Academic Book Review

The following paper is a review of the book Computer mediated communication: Issues and approaches in education written by Kelsey and Amant. The essential focus of the review has been put on the primary points of the book — namely, on the advantages and disadvantages of the computer mediated communication, on its usage in education and learning, and on its critical analysis provided by Kelsey and Amant. The review of the book also includes the analysis of other points of view of the authors of the book and represents both strong and weak sides of it, giving the exact and justified explanations. Furthermore, some of the examples provided by the authors of the book are analyzed in order to better understand the real use of the computer mediated communication in education. Finally, the paper comprises the evaluation of the book’s information effectiveness within the field of education, and seeks to affect the possible audience who this book may represent interest for.

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Academic Book Review

Currently, when the humankind has entered the information stage of life’s development, such expressions as ‘information society,’ ‘information culture,’ and ‘information technology’ have become usual concepts, those that are used frequently. Furthermore, they have already acquired the essential value, which indicates the movement of civilization toward the path of the most unpredictable and surprising progress. In this regard, education should not be excluded from the general information society — on the contrary, it should change according to modern time as much as possible, preparing a person for a life in the information society. This type of society means the one which widely uses all the latest achievements of information for the development of existing educational technologies and for the creation of new ones.

The frequently used term of computer mediated communication is a part of the created information environment that meets the needs of all sectors of society in regard to obtaining a wide range of educational services. In addition to this, computer mediated communication presupposes the formation of the mechanisms and the necessary conditions for the implementation of achievements of the information technology into everyday educational and scientific practice. These points are now a key task of education in its transition to the information society.

The implementation of the computer mediated communication into educational interaction during the training sessions represents an intended direction of enriching the cognitive component of a student’s personality. This is mainly done through the use of digital educational resources, such as electronic libraries, educational sites, portals, blogs, and online programs. All of these sources aim to make a great contribution to the development of external and internal motivation for ongoing educational activities. They are also used in order to increase the awareness of educational, personal, and developmental opportunities of non-formal computer mediated communication space. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to review the book connected to the computer mediated communication and education and to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

The contemporary society is characterized by completely new mechanisms of socialization and education of a person. Also, there is a constant search for a place that would allow people to use well-established and highly effective tools of education regardless of their social and financial determinants. Hence, it is possible to assume that there is the need to use modern, technologically advanced, and attractive forms of educational cooperation in the educational process, wherein the computer mediated communication is among most efficient and economical ones. The book Computer mediated communication: Issues and approaches in education by Kelsey and Amant is a great example of how the computer mediated communication has to be implemented into the educational systems and how it functions. Also, the authors of the book successfully determine the advantages and shortcomings of the innovative way of learning and teaching. The essential objectives of the book mainly aim to depict the essence, nature, and ways of application and outcomes of the computer mediated communication. To achieve this goal, the authors successfully combined the theoretical and practical parts of the computer mediated communication. Furthermore, when reading the book, it is easy to realize that computer mediated communication is a vast term which consists of numerous sub-terms and sub-points. Upon conditions of mutual cooperation, they all provide the users with magnificent results.

One of the essential points which functions as the basis of the book’s narration is the fact that the foundation of the computer mediated communication in education and learning is built on the community, while the resources themselves are of secondary importance. The authors claim that only personal knowledge of the network and computer mediated communication can support the learning community’s development. In turn, it supports the development of the computer mediated communication network through training of other participants. By stating this idea, the authors successfully engage into the mechanics of the computer mediated communication and the way it functions within the educational field. Kelsey and Amant state that there are different concepts within the computer mediated communication network, such as data — raw data, information — intelligently processed data, knowledge — information used, and meaning — awareness of the information.

Another significant concern the authors of the book address is connected to the essence of education through the prism of the computer mediated communication. Kelsey and Amant believe that education is represented as a process of transformation of knowledge into the meaning and effect through interaction of other people with the teacher. In the process of transformation of the network, the nodes are reorganized in order to form compounds, i.e. a training shell. This aspect is often referred to as connectionism. The value of this idea is great, because it denotes the fact that the practical implementation of ideas of connectionism functions as the introduction of online learning technology, based on the idea of mass collaboration, on the ideology of open educational resources, and on the conjunction of the network organization with interaction of the participants. Thus, Kelsey and Amant claim that the computer mediated communication training is based on the ideas of the so-called ‘horizontal’ learning activities and on mutual learning, where teaching and learning are performed by using ‘peer to peer’ model, as opposed to the traditional pedagogy and educational methodology.

One more impressive strength of the book under analysis is the way the authors divide the educational forms from the point of view of the computer mediated communication and its application in the educational field. Kelsey and Amant state that one of the essential forms of learning is individual training. According to the authors’ investigation, it is a model of the educational process in which the teacher interacts with only one learner, focusing on their personal features and creating psychological and pedagogical conditions for their development. This model assumes the existence of a mentor or a leader who builds a learning path for the student or a listener. When analyzing this approach, the authors successfully determine the fact that not all people possess the critical thinking and are able to filter the amount of information from the Internet, which makes the computer mediated communication network an essential component of learning in a rational way. The advantage of this training lies in the fact that it allows the teachers to tailor the content, methods, and pace of learning activities to the student’s abilities and circumstances. As a result, the student is able to control the time they need to achieve the highest learning outcomes.

Another learning form the authors emphasize is the so-called personal training. When analyzing the authors’ definition, it is possible to understand that it is the ratio of students in regard to their education, namely to their awareness of the necessity of learning a particular subject and receiving the preferred information. A significant advantage of the book is that it describes strong points of this study mode. According to Kelsey and Amant, the advantages are based on the independent management of students’ own learning, on self-setting of the educational goals, on constructing a personal training plan in order to learn only what a person does not know, on personal-online contact with a teacher, and finally, on an opportunity to study in a group with different levels of training during the study on a particular topic.

Kelsey and Amant note that training by using computer mediated communication technologies takes place in an open communication space through interactive lessons. It creates additional opportunities for the analysis of results of educational activity. Furthermore, the authors mention that the computer mediated communication creates a friendly environment and promotes free communication between all participants in the educational process because of the implementation of joint actions. As Kelsey and Amant determine, it is done in order to achieve the learning objectives. Simultaneously, the teacher helps the development of communicative and creative abilities and monitors the learning activities of students.

One more advantageous particularity of the book is that the authors provide the rationale for the use of virtual learning space. Hence, they state that computer mediated communication is a two-way learning process, conducted with the efficient use of electronic resources. On this basis, the intensification of training, the organization of personality-oriented education, and the adaptation to the independent cognitive activity by the trainee are considered to be the optimal elements.

The virtual learning space, through which the interaction of the participants of the educational process takes place, is stated to be multifunctional. The more trainees are immersed in the space, the more fully the possibilities of its functioning as a space for communication, education, self-education, and information are disclosed. Hence, the authors successfully determine another strength of their book, which is the nature of learning through the computer mediated communication. They claim that learning in a virtual learning environment is the interaction of participants of the educational process, which reflects all the characteristic components of the information and communication means — such as objectives, contents, methods, organizational forms, and means of the training. The effectiveness of the computer mediated communication model for education, as the authors of the book claim, is achieved through the combination of several conditions. They comprise the training in the learning environment, the training that is based on experience, and the multi-subject groups. The clear enumeration of these conditions is also a strong side of the book.

Providing an example of the computer mediated communication in education, the authors of Computer mediated communication: Issues and approaches in education support their claims with deep and firm proof. An example, which is provided in the book, is the open online course of the related disciplines in the form of video conferencing, where the strengthening of social ties between the members is emphasized by the leaders. Furthermore, the development of any project improves the external interdisciplinary communication. The result of active cooperation in the computer mediated communication is the creation of a new collective educational information resource.

Thus, the authors of the book believe that in order to create a virtual educational space or a multi-level educational program that provides an opportunity for lifelong learning located on the web, it is important to generate the prospects of people’s self-education. This claim is ambiguous and needs more profound analysis due to the fact that the training space is built on the specific traits of the person’s character, thus furthering the successful education system. In other words, it expresses the composition of teaching materials based on the reflection of real-life situations, aiming to develop professional competence. Each trainee, as a result of cooperation, creates their personal educational space which corresponds to their personal needs and their chosen learning strategies. The lack of analysis of this question by the authors of the book does not have an impact on the book’s content — however, it reduces the possibility to better understand the essence of the computer mediated communication.

One of the advantages of the book is based on the authors’ evaluation of the positive sides of using a wide network of the computer mediated communication. The authors claim that there are several positive sides which are described further in the paper. The first plus of the computer mediated communication is in the concepts of interactivity and continuity. It presupposes a high level of interaction between a teacher and a student, when a virtual connection with each other can be ensured by the continuity of the educational process. In addition, it provides the participants with the possibility of exchanging the experience and of ensuring cooperation in terms of their geographical and temporal dissociation in the educational process. The second positive feature of the computer mediated communication is its informality. By stating this fact, the authors mean that in addition to the formal interaction between the teacher and the student, their connection also exists in parallel, unofficial, or informal forms, thus allowing the teacher to get to know the student, their interests, personality, and their perception of the world, which is very important for the organization of student-centered educational process. The third advantage of the computer mediated communication, according to Computer mediated communication: Issues and approaches in education, is its openness, which resulted in the increasing numbers of social services offering access to a huge amount of open materials that can be used for educational purposes. Hence, the authors claim that the new social services radically simplify the process of publishing on the web and provide a high level of multimedia and visibility. Besides, they exist as a centralized storage of materials. Another positive trait of the computer mediated communication is its flexibility, which lies in the use of social services in order to contribute to the methodical and reflective procedures, such as explanations, understanding, design, reflection, and so on. This feature helps to combine the individual and group forms of work properly and successfully, which contributes to a greater degree of understanding and assimilation of the material. Finally, the authors state that it gives the possibility of collective evaluation of processes and results in order to monitor the development of each participant and to assess their contribution into collective work. Finally, Kelsey and Amant claim that the computer mediated communication leads to the development of critical thinking, since it improves the skills of the comprehensive evaluation and comparison of the information obtained, creating the immersion of the students into the environment where critical discussion is mandatory.

Oppositely, to the advantages of the computer mediated communication, the authors also denote its disadvantages. The first one is represented by technical problems, such as a lack of free Internet access in a number of schools and colleges or the access, which is limited in resources and has a low speed. The second shortcoming lies in the competency issues which envelop a significant part of the incompetence of teachers in the use of social networks in the pedagogical process. The third aspect is motivational problems. The authors state that the majority of teachers — even those who are specifically trained in the use of information technologies in education — do not use social media and computer mediated communication in their work. There are also substantive issues, such as the lack of orientation in content of the information posted on the websites in regard to educational needs. The good thing is that the authors link these disadvantages to the most essential aspect of the problem — to the methodological problems. There are practically no clear, tested practical techniques to ensure the effective use of new network technologies in the workplace of the teacher. As a consequence, there are a lot of organizational problems, mainly in the number of online communities, because the level of united education communities is still not high enough. Finally, the development problems occur: there is a lack of coordination of technical, programmatic, and pedagogical tools, as well as the lack of quick response in teaching methods in regard to the development of new information technologies.

The analysis of the issues in question is successfully conducted by the authors of the book. They claim that the actions of creating a social education networks and using computer mediated communication are currently recognized as a key initiative in the field of technology development and in the maintenance of general education. Also, the authors note that one of the essential characteristics of the network communities is that they are voluntary, non-directive, and provide the freedom of education, which reflects high internal motivation of the participants.

One of the essential points which are discussed in the book is the role and skills of a teacher in the computer mediated communication. According to the authors, the main task of the teacher is to support the collaborative professional activity — the creation of a unique atmosphere which helps to reveal personal traits of every person by formulating questions and activating the mental activity of community members. Similar approaches are found in the works of several other investigators of the computer mediated communication. For instance, similarly to Kelsey and Amant, AbuSeileek and Qatawneh believe that the organization of interactive communication through joint action in the form of the computer mediated communication is more focused and structured. The full functioning of a structured educational environment within the computer mediated communication contains the organized teaching materials on all topics of study, the stored practical works of students, additional information and didactic support. In accordance with Sherblom, Withers and Leonard state that education is to be organized in terms of interaction, cooperation, and combination of the various functions, all provided by the coordinator of the educational process. Also, a teacher should be chosen based on their teaching, or didactic, materials placed in the network, which allows to create information-subject environment in different directions to successfully individualize the learning process and to enable the flexible and efficient use of training time in order to organize new forms of individual and group work of students. Independent individual work is organized in the form of a dialog exchange of information with all stakeholders of the educational process — such as teachers and other learners and users of network activity. The organization’s components of such an interaction are determined by the mechanism the existence of which is necessary in order to create informational and educational environment, allowing the participants not to resort to the full-time form of study and providing them with the ability to organize the educational process.

Considering the aforementioned facts, the paper has conducted an analysis based on the book Computer mediated communication: Issues and approaches in education written by Kelsey and Amant. According to the authors, the essence of computer mediated communication is a special form of interaction between the teacher — or the tutor — and students, including synchronous and asynchronous, individual and joint group communication. The book under review is filled with numerous advantages and serves as a perfect guide for implementation of the computer mediated communication in the field of education. The authors provide numerous examples of how the work in computer mediated communication mode is to be organized, as well as what advantages and disadvantages it possesses. The book’s strong sides have also undergone the profound analysis of the process of education. The consequences and outcomes of the computer mediated communication usage in education have been critically rethought. The only drawback which is found in the book is the lack of evaluation of the lifelong learning in regard to the computer mediated communication. The arguments of the authors of the book are persuasive enough due to the fact that they are illustrated by the examples of the real courses and lessons conducted on the basis of the computer mediated communication. Hence, it is possible to claim that the book is very useful and can be interesting not only to teachers, but also to students and ordinary people who are willing to engage in the learning process in order to support their personal development.

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