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Social Networking for Teachers

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Over at sister publication Teacher Magazine, Elizabeth Rich has a great article up about how teachers can use social-networking technologies to connect and interact with colleagues, and get new ideas for curricula and activities.

I wrote generally about social networking for teachers last year, in this story. But Elizabeth's story goes more in depth to the subject-specific implications—in this case, for English teachers. She profiles Laura Abercrombie, a Florida teacher who initially felt bewildered when she joined a social network looking for resources on how to teach Thoreau. But ultimately, Abercrombie came to embrace the online community and found the support far more extensive than what her brick-and-mortar school provided.

If you're a teacher using social networking for professional purposes, why not post a message and let us know how it's going?

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There are several hundred of us who participate in the Teacher Leaders Network of the Center for Teaching Quality. While I participate in a variety of networks on educational policy, and blog and read blogs that cover either education in particular or as one subject among others, I have found our sharing at TLN to be the most productive interchanges about education I have had online.

Like Ken Bernstein, I use the Teacher Leaders Network as a home base for social networking around educational issues. I also started a statewide Ning group for educators to discuss critical topics in Michigan, and lead a group of MI teachers pursuing the National Board's "Take One!" professional development program.

While most teachers are using social networking tools in the ways you describe-- to get instructional activities and practical strategies-- there is a growing group of teachers who want to talk about bigger, policy-related ideas. That's an important distinction, as discourse on these policy networks may support transformation of the way we perceive the role and professional power of teaching in America.

Technology makes it possible for every teacher to develop their own personal support network, tailoring the information and connections they need.

I am another member of TLN, and find it a stimulating, challenging and just plain fun way to grow as a teacher in ways I might never have done otherwise.

MiddleTalk, the listserve maintained by the National Middle School Association, is another very strong group, with a good mix of people who are internationally recognized and people who should be. :-) When I made the transition from high school to middle school teaching, this group (then known as MiddleWeb and based from the website of the same name) helped me first get my feet and then take off, never looking back.

One more TLN member here, but I'll let the prior comments cover that group. I also participate in a few Ning networks and manage one for a teacher network called Accomplished California Teachers.

I would also add that Twitter has been a useful tool for me. I don't use it to follow celebrities (well, maybe one or two), and I don't offer updates on what I'm having for lunch or what I thought of the last football game I watched. But by limiting my posts to educational topics and tips, and by following people with similar interests and habits, I've built up a useful professional network. I use Twitter to keep up to date on what other people are reading and writing, what issues they're dealing with, and what resources are working for them. When I have a question, I can post it and often get a useful answer.

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