Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Ontario Kindergarten Teachers' Social Media Discussions about Full Day Kindergarten/discussions, Sur Les Médias Sociaux| Des Enseignants Ontariens À la Maternelle À Propos De la Maternelle À Temps Plein

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Ontario Kindergarten Teachers' Social Media Discussions about Full Day Kindergarten/discussions, Sur Les Médias Sociaux| Des Enseignants Ontariens À la Maternelle À Propos De la Maternelle À Temps Plein

Article excerpt

Introduction

The government of Ontario recently established a comprehensive early learning system that includes a full-day kindergarten (FDK) program (Pascal, 2009). In September 2010, the first group of four- and five-year-old children in Ontario participated in the FDK format (Grieve, 2012b). Formerly, children attended kindergarten on alternating days or half-days in Ontario schools (Tozer, 2012). In addition to the switch to a full-day format, the new FDK curriculum introduced a play-based approach to learning and a teaching team involving a kindergarten teacher and an early childhood educator (ECE) working together in the classroom (Pascal, 2009). Kindergarten teachers have training in the broader elementary school curriculum and student assessment (Gibson & Pelletier, 2012). On the other hand, ECEs have training specifically in the physical, emotional, social, and creative development of young children. Additionally, previous to the FDK program, ECEs worked in settings other than school classrooms, such as childcare centres (Goulden, 2012; Pascal, 2009). To work in FDK classrooms, teachers must be registered with the Ontario College of Teachers and have a 3-year post-secondary degree in addition to a 1-year teaching certificate, whereas ECEs must be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators and have completed a 2-year college diploma in early childhood education (Gibson & Pelletier, 2012). The official FDK policy states that the teacher and ECE are equal partners in the kindergarten classroom (Gananathan, 2011). However, a number of challenges have risen when these partnerships are put in practice (Corter et ah, 2007; Ryan & Date, 2012). Concerns with cooperation, respect, conflict resolution, pedagogical differences, practical matters, sharing of space and resources, as well as communication problems between teachers and ECEs have all been reported (Ganananthan, 2011; Goulden, 2012). The change to a play-based curriculum adds to the challenges for educators in Ontario's FDKs (Tozer, 2012). Teachers and ECEs have described an inability to fully implement the play-based program, and they have described misconceptions about play-based teaching, such as that explicit instruction has no role in play-based learning (Tozer, 2012). Given the newness of the program, research examining the FDK program has just begun, and the present study intends to add to this growing area of study.

Alternative data sources for understanding teachers' perspectives

Gaining an understanding of teachers' perspectives can play a major role in the success of a new educational initiative. An alternative to traditional methods (i.e., interviews, focus groups) has been found in social media data (Wilkinson & Thelwall, 2011). Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in research examining social media discussions, such as online message boards, blogs, and news forums (Hadert & Rodham, 2008; Henrich & Holmes, 2011; Moorhead et ah, 2013; White & Dorman, 2001). Teachers have increasingly been participating in social media discussions to discuss their concerns regarding educational policies (Reichman & Atzi, 2012; Stitzlein & Quinn, 2012). Message boards have been described as an especially crucial outlet for teachers as they provide emotional support and a sense of community to this group of professionals who may not find it elsewhere due to time, scheduling, and geographical issues (Hur & Brush, 2009; Kidd, 2013; Nicolson & Bond, 2003). As an effect of perceived limitations on teachers' freedom of speech respecting educational policies, online discussions are viewed as enabling teachers to discuss their opinions with a wider range of teachers than those in their immediate environments; this benefit cannot be underestimated as teachers have described feeling isolated from other teachers who might share their views (Hur & Brush, 2009; Stitzlein & Quinn, 2012).

In addition to message board discussions, another avenue of social media discussions worth examining is online news article comments. …

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