Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Jay Pfaffman

Committee Members

Susan Groenke, Ed Counts, Gary Skolits

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the use of weblogs as discussion boards (WeBo) in a secondary English department. Five classes of students enrolled in English in the fall of 2006 and their three teachers were organized into four groups. Groups 1 and 2 were made up of two sections of advanced placement English, twelfth and eleventh grades. Group 3 consisted of two lower level sections of 11 Regular English, and Group 4 consisted of one section of tenth grade College Prep. All of the group–members’ assignments were posted on the WeBo by their teachers. Participation by all teachers and students was voluntary.

Using a qualitative methodology, the primary data were collected from students’ posts, which were then used to develop a survey for further data collection. These two data sources were used to guide the interview of a purposeful sample of participants. Once all data were collected, an analysis of the entire data-set was conducted.

Analysis revealed that students found the WeBo beneficial in expanding the boundaries of time and space associated with the traditional classroom by allowing them to access course material and communicate with their peers and teachers from home. Seventy % of participants indicated they used the WeBo for a number of course related activities: checking assignments, asking and answering questions, interacting, collaborating, reflecting, and venting about course work. This finding indicates the importance of teacher involvement in the use of WeBos in the classroom.

However, only a small percentage of all students (34%) voluntarily used the WeBo. In other words, 66% of the students did not receive the course-related benefits provided by the WeBo. This finding demonstrates the lack of equity created by the implementation of the WeBo. Barriers included the usual culprits: a lack of access and technical problems. But surprisingly, analysis of the data showed the main impediment to students’ adoption of the WeBo was their preference for using other means of communicating about course work with peers (cell phones, MySpace, instant messaging). This finding merits further research to explore how these means of communication can be utilized to enhance instruction.

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