Educator communities of practice on twitter

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Alabama Libraries

As Twitter became a popular platform for social networking, educators began to utilize the platform for professional networking. Educators began to utilize the hashtag #edchat to denote their ongoing and growing conversations on education subjects. Educational institutions began to require teachers to participate in the platform or granted continuing education credits for their participation. To determine if such sanction is merited, a qualitative exploration of the network of educators on the Twitter platform was performed. Three primary theories were used as a lens for exploration of the community. The first was social capital, where benefits are accrued by social interactions. Mark Granovetter’s strength of weak ties, where a community becomes linked by tangential relations of its members was the second lens for exploration. Finally, Etienne Wenger’s concept of the Community of Practice, where a body of collective knowledge and best practices emerge from a community gathered around a specific topic, was used to explore the network. Posts to Twitter containing the #edchat hashtag were collected and a survey instrument was disseminated with the #edchat hashtag. Collected posts and their linked content were coded according to their content. Demographic qualities of the participants in the #edchat community were addressed as well as questions arising from coding, such as the nature of retweeting and the role of commercial entities in the community. From these codes a set of distinct categories of #edchat Twitter posts were analyzed and discussed. The themes of these posts were determined and related to the literature. The survey instrument allowed exploration of motives and perceived impact of #edchat participation, and how these perceptions related to the themes of the collected posts. Participants in the #edchat conversations were found to be generating social capital and binding a community together through the weak ties of brief interactions. A Community of Practice was found to exist in the collected #edchat posts and survey respondents. Further research on methods to cultivate this community as platforms evolve, as well as the demonstrable effect on teaching and learning is recommended.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Educational technology