Entering the Virtual Teachers' Lounge: Social Connectedness among Professional Educators in Virtual Environments

Entering the Virtual Teachers' Lounge: Social Connectedness among Professional Educators in Virtual Environments

Randall Dunn (Liberty University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-826-0.ch010
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Abstract

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 offline 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.
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Background

The true nature of community promotes copious debate; or specifically, debate centers on whether community exists today as it once did, whether it will ever exist as it once did, and whether community has dynamically evolved and has therefore adopted a new meaning (Bauman, 2001; Putnam, 2000).

As the 1998 edition of the Dictionary of Sociology notes, “the concept of community concerns a particularly constituted set of social relationships based on something which the participants have in common — usually a common sense of identity” (Marshall, 1998). Identity is an important component of the formation of and participation in community. The perception of self, the subsequent behavior, and the juxtaposition of self with others all are vital concepts to understanding community (Bauman, 2003; Turkle, 1995). Community really can be considered a relationship between identity and the formed relationships with that identity.

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