal have the opportunity to respond to an article by submitting a commentary that is published as an article in its own right. These commentaries undergo the same process of peer review as the original articles. However, taking advantage of an electronic medium, commentaries and responses are posted immediately after acceptance.

As noted in a prior editorial introducing this mechanism for academic dialog, "Rethinking the Nature of Academic Discourse" (Bull, Willis, & Bell, 2001), this feature will ideally generate discussion strands similar to this example from the inaugural issue:

* If We Didn't Have the Schools We Have Today, Would We Create the Schools We Have Today?--Thomas G. Carroll Commentary: Some Comments on "If We Didn't Have the Schools We Have Today, Would We Create the Schools We Have Today?"--Gerald Bracey

* Commentary: Technology, Learning, and Schools: Comments on Articles by Tom Carroll and Gerald Bracey--John Bransford, Xiadong Lin, and Dan Schwartz.

* Commentary: The Paradigm behind the Curtain: Comments on Papers by Carroll; Bracey; and Bransford, Lin, & Schwartz--Jerry Willis

The base article by Tom Carroll generated a response in the form of a commentary by Gerald Bracey. Bracey's commentary, in turn, generated further commentaries by Bransford, et al., and by Willis.

As a matter of editorial policy, we have established a high scholarly standard for commentaries about articles, as well as the articles themselves. As a next phase of the online journal, we envision less formal asynchronous discussion groups that will permit ongoing conversation and discussion that does not undergo scholarly peer review. One important academic implication of this approach is that a commentary would be included in annual reports and curriculum vitae, just as any other peer-reviewed publication would be, while contributions to ongoing discussion groups would not. Thus a base article on a given topic might give rise to formal refereed commentaries responding to it, as well as less formal discussion strands. Ideally, this dialog might ultimately lead to future articles derived from discussion with colleagues.

* Base Article 1 ?

* Commentaries?

* Discussion Groups?

* Base Article 2

An integrated approach to the print and online journals suggests a common set of discussion groups equally applicable to both.

Experience with online discussion groups suggests that it can be difficult to achieve a critical mass and generate substantive interactions. For that reason, discussion groups will initially be led by moderators who will have the task of encouraging and facilitating dialogue. Moderators will ideally have academic credentials related to the topic under discussion and will be able to identify and contact others with expertise who may be able to contribute and advance the discussion.

If the interactive discussion groups prove successful, other features of a virtual scholarly community might be added to the site, such as the opportunity to interact with authors in TappedIn ( or through interactive videoconferencing. In addition, other SITE publications and scholarship, such as the published proceedings of the annual conference, will also be made available to the membership through this portal. If the portal is successful, it will begin to reestablish the sense of scholarly community and academic connections that constituted the original rationale for founding SITE and extend it in ways that would not be possible without interaction communication technologies.


In this transition period, it has also been necessary to reassess the target audience for our message. SITE, by its very nature, has primarily consisted of teacher educators and educational technologists who are early adopters of technological innovations. However, to be effective and achieve its goals, SITE must also interact with the core of teacher educators who prepare future teachers. Many of these individuals participate in the professional conferences in their home academic disciplines (e.g., science education, mathematics education, English education, and social studies education) but do not typically attend conferences, such as SITE, that have educational technology as a primary focus.

SITE has begun to undertake several initiatives designed to reach out to these communities. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, SITE has convened two National Technology Leadership Retreats (NTLR I and II) that have brought together the presidents, executive directors, and other leaders of more than a dozen national education associations to consider how future teachers might best be prepared to appropriately integrate technology into their teaching.

As one consequence of this collaboration, CITE Journal was established as a joint venture of the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (AETS), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), the National Council of Teachers of English Conference on English Education (CEE), and the National Council of Social Studies College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) in cooperation with SITE. Establishment of a joint educational journal representing these five academic areas is unprecedented and has no parallel in either print or online publications.

This collaboration with SITE has led to the establishment of educational technology committees in two of the four teacher educator associations and close ties between SITE leaders and the leaders of the existing educational technology committees of the other two associations. In addition, the annual meetings of all four associations representing the core content areas have incorporated educational technology strands cosponsored by SITE. It will be important to build upon and extend the ties between SITE and parallel teacher educator associations in these areas, as well as other content areas.

We are considering additional ways of collaborating with these organizations and moving forward the discussion about technology in teacher preparation. One idea is a cross-publishing strategy, in which authors publishing in their content area journals could refer to a sister article published in CITE Journal or JTATE. For instance, a bibliography of technology and science education articles could be published in CITE Journal, while a literature review based on this bibliography could be submitted to a science education journal, such as the Journal of Science Teacher Education.

We are also pleased to announce another new proposed initiative that will build upon our cross-disciplinary efforts. SITE proposes sponsoring an annual fellowship to recognize an exemplary paper presented in the technology strand at the annual meetings of AETS, AMTE, GEE, and CUFA. If approved by the associations, recipients of the award will receive, in addition to a plaque, an invited presentation at the next SITE conference, a complimentary SITE conference registration and a cash award to defray travel expenses to the conference, and review of the exemplary paper for publication in the CITE Journal, if the author desires.

The respective professional societies for science, mathematics, English and social studies education have sole responsibility for editorial review of articles published in their discipline in CITE Journal. SITE will encourage collaboration with the professional societies on selecting award-winning papers. Over an initial pilot period of five years, a total of 20 award-winning individuals working in their respective disciplines will be encouraged to join forces with the SITE membership. If this practice proves successful, it can be extended to other content areas and professional associations, as well.


The transition in editorial responsibility at JTATE provides an ideal time to consider new ventures and ways to integrate all of SITE's publications and respective forms of digital scholarship and dialog. The intent is to create a portal that will establish and support a common academic community within SITE, and reach out and establish collaborative partnerships with other professional associations and academic disciplines in teacher education. The success of this venture will ultimately depend not upon electronic webs, but upon social and professional networks. The technology, as always, should be a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bell, Lynn
Publication:Journal of Technology and Teacher Education
Date:Dec 22, 2001
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