edWeb is a social networking platform that offers monthly webinars on several dozens topics and supports virtual professional learning communities formed around those topics. It’s a site where communities of teachers, librarians, administrators, and education industry professionals connect, learn about new ideas in the field, and share resources. It is free to both create a profile and to participate in webinars. Individual teachers can use the platform to learn new things by joining communities, “follow” other educators, and create discussion groups around specific topics.
Librarians were early adopters of edWeb. The librarian community found edWeb as a way to connect with each other, as they are often the only ones in their schools that fill their specific role. Librarians typically have the capacity to be tech savvy, and found edWeb as a way to discuss with others ways to implement different technology in their schools.
Now, what distinguishes edWeb is the diversity of voices within each community, which includes teachers, industry professionals, librarians and administrators. All these groups come together to share ideas and perspectives on their work as it pertains to a diverse range of specific topic.
As of the late 2013, edWeb has over 66,000 registered users. The company is funded through sponsorships. Sponsors will support and pay for a learning community on the site, and subsidize the operating cost as well as the cost of having experts deliver webinars each month.
- Purpose: Engage, Learn
- Cost: Free for educators and educational institutions to participate and use the platform; there are fees for non-profits ($2,000 per event) or companies ($2,900 per event) to host webinars
On-Brand Use: Plug into existing Professional Learning Communities that provide monthly webinars, regular resources, and group chats organized around different topics in education
- Off-Brand Use: Teachers can use the edWeb platform to create their own private PLC groups. In these groups they can share resources, watch webinars, simultaneously post comments and carry on private conversations.
Professional Development opportunities and communities within a teacher’s own school can often be limited. Too frequently the learning opportunities offered to teachers within a school are “one size fits all” and do not address their interests and skills. Even the communities they can form within a single school are typically also limited as there are only so many people to consult and teachers in the same school may have similar points of views or experiences.
edWeb aspires to address such limitations, either for an entire staff or for an individual teacher. Teachers can choose topics or themes relevant to them and follow those themes through the monthly webinars. They can also join groups of teachers, librarians, and industry professionals from all over the US in the professional learning community networks. edWeb has hosted groups which are organized around different topics or themes. The diversity of these networks helps teachers experience different points of view and gather resources and advice from folks with many different experiences.
This tool is great for teachers who are struggling to find professional learning communities, for teachers who want to focus their learning around a specific topic, and for teachers who want to tap into a community not exclusively teachers.
How Does It Work?
Teachers sign up for edWeb by creating a quick profile. They are then left on their own to explore the webinars and communities that the site has. Teachers can also go directly to the webinar calendar and sign up without registering in order to attend a webinar.
Webinars are free to anyone, whether they are members of the edWeb community or not. The facilitators for these events are the same types of presenters one would see at big conferences like ISTE. They are experts in their field with experience facilitating professional development. The sessions last an hour and focus on specific topics from the approximately two dozen professional learning communities including:
- Specific academic content
- Instructional strategy
- Interventions for specific populations of students
- Technology integration
- Common Core
They combine live webcam feed from presenters with live chat from participants. Participants can chat with one another throughout the webinar; the last 15 to 20 minutes are typically reserved for participants to ask questions of the presenters. Open 30 minutes prior to their schedule start time, participants often join early to chat with the presenter or check in with each other.
Although anyone can take part in the webinars, edWeb members get flagged about upcoming webinars when they belong to sponsored learning communities. (Most community has at least one thematically relevant webinar a month.) All webinars are archived so that community members can go back to watch them at a later time.
edWeb’s social networking platform allows anyone to join or create groups, “friend” other members, post comments in a traditional list serve, and follow a feed of edWeb activity. edWeb also allows its members to write and share their own blog through their profiles. They can also upload resources, for public or private viewing, and collect resources from others on the network within their profile’s resource library.
As of late 2013, two of the largest communities on the site are ‘Game-Based Learning’ (5,143 members) and ‘Emerging Tech: Using Technology to Advance Your School Library Program’ (4,838 members). These communities host one webinar per month. iLearn Ohio group is one of the younger communities on the site. Even so, it has already attracted 400 Ohio based teachers.
Anyone can create a community on edWeb for free. There are fees, however, for community leaders who want to host webinar programs for their group. Fees, which start at $2,000 (non profit) or $2,900 for a for profit organization per event.
To join a professional learning community, participants must register on edWeb and complete a profile. Once registered, the user can search the learning communities offered and join any public community. edWeb sends community members weekly emails summarizing the activities of upcoming webinars and recent blog posts from members.
Within each PLC there is a live chat room, where members can connect in real time with one another. Members can create polls and quizzes to solicit answers from other community members, which could include thousands of people.
How Is It Used?
Educators primarily use edWeb for informal professional development. Some teachers construct a professional network of relationships that include product developers and industry experts. Other teachers use it as an opportunity to get one-off training. Schools and districts, like Reeds Spring R-IV School District in Reeds Springs, MO use edWeb to assign webinars and drive learning through their own private groups.
Historically, it has been used by individuals looking for ways to get new information, points of view, and access to an online community of educators for mentoring and support. What distinguishes edWeb is the diversity of voices within each community, which includes teachers, industry professionals, librarians and others.
Michelle Luhtala, a former teacher and current teacher-librarian in New Canaan, Connecticut. explains her involvement in edWeb. “We return to the community, month after month, and build a collective knowledge with each other through the webinars and through our own discussion.”
Who’s Using It?
As of late 2013, there are 66,000 edWeb members. Teachers make up 57% of users, administrators 26%, librarians 14%, and the rest include industry professionals.
Most members join as individuals, rather than as part of a school group. Ohio’s teacher and student platform, iLearnOhio, has set up an edWeb group especially for Ohio teachers. Other organizations using edWeb’s groups include the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the South Carolina Course Alignment Project.
Content, Content, Content….
Today while webinars focus on a wide variety of content from research to instructional strategies, to Common Core. It is a great tool to gain exposure to a broad range of issues within education, but might not be specific enough to meet a classroom teacher’s professional development goals or specific classroom needs.
Presenters include industry experts, academics, administrators, librarians and teachers in the field. Sponsored by private companies and organizations, webinar offerings in each category are determined through a combination of sponsor suggestions and the program director at edWeb. Founder and CEO Lisa Schmucki often matches webinar facilitators with community themes, and manages the relationships between vendors and webinar facilitators to ensure that there is a strong foundation for trust. “Lisa is a trusted gatekeeper that makes sure both the community and sponsor interests align,” explains early adopter and webinar facilitator Michelle Luhtala. However, edWeb will also reaches out to members with a call for webinar proposals.
One webinar titled ‘Innovative Professional Development - Rethinking Methods and Opportunities for Teacher Learning,’ was delivered by Lyn Hilt, a K-6 Principal/Tech Integrator in Pennsylvania. Another was presented by Michelle Luhtala, a Librarian from Connecticut on ‘Online PD: Training your staff without meetings!’. There are about three other one hour webinars within their archives that specifically address ways in which teachers can utilize their personal learning communities to grow and how administrators can support staff to set goals.
Implication for the District: Implementation
edWeb has been a tool primarily used by individuals. However, there are newer instances now where districts are encouraging use or forming groups as a supplemental way of communication. edWeb will works with individual district or nonprofit to host webinars for their groups.
Price, Tech, and Credit
edWeb is strictly a website. The webinars need bandwidth capable of streaming. A mobile application enables edWeb members to follow their forums, receive live chat feeds and to respond to those feeds.
Joining the network and viewing webinars are free to anyone. Organizations or companies pay fees if they wish to sponsor a community. Fees, which start at $2,000 (non profit) or $2,900 for a for profit organization per event.
edWeb awards certificates to community members when they complete a webinar, if it is viewed live. If members view an archived webinar and pass a brief quiz, they can also receive a certificate of completion. Those who pass get a PDF certificate verifying they attended and completed the webinar. Some schools or districts will count these certificate toward fulfilling professional development requirements.
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