At TPN, we’re really excited about how virtual communities are transforming teacher professional learning and collaboration. Way too many teachers are isolated by remote locations and uncommon subject areas. Many have few, if any, opportunities for peer-driven learning and compelling collaborations. Lately, virtual communities have been driving unprecedented access to peers, experts, resources and leadership development.
At this year’s ACTE CareerTech VISION, CFTL director Tracy Huebner sat down with our friends at ISTE, NCSS and ACTE to learn about how they’re using virtual communities to create amazing opportunities for the teachers they serve to learn and collaborate on improving the teaching profession.
Previously we talked about what spurred ISTE, NCSS and ACTE to build virtual communities. But it’s not enough to build something great. Sustaining interest and participation is a challenge for any community and especially difficult for virtual ones.
VALUE TEACHERS AS EXPERTS AND INSPIRE THEM TO CONTRIBUTE
“It’s a challenge because there are so many distractions. It’s easy to not look at virtual communities.”[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#37557C” class=”” size=”12″]
Project ReimaginED is a community of 800 K-12 teachers and coaches working with peers and experts to redesign instruction for Common Core that incorporates the technology skills of the ISTE Standards, the leading standards for technology education.
– Sarah Stoeckl, Senior Project Manager, ISTE.
Making the Ask
Sarah and ISTE motivate their community in the usual ways: a steady stream of quality resources and content, social media promotion, email blasts, but what really energized their users was getting them more involved. Reaching out to individual teachers to lead peer learning and write blogs, while a heavier lift, led to greater all-around engagement. An opportunity to connect and collaborate with peers is what makes virtual learning communities so valuable to educators, after all.
HELPING NEW TEACHERS GET INVOLVED
NCSS’ virtual community started with a dedicated group of Glendora, CA teachers working across districts to transform social studies, replacing dry lectures with engaging investigations.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#37557c” class=”” size=”12″]
NCSS maintains a virtual network of teacher experts, whose grassroots efforts are leading to new inquiry-based, literacy-rich curricula aligned with both NCSS’ College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies Standards and Common Core.
“A challenge to creating and sustaining virtual learning communities is that not all teachers are like those in Glendora.”
– Tina Heafner, Professor of Social Studies Education, UNC Charlotte
To help new members dig into the online communities, NCSS has advisors reach out, get to know them, and introduce them around to peers and communities of interest. That way new members can benefit from peer collaboration right away.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT TEACHERS WANT AND NEED
One of the biggest hurdles is that unless teachers engage soon after joining, they tend to drift away. ACTE’s focus is helping new teachers find their peers quickly so they can dive into discussions and benefit from peer learning quickly.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#37557C” class=”” size=”12″] The CORE Community connects ACTE’s career and technology education (CTE) peers with one another to collaborate on integrating Common Core into unique classrooms. [/pullquote]
ACTE is still working though the best approach but they’re committed to engaging directly with the community to gather as much insight and feedback on what teachers want and need from the CORE Community.
Beyond the importance of empowering teachers to engage with, shape and lead their communities, we’re excited to share more insights and lessons learned from ISTE, NCSS and ACTE next week in our final installment.
Co-authors Pamela Fong, education researcher, and Clay Willis, communications specialist for the Center for the Future of Teaching & Learning at WestEd, report on innovative approaches involving digital technology to improving teaching and learning.