Connected Educators Project
The importance of online communities of practice for educators has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan. The plan emphasizes the critical role that these communities can potentially play in ensuring that professional educators are well connected to the content, resources, data, information, peers and expertise they need to be highly effective.
As a result of this emphasis, the U.S. Department of Education funded the Connected Educators Project. As one of seven project partners, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation led the research for the Connected Educators Project. In particular, the Connected Educators team members’ work focused on the utilization of evaluation tools and techniques designed to assess the development and impact of online communities. The team used site analytics and social networking analysis to gather quantitative information about how participants actually use these resources. Using a value creation framework, the team tried to determine the extent to which the community provided different forms of value to members.
Building on at least two decades of existing scholarship, this report summarizes three years of exploratory research conducted by the Connected Educators project and identifies how best to capitalize on online communities of practice, which the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan argued should be an integral component of the future of professional learning for educators (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).
Leveraging the potential of online communities to enhance and extend traditional professional development opportunities for educators requires an in-depth understanding of the value that members find through their participation.
Dr Sharon Booth Freeman