Learners Without Borders: Connected Learning in a Digital Third Space
AbstractAuthentic field experiences are an important aspect of most teacher education programs, yet collaboration often is difficult because of distance and limited resources. This collective case study aimed to explore the experiences of 30 ninth-grade English language arts (ELA) students and 17 preservice English education teachers as they collaborated in a digital Third Space on activities designed with Connected Learning (CL) principles. Through the free, online tool Slack (www.slack.com), the participants cocreated video remixes and built connections without actually meeting face to face. The study aimed to assess if digital Third Spaces constructed with CL principles could provide an authentic field experience, potentially offering a chance to improve preservice ELA teachers’ self-efficacy with teaching digital literacies and offer high school students an opportunity to experiment with multimodal composition. Instruction was designed with CL principles and used digital tools to help forge human connection. The findings suggest that digital Third Spaces and online collaborative networks can serve as viable sites for authentic field experiences when face-to-face partnerships are difficult. However, they also suggest a need for ELA teacher educators to work with their preservice teachers to develop strategic ways to use digital environments to build genuine relationships.