WhatsApp: Creating a virtual teacher community for supporting and monitoring after a professional development programme
The introduction and use of online social media networks in education has provided a variety of unique methodologies in support of teaching, learning, and knowledge gathering. The presence of these networks has created opportunities to hear the voice of the teacher. This study explores how teachers and officials from a rural district in South Africa used the WhatsApp platform as a virtual community of practice to aid in monitoring and support after attending a professional development programme. The data used in this study was collected from the WhatsApp conversations held amongst teachers and officials. This data was analysed within the conceptual framework of social learning and social networking. The findings derived from this study show that the effective use of an online social media network to support a virtual community of practice is dependent on the participants’ awareness of the context within which the community exists and the willingness of the participants to accept differing views and opinions.
Keywords: community of practice; Millennium Development Goals; social learning; social media; social networking; teacher professional development; virtual community of practice; WhatsApp