Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Kathleen Fulton

Kathleen is Director, Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century, for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF). She was the developer of the Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC) project, funded initially by the AT&T Foundation, then Microsoft, and now supported by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education.

Kathleen's Perspective

We developed TLINC as a way for teachers, especially teacher candidates and those new to the profession, to stay connected with their professional peers and colleagues. Our data had shown that too many teachers leave in the first five years of teaching (up to 46% nationally, with even greater turnover in high need schools and districts). We knew that mentoring support for new teachers is variable; too many new teachers, including candidates doing student teaching, feel "lost at sea" when they enter the classroom. We knew that online communities can make it possible for our newest educators to connect with those they most trust professionally. We also hoped that if we built online communities during preservice education, and used TLINC to help build the links between teacher preparation institutions and their local districts, we could create opportunities for online collaboration and community that would become a "habit" among educators as a vehicle for professional learning and support and build their comfort with using technology.

Our partners (University of Memphis, University of Colorado at Denver, and University of Washington) explored a number of potential platforms for the project. Fortunately, Mark Schlager, Tapped In's "godfather", was on our design team, and when the partners chose Tapped In, we had a strong advocate. We were able to "lease" a building on Tapped In and have now over 900 members in our TLINC community.

Each of the partners has a floor, with varying activities in the rooms they set up on their floors.

o University of Memphis student teachers are now engaged in small online groups with rooms on Tapped In, with a trained facilitator (mentor). Participation in synchronous chats, and in asynchronous discussions, is now a requirement. These candidates will be followed next year when they are novice teachers in the local school districts.

o At the University of Colorado at Denver, there are TLINC groups in the undergraduate courses and their "early internship" program, for mentors and novice teachers in the Denver Public Schools, and among DPS clinical teachers. Professional Development Units around online facilitation have been developed for DPS teachers as a part of their new ProComp teacher compensation system. A room for DPS principals and administrators is also active.

o TLINC partners at the University of Washington are exploring how an online platform can support their graduates during the intermediate year when they have received certification and are teaching, but must continue to participate in a blended face-to-face and online course prior to receiving their Masters in Teaching degree. (UW is currently considering other platforms for the TLINC community, however.)

o Although it is not part of the TLINC grant, NCTAF is also hosting a floor for mentors and residents participating in the DC Urban Teaching Residency program at The George Washington University.

The work that goes on in all these rooms follows a familiar Tapped In pattern-posting of topics, readings, or provocative questions which the room members discuss in either synchronous meetings or asynchronous discussion threads led by facilitators. Our participants value the fact that it is relatively simple to sign members up, train them, and keep track of what occurs though the saved transcripts on Tapped In. Some value having the opportunity to participate in other open rooms and activities listed in the monthly On the Tapis. They like the fact that, unlike other groups formed as a part of online courses with commercial management systems, their groups can continue once they finish a course or graduate. The friendly help support is also a real plus! For more information about TLINC, click here or visit our building at Tapped In.