PLC is a buzzword that’s spreading throughout the education community. The term, short for “professional learning community,” defines a group of educators who are working together with the shared goals of improving their teaching and enhancing learning for their students. As with all collaborative groups, the greater amount of time and planning that goes into the work, the better the results. That’s where All Things PLC becomes a helpful Web resource. It’s a site for educators who now use or want to start a professional learning community. A number of case studies, articles, and site tools explain how to effectively form, manage, and assess a PLC. One of the site’s pages, the PLC Locator, maps the locations of other professional learning communities that may have similar interests or characteristics.
This is a popular site for information about student learning disabilities, disorders, and differences. Learning Disabilities Online contains current information for parents and teachers, with questions on disability topics that include attention deficit disorders, reading-comprehension difficulties, and speech impairments. The “expert advice” tab links site visitors to education experts who routinely answer user-submitted questions. Some recent questions focused on how technology and its classroom integration are playing a role in helping students who have learning disabilities. An active forum space allows users to connect to talk about specific learning disabilities and related issues.
The Khan Academy takes YouTube, the easy-to-use video-sharing platform, and turns it into a K-12 teaching tool for students around the world. Salman Khan, the site’s creator, started making the instructional videos after tutoring his cousin, who lived more than 1,500 miles away. Using an Internet connection and the Yahoo Doodle program, he was able to create videos that focus on problem-solving. They’re grouped by subject—many of them are math- or science-related—and they offer careful explanations in broadcast clips that typically range from five to eight minutes long. Khan’s videos have been translated into a number of different languages, and his site receives some 40,000 Web hits a day. That’s not bad considering most other YouTube videos do very little in the way of teaching. Khan is working on attracting foundation and other private funding for the nonprofit academy so he can continue to offer the virtual courses for free.
The White House and the U.S. Department of Education have been leading an aggressive campaign to nurture students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM subjects. In partnership with other STEM-focused groups, the Obama administration is supporting a new, privately funded Web site that connects scientists with middle and high school students. The goal is to promote learning through hands-on lab experiments that are overseen by volunteer professionals in the sciences.
The National Lab Day Web site features two portals that users can access. The first portal allows teachers to request help for classroom projects, and the second is where scientists and technology experts can volunteer their time. After filling out the application, the site matches teachers with scientists, based on their geographic locations and academic interests. Already, more than 200 public- and private-sector organizations are involved. The project will promote hands-on and inquiry-based learning year-round, and host special events during the first week of May to highlight National Lab Day goals.
Compiled by Tim Ebner
A version of this article appeared in the February 03, 2010 edition of Digital Directions as Top Picks