The US Department of Education has declared August to be Connected Educator Month. During this month more than 100 of the nation's leading education organizations, communities, and companies will explore the power of professional online communities to use networking to meet the needs of education professionals.
Events began on August 1 with three days of online keynotes and panels conducted by some of the foremost innovators in education engaging participants in learning-focused dialogue.
Online communities and learning networks already help hundreds of thousands of educators by providing "just in time" access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration, and by reducing isolation. Expanding participation will allow more people to realize the full benefits of this arena for professional learning and collaboration.
Connected Educator Month will continue with a variety of courses, online seminars, workshops and live chats aimed at broadening and deepening the participation of educators in online communities. The growth of these communities will be aided by the utilization of forums, guided tours, book clubs and contests. The goal is to foster a spirit of genuine community where education professionals work together to move their field forwards.
"Improvement requires connection," said Karen Cator, director of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (OET). "As we ramp up for the 2012-2013 school year, teachers and leaders along with education organizations and online communities have the opportunity to work toward a more connected and collaborative profession."
Connected Educator Month is part of the Office of Education Technology's Connected Educators initiative. This initiative is being coordinated by the American Institutes for Research for the Department of Education. The Consortium for School Networking, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, Forum One Communications, Grunwald Associates LCC, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and a wide range of grassroots networks are providing support.
Darren Cambridge, a senior consultant with American Institutes for Research, says that the difficulty for educators isn't a scarcity of online social learning opportunities, but that they have previously been disorganized and difficult to comprehend or to find relevant information. He said the Connected Educator Month is different from previous conferences due to its universal applicability:
"The policymakers and thought leaders that we have lined up will address everything from big-picture educational issues to those that directly impact the individual educator and everything in between," said Cambridge. "Our goal is to create a balance between long-term thinking and the stuff that's immediately practical and useful for participants."
Connected Educator Month can be followed on Twitter using the #ce12 hashtag.