As an adult, I’ve learned a secret, teachers (at least in NYC) are among the most out-of-the-box people. Perhaps its no surprise that many have gone renegade online to connect, learn, and share outside of their school institutions.
Curious about how many informal teacher social networks have formed, I found a pretty staggering list. Platforms like Ning, Elgg, and Wetpaint have allowed these decentralization digital communities to form, independent from physically defined school geographies and authorities.
A comprehensive analysis of the topics, activities, and types of participants on these networks would likely be very useful for educational leaders. A rough scan of the 300+ education related networks on Ning alone suggests a pattern of joining mostly around common geography (state or country/region), interest in integrating technology, particular content areas (especially language), and for inter-school classroom collaborations.
Some large private players, like Microsoft with Innovative Teachers Network, have also created social network platforms for teachers (which has the double benefit of helping the company better understand the education market).
Some additional questions to ponder: Will school systems catch up and sign on to these kinds of social networking tools? Do they need to catch up? Does a forrest of home grown, teacher-generated networks stimulate more creativity and professional community than institutionally-tied social networks (and/or negate the need for them)? For the education field, what are the tradeoffs in network effects?