Virtual Learning Communities

Nothing is more fulfilling that good professional learning.  I have always believed that the learner improves his/her learning and therefore I need to be involved in high quality professional discussions.  For thirty years, I have had opportunities for professional learning in face to face sessions.  When I began my career in 1983 in the far north, we looked forward to our annual 16 hour trip to Winnipeg where educators from across the province gathered for PD sessions.  During these years I attended sessions with excellent mentors like Donald Graves, the father of the writing process.   I can’t help but wonder what kind of PD Donald would offer today in regards to online learning.

While completing my masters degree (later in my career), I was introduced to online virtual learning communities by Alec Couros.  I learned how to use a variety of online tools such as blogging, online video, wikis and began using them with my students.  Students seemed to be more engaged.  Upon reflecting, I think I also became more engaged in both teaching and learning and I have been passionately advocating for the use of these tools both in our professional lives and in engaging our students.   I have to admit that when introduced to Twitter, I  found it to be somewhat annoying and could not figure out how to learn from messages of 140 characters or less.  Renee recently suggested I reconsider.  Although I hadn’t tweeted in a number of years, I began exploring Twitter again and have no regrets.  Why?  Because virtual learning communities provide 21st century learning for adult learning.  (Check out this introductory online session re Twitter)

For me a virtual learning community is:

  • professional development that improves the learning of students
  • collaborating to learn together about a topic that has been identified as important
  • the use of technology as the tool that drives the learning (discussion, video, podcasts, wikis, blogs, social media, drop boxes)

When I relate these key points to Twitter, I can say that I am glad that Renee suggested I rethink Twitter.  Twitter keeps me connected with people both within and outside of my division.  I like that the tweets are short but often take me to deeper learning through a link provided or by me investing in a topic that I consider matters in my professional learning.  I follow people who I consider masters of assessment and have been led to blog posts that clarify thinking and practices around grading, reporting, formative assessment.

We have begun to create virtual learning communities in our division.  Using Adobe Connect the sessions provide information and conversations regarding PowerTeacher GradeBook and Inform.  Chat rooms are open for teachers to backchannel and share practices/questions with respect to assessment and instruction.  If you find that the time does not work, the recordings for these sessions are available here.  Recorded sessions include:

  • Personal Social Growth Rubric – Includes an overview of how this works in GradeBook.
  • Using GradeBook to Organize for Outcome Grading
  • Getting Reading for New Term Grading
  • Attaching Document to Tasks/Assignments
  • Special Guest Hosts – See live teacher GradeBooks and hear about their grading practice
  • Inform – The Results Panel

My hopes are that we continue to communicate and grow our online presence through meaningful content.  Join us for these webinars please, provide us with topics, and make your own virtual connections with people both inside and out of our division.


About lgatzke

I am an assessment supervisor passionate about getting kids smarter. As Dylan Wiliam says, "Smart is not something you are, smart is something you get".
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