When an administrator in New England sadly faced the imminent death of a faculty member, he sought help from colleagues by posting a message to the K12Admin online discussion group: "The children know of the illness, but the relative certainty of death is a recent development. I'm looking for any advice from those of you who have had this experience."
The messages received included grief and trauma resources compiled by a district in New York in response to recent deaths in the school system, as well as counsel from educators in a Michigan who coped with the loss of a beloved teacher by organizing a crisis team, planning a school memorial service and arranging a memorial tree planting ceremony.
While no K-12 administrator can be prepared for all the personal and professional demands that can arise in school districts, chances are some educators elsewhere have faced the same challenges and have insights to share. This is why online professional education communities are becoming successful on topics ranging from curriculum and management issues to school leadership. E-mailed questions and comments written by any group participant are
distributed to all of the members, which may number in the thousands. Here are benefits derived from K12Admin:
Jerry Taylor, technology integration teacher in Greece, N.Y., invited group participants to contribute tips for new teachers, and posted the results online. He also introduced his school site on ideas, techniques and methods for integrating technology into classrooms.
In response to an inquiry about how to best support substitute teachers, Kathleen Carpenter, editor of Teachers.Net identified "e-mail rings" she hosts for educators.
As a follow-up to a posting from John Tusch from Weston (Conn.) High School, who recommended TeacherWeb as a "simple and fast way for teachers to put content on the Web," Kristin Sherman from McKinney High School in Texas also suggested Schoolnotes. David Warlick of The Landmark Project introduced a mailing list on school Web topics called Class Web.
Ted Panitz asked participants to identify exemplary teaching techniques, and posted the contributions online.
Joining an Online Community
There are now thousands of free online communities on topics from art to zoo-
logy that can be identified through directories such as Topica-which also lists hundreds of school-related groups-and the Mailing Lists section of AskERIC, which provides subscription instructions for education groups such as Ednet, Edtech and K12Admin. Some of these are moderated groups where postings are pre-screened for appropriateness, while others transmit any and all submissions. In addition, some groups offer related bulletin board and chat-room opportunities where participants can post messages-such as job openings-and meet at specified times to exchange ideas on selected topics.
The following are online communities that are targeted specifically to K-12 administrators:
--AASA Networks, an online community for members of the American Association of School Administrators who want to share information and best practices.
--Administrators.net, free chat rooms and a discussion group for networking with K-12 school administrators.
--Administrators Special Interest Group, SIGAdmin, a group for members of the International Society for Technology in Education to support education leaders in promoting the use of instructional technologies.
Odvard Egil Dyrli, email@example.com, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.