The 2010 National Education Technology Plan demonstrates the importance of educators becoming more connected to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools. Participation in online communities of practice is a key way educators connect. Robust online participation contributes both to individual excellence and to the vitality of the profession as a whole. The Connected Online Communities of Practice project will steward a scalable, sustainable ecology of online communities in education to improve teacher and leader effectiveness, enhance student learning and increase productivity.

In collaboration with a wide range of educational organizations, the Connected Online Communities of Practice project is increasing the quality, accessibility, and connectedness of existing and emerging online communities of practice through four types of activities:

  • Launching and leading new online communities of practice that address pressing needs in education and help us learn more about how such communities work best
  • Conducting design experiments within “testbeds,” online communities of practice run by collaborating organizations in which project staff will develop, facilitate, and evaluate selected content and activities that help address pressing questions
  • Undertaking case studies of both interesting communities of practice and of individual educational professionals’ use of online communities and other forms of social media to connect
  • Developing ideas about new designs and infrastructure that could better support educators in making productive connections

What the project learns from all of these activities will be reflected in a report on online communities of practice in education. A draft version of the report is now available, and revised versions will be published in October 2011 and October 2012.

The U. S. Department of Education has contracted with the American Institutes for Research and five other  organizations to complete the work. The project team is composed of staff from the seven partners and is guided by a primary technical working group composed of internationally renowned experts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U. S. Department of Education.