June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.24.1 - 23.24.14
An Emergence of a Community of Practice: Depicting Five Engineering Professors’ Collaboration to Co-author an E-Book on Energy and Sustainability with Dynamic ContentIn this paper, we discuss the characteristics of the interaction and the culture emerged as fiveengineering professors engage in a noval pedagogical activity to promote more student-centeredinstruction. Funded by the NSF, in this three year long collaborative research project, fiveengineering professors as PIs at five different Research I institutions in East Coast, West Coast,and South US co-author an e-book on energy and sustainability topics with dynamic contentembedded.Because of the newly emerged energy sustainability content knowledge, changes inenvironmental factors, and media’s and public’s reactions to those changes, there appears a needto use a textbook with dynamic content that can be updated every other semester in collegelevels. Developing a textbook with dynamic content is timely, yet a naive practice for theengineering professors. It is unknown how the authors’ interaction and communication willevolve over time and what the characteristics of the culture they develop are as the authors workin collaboration. To document the nature and the discourse of the engineering professors’ co-authoring practices, we conducted an instrumental case study with ethnographic data collectionapproaches, which included recordings of professors’s weekly meetings, one-to-one interviews,and the documentation of all electronic interaction. We used the communities-of-practice notionto examine our professors’ collaboration and the emerging culture. The professors have met onthe Internet every week for an hour for the last two years, and majority of their meetingconversations were transcribed and analyzed. We interviewed all professors once, and analyzedthe data collected.We organized our findings into three dimensions: (a) the culture emerged; (b) the sharedlanguage; and (c) the mutual engagement and evolved goals. We observed that in the culture ofengineering professors, the pre-defined goal was to co-author an online textbook on energysustainability to support core science and engineering courses for major and non-majorundergraduate students. However, the joint enterprise has evolved over time. Professors havedecided to publish the book on an e-book reader (e.g., kindle or ipad) that is convenient to read.Another goal emerged was to sustain the book after the project funding is ended. As the fiveprofessors continued co-authoring the book, newcomers joined the community. Over the courseof our research, we identified that new comers brought new ideas to improve the content of thebook and help support the technical, social, and financial dimensions of the project.Because the faculty members were located across the US, the Adobe Connect was a means tocommunicate with one and another and organize the project activities. As they collaborated andcommunicated in the teleconference meetings, a shared language emerged among the virtualcommunity members. Instead of instructing each member what to do in the every step of the co-authoring process, they developed their own strategies. A shared language used in administeringthe surveys, peer-reviewing the chapters, receiving copy-right permission for the images in thechapters, and making the textbook accessible to students and compatible with differenttechnologies helped them make progress. We will report our findings in detail at the meeting.Our project design and study findings may guide other engineering educators to develop similartextbooks in their field. With the most recent and up-to-date information, the engineeringcourses offered in college levels will be more student-centered and relevant to students’ dailylife experiences.
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