Analyzing Online Teacher Networks
Journal of Teacher Education
We argue that new frameworks, tools, and techniques are needed to understand and maximize the benefits of emerging online social networks of K-12 educators (and students). We base our argument on conceptual and methodological obstacles inherent in existing research approaches that severely limit theory building and empirical exploration of learning in online social networks. We present preliminary data exploring bridges-network members who belong to two or more groups-to illuminate both the
... r and limitations of current tools and techniques for studying online social networks. Using extant data from Tapped In, a large online network of K-12 education professionals, we show that bridges participate more than nonbridges in both synchronous and asynchronous communication modes. These preliminary findings raise a number of fundamental questions that, we argue, are beyond the capability of most education researchers and evaluators to address rigorously and cost-effectively. We then propose a research agenda designed to create and validate a new generation of research tools and techniques that enable more comprehensive and useful analysis of the massive amounts of heterogeneous data generated automatically by online teacher networks. Our long-range goals are to help researchers ask more incisive and convergent research questions and help school leaders and teachers support, learn, and collaborate with one another more effectively in cyber-enabled professional communities. We conclude with a discussion of the deeper questions these data raise and the challenges we must overcome to answer them.