Entering the Virtual Teachers' Lounge: Social Connectedness Among Professional Educators in Virtual Environments
Document Type Book
This is a chapter in an upcoming book: "Educational Social Software for Context-Aware Learning: Collaborative Methods and Human Interaction" set to be available in early 2010.
As communication and connection are essential instruments for professional educators, this chapter seeks to examine the effectiveness of an online “virtual teacher’s lounge” in the framework of off-line communities. Essentially, an online discussion forum for educators is evaluated for the purpose of determining whether the forum provides a “space” conducive for the development of a community of professional educators as benchmarked against an understanding of offline community formation and existence. The foundational works of Ferdinand Tonnies, James Coleman, and Ray Oldenburg are used to develop 12 characteristics of community — as understood in the context of social communities. The study finds that online communities closely resemble offline communities in structure and interaction, but only for select participants. The participants observed demonstrating or facilitating the characteristics of community comprise around 10% of the total number of users participating in the analyzed discussions.