"Surviving" Web-based Professional Development (or, How Not to Get Kicked off the Island): Lessons Learned from the Inquiry Learning Forum
Abstract: Organizations and institutions are increasingly offering online professional development opportunities to educators [Mather, 2000 #56]. This is especially true for teachers who must keep up with new teaching strategies, the latest professional standards, and constantly changing technologies. Coincidentally, new technologies promise to facilitate access to learning at times and places chosen by the learner. These web-based environments have the potential to transform teacher professional development through the use of new models of teaching and learning. They also have the potential to facilitate a culture of sharing, collaboration, mentoring, and support for K-12 teachers. In the design of these web-based environments, there are not only technical challenges but, perhaps more importantly social and cultural challenges and norms which must be addressed in order for these new models to succeed. While initial attraction and interest may be high, establishing long-term, high-quality learning opportunities is a much more difficult goal to reach. This paper and presentation will focus on the first two and a half years of the Inquiry Learning Forum project. Specifically, this presentation will address key design features based on a community of practice model, challenges consequent from both our original conception of the project and it's design, and how the project and the design of the website has evolved to meet these challenges.