Social media sites furnish an online space for a community of practice to create relationships and trust, collaboration and connections, and a personal learning environment. Social networking sites, both public and private, have common elements: member profiles, groups, discussions, and forums. A community of practice brings participants together to share a common interest, to learn from experts, and develop relationships. This dissertation study focused on Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE), a social network, and presents findings on how their participation affected personal learning, how their personal learning impacted their professional practice, and how participation resulted in new network connections and more collaborative work. The findings of this study included gains in personal learning by both male and female educators across experience levels and ages. Overall, males found a higher degree of personal learning than did females. Learning new technology skills and gaining new collaborations were ranked as the greatest personal learning experienced from males while females scored making new network connections and joining in collaborative projects as their greatest gain in personal learning. 54% agreed that participation added to their personal learning. Gains in personal learning laid the foundation for new collaborations. 78% of elementary teachers, 75% of middle schools educators, and 42% of high school educators found collaborative projects as a result of their participation. 63% of university instructors found new connections for collaborative project work. Adding the use of technology to instruction was rated as the highest new strategy gained from participation in the ADE community. The second highest rated new strategy used in instructional practice was using connections to experts. Other strategies added to instructional repertoires included using Web 2.0 tools and online collaboration with other classes and other countries. Several collaborative projects surfaced regularly, including Rock Our World, a music project spanning the globe, and an online global conference, The Global Education Collaborative. Conclusions drawn from this research show that social media provides a personal learning environment. Participants gain new knowledge and skills and as a result add to their professional practice innovative techniques. Study of other social media sites and personal learning is recommended.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational technology; Social media

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;