Analyzing Online Teacher Networks: Cyber Networks Require Cyber Research Tools

Feb. 01, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 Number 1, January/February 2009. 86-100
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors argue that conceptual and methodological limitations in existing research approaches severely hamper theory building and empirical exploration of teacher learning and collaboration through cyber-enabled networks. They conclude that new frameworks, tools, and techniques are needed to understand and maximize the benefits of teacher networks.

The starting point for the current study investigating the characteristics and implications of bridges in online communities was Kavanaugh and colleagues’ study. This work replicates their conceptual and analytical approach in trying to understand the differences in participation levels between bridges and nonbridges in online communities.
The current study differs from Kavanaugh et al.’s (2005) work in that it uses actual participation data from the online system rather than self-reports of participation.
This initial study explored the following research questions:
1. How does online participation vary between bridges and nonbridges in synchronous and asynchronous communication mediums?
2. How does online participation vary between different order bridges in synchronous and asynchronous communication mediums?

The article presents preliminary data to illuminate both the power and limitations of current tools and techniques for studying cyber-enabled networks using data from a large, mature online network of K-12 educators. The findings raise fundamental questions that are beyond the capability of most education researchers and evaluators to address rigorously and cost-effectively. The authors propose a research agenda designed to create and validate a new generation of research tools and techniques. These research tools and techniques enable 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.

Kavanaugh, A. L., Reese, D. D., Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (2005). Weak ties in networked communities. The Information Society, 21(2), 119-131.

Updated: Mar. 25, 2009