Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Curriculum and Instruction
The purpose of this study was to analyze data related to rural teachers' use of online communities. Rural teachers are often isolated in their practice and sometimes have difficulty connecting with other teachers with their same assignments or needs due to their professional setting. As Internet availability increases and online communities proliferate, teachers have more opportunity than ever to seek personal and professional support in virtual relationships when face-to-face ones are not easily available. In small schools such as the ones included in this study, teachers can become burned out as they perform the difficult task of teaching with few colleagues in their department or grade level to turn to for support. One interview subject said that she and the only other person with the same teaching assignment don't always have time to communicate and often have to use their lunch period to do so. Another said that she feels very isolated because there are only three of them with the same grade level assignment. The most telling comment came from one high school teacher, "I am the foreign language department." In spite of these expressed feelings of isolation, this study's results do not support widespread use of online communities by these particular rural teachers to help fill their personal and professional needs. The only online communication technology widely used was email. At a minimum, every subject in this study had access to a high-speed Internet connection, functional technology, administrative support, and training. With this type of support already in place, further study is needed to discover what would increase awareness and use of online communities by this group of teachers. Additionally, similar studies in different rural school settings might show different results. Comparisons of study findings between rural schools in different geographic locations would be revealing. Such comparative studies could help inform administrators and online community developers who wish to better meet the needs of rural teachers.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.