Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Camilla Vasquez


collaborative apprenticeship, online ethnography, online professional development, second language teacher education, situated learning, technological pedagogical content knowledge


The emergence of online learning environments and advances in web-based technologies enable teachers to interact and exchange ideas and experiences in online communities. However, these rapid technological advances also cause such online communities to disband quickly, before they have the opportunity to evolve into a community of practice, in which a group of teachers build a shared history, a shared repertoire of resources and activities, and mutually engage in collaborative professional development, over time. Moreover, rapid advances in technology necessitate on-going collaboration among teachers so that they develop meaningful technology integration practice. While such collaborations have taken place in face-to-face settings, how this might be achieved through participation in an online teacher community of practice has been under-researched. Therefore, the present study examines one long-standing, globally-distributed, online community of practice created by English language teachers, called "Webheads in Action", whose shared domain of interest centers on exploring the pedagogical uses of web-based technologies in English language teaching.

The study employs netnography, or online ethnography, in which the researcher collects data through participant observation, interviews, and archiving, all of which is conducted completely online. The aim of this study was to understand the broader culture of learning, collaboration, and mentoring in this online language teacher community by exploring and analyzing its shared repertoire of resources, and activities; ways members engage in the collective development of this technology integration practice; and the role of participation in such an online community of practice on developing language teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge when designing instruction.

The data for this study comes from various sources of data collected through online participant observation in this community's activities over a year, reflective observational fieldnotes, online interviews, and archived data. Throughout my online fieldwork, I participated in this online community's activities both synchronously and asynchronously. At the same time, I took reflective observational fieldnotes of my participation and observations during these activities, as well as community's spaces and email communications. As for archival data, I archived the email communication that occurred during my time in the field, as well as screenshots of the community spaces and platforms. I conducted in-depth interviews with four key people in this community in order to better understand the organization and background of this community and its activities, and interviewed five individual members in order to learn about their stories with and as Webheads.

Through qualitative data analysis procedures, namely coding, categorizing and finding themes, the study provides a rich and thick description as well as an analysis of this community and its culture in the light of my experiences and observations, as well as the experiences of others. The study reveals insights as to the culture of teacher learning in an online community of practice and the mediation of technological pedagogical content knowledge in online communities of practice.

Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are also presented, as well as an in-depth discussion of how ethnographic fieldwork practices are adapted in netnography with online communities of practice.