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The New Technologies: No Place to Hide?
by Prof. Edna Aphek
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Abstract
The paper describes two months work with teachers, reading counselors, in a literacy forum on the internet, as part of their training.
The writer examines the possible reasons for the absenteeism of many teachers from the forum and their seemingly lack of interest in it.

Introduction

Two years ago I was asked by a director of a large Israeli company to head the implementation of a new software in her organization. The software was an organizational network, where all the transactions, knowledge and information, memos and protocols, will be uploaded, for the benefit of all the members of the organization.
At that time I was too busy and could not take upon myself this most interesting and time monopolizing assignment. However, I vividly remember the conversation we held and the comment made by the director:
"they so vehemently resist this network, because it does away with the traditional hierarchy and furthermore, it exposes people, they can't hide any more."
Her words still echoing, I remembered a lecture I attended a few years ago. In this lecture, one of the leading educationalists in Israel pointed out to the fact that teachers aren't comfortable unless they close "the lid "(door) on their classroom, i.e.; when no one can hear or watch what they are doing. This and more, teachers, he said, rarely expose their own writing or any other product of theirs ( not of their students) to the rest of the world.

The New Technologies: Exposure

Last August I was asked as part of my work on integrating the New Technologies in Education with Literacy counselors in the Jerusalem area, to set up a forum [: An area of the Internet where particular topics are discussed. This is typically a message board where members post messages for the entire group. http://netculture.miningco.com/library/glossary/bldef-forum.htm for an on- going dialogue and discussions with the trainees and thus to promote a new form of learning and teaching. There were about 20 participants in the course, some of them senior counselors and about more than a half, "counselors to be".
The forum (in Hebrew) was opened in the beginning of September, at the Jerusalem Municipality site, and was placed at the pedagogic section at the following address.
http://www.orianit.edu-negev.gov.il/yaelavnu/ALL.asp?Fnumber=8

To my dismay, two months after the forum was set up, I feel that my work was unsuccessful. Most of the participants simply didn't access the forum.
On the whole seven participants accessed the forum, but only four became really active .
Trying to fathom this phenomenon, of non participation on line, whereas most of the literacy counselors-teachers came to the face to face meetings, I wrote two messages in the forum: one addressed to H. the head- counselor of the group, who is also in charge of the administrative aspects and asked her also to send this message to all the participants via snail mail and to read them the message, in a face to face meeting she was about to hold. (as I am writing this short piece the meeting hasn't been held , yet.)
The other message, in a form of request for help, I posted in the forum itself.
The following are the two messages:

Sent by: Edna
Subject: H.and all the participants in the training
23\10\2002

Shalom H.

It has been a few weeks now since we have started working in the forum. Unfortunately only a very small number of teachers have actively participated.
I have been wondering what the reasons might be.
Is it the medium itself?
If the problem is lack of practice, then I am willing to come to a meeting designated specifically for practicing. In this meeting I'll show the participants [who have all been trained in accessing and searching the internet for almost a year] how to access the forum.
I am wondering whether practicing or its lack is the reason for absenteeism from the forum. I am wondering since all it takes is writing an internet address.
I am most interested in understanding the reasons for this lack of participation or to be more accurate, lack of access.

Virtual learning is in no way similar to face to face learning. It has its own difficulties. However, research shows that the combination of face to face meetings with virtual learning increases the percentage of participation .It didn't help in our case.
Why is it so?
What hinders serious and talented people from using the forum regularly?
May it be the very idea of writing in cyber- space? In a non physical, sort of "no where" environment?
I would love to learn and understand.
Kind regards
Edna

On that very day I also sent the following message:

Sent by: Edna
Subject: a request for help
23\10\2002

Shalom all,
I am collecting information, explanations, ideas and data for an article on forums on the internet: their novelty, influence, and how effective they are.

I'll be most grateful to you if you were to share your thoughts and ideas with me.
Thanks
Edna

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