Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch

Committee Members

Trena M. Paulus, Schuyler W. Huck, Pamela S. Angelle, Blanche W. O'Bannon

Abstract

Professional development is an important aspect of all teachers' careers as a way to continually grow and enrich his/her craft. It is particularly important for K-12 American teachers because of the continual push to increase student achievement. With the introduction of social media networks, teachers are able to connect and learn from others outside their school building to those across the world. While we know Twitter and other social media sites have grown in popularity with educators, we still do not know what is happening within this online space and how it supports teachers. The purpose of this case study of #Edchat, a group of educators who meet weekly on the social media site Twitter, was to investigate informal professional development through the lens of best practices in professional development and communities of practice theory. Data included observations of the weekly chat, interviews with participants and documents from the #Edchat wiki. Findings of best practices and communities of practice included a focus on participants, extended duration, emphasis on content, sustained mutual relationships, rapid flow of information and sharing of resources. The discussion explores ways in which #Edchat stretches beyond communities of practice theory, including modes of connection and conversation, planning and preparation and personal learning networks. The research concludes with implications for re-examining the idea of professional learning in social media spaces.

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