...Al Byers describes the rich history of NSTA's social media development, as well as the uncanny mix of new and old technologies, restless innovation and fundamental research grounding that have led to extraordinary levels of success...
Q: What inspired you to create the Learning Center? Once you decided to create it, what was your process like to go from idea to launch? What do you think were the key decisions you made along the way?
Strengthening teachers’ science content knowledge and teaching abilities has been a national priority for decades. Many researchers agree that classroom instructional practices are linked significantly to teacher quality as defined by teachers’ knowledge and ability to apply subject matter and pedagogical content knowledge related to the subjects taught. If teachers do not possess a comprehensive understanding in these areas and their conceptions and beliefs concerning the nature of science is poor, research in science education shows significant and potentially negative impacts to their teaching in the following ways: (a) avoidance of teaching science; (b) limiting time, discourse, and topics selected for learning; (c) use of instructional strategies that may fail to formatively assess and build upon students’ ideas to facilitate conceptual understanding; and (d) facilitation of erroneous content knowledge and misconceptions in the students they teach. The challenge is in how to meet this need at a scale that is sustainable for the 3 million teachers of science in the United States. Using online systems to extend and enhance local district face-to-face efforts seems axiomatic.
Most professional development (PD) today is episodic, transpiring primarily during the summer with little integrated, coherent, or continuous online follow-up throughout the year. While research calls for 50 to 80 hours of PD to facilitate change in teacher practices, it also cautions against PD that focuses on a one-shot, one-size fits all approach. Many call for blended PD that combines both face-to-face experiences with online opportunities to extend and enhance onsite offerings. Many districts, with the best of intentions, provide blended PD experiences by purchasing bulk subscriptions that either grant access to a digital repository of lesson plans and teacher practice videos, or access to online short courses. Unfortunately, without intentional forethought to integrate onsite and online components, these blended PD options are more akin to a bolt-on approach and stand a good chance of facilitating a Frankenstein effect that fails to inculcate a coherent and integrated year-long learning experience. Providing on-demand, self-directed online teacher learning tools, resources, and online collaboration opportunities that are tightly woven with local onsite efforts seems a viable alternative to extend and enhance local face-to-face district efforts(e.g., recognizing online activity when face-to-face and vice versa).
As called for in the 2010 U.S. Department of Education National Technology Education Plan, teachers should be leveraging interactive on-demand web resources that provide real-time feedback about their progress as part of their on-going professional development. Through online learning systems, teachers may enhance their learning through blending the best of onsite learning experiences with online opportunities that provide immediacy, convenience, self-direction, and collaboration with other colleagues and experts via professional learning communities (U.S. Department of Education & Technology, 2010). In order for teachers to effectively facilitate the use of interactive resources, learning systems, and connectedness to online communities, teachers need to experience it firsthand as part of their own learning and professional development.
The initial design, development, implementation and evaluation was built upon sound research in learning theory, e-learning, and instructional design principles published in part by the seminal works found in the Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology, and is an iterative process of improvement driven by innovative affordances of emerging technology and end-user needs (teacher, district, and state). The Learning Center is currently in the process of a re-design that will further instantiate strategies to elevate our larger national network coupled with richer and deeper professional learning communities at the local level.
Overarching the entire development process was the initial alignment of the Learning Center’s mission with NSTA’s long-term strategic goals and objectives. The Learning Center’s mission is to enhance the personal learning of teachers by providing a suite of tools, resources, and opportunities to support their individual long-term professional growth based on their unique learning needs and preferences and within a professional learning community. This directly actualizes NSTA Strategic Goal 3, which is to support high-quality science teaching to improve student learning for the 21stcentury.
With the imperative of strategic alignment as a guidepost, our e-learning teacher portal evolved over time with a thorough review of the online learning landscape. We initially created a purposive course directory of formal online courses in science education that still exists today in collaboration with high-quality institutions that desire to promote their offerings through our e-network, which reaches over 450,000 educators weekly through various listserv and e-newsletter mechanisms (see: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/onlinecourses). In parallel to this effort, we envisioned a need for just-in-time learning support that might be offered at a smaller grain size and not require educators to wait until the next formal course was offered, especially if they only needed a refresher in a particular pedagogical strategy or content area. In response to this need, we developed a series of interactive self-directed web modules called SciPacks and their related free Science Objects. These were created using development principles from Wiggins and McTighe Understanding by Design and Dick and Carey Instructional Systems Design models, and a rapid prototype design process between three institutions with initial funding by the U.S. Department of Education and the Hewlett Foundation, in collaboration with Montana State University.
The development process incorporated one-on-one, small group, and expert reviews, as well as split screen usability testing, focus groups, and large-scale field testing to guide our development template and production process before a large scale ramp up. Multiple third party evaluations and studies have been executed to document teacher self-efficacy and learning impact (see: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/impact). As development occurred, we applied a principle of convergence, and created a single destination where educators might access and consume all the digital content that was available from NSTA. This tagging work was sponsored by a National Science Foundation National Science Digital Library grant in collaboration with Ohio State University and created the early schema and metatags that enhance the discoverability of all NSTA’s digital offerings.
We expanded our tags to identify and filter learning resources and opportunities by different learning consumption preferences, such as learning in real time with others via web seminars or as self-directed do-it-yourself learning resources. We also facilitated personalization of the portal which enabled teachers to freely upload their own unique resources and share them alongside NSTA’s resources, using Amazon Cloud technology and the notion of “collections.” Given the wealth (and variability) of freely available learning resources today, many espouse the need and power of user-curated and recommended resources as a key community activity. Districts may also personalize the Learning Center for their needs and replace the header image with their own welcome banner and text. Districts also create collections of digital resources for their teachers, enable their own private discussion forums, and determine if they desire teachers to complete pre and post-knowledge assessments aligned to specific science standard concepts to document learning over time as aligned with district mandates and informed by classroom assessment results. We integrate free and open asynchronous discussion forums with digital content and are evolving a badge, point, and leader board system linked to teachers’ digital profiles to elevate, encourage, and recognize teachers’ online learning and community engagement.
In summary, the process began with aggregating external third-party formal online course offerings and tagging our existing digital resources (e-journal articles and e-chapters) to a common schema to elevate discovery and consumption from a single destination. We then wrapped around a suite of tools to facilitate personal self-assessment, sharing and consumption of the learning resources, and developed two-hour interactive and simulation-based learning modules called Science Objects and SciPacks to address the gap in teacher pedagogical content knowledge. Within the last 2 years, we integrated open community forums and a badge system to leverage our 450,000 person e-network, with the intention of supporting more local school and district-based professional learning communities.
Q: What did the Learning Center “look like” when it launched? What features and functions did it have? What are the key ways it has changed since (and why)?
In 2002 a single web page called the NSTA Institute with static links to the top level landing page of several online course providers was our modest foray into the e-learning space. Over the next two years, a development cycle with a team of internal and external experts forged a research-based template to support inquiry-based learning via self-directed on-demand web modules and address science concepts in support of the national science education standards to support the need espoused in teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge.
In 2007, phase II development expanded the learning portal from an initial online course directory of three institutions, to include a 2,500 asset repository of digital learning assets for teachers, primarily PDF documents funded as part of an NSF NSDL grant. Since this time, the online directory has grown to eight institutions and hundreds of science methods courses that are now tagged and discoverable via our search engine at the individual course level.
In 2012, our self-directed assets have expanded and diversified to over 9,100+ e-learning resources and opportunities that include the following:
In addition to content growth in breadth, depth, and interactivity, a parallel phase III development effort in 2005 initiated the NSTA Learning Center Learning Management System with a suite of free tools to help teachers diagnose, track, and document their learning over time. For example, the PD Indexer tool helps teachers diagnose their unique learning needs and preferences based on the results of private online multiple-choice tests and then select from a number of recommended resources and opportunities in specific areas of need in science content knowledge. (Note citation: Byers, A. S., S. Koba, et al. (2011). “Developing a web-based mechanism for assessing teacher science content knowledge.” Journal of Science Teacher Education22(3): 273-289.).
These resources and opportunities may then be added to a user’s library, which represents another NSTA Learning Center professional development tool. The My Library tool allows teachers to upload their own resources and URLs, alongside NSTA’s resources and create annotated collections to share with others in the larger network and local district professional learning communities. We also supplemented this toolset with a PD Plan and Portfolio tool that helps teachers identify and articulate their learning needs and organize them in support of specific goals, with identified activities, evidences of goal attainment, and target completion dates linked to an auto-reminder system. (Note citation: Sherman, G. and A. Byers (2010). Electronic portfolios in the professional development of educators. Adaptation, Resistance, and Access to Instructional Technologies: Assessing Future Trends in Education. D. a. Steven: 429-444.).
The Learning Center is also used to support a blended teacher learning model in partnership with states and district departments of education across the country. Blended learning involves in part the mix of both onsite and online learning experiences into a seamless coherent whole. In this model, the PD Indexer questions may be deployed as a pre and post-knowledge assessment. To support this effort, a series of back-end, dynamic web-accessible reports were developed in 2008 to provide administrators analytical feedback on teacher learning. Administrators may see the volume and type of resources being selected by teachers at individual and aggregate levels, percentage of completion, frequency of log-in, and pre/post and final assessment scores aligned with our web modules. Administrators also may follow the number of completed teacher learning goals for their district or school cohorts that are aggregated across teachers’ individual PD plans. These back-end learning accountability reports are complemented with the typical front end popularity ranking tools that allow all to see which resources are most-emailed and most-viewed.
Our latest innovation and evolution in 2011 involves the first ideation of an integrated community forum coupled closely with a badge and recognition system that leverages “gamification” strategies to help build and stimulate meaningful online learning engagement. Where the initial phases of our e-learning portal focused on content creation, tagging, and developing a suite of tools that supported addressing teachers’ individual learning needs and preferences, we now are integrating large networking and community collaboration. An incentive system integrated with our discussion forum facilitates deeper and more meaningful engagement with the digital learning resources as teachers help curate the content that is shared. Over 40 badges are available to motivate teachers’ community involvement and individual learning achievements. Badge requirements suggest paths for learning and are linked to teachers’ individual profiles, as well as national and local leader boards. These strategies seek to recognize teachers’ online efforts and provide mechanisms for district and state rewards, such as graduate credit when in partnership with a university, or monetary incentives upon reaching certain milestones established by the district. Other significant point opportunities are linked to teachers creating and completing long-term professional development plans that are linked to their personal portfolios, which include teacher reflections and evidences of growth such as samples of student work or certificates from other PD experiences.
We are encouraged by our latest efforts that, to date, have garnered 100,000 active users. These users have added over 853,100+ resources across their personal libraries from the 9,100+ assets available and are spending hours online each week as they complete web modules, attend web seminars or online courses, create and share collections of resources, and participate in asynchronous private and public discussion forums, etc.
Q: You’ve developed a substantial repository of resources—your own and member-generated—which, to a large extent, your own members are curating for you by creating content collections on specific topics. There are a number of well-known challenges in this area—e.g. getting members to contribute, getting quality contributions, keeping these repositories organized as they grow so members can quickly find the best content relevant to them—what are your ‘secrets of success’?
There are no secrets regarding this multi-faceted question. Curating large teacher-generated collections is a labor intensive cyclical process, that will always have a variable level of content quality and consistency based in-part among the shared contributions, experiences, and expertise of the community at hand. The top-down editorial reviews of NSTA-generated collections are presented in conjunction with collections that are bottom-up and generated by crowd-driven community involvement. Intrinsic value and growth is also experienced by individuals as they review and assemble collections for their own personal use. We are exploring how to encourage teachers to move from extrinsically regulated behavior to that which is intrinsically motivated through the use of badges, trained online advisors, and the notion of online learning expeditions. Often administrator-directed PD experiences fail to give flexibility and choice to teachers who view PD as mandated, top-down, and almost a necessary evil and requisite for teacher re-certification.
Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (SDT) posits that individuals can be proactive and engaged or alternatively passive and alienated depending in part on the social functions in which they are engaged, and that certain factors in social environments can either enhance or undermine intrinsic motivation and self-regulation. Intrinsic motivation is a construct that Ryan and Deci summarize from the literature as a “natural inclination toward assimilation, mastery, spontaneous interest, and exploration that is so essential to cognitive and social development and that represents a principal source of enjoyment and vitality throughout life” (p. 70). Ryan and Deci espouse and cite supporting studies that an individual’s competence will not enhance his or her intrinsic motivation unless it accompanied by a sense of autonomy or self-direction. Applying this strategy, we attempt to facilitate and encourage teachers to diagnose their own learning needs, and do not prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning. We tag and permit filtering of resources by learning consumption preference as well as by grade levels and science disciplines. Via the Learning Center, teachers may select digital resources and learning opportunities that cater to their own unique learning needs and preferences and create long-term growth plans to document and track their progress over time. The challenge is in how to take externally motivated behavior (often mandated by districts and administrators), and facilitate teachers in realizing its value on an intrinsic level. Our community badges assist in part by providing an automated mechanism where administrators may recognize those teachers that are contributing resources and online discussion. Our hope is that once teachers participate in these experiences, they will see the value and worth and move from externally regulated and motivated behavior to that which is intrinsically driven as they quickly “level up” in the system.
As collections are shared among colleagues, we do not attempt to stifle this activity, but quite the opposite. We recognize this contribution. Research shows that the immediacy and quality of a response (and its accompanying resource) determines if a new member to a community forum will return. We realize that crowd-sourced quality varies, but hopefully, by clearly parsing and identifying that which is published by NSTA, and that which is shared among the communities, we are making clear distinctions among the wide-range of resources being shared. The crowd “group think” is also monitored by allowing individual five star annotated ratings, and allowing all to see rankings of which resources are most shared and viewed in the Learning Center. We realize the trade-off between overly simplistic rating systems compared with those that could be more informative, but take more effort to complete on the part of end-users. There is some value in a multi-tiered approach, capitalizing on established five-star systems like Amazon, while also having more formal expert panels and peer-review systems. Also, while five star annotated rating systems are arguably less informative than ratings garnered from a five-level analytical rubric, ensuring inter-rater reliability and training in how to score a resource against the rubric are trade-offs we balance against each other.
A grant with the Carnegie Corporation focused on identifying high quality resources that are in alignment with and in support of the Next Generation Science Standards will indeed involve a multi-tiered approach. While still in the formative stages of planning and execution, crowd-sourced materials may be initially identified to be rigorously vetted through expert review panels, applying a consistent and valid mechanism and instrument that will allow selected materials for public consumption and discourse accessible from the Next Generation web site and possibly as a “gold label” resource from within NSTA’s Learning Center.
NSTA also incorporates the use of trained online advisors that provide live chat support for 74 hours/week during peak usage times as based on web analytics over the past year. These online advisors constitute both science methods professors and experienced science educators, who serve as a concierge and curator of the NSTA digital learning resources for the 100,000 participants. In addition to providing on-demand chat support, the online advisors help moderate the asynchronous community discussion forums, and generate heuristic protocols for archiving and summarizing discussion threads in the forums. In general, after reviewing the rhythm of several large forums, our online advisors have found that after 45 days, the volume of many threads flow across 2 discussion forum pages and activity (posts) typically slow down. These observations were reached by the online advisors after reviewing the following information across our forums:
NSTA is considering using the online advisors to generate summaries for selected discussion threads that have at least 20-25 replies and provide in-depth discussions related to science and science education. Archived threads may remain searchable as “read only” and contain an embedded hyperlink enabling forum participants to re-open discussion by starting a new discussion on the archived/summary page. Also, if the consensus of the advisors supports the relevancy and longevity of the archived thread, nuggets may also be gleaned and discoverable via a new “basics practices of science teaching” area in the forums. On a regular basis, the Senior Director of the Learning Center, the forum manager, and online advisors make recommendations for collapsing and moving threads as various forums topics become unwieldy.
A primary motivation for teachers is to be successful at inspiring the learning in their students. An article by T.R. Guskey in 1986 describes a teacher PD model within the context of teacher change and proposed that changes in teachers’ beliefs come only after teachers have changed their teaching practices, which results in changes in their students’ learning. Guskey suggested that teacher PD leads to changes in teachers’ classroom practices, which change students’ learning outcomes. He posited that changes in teachers’ beliefs and attitudes follow changes in behavior. “Evidence of improvement (positive change) in the learning outcomes of students generally precedes and may be a prerequisite to significant change in the beliefs and attitudes of most teachers” (p. 7). The model is based on observations that teachers believe a strategy can be successful only after they have seen it successfully work in their own classroom. When one juxtaposes this against recent literature in recommendations for effective teacher PD, one sees the similarities between the proximity and necessity of linking teacher learning to the local curriculum, and the worth teachers place in collaborating with like-minded colleagues who have piloted activities and strategies for the classroom. For example, sharing samples of student work as generated from local curriculum or innovative practices may lead to change in teachers’ classroom activity. Our goal is to facilitate teachers collaborating and elevating their expertise as members of a professional learning community and drawing on the expertise available from our national network at NSTA.
Q: Your community is well-known for pioneering badge systems in education communities (for more information about NSTA’s badge system, see http://bit.ly/nstabadges). What challenges and opportunities do you see ahead for badge systems and related devices, such as leaderboards?
Research posits this finding, citing the number one support mechanism for professional dialog is literally the teacher in the classroom next door. This is no surprise, lest we forget the typical day for a teacher provides only 2 minutes between each class, and 20 minutes for lunch, which often times includes escorting children to the dining hall. The after school day is also filled with a myriad of activities such as bus duty, the sponsoring of school clubs, coaching intramurals, after-school make-up work with students, and the grading and preparation for the next day’s hands-on labs and lessons. Time is the most precious commodity for teachers, and the access to professional discussions with like-minded colleagues often is limited to in-service teacher training days or brief afterschool workshops. Fortunately, local professional learning communities are a new structure emerging at more schools across the country and for activity occurring online, virtual badges may be one mechanism to recognize and elevate the efforts of teachers beyond the confined walls of their classroom.
Our incentive system hopes to enable teachers to earn badges to document their growth over time via a digital portfolio, and as a contributing member of the community (e.g., completing web modules, creating collections, sharing lessons, discussing pedagogical strategies, completing digital portfolios, etc.). Research outside of education finds evidence that online communities of practice increase interaction, trust, relationship building, and situated knowledge among members. In light of this knowledge, the Learning Center developed an online learning community platform with badges that needs to advance beyond our existing efforts.
Looking ahead, envision personalized online learning expeditions, linking a series of digital destinations, where like-minded teachers with similar leaning goals may collaborate and are connected via a community. Online chat advisors assist teachers at online destinations along various expeditions and serve as learning guides. Teacher badges, points, and certifications are awarded to document learning at key destinations along their personalized learning journey. We hope to develop a series of new badges that document additional learning expeditions beyond our SciPack badges in areas such as instructional planning skills for the effective integration of digital media for learning science, or facilitating application of scientific practices for deeper student learning. Plans are to upgrade and converge the existing PD Indexer Tool, the PD Plan and Portfolio tool, and Teacher Profile page into a more customized and personalized learning dashboard for teachers, one that provides both private and public facing documentation of learning, and promotes teacher recognition and more seamless collaboration with colleagues striving for similar badges and learning goals. Local leader boards where cohorts of learners know each other show signs of promise. We garnered anecdotal feedback from cohort administrators, and data from third party evaluations that support the efficacy of this device as lifted from other known “gamification” strategies. There seems to be some collegial competitiveness, and fun involved, when local leader boards are structured to allow opportunities for many to be recognized for contributions and not be relegated to a few top point earners. Spirited campaigns between cohorts working toward a unique overarching goal as captured by leader boards may add an inter-group dynamic. At this stage in our development, certain badges are earned by individuals for community activity, while other badges will be reserved for distinguished performance linked to an individual’s online persistent profile (e.g., passing a SciPack).
If we are able to craft high-quality “badge-eligible” learning expeditions that address individuals’ personal learning needs and preferences (via certified badges and recognition), we have the potential to elevate teacher learning and effectiveness to new heights across a diverse array of institutions. It is through professional learning journeys (tied into both national and local professional learning communities) that our learning resources and opportunities ultimately facilitate a meaningful change in teacher practice.
From a single home base, learners will be able explore and design personalized learning expeditions linked to various badges as they achieve and complete digital destinations along the journey. They will determine what mode of travel they desire to reach their learning destination (onsite, online, synchronous or asynchronous) what learning content to consume, and the length of the learning journey (total badges identified for learning). Online advisors will identify potential learning experiences, and “must see” destinations along the trek or expedition the teacher is planning. A brief video describes this vision along with a key partner NSTA is collaborating with at Penn State, Dr. Kyle Peck. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlLXfE4YVec.
NSTA is now beginning to plan with selected universities to identify the types of onsite and online experiences that might be eligible for these new badges, as well as design the portfolio requirements and online vetting system to ensure the badges awarded would meet and adhere to the knowledge and skills identified. New university-certified learning expeditions would be created from the myriad of NSTA (and non-NSTA) resources and opportunities available (e.g., conferences, webinars, web modules, short courses, etc.).
While this paints a rosy picture, we are well aware of the criticisms associated with badges, and their trivialization if awarded flippantly and not linked to university and/or peer validation of worthiness. We do have certain badges that are easily earned and designed to encourage typical actions associated with a vibrant community. These are weighted appropriately and perhaps in future iterations these “community badges” will be branded differently than those that take more effort to complete, such completing a SciPack and passing a final assessment. Perhaps the most meritorious badges will be those that are awarded after completing a series of digital learning destinations as part of a longer, more arduous learning expedition and validated with the review of a digital teacher portfolio by an institution of higher education. We are excited by the potential badges might play in recognizing teacher learning beyond the more formal existing structures. Triangulating high quality content with social opportunities for engagement and pyscho-emotional roles for growth and recognition are a winning combination for community development.
Q: On the flip side, NSTA has also enjoyed a great deal of success using a very old approach to online community development, email-based discussion lists, which often generate an extraordinary number of quality replies per query. For a variety of reasons, a lot of folks might not have considered including or taking this approach–can you talk about what you think has made your lists work as well as they do, and why they continue to be successful?
We appreciate this question and at NSTA we provide many options for discourse and collaboration based on individuals’ preferences. Each of these options provides different affordances and purposes. For example, if you go to our “social networking dashboard” (see: http://www.nsta.org/involved/dashboard.aspx), you’ll see feeds from NSTA’s Facebook and Twitter spaces, as well as our NSTA Blogs and our most recent integrated community forums in the NSTA Learning Center (lower right corner).
While Twitter provides a great medium for short 140 character “snippets” of witty commentary on the latest breaking news with abbreviated URL’s regarding the same, individuals might not use that medium’s attributes for an in-depth online volley on how they might transition to a STEM-focused curriculum in their school.
Listserv technology is robust, simple, and works via a ubiquitous medium we all know how to use and have access to–email. Some say listservs lack user control (pushing a massive blast to everyone versus pull technology based on users’ needs/desires), and that it may limit coherent flow over long conversations, or deluge users’ email inboxes, ultimately creating subscriber overload if users subscribe to multiple listservs. Also, listserv technology doesn’t leverage affordances that seem to help build a more community-centric approach where you might learn more about the individuals you are engaging with (e.g., thumbnail images or “avatars” of those making posts, with links back to the user’s profile to gain an insight on who is making the contribution, viewing all the community post contributions or digital resources reviews by that individual). Conversely, email listservs are a technology that many are accustomed to using; it serves its intended purpose very well, and utilizes a ubiquitous technology that has no barriers to entry or learning curve. At NSTA we currently reserve listservs only for our members, as they desire a space that is not open to the entire world at large.
Our current community discussion forums at NSTA do attempt to leverage some of the established community-building features such as thumbnail images and links to individuals’ profiles, in addition to the ability to send private one-to-one messages from the discussion forum or user’s profile, if desired, without revealing an individual’s email address. The forums also integrate access and sharing of NSTA’s digital resources (over 9,100+) that may be coupled with teachers’ personal resources into digital collections, all of which may be rated and ranked by the community as well (curating or filtering the content for the benefit of the community).
NSTA community forums do not require users go to the discussion area to see new posts, but work similarly to listservs in that you receive updated messages directly via your email inbox. In an attempt to avoid the overloaded email inbox challenge, individuals may choose to “watch” a topic, and if so, they receive only the next single post via email contributed on that topic. If they do not select the link embedded in the email and go to the discussion forum to see more posts, they will not continue to receive emails, and you can stop watching a topic at any time. Also, if you post a response to the forums, you have the option to be notified via email if someone responds to your post via your direct email. If you do not check this option, you will not be flooded with responses in your email inbox. While this solution attempts to provide the best features from listservs, it is not perfect, as you have to select the embedded link in the email message to respond to the post at hand, thus, you cannot respond directly from your email client. Lastly, our discussion forums allow individuals to accrue badges and points for their contributions to the community (aggregating resources, creating collections, disseminating resources and collections to colleagues, and advocating—rating particular resources). This system is just over two years old, but seems to show promise with these added community benefits with over 12,000 personal collections shared and over 12,000 posts across over 1,000 topics.. We feel these affordances are of significant value to those in a large national network, or smaller local online learning community, but each solution has a give and take of the different affordances it provides.
Added on Jan 20, 2012
Community: The NSTA Learning Center
About Al Byers