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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
after the course is over. Some receive tens of thousands of hits on their web sites each month (Levin et al., 1994; Levin and Waugh, 1998).
While e-mail, listservs, and websites have enabled members of teacher communities to exchange information and to stay in touch, they represent only part of technology’s full potential to support real communities of practice (Schlager and Schank, 1997). Teacher communities of practice need chances for planned interactions, tools for joint review and annotation of education resources, and opportunities for on-line collaborative design activities. In general, teacher communities need environments that generate the social glue that Songer found so important in the Kids as Global Scientists community.
The Teacher Professional Development Institute (TAPPED IN), a multiuser virtual environment, integrates synchronous (“live”) and asynchronous (such as e-mail) communication. Users can store and share documents and interact with virtual objects in an electronic environment patterned after a typical conference center. Teachers can log into TAPPED IN to discuss issues, create and share resources, hold workshops, engage in mentoring, and conduct collaborative inquiries with the help of virtual versions of such familiar tools as books, whiteboards, file cabinets, notepads, and bulletin boards. Teachers can wander among the public “rooms,” exploring the resources in each and engaging in spontaneous live conversations with others exploring the same resources. More than a dozen major teacher professional development organizations have set up facilities within TAPPED IN.
In addition to supporting teachers’ ongoing communication and professional development, technology is used in preservice seminars for teachers. A challenge in providing professional development for new teachers is allowing them adequate time to observe accomplished teachers and to try their own wings in classrooms, where innumerable decisions must be made in the course of the day and opportunities for reflection are few. Prospective teachers generally have limited exposure to classrooms before they begin student teaching, and teacher trainers tend to have limited time to spend in classes with them, observing and critiquing their work. Technology can help overcome these constraints by capturing the complexity of classroom interactions in multiple media. For example, student teachers can replay videos of classroom events to learn to read subtle classroom clues and see important features that escaped them on first viewing.
Databases have been established to assist teachers in a number of subject areas. One is a video archive of mathematics lessons from third- and fifth-grade classes, taught by experts Magdalene Lampert and Deborah Ball (1998). The lessons model inquiry-oriented teaching, with students working to solve problems and reason and engaging in lively discussions about the mathematics underlying their solutions. The videotapes allow student teachers to stop at any point in the action and discuss nuances of teacher perfor-