Connect with Fellow Educators Online this Summer
Looking for ways to connect with fellow educators while school is out? Want to learn from and share with educators from across the country from the comfort of home? Join a virtual learning community (VLC)!
This spring, the National Education Association’s (NEA) Priority Schools Campaign launched three VLCs geared toward teachers and Education Support Professionals working in priority schools.
The three virtual learning communities address the issues of supporting students of poverty, technology in the classroom, and home-school connections.
“I have learned more about students in poverty from being a part of this virtual learning community than I did in a semester-long class about urban education,” said Karen Vogelsang, a second-grade teacher at Keystone Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee, and a virtual coach for the “Supporting Students in Poverty” VLC.
NEA partnered with the Center for Teaching Quality to train 41 accomplished teachers to serve as virtual coaches to their fellow educators PSC designated schools.
While it may seem overwhelming to add one more “to do” to the list, the benefits of VLCs make it worth the time.
“I think the online conversations will enrich an educator’s thinking and practice both generally and individually,” said Kathie Marshall, a retired teacher, literacy coach, and VLC participant serving as a mentor for the coaches. “Having those unseen friends at the other end of the computer is supportive, builds confidence, and exposes teachers to professional development gradually and meaningfully.”
A virtual learning community works in the following way: An educator signs up for an online community centered on an issue they want to explore with peers. The private platform is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for participants to respond to prompts and questions from the coaches, join webinars or share resources, and generate their own discussions.
“Sometimes a comment/share/reflection is only a few sentences and takes a couple of minutes. Other times, participants will want to probe their own thinking at length, so they figure out when they are able to dedicate enough time to do so,” explained Marshall. Ideally, participants login twice a week or more to keep a community robust.
Additional VLCs can be created on topics ranging from classroom management to family-school-community partnerships. However, 20 teachers are needed in each community for any particular themed VLC to be effective and generate meaningful discussion.
“During my first year of teaching in 1970, I ran around to anyone who would listen, asking, ‘what do you do?’” said Marshall. “How much more quickly I might have gained knowledge and confidence if I’d had a virtual community behind me.”
Signing up is fast and easy. Just click here to fill out the form and NEA will take care of the rest.