Examining the experiences of teachers in online professional development: a teacher education twitter-based professional learning network
Nusbaum, Rebecca Mae
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Teacher Education Twitter-based Professional Learning Networks, commonly referred to as 'EdChats,' have increased rampantly in number and in reach over the past decade. Global, national, and local reforms tout EdChats as an effective learning platform and an innovative form of Professional Development, yet the EdChat trend is new enough that it has not developed research depth. EdChats provide a supplementary solution to traditional district-mandated auditorium Professional Development models. EdChat models often leverage social constructionist and constructivist learning paradigms in a highly accessible ubiquitous environment. Uniquely, EdChats seemingly highlight educators as self-directed learners who are seeking to curate their own learning trajectory to ultimately improve their practice. This qualitative study was framed from Garrison, Anderson and Archer's (2000) Community of Inquiry, as it sought to examine reported experiences through social presence, teacher presence, and cognitive presence. Intersection of these three areas provides relevant criteria for online learning analysis, and heavily aligns with educational experience at the crux of the model. This study served to examine reported overall learning experience of #MTEdChat participants through three guided research questions: learning experience, assumed learning roles, and how they learned from varied perspectives. The participants included 10 educators who met the following criteria: (1) being an in-service or pre-service K-12 educator: teacher, principal, coach, or school administrator, and (2) having participated in #MTEDCHAT one time or more. Participants were interviewed through secure video conference, their interviews were transcribed and analyzed, and emergent categories were developed. The data was analyzed using open codes and further analyzed through categories and emergent themes. Key findings revealed that learning experiences were comprised of three recursive buckets of learning, as described through: interpersonal, intrapersonal, and social capital. Participants revealed how these three primary areas helped to construct their reported learning experiences. Findings illustrate the value of learning reciprocally in a group, and how social capital can effectively facilitate learning. Also telling was the identifiable connection between a geographically boundless environment and the varied perspectives that it yields. Reported learning experiences provide relevance and prompt future use and recommended improvements.