With the ongoing implementation of the new Common Core standards, as well as teacher evaluations that tie continuing employment to student performance, there's no better time than now to update your curriculum,
Luckily for K-12 teachers, as well as the education schools that train them, there are a variety of social networks and resources available to help educators at all levels of instruction and experience share lesson plans, best practices and general tips. Most of these sites are free, though a few carry premium options—one even facilitates the sell of teacher-made course materials.
These seven communities—whether they're chaired by one of Hollywood's best-known directors or education's answer to Facebook—offer a variety of tools to help you to keep students engaged and learning. (Be sure to check out our social networks and resources for educators directory for even more great networks and resources!)
1. SHARE MY LESSON
Aimed at K-12 educators, ShareMyLesson facilitates just what its name implies. Through its network, teachers can share materials—peer-reviewed by teams of other teachers—ranging from lesson plans to professional development tools. The more than 260,000 user-generated resources also already include material aligned with the new Common Core State Standards.
With a look and feel similar to Facebook, Edmodo connects teachers, students and parents—and with over 23 million users worldwide, it’s not doing a bad job. Teachers in particular can use the platform to share lessons and tips with other educators, getting ideas for new additions to curriculum or improving their existing materials. Additionally, the site offers the ability to manage classrooms, deliver assessments, post assignments, track grades and create polls, as well as apps like a photo editor and the student-friendly educational video site SchoolTube.
3. BETTER LESSON
Cost: Free basic access to instructors, paid premium options available to schools and districts
The goal of online community BetterLesson is to create a database of proven classroom methods that members can use when creating lesson plans. Aside from allowing pre-K-12 educators to find and search through existing lesson plans from around the world, it provides a forum where they can ask and answer questions. Additional features like advanced analytics and instructional support tools are available to teachers whose schools or districts register for the paid premium option.
Chaired by none other than Star Wars creator George Lucas (and part of his George Lucas Educational Foundation), Edutopia offers a regularly updated stream of best practices for K-12 classroom instruction. Strategies include ed-tech integration assistance, classroom guides and packages on schools that work, and users can even browse by grade level. In the Edutopia community boards, members can connect, share knowledge and discuss a variety of instructional topics and practices.
5. WE ARE TEACHERS
If you’ve ever needed peer advice and assistance with technology skills, WeAreTeachers is for you. While it provides educational articles, class-tested lesson plans and community discussion tools like previous resources listed, WeAreTeachers also features a section listing available contests and grants with instructions on applying.
A visual learning platform for teachers and students at all levels, Blendspace (formerly known as Edcanvas) works similarly to Pinterest. Users are able to curate digital content including videos, images and links, and a built-in search tool makes it easy to add items from Google, YouTube, Flickr, Dropbox or your desktop. This ability can extend beyond simple sharing, allowing innovative educators to think outside of the box and create multimedia lesson plans. An Edmodo app also makes it easier to share your content on that social network.
7. TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS
Cost: Free to join, price of materials varies
TeachersPayTeachers takes best practices sharing to the next level by providing educators with an open marketplace to sell, buy and share their original lesson plans, worksheets and other materials to peers. Though most materials do have a price, there’s still a nicely sized selection of free content available for instant download. Users also occasionally offer sales on their materials, and resources can be searched based on grade, subject, price level and format.
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