Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Sheryl teaches pre-service teachers at The College of William and Mary, and is involved with the Teacher Leaders Network and Win-Win Strategies Foundation, both tenant organizations of Tapped In. As a teacher educator she is an advocate of mentoring and encourages both pre-service and experienced teachers to become involved in Communities of Practice.

Sheryl's Perspective

My official membership at Tapped In has only been in place since July 2004, but I sincerely can't imagine a day going by without stopping in and collaborating with the other educators and students who also use this incredible resource. In fact, part of my course when I was teaching online a few years ago was to require teachers to join Tapped In. I had logged on as a visitor and sensed the value that this virtual learning community had to offer, but had never taken the time to use it personally. Well, since July I have tried to make up for lost time.

One of the first projects I designed using Tapped In was an experiment with electronic mentorship. My involvement with the Teacher Leaders Network gave me access to some of the most accomplished educators in the nation. And while this group is very active, I saw them as being a virtually untapped resource in helping to inform education where it starts - teacher preparation programs. The instructional technology courses I teach in the school of education at William and Mary require a field component. Typically, students are with the same cooperating teacher throughout their education program, which works really well towards continuity. However, it also means limited exposure to a variety of teachers and their differing philosophies. To help round out their experience I established an electronic mentoring component to my course. The results have been fantastic! My pre-service teachers learn how to use a variety of electronic communications through Tapped In's platform that will then generalize in their future classrooms and they also have a medium through which they communicate and collaborate with accomplished teachers from across the nation. We discuss a variety of topics all related to teaching and learning. The synchronous component of Tapped In allows for "just in time" learning when mentors and mentees find each other online at the same time. One of my classes this semester, which was part of a compressed block is now doing their student teaching. I can't tell you how valuable having the electronic mentors has been for these students. If you would like to check out a sample of the kinds of discussions taking place, visit the blog I created for that purpose. I am so amazed at the way Tapped In provided the perfect venue to bring these two groups together. The developmental maturation of my students has been remarkable thanks to the Teacher Leaders Network and Tapped In.

Another interesting phenomena related to Tapped In is that once both the teacher leaders and the students logged in to the electronic mentoring group, they became part of the larger community of practice (CoP) that exists on Tapped In. The quality of individuals I have met here and the depth of learning that has occurred in my own personal life since joining a variety of other established groups on Tapped In can not be ignored. For example, one day I searched for other groups that were working with pre-service teachers. I found a professor at the University of Virginia and we chatted a bit. Now we have decided to put our students together in a group and do a few featured events. We will invite guests to speak on a particular topic related to instructional technology and then follow up with collaboration between both classes at two differing Virginia universities within the TI group we have created. The whole larger CoP concept truly encourages life long learning and helps even seasoned educators to grow in ways they never considered possible.

As a community organizer for Win-Win Strategies Foundation, Tapped In serves as the perfect medium for encouraging ongoing professional development for the CoPs with which Win-Win works. Too often, professional development for teachers consists of in-service training that does not result in implementation of new skills in the classroom. WIN-WIN Strategies Foundation combines site visits and online learning on Tapped In to provide educators with a professional development model that mixes peer coaching with practice. Educators attend site visits at top performing schools across the country thanks to Win Win and share and learn best practices. These groups continue building the relationships that are created and gain mastery over the best practices learned by forming collegial groups to engage in practice, feedback and peer coaching in their building on Tapped In.

These are just a few of the ways I am utilizing this incredible resource. Tapped In is "one stop shopping". Quite simply, it provides the virtual tools for teacher empowerment that truly allow teacher voice to impact education in ways that are long over due. Thank you Tapped In and staff for what you are doing on behalf of America's children everyday.