Connecting Pre-Service Teachers with Professional Networks: Semester Long Use of Twitter in Teacher Education
Abstract: This mixed methods research presents findings from a semester long use of Twitter in a teacher education course where preservice teachers (N=75) used Twitter to connect with professional networks through Twitter chats, and to share their class activities, artifacts, and blogs in a socially-shared networked space. The purpose of the research was to examine preservice teachers’ perception of their semester long use of Twitter. The methodology consisted of a survey administered through Qualtrics and content analysis of student blogs. Data analysis involved analyzing the survey results and drawing thematic data from the blogs. Findings indicated that professional networking on Twitter extended learning beyond the walls of the classroom and facilitated informal, self-directed learning where students exchanged resources and ideas, gained valuable insights from professionals, connected with peers, and found a supportive network of peers and mentors while developing their emerging teacher identity and digital literacy skills. Preservice teachers’ professional identity emerged and evolved as they became more comfortable interacting professionally through words of welcome, encouragement, and feedback on Twitter. Implications are discussed in terms of leveraging social media to support preservice teacher preparation to pave the path of continued success and continual professional support through virtual professional networks.