How do you build community for educators spread across the big state of Texas? and do that with a technology staff of 2. The answer is of course web 2.0 apps that take care of the infrastructure maintenance and offer a simple way to support users. Unfortunately for us, it also means tying together multiple technologies which each have their own log in system. But at least many have that wonderful link "Forgot your password" to take care of that support issue.
The Ning infrastructure offered many of the tools we needed in one infrastructure, and our NING network for STEM educators will undoubtedly become the center of our community building effort. To tie our NING, Webinar tools, Wikis, and Second Life conference center all together. I chose to fake an integrated system by creating a home page that can introduce our community members to all the tools that we have and will standardize on. To help with initial support issues, I am authoring a Wiki guide page to get people started. You can see an example guide page that we use for our webinars at: TRC Webinar Meetings. Part of the trickery to make all these desperate tools seem integrated is an umbrella name (and home page) We decided to call the system the TRC Online Learning Community and refer to it as the TOLC.

Our statewide STEM educator professional development system reaches as many as 15,000 educators per year with face to face professional development. Much of this training takes place at one of the over 60 regional collaboratives housed at universities and education service centers. How do we get educator involvement in the online community? We are asking all of our professional development trainers to announce that the TOLC Ning network will be used to provide ongoing mentoring and support for sharing successes and effective practice for the workshop participants. After each training, the presenter sends me the emails that are used to send the invitation to the Ning network. In many cases an online assignment will be given go encourage mastery of the Ning discussion tools and to get the "sharing" process started. Hopefully, some of our content experts will opt to moderator a special interest group.

Because for now we want to restrict participation to our Texas "clients," we set the privacy of the Ning to invitees only, but tell all members they are encouraged to invite STEM educator colleagues. So you have to know somebody who knows somebody to get in! Seems to be working so far in a viral fashion.

I'll drill down into some of the tools we are using in future posts. Comments are welcome!

Views: 34

Tags: Stem, TRC, community, ning

Comment by Elise Mueller on February 14, 2009 at 9:29am
Hello Keith,
I am very interested in the work you are doing in Texas. It seems to relate closely to the North Cascades Olympic Science Partnership work that George Nelson is orchestrating out of Western Washington University. Connecting teachers through a statewide Ning is terrific. I don't know anyone who knows anyone in your neck of the woods but would be so appreciative if you could send an invitation my way so I could take a look.

Regarding my interest; I teach Literacy and Social Studies to 5th graders. My school has a "Collaborative Specialist" model in place. I work with two other colleagues, one who teaches Math to the same groups of 5th graders and another who teaches Science. Since I am the geekiest (is that a word?) of the three I tend to gather resources for the team. Looking forward to reading more about your STEM adventures!
Comment by Keith Mitchell on February 14, 2009 at 10:41am
Elise, I am pretty new a Ning, how do I send you an invite if I don't know your email?
Comment by Elise Mueller on February 14, 2009 at 10:53am
Hi Keith,
I had to walk myself through it by inviting you to our school Ning. Go to Invite> scroll down to Invite Friends > check the box next to my name and add a message if you like > click on Send Invitations. It will send an invitation to me!
Comment by Blanca on March 8, 2009 at 11:46am
Hi Keith,
I too am a STEM coordinator in NYS, but for one of the local universities that provides services for students in Grades 7-12. The state is putting together a website to collect resources so for a statewide initiative I certainly would love to share what you are doing in TX. From a provider standpoint, I've started a NING site with my students locally to provide them an avenue to share their experiences and document what they've been learning. In addition, there is a School Leadership network started adhoc as a way to introduce administrators to NING as tool to share resources, engage conversation and share best practices. While we are still in the early stages of development, we have over 900 educators, mostly administrators from higher ed and K-12 schools. In addition, our business officials the state has begun to use DRUPAL to discuss the important issues that affect them all. That network has just begun this Winter.
If you could send me an invite I'd love to see how you are developing your network - perhaps some synergies can be had.

I took a quick peek at the front page of your site and it's very well organized and explained. Exciting!

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