The English Companion Ning (http://englishcompanion.ning.com/), an online community for English teachers, was created in December 2008 by Jim Burke. The community was initially created to provide support for new English teachers. Jim had just returned from the 2008 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention where he had seen firsthand just how few new teachers were actually at the convention and how few new teachers were joining the “professional conversation.” In an effort to address this problem, he decided to experiment with creating an online community. What began in December 2008 as one experienced teacher’s quest to support new teachers and engage them in the professional conversation of English teachers has grown into a successful international learning community of more than 25,000 members. The community’s purpose is simply stated on the main page of the website as “a place to ask questions and get help. A community dedicated to helping you enjoy your work. A cafe without walls or coffee: just friends.” The purpose of the community is frequently reiterated in weekly newsletters from Jim. For example, one newsletter ended as follows:
Let me end this week’s letter by reiterating what the EC Ning is and what it attempts to accomplish: we are a community of professionals who come here to help each other. To that end, we have three specific goals, which you are all charged with helping us achieve:
1. Support each other, in particular the new teachers, throughout the school year
as we face, individually and as a profession, challenges.
2. Improve our teaching through ongoing discussion of and reading about not only what to teach but how to teach it in ways that will best educate our students.
Identify and develop the next generation of leaders within our profession by encouraging them to write, present, or otherwise use their expertise to help