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From Cloud to Classroom: Mathematics Teachersí Planning and Enactment of Resources Accessed within Virtual Spaces

by Sihua Hu, Kaitlin T. Torphy, Kim Evert & John L. Lane - 2020

Background/Context: Teachers face many different problems in teaching. Traditionally, research examines the complexity of teaching students and content by focusing on a teacherís physical space and influencing factors therein. While established conceptions of curricular enactment suggest that instructional materials shape both the intended and enacted curriculum, the materials themselves are traditionally conceived of as those that the district officially adopts (e.g., textbooks) or creates (e.g., curricular pacing guides). Yet, in 21st-century schools, a new era of information and technology presides. Facilitated by the cloud, teachersí professional learning and interactions meld with a global network of colleagues, extending to community of practices online and curating instructional resources therein. In particular, the use of social media to broaden and deepen teachersí access to instructional resources is a potentially transformative and yet disruptive phenomenon that has implications for classroom instruction. Narrowly focusing on districtsí official curriculum and its enactment by the teacher as an individual who is shaped by (but does not shape) her school landscape may not, in fact, fully reflect teacher professionalism today and account for teachersí professional life in the social continuum from cloud to class.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Situated in the conceptualization of managing problems in teaching and curating online resources as informal learning for the intended and enacted curriculum, this article builds on and extends these lines of research to examine teachersí leverage of social capitalósocial network among individuals and resources available to people within their social networkófrom the virtual space to solve the problems common to teaching. Through this empirical illustration of resource diffusion from cloud to class, and how the curation of resource is integrated with teachersí curriculum planning as well as classroom practices, we present a unique way of understanding teachersí management of teaching problems in 21st-century schooling.

Research Design: We collected various types of data from 67 early-career teachers in one Midwestern state, including interviews, observation, and survey. We drew primarily on the interview data to exemplify our conceptual model of curation to address the problems of teaching. The three curation processes we identified are: (1) self-directed curation, (2) incidental curation, and (3) socialized curation. We observed more empirical evidence on the self-directed curation process in our data and chose to select a single case to go into further detail about the enactment of online resource in the classroom using the observation data, in additional to the interview data. We analyzed the case by specifying the perceived problems of teaching in one teacherís preparation to teach and how the curated resources from Teachers Pay Teachers were adopted and adapted to manage each of the problems, and the teacherís rationale for the decisions she made during the planning. We noticed, in this case and in other data that we have across teachers, that teachers rarely, if ever, directly articulate the curation of online resource for preserving classroom order, among the four endemic problems identified in the literature. Last, we examined the enactment of the online resource by describing teachersí instructional practices in relation to her perceived ways of managing the problems of teaching. We also examined the resulting student learning in the mathematics lesson we analyzed. The single case of one teacher serves as an empirical illustration of how teachers could curate resources from the cloud in their planning and enactment of curriculum.

Conclusions/Recommendations: At the core of this study, we see teachers taking up their agency and drawing on a particular type of social capital resource to manage their enduring problems of teaching. We identified the different paths that teachersí social capital may travel and accrue, and we argue for the importance of the community of practice online in the facilitation of resource flow from the cloud to the classroom. Also, we used a mathematics teacherís planning and enactment of instructional resources attained from the cloud for a three-day lesson series as an example to demonstrate how perceptions of teaching problems and curations of materials can culminate in a teacherís actual practices and impact student learning in the classroom. Our work has several implications for the field. First, although the different problems in teaching are well documented, teachers tend to seek out social capital resources from the virtual spaces to address some, but not all, of their problems. Specifically, preserving classroom order has not been present in our analysis of teachersí articulation of their perceived problems for curation. Future studies can add more understanding to the online resources used in relation to teachersí modes of curation and the type of teaching problems they hope to address. Second, the process of accessing the instructional resources, as delineated in the three modes of curation, demonstrates the complexity of the social network and social capital accrual mechanism in the 21st century, through which teachersí professional communities expand beyond the school walls. Third, our work presents the considerations and thought processes of teachersí curation of instructional materials in virtual spaces and enactment of the tasks. The combination of social capital resources and classroom processes in this study provides the foundation for researchers with different perspectives to further investigate the emerging phenomenon of social media and education.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 6, 2020, p. 1-33
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23307, Date Accessed: 5/13/2021 5:48:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Sihua Hu
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    SIHUA HU is a postdoctoral fellow on the COHERE project at Northwestern University. Her research examines various dimensions of teaching quality and how teaching quality is related to mathematics teachersí social networks within physical and virtual spaces. Dr. Hu earned a PhD in mathematics education from Michigan State University and was a co-PI for an American Education Research Association conference on social media and education, convened in October 2018.
  • Kaitlin Torphy
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    KAITLIN T. TORPHY is the lead researcher and founder of the Teachers in Social Media project at Michigan State University. Dr. Torphy was a co-PI and presenter for an American Education Research Association conference on social media and education, convened in October 2018 at Michigan State University. She has published work on charter school impacts, curricular reform, and teachersí social networks, and she has presented work regarding teachersí engagement within social media at the national and international levels. Dr. Torphy earned a PhD in education policy and a specialization in the economics of education from Michigan State University in 2014 and is a Teach for America alumna and former Chicago Public Schools teacher.
  • Kim Evert
    Middle Tennessee State University
    E-mail Author
    KIM EVERT, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Womack Educational Leadership Department at Middle Tennessee State University. Her research examines how leadership, professional development, and school context shape teaching practice and teachersí perceptions of their work.
  • John Lane
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    JOHN L. LANE is an outreach specialist at Michigan State Universityís Office of K12 Outreach. His research focuses on multiple aspects of reform, including teacher learning, social contexts of teaching, school leadership, and policy. His recent research on teacher evaluation policy was published in the American Educational Research Journal. He has also recently published articles on teacher social networks in the Elementary School Journal and the Journal of Educational Change and on the enactment of virtual resources in Teachers College Record.
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