From Recreation to Reflection: Digital conversations in Educational Contexts

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The Teacher Training Agency'srecent drive to increase flexibility in InitialTeacher Training provision in the UK hasprompted a growing interest in distancelearning. A number of Higher Educationproviders are now using new technology and newforms of communication in their coursedelivery. Among the various forms available,synchronous online chat, usually associatedwith social or recreational interaction, hasattracted little attention in the researchliterature. This medium requires new approachesand skills as participants struggle to makemeaning in multi-stranded conversations.Building on previous studies that have exploredthe innovative use of language in recreationalchat, this study focuses on student discussionsin the context of educational chat. It exploreshow student teachers can use this electronicenvironment to discuss educational issues, andin so doing, gain experience of thecommunicative potential of new media. Analysisof the ways in which these students uselanguage in this environment is followed bysome initial thoughts about the potential ofsynchronous chat as a medium for learningwithin an educational context. This paperidentifies key elements in the organisation ofeducational chat and provides insight into thestrategies used by participants.