Electronic community: The role of an electronic network in the development of a community of teachers engaged in curriculum development and implementation
Thomas Michael Keating, Stanford University, United States
Stanford University . Awarded
The goal of this study was to describe the development of an electronic community of teachers who had the common experience of working on a Human Biology Curriculum Project through Stanford University. It was hypothesized that the interdisciplinary teams of teachers distributed across the United States would find a telecommunication network an ideal vehicle for extending their curricular collaborations they had begun in a series of summer institutes at Stanford. It was antlclpated that teachers would use the network to keep in touch with each other, share their common experiences piloting the HumBio Curriculum materials, provide feedback to the faculty and staff writing teams, and explore the possibilities of enacting cross site projects based on the curriculum project. From these interactions over the network it was hypothesized that a viable electronic community of schools could emerge.
Establishment of a thriving electronic educational community is not an easy task. An analysis of three years of network interactions representing approximately 3125 email messages exchanged between HumBio test sites, HumBio Staff, the Network Coordinator and an additional three schools added in the third year, did not support the hypothesis that an electronic community would emerge and prosper. Participation in the electronic network was largely sporadic. However, a core group of schools was able to engage in meaningful, long term, cross-site projects, and student exchanges. By studying the active schools' message exchanges through time, insights were gained as to which ingredients are necessary to nurture an electronic network through the early stages of community development. A life history approach was found to be useful when considering the developmental stages of electronic networks. A key finding is that teachers choose to participate in electronic collaborations that will have a direct impact on what students are doing in the classroom.
The first phase in the development of this network was characterized by greetings and requests for technical assistance, the second phase focused on curricular concerns, and the third phase led to a greater degree of full and open communication.
Community is ephemeral by nature. Perhaps a more accurate depiction of the interactions that take place over an email system is that of a social network from which community characteristics emerge at different times and in different ways. This was certainly the case in the development of this "electronic community."
Keating, T.M. Electronic community: The role of an electronic network in the development of a community of teachers engaged in curriculum development and implementation. Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University.
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