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Connecting with other professionals

More than two decades of teacher research demonstrate the importance of collaboration among teachers. When teachers make their work public and examine each others' work, the quality of their practice and student outcomes improve (Lieberman & Pointer Mace, 2010). Social networking technology provides a platform for making teachers' work public, with opportunities for both local and global communities of practice.

Communities of practice provide a strong mechanism for promoting ongoing growth from novice pre-service educators through expert master educators and offer opportunities for the engagement of a broad range of participants from outside formal education (Wenger, 2009). Successful learning circles also can bring together educators and students to deepen learning (Riel, 1992). PBS TeacherLine is an example of an online system that engages teachers in collaboration and builds professional community.

PBS TeacherLine, long a provider of online courses for teachers, is now focusing on making online courses more interactive to help educators build their own communities of practice. Online courses of 15 or 30 hours are designed as interactive environments in which an expert facilitator communicates best-practice approaches and helps educators share ideas. Educators in a course share resources by creating digital portfolios and participating in facilitated discussions.

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