Mediating the flow of Professional Capital
The Potential of Technology for Rural Teachers Professional Learning in Scotland
Professional learning opportunities for teachers working in rural settings can be restricted by the time, distance and cost involved in accessing face to face events. The expansion of internet connectivity to rural areas provides new ways for rural teachers to engage with professional learning. In many areas of the world there is still a digital divide and internet connectivity is inconsistent, particularly between urban and rural areas. This study explored the experiences of rural teachers in the north and west of Scotland at a time when internet connectivity was being expanded in rural settings. Teachers shared their experiences of accessing professional learning opportunities. Interviews were thematically coded and emerging themes were analysed using the theoretical concepts of professional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012) and mediation (Vygotsky, 1987, Wertsch, 2007).
The findings highlight the potential of technology for professional learning in rural areas. Rural teachers can use internet connectivity to access professional learning sessions through video conference. They can engage in professional networks using online tools and contribute to the national discourse. The gains are exponential compared to their urban counterparts as technology can enable access to the professional community, previously constrained by geography. The gains are not automatic though. While technology can enable the flow of professional capital in rural areas, it also mediates it. Understanding the mediating role of technology and the experiences of rural teachers when engaging with it, are important consideration for both future research and those working to deliver or provide professional learning opportunities for teachers in rural schools.
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