CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1994

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)

Department

Center for Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

John Kingsburry

Committee Member

Gerorge K. Fornshell

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Abstract

Teachers of secondary school physics are often physically isolated from their peers; that is, they do not have as much contact with their physics colleagues as they desire. One reason for this physical isolation is the relatively small population of students enrolled in high school physics courses resulting in small numbers of physics teachers per school. Another is that many physics teachers are teaching physics only part time.

One method of communication among teachers has the potential to improve professional communication among physics teachers. This is the computer operated electronic bulletin board system (BBS). Bulletin board systems and variants have been studied for more than ten years. At least one is being operated primarily for physics teachers.

This study was designed to determine the effectiveness of a BBS as a means of professional communication among physics teachers. Effectiveness was determined by surveying physics teachers in three categories: (1) those who are using a BBS to communicate, (2) those who are members of a physics teachers association, and (3) those who have neither of these formal means of communication available to them. School data (population, graduation requirements, number of physics classes and teachers, etc.) and personal data (years teaching physics, teaching assignment, certification, professional affiliations, etc.) were gathered from all three groups. The experimental group using the BBS was asked to supply additional information about the use of the BBS itself.

Data were gathered using a questionnaire. The BBS users were compared to the other groups to determine whether they are representative of the physics teacher population and whether their desires for additional professional communication are similar to that of the physics teacher population. Survey responses by BBS users about the BBS itself were then used to determine the effectiveness of the BBS as a means of professional communication. Statistically significant differences among the three groups were found and are discussed. Comparisons were also made between the three groups and the population of physics teachers in the United States as presented in an American Institute of Physics report. Of greatest importance, differences exist among the three groups when tested for professional contact with physics colleagues. No differences were found among the three groups when desire for additional professional contact was tested. Survey results for the group of BBS users showed that they were experienced computer users who expressed no unusual difficulties with the mechanics of connecting to the BBS. Many did express difficulties with the BBS as a means of professional communication.

Two important problems discussed are difficulty in using all system options and the small number of active participants using the BBS. BBS users expressed confidence in the system's potential as a professional communications system, but were less enthusiastic about it had served their needs. Overall, the problems experienced by BBS users were not offset sufficiently by the benefits to make the system as effective a means of professional communication as it could be. The potential of the electronic bulletin board system as a means of communication among physics teachers did not live up to its perceived potential for the group of users studied.

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