I have really been thinking a lot about how to create an online community for all of the teachers in my school district who are as passionate about technology integration, reflection and collaboration as I am. The way that it stands, I feel so isolated in my quest for new and more effective ways of teaching. I know this is not the case, that there are probably hundreds of teachers who feel the same way, but that isn’t really much comfort when I don’t know who they are and I have no way of contacting them. I almost feel like I need to send out a classified ad: Young passionate teacher seeks the same in order to learn and collaborate about technology and pedagogy.
I can’t think of a better way to ask for a community than to create one and hope that other people join up. I have already run this idea by a few, more experienced, Edubloggers, Bud Hunt and Karl Fisch. They have both responded pretty well to the idea and are willing to help me get it off of the ground.
After my initial e-mails to my administration and these two great teachers/resources, I thought that there would be no way of stopping such a mammoth idea. My principal loved it, and the feeder area coordinator thought it would work well with some of our other goals. But last night, I received an e-mail from the Web Services manager of my district. In it he said that I should consider using two semi-crippled technologies (Firstclass and SchoolCenter) that teachers in my district are already fairly comfortable with (and the district has already paid for). I say that these are crippled technologies because they have real holes in their capabilities. They just can’t do everything that I want to do with this community.
Even with this minor setback, I have decided that I will not compromise (at least initially) my vision of the “Perfect Online Professional Development Community.” I would like to see just how collaborative, easy to use, scalable, social, and reflective I can make this experience for other teachers. So, without any further explanation, I would like to unveil what I think are the essential pieces of a new generation professional learning community.
A central portal will give you access to the following (I am thinking about using protopage):
- A master blog that would guide discussion.
- Recent Blog Articles (a la SuprGlu)
- Archived Blog Articles (in a newsletter type format)
- A Google Earth Mash-Up of all of the school represented in the community
- Bios of the teacher bloggers (if they wish to include them) done in a social way so that collaboration is easier (an Elgg.org-type personal page)
- A calendar for event planning (Skypecasts, Classroom Demonstration Webcasts, Classroom Picture Flickr Stream)
The other aspects of the community that will not be directly shown on the portal’s front page except for simply linking to them:
- A Q+A section for both teaching questions and technical help questions (Ning.com has a great set-up for something like this).
- A Digg-Style Article/Website recommender.
- A Wiki for success stories of technology integration or improved practice (a little like David Warlick‘s Telling the New Story Wiki)
- Walk-Throughs (screencasts) for how to create blogs, collaborate, etc.
- A way of dealing with comments both attached to and unattached to their original posts. (co.mments.com has a pretty great strategy)
- A professional development bookshelf (akin to either this one or this one)
- A way of signing up for an e-mail RSS system for new posts (most teachers check their e-mail religiously)
- A belief statements wiki about technology or teaching in general for certain collaborating members or individuals (this could be a running list of belief statements and/or a running list of questions that these belief statements beg to be answered. I also like the idea of using standpoint.com somehow).
- A system for sharing lesson plans and ideas (both formatted and unformatted) including a collaborative document center.
- A cross-school project starter (partnering up similar teaching styles)
Questions I still have about how to get this done:
- How do we get as many different positions represented in this community (principals, core teachers, librarians, elective teachers, etc.)
- Should we try to protect anonymity on the blogs?
- Just how much do most people know about these technologies? Will it be like starting from scratch for most people? And if so, should I send out a formal (or informal) survey about these ideas (What have you done in your classrooms with technology? Do you like to create you own lessons? How much do you enjoy reflection? Do you want feedback on your classroom ideas from other teachers? How worried are you that this is going to take too much of your free time? How many of you already blog?)?
Well, that is pretty much it. I would like to make this project as appealing and voluntary as possible, so that everyone who is in the community has a lot of buy-in. Let me know what you think of this grand scheme. What is possible and what is not possible?