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You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. Friends and colleagues have raved about the professional development opportunities it provides through ongoing events, groups, and chats. But you still haven’t visited yourself. What are you waiting for? Give Tapped In a chance!

WHAT IS TAPPED IN?

Tapped In is an online community of teachers helping teachers. It's primary goal is to provide K-12 teachers with Web-based opportunities for professional development.

According to the Center for Technology and Learning (CTL), which manages the site, "Since the virtual doors of Tapped In opened in 1997, it has become the online home to a community of over 20,000 K-12 teachers, librarians, teacher education faculty, professional development staff, researchers, and other education professionals."

Things to Do at Tapped In

The following are just a few of the activities you might participate in at Tapped In:
* a meteorologist speaking about online weather resources.
* primary teachers sharing K-3 resources.
* a forum for religious educators.
* a discussion on mentoring.
* a National Board Certification support group meeting.
* a forum on using technology in SPED classrooms.
* a school counselor sharing counseling strategies and resources.
* a Pepperdine open house.
* a group meeting for new and preservice teachers.
* a meeting for teachers interested in blogging.

(Check out Tapped In's current calendar for the current month's events, dates, and times.

Are you one of those 20,000? You should be!

WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT TAPPED IN?

Dr. Judith Fusco, a research scientist at CTL explains why Tapped In is so special. "Over the years," Fusco explains, "many members have told me how Tapped In gives them a safe, supportive environment that allows them to explore, learn, grow, and make friends. One person shared with me that Tapped In allowed her to reinvent herself as an educator. That's an amazing statement and quite an honor for Tapped In." Fusco, who specializes in researching and developing online communities, technologies, and resources, is Tapped In's community director -- and leading light.

An online community can bring together people from anywhere in the world -- and any educator can find a "home" at Tapped In, where teachers from every discipline and grade level have the opportunity to interact.

Mark Schlager,Tapped In's director, explains, "Through Tapped In, educators can attend activities hosted by education organizations, conduct their own activities, take online courses, bring students online, experiment with new ways to teach, or expand their circle of colleagues by participating in community-wide events. Teacher professional development projects, university teacher education programs, and school districts become part of the community through "tenant" partnerships. Tapped In staff and volunteers from the community help orient new users, form interest groups, and plan and conduct online activities."

WHAT DO TAPPED IN MEMBERS SAY?

BJ Berquist, an associate educator and one of Tapped In's most active teacher members, emphasizes that Tapped In's greatest resource is its members. "Members present the After School Online (ASO) sessions; members join the special interest groups; members participate in the ASO discussions; and members help plan, organize, and evaluate special events (such as the recent Hurricane Central Mini-Expo and past Festivals). This is collaboration at its finest and a wonderful opportunity for life-long learners to share best practices in education."

"The Tapped In community," Berquist adds, "provides the opportunity to 'think outside the box' and get the perspectives of educators from around the world and from a wide variety of disciplines."

Michael Hutchison is one of Tapped In's longest-serving active members. Both he and BJ Berquist have been members almost as long as Tapped In has been in existence. Hutchison told Education World, "I think one of the best features of Tapped In is its community aspect. For example, I've never met BJ Berquist, and I've only talked to her on the phone one time in eight years. However, she and I have collaborated on several projects since we both joined Tapped In.

"Another [important] aspect of Tapped In is the fact that Mark Schlager and other Tapped In staff members always have been supportive of professional development when I've asked them for help. For example," Schlager noted, "I hosted a social-studies teachers listserv that was supported by a Web company -- until the Web company decided to discontinue support of listservs. We had nearly 400 subscribers who were without a 'home.' Mark and Tapped In graciously agreed to provide us with a listserv we could migrate our members to."

TIME TO TAP IN TO TAPPED IN

So, if you're a K-12 educator who's looking to grow professionally in your area of expertise, or just looking for ideas to use in the classroom today, take a look at Tapped In. Check out Tapped In's features and events. Browse its member perspectives to see how current members use the community. Join a special interest group. Drop in and chat. Remember, it doesn't cost a penny to join.

Isn't it time you tapped in to Tapped In? You won't regret it!

Are you ready to visit Tapped In, but don't know how to get started? Check out Lorrie Jackson's techtorial Discover Tapped In for step-by-step directions on how to register and participate.

About the Author

Bernie Poole, an associate professor of education and instructional technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has been a teacher since 1966. For the first 15 years of his career, he taught English, history, French, or English as a foreign language primarily to middle school children in England, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

Poole has published several books related to instructional technology. Two of the latest editions are available free of charge online at http://www.pitt.edu/~poole. He also has developed and maintains with Yvonne Singer the EdIndex, an extensive index of Web resources for teachers and students that can be accessed at http://www.pitt.edu/~poole/edmenu.html.

Article by Bernard J. Poole
Education World®
Copyright© 2006 Education World

03/14/2006



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