Like our students, many teachers are embarking on new learning adventures at the end of the summer. Actually, many of us have been in learning mode all summer long. I have taken time this summer to explore the rich discussions with other teachers on many of the growing social networks for teachers around the Web.

One of the most productive and useful learning spots is English Companion Ning created by California English teacher Jim Burke. Right now at ECN we are in the first week of a book club discussion with author Troy Hicks on The Digital Writing Workshop. There have also been book clubs with Carol Jago and Penny Kittle. All of these authors are also classroom teachers who, like ECN founder Burke, take the time to share their expertise and draw others into mutually productive exchanges.

Speaking of great exchanges, I have become a huge fan of the teacher chats on Twitter—especially since I’ve learned to use the desktop application TweetDeck that lets me follow those conversations more easily. These chats can be located and joined by searching or messaging with the appropriate Twitter hashtag for the discussion (e.g., #engchat, #mathchat, #sschat, #ellchat, #gtchat, #edchat…).  Most of these are weekly discussions with a topic chosen by online poll. They are fast-moving, info-dense session. Thankfully, most of them are also archived. I’ll be hosting next week’s #engchat on Mon. 6 – 7 CDT. Bunch of English teachers talking about teaching grammar…I get excited just thinking about it!

I’ve also enjoyed several of the Elluminate (online conferencing site) conversations sponsored every week by Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 and LearnCentral. Teachers and educational thought leaders from around the world check-in for open conversation followed by lively Q & A. I caught the ones with Linda Darling-Hammond and Sam Chaltain.

Over at Teachers Letters to Obama, we just held an amazing teacher roundtable webinar examining the effects of school turnaround policies led by teachers who have been through them. Some penetrating analysis and important calls to action for teachers and parents.

My TLN colleague Bill Ferriter, hosted a VoiceThread discussion of his new book, Teaching the I-Generation and it spawned some deep thinking about what is or should be changing in our schools and classrooms (like maybe the physical and mental walls).

This has also been an intense summer of writing for me as I have worked virtually with several editors and collaborators on multiple pieces about education that will be published in various venues over the next 3 – 6 months. One of the most exciting is the Teaching 2030 book project coming out in January through Teachers College Press.  More important, I’ve heard from many other teachers who are doing the same.

Come October, I’ll be gearing up (and you should too) for the K12Online Conference, an international virtual conference sponsored by teachers for teachers on integrating technology into our teaching.

What excites me about all of this is how teachers are taking charge of our own professional development through social networking, rather than just waiting on whatever offerings are forced upon us by our schools/districts that may or may not meet the student needs we are facing in the classroom.

I know there is even more teacher learning going on throughout the virtual world. Share some that have helped you with us here. Should professional learning such as the kinds I’ve mentioned here be counted as professional development for teacher certification renewal? Is it any more or less valuable than the workshop sessions we sit through in our buildings or at face-to-face meetings?

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