The possibility of asynchronous literature discussion: Identity, goals, and situated practice in e-mail discussion
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This study centers on in-service and pre-service teachers' experiences in e-mail based discussion of various works of children's literature with grade six students. This study is designed as a case study that is bounded by the extent of the e-mail project. The participants are divided into two groups (pre- and inservice) teachers and grade six students. Nexus analysis was used to determine the sites of practice and consequently the research sites. Saved e-mail messages and interview transcripts provided record of the activity at the research sites (nexus). The primary source of data was the e-mail correspondence. Additional data was provided through interviews. Two methods of data analysis were employed: Conversation Analysis (e-mail) and thematic analysis (interviews). The focal participants began the e-mail project with the primary goal of using e-mail to discuss books with grade six students. Each participant developed goals which were idiosyncratic and based upon her or his beliefs about the nature of the goal. There were patterns across the personal goals of the individual focal participants. These patterns are clustered around two general axes of meaning: goals which focused directly upon the discussion of the books and its outcomes (book talk) and goals which focused upon the presentation, inclusion, and recognition of personal information by the participants (personal-talk). This study proposes a modified Conversation Analysis as a practical method for analyzing data collected from e-mail correspondence and other forms of computer-mediated communication. Second, it examines identity in discussion in a context which does not provide for the immediate embodiment of identity as does face-to-face discussion. Thus, the co-creation and maintenance of identity is not only related to or a "result" of discussion, but is a necessary part without which discussion cannot take place. This study also has implications for further understanding the relation between identity, goals, constraints and affordances, and the collaborative creation of social practices in the literacy classroom. Finally, this study offers recommendations for ways to implement this and other electronic discussion opportunities.