Part 2…Professional Education Learning Communities…5 Easy Steps…50 Links…Goldmine of Resources

Welcome to a the second of this  two part post  dedicated toward facilitating the common core by developing professional learning communities for educators and students.  In Part One you learned… an introduction to definitions and process for developing your own learning community.  In this second post I  include five simple steps as you develop your learning community with close to 50 links bringing you hundreds of valuable resources.  Please take a moment to subscribe by email or RSS  to my 21centuryedtech Blog and also give me a follow on Twitter at mjgormans.  I have more great resource filled posts coming your way involving 21st century skills, PBL, STEM, Web 2.0, and educational transformation.  Enjoy this post!! – Mike Gorman (

Where do I start the journey toward developing learning communities for myself and students?

Many times teachers ask me, “What does it look like?” and “How do I make it happen. Well, the “What it looks like” was in the first post. Now it is time to explore close to fifty links and hundreds of resources. Together we can make your personal learning community really happen. Let’s begin with five steps!

Step 1: Start Gathering Resources… Explore Communities… Find Out What Is Out There!

I suggest one best way to start is becoming familiar with twitter. Why? Just the other day I wanted to find a connection with Project Based Learning and the Common Core. I knew I could Google, or even check a journal, but then I remembered how current Twitter can be. Within minutes I had five amazing resources. Best of all they were current, reliable, and rich in content. Through a click of a button I could share with my own community. Let me take a moment to explain what Twitter both is… and is not.

  • Twitter is not: about you, what you just ate, what you saw on TV last night, it is not Facebook, it is not what you will do tomorrow, in other words; it is not what you are doing at every moment of every day.
  • Twitter is: connecting with others, developing learning communities and networks, learning from each other, sharing with others, discovering resources and tools.

Those First Steps…  or… Tweets

  • Sign up at  (Remember the user name (handle) you pick will become what you are known by on Twitter. Give it some thought. Be sure to read and understand Terms of Service.
  •  Set up and edit your account and profile. Read more from this important Help Link.
  • Following and Followers. How do you do it all? Read more about this topic in this Help Link. Remember when searching using the “Discover Tab” and press “Who to Follow”… you can choose by Subject… Name… Handle.  You will also find people to follow at, and
  • Discover Hashtags, Searches, and Advanced Searches. First, make sure you examine this useful Help Link. Remember that you can search for any area of interest using the Main Top Menu Search Box. Also Hashtags (#) allow you to look for, follow, and interact with predetermined categories of topics. Some places to find educational Hashtags include; November LearningCybraryman Hashtag, and Edudemic.
  • Discover the real power of a Twitter Search.  By going advanced in your search you will discover a whole new world.  In fact it is part of a new post coming your way.
  •  Check out the Welcome to Twitter Facts.  You might especially want to become familiar with the Twitter Glossary. You may also wish to look over the Twitter Best Practices.

Other Twitter Thoughts

  • Twitter Search – Use this if you do not have an account. You can still do a lot of searching. I highlight it in my next post.
  • Check out the area on all the twitter extras including items for devices and Tweet DeckIt is worth checking this link.
  • Take the Twitter Tour. There are awesome tutorials that will help your Twitter knowledge. You just might like it so much that you will want to give it a tweet!

Step 2: Explore the Educational Blogosphere

In the past century educators relied on weekly and monthly newsletters, magazine articles and subscriptions, along with written documents. Blogs have opened up an entire new world for educators. They allow a wide variety of interests and topics and are available 24/7. Best of all they allow for interaction and the ability to self-publish for educators and students. When first exploring blogs keep in mind that few and simple maybe be best. I recommend finding no more then a dozen blogs that interest you. Here is a some blog ideas:

Search for a blog – It is very easy. Go to Google and enter the subject of interest and the word blog. I guarantee you will see countless possibilities. You can also discover the Google Search website called Google Blogs and search.

Blog Lists – These are listings of award winning Blogs on various topics. Two that I suggest are Top 50 Education Innovator and Top Forty Most Trusted Education Blog. You may also wish to look at this Wiki listing hundreds of education blogs around the world on almost any subject. Kathy Schrock who writes an awesome blog, also maintains a great list of educational blogs.

Some Blogs I follow – This is a small sample of Blogs that I follow. There are many more awesome ones that will fit your interests. Make sure to search and check out listings. Some of mine include; The DEN Blog21centuryedtechFree Technology For TeachersEducate To Innovate With STEMPogue’s Posts… The Latest TechnologyTech and Learning, and Teach 42 .

Google Reader – Using an RSS Feeder
What does a RSS reader/feeder do? Have trouble keeping up with the sites you visit? Read them in one place with Google Reader, where keeping up with your favorite websites is as easy as checking your email.
Stay up-to-date – Google Reader constantly checks your favorite news sites and blogs for new content.

  • Share with your friends – Use Google Reader’s built-in public page to easily share interesting items with your friends and family.
  • Use it anywhere, for free – Google Reader is totally free and works in most modern browsers, without any software to install.
  • Find great blogs – Google Reader allows you to search for blogs by subject. Once you find one… subscribe!

How do I start?

Step 3: Discover Professional On-line Learning Communities

Professional online communities are locations on the web that you can communicate and collaborate with educators that have the same interest. In these wonderful places you will discover additional groups, discussions, resources, tools, webinars, and best of all other educators that can become part of your learning community. It really is a place online that you can hang out, learn, and share on just about any subject you desire. I have listed a few below that I feel will provide people and resources that will help you in strategies essential to the common core… take a moment to check them out.

  • The DEN – This is a wonderful area provided by all the member of the Discovery Education Network. This free community provides numerous opportunities to discover new tools and resources while meeting and sharing with other energized DEN members.
  • BIE – The BUCK institute for Education provides this area for educators to learn and collaborate in the field of PBL (Project Based Learning).
  • Siemens STEM Academy – This community provides resources, outstanding webinars, connections, opportunities, and an engaging blog for those interested in STEM.
  • Assessment For Learning – A place where you can learn and share about assessment strategies that help students learn.
  • iEar – It is all about education and  iPads including  discussion and reviews by educators and students.
  • Flipped Learning Network – An exciting community created by and for those educators engaging students in the flipped learning experience.
  • Edutopia – The name says it best. Here you will find a wonderful community for those working together on what works… in education.
  • MSP2 – The Middle School Science and Math Pathways community is a great place to discover resources, people and tools that will engage students in science and math while integrating the common core.
  • Classroom 2.0 – You will discover a fantastic community engaged in exploring the educational world of Web 2.0 and classroom transformation and all it has to offer. You may need at least an afternoon!
  • Educational Networking – While you have already found at least one community… take a moment to check this wiki that lists hundreds of education communities. You may wish to schedule another afternoon!

Step 4: Connect Students to PLN’s

As educators establish learning communities and networks, students must also have that opportunity. With this in mind schools must provide such places in a safe and nurturing way. In this way students learn to effectively share and learn from one another. The 21st century skills that are emphasized in the common core come alive. All students can participate, not just those that are called on after raising their hand in class. As an introduction, I envision two different learning communities for students. I also remind you about this connection and the  common core.

“Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners …” and “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others …” – Common Core Overview Document

Classroom and School – These are communities that allow for classroom collaboration, learning, and sharing… 24 hours a day. These communities can allow for a video of a class lecture, an online discussion, a poll, and the sharing of collaborative document. I share two such communities below. My explanation is brief and I encourage you to click each link to learn more. Also, remember to always read the “Terms Of Use” when using any web service with students. You should be in direct correspondence with your school district AUP. If you are ever in question, check with your school administration. Both of these listed communities provide educator learning communities. In Edmodo you will find them in Communities and My Big Campus lists them as Topics.

Edmodo – One of the fastest growing classroom based communities. This site allows for class discussions, polls, resource sharing, lessons, and small group collaboration. This digital extension of your classroom is available to students 24/7 in an easy to use relatively closed environment.

My Big Campus – This product has many of the same features of Edmodo along with some additional capabilities that include bundling for curation and filtered discussions. There is both a freemium version and a complimentary version that comes with the Lightspeed Filter. The difference is the extent of filtering.

Global Communities – Students must also have the opportunities to explore past their classroom and communicate with diverse partners across the city, state, country, and globe. I have listed several free communities below that allow teachers to set up such experiences. Take a look at each and discover what might work for your classroom. Also remember to always read the “Terms Of Use” when using any web service with students. You should be in direct correspondence with your school district AUP. If you are ever in question, check with your school administration.

  • ePals – A wonderful place to find other teachers and explore projects that might fit your classroom needs. Note that while there are extensive free areas, ePals does have areas that do cost.
  • iEARN – A wonderful organization known as the International Education and Resource Network. It is the world’s largest non-profit global network enabling teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.
  • Taking It Global – This community has a mission to empower youth with an understanding that asks them to take a stand… and act on the world’s greatest challenges.

Step 5: Discover Virtual Learning Opportunities

At one time going to a conference would mean using some sort of transportation to visit a location so that you could learn, share, and collaborate. This is an awesome experience and I highly recommend it. What if you could have more than one of these experiences a year… at no cost and with no travel? In fact, what if you could do it in your own home? It is now possible, in part because of the wonders of the internet. Whether it is a 30 minute webinar, an entire day seminar, or a week-long conference… there are virtual opportunities for you. If you happen to miss the live airing, remember that most are archived for anytime viewing. The best way to find a virtual conference is to Google “virtual conference” with your subject of interest. Take a look a small selection of possibilities below.

  • DEN VirtCon – Discovery provides these periodically. They are always a outstanding experience and give learners great opportunities to learn and collaborate. This link provides one offered in Oct 2012.
  • Learning 2.0 Conference – While it has already passed by… check the link for some great archived resources.
  • iEARN Virtual Conference – A chance to learn more about global connections and opportunities for your students.
  • FETC Virtual – Usually provided as a pre or post virtual extension to a conference held in sunny Orlando in January.
  • Global Education Conference – This is an annual conference that is an engaging and unique multiple day event. Check out the next one or explore the archived past.

Hope you enjoyed this opportunity to define and reflect on learning communities. .  Also remember to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email and follow me on twitter at mjgormans. I have exciting resource filled posts coming your way. In fact, you might enjoy some neat secrets I have discovered for finding exactly what you want in Twitter and also a way to use Twitter with out an account.  Great for professional development!  I also appreciate your sharing of this post and any retweets. Keep up the amazing work and enjoy the wonderful world of 21st century learning and Learning Communities. It really doesn’t matter what you call them! Welcome to the Future! – Mike Gorman (


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6 responses to “Part 2…Professional Education Learning Communities…5 Easy Steps…50 Links…Goldmine of Resources

  1. It can all be overwhelming at first. If you can start with just one thing – like reading educational tweets – then momentum builds.

    You learn about people and discover their specialties. AND, you discover your own areas of expertise when you begin contributing ideas.

    Have fun!

  2. Toni Frantz

    Great post, Michael. I really like how you have broken this down and simplified it for educators. Not an easy task! And thanks for mentioning My Big Campus. I would love to chat more with you about a possible review. Please email me if you are interested!

  3. I love this blog. Great blog.

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