PD Tips: Behind the Discovery Educator Network

Article sourced from Education World, written by reporter, Nicole Gorman.

Having a strong professional learning network is an important part of being an educator. Being able to share and receive advice, lesson plans, or just friendly banter among peers is an essential part of teaching. For this reason, many online communities exist to serve this purpose. Education World takes a look at the Discovery Educator Network (DEN,)a global network that also provides annual virtual and in-person conferences for teachers all over to convene. 

It’s Close to the Districts it Serves

One of the reasons DEN is one of the largest professional development resources for educators is because it builds its base from partnerships with districts to get the best understanding of teacher needs.

“Over the years our district partners have supported the DEN in a number of ways. They’ve encouraged their educators to participate in our activities, they’ve offered space and resources for DEN events, and they’ve contributed speakers to provide insight into their innovative efforts to support the success of each learner. These great contributions all help the DEN build a community of learners dedicated to exploring how digital content and other technologies can be best integrated into classroom instruction to improve student achievement,” said Steve Dembo, Director of Social Media Strategy and Online Community, Discovery Education.

It’s Reached Over 2 Million Educators

By large, the DEN has reached over 2 million educators globally since 2005, giving new meaning to one of the largest professional learning networks.

It Offers Annual Events for Thousands at No Charge

According to Dembo, “[t]he DEN holds a wide range of events. Some of our activities are virtual, and some are in-person events, while some are for local or regional audiences and some are for educators worldwide. Here are just a few examples of the no-cost learning opportunities available to DEN members and their average attendance:

·         DEN VirtCon: DEN Virtual Conferences are a unique form of free professional development that combines the best of both online and in-person learning. Attendees have the option of participating individually from home, or face to face at one of dozens of events hosted by STAR Discovery Educators in their school systems around the world. The Spring 2015 VirtCon attracted 2500 attendees who participated online and at 28 in person events.

·         DEN Streamathon: A live, day-long virtual professional learning event. This is one of Discovery Education’s annual community events with an average attendance of 3,500 educators from all around the world. Since 2006, the Streamathon has provided attendees with effective ways to integrate digital media into instructional practice.

·         Community Blogs: Each month DEN Leadership Council members and the DEN Team contribute hundreds of blog posts about instructional strategies, hot topics in education, and opportunities to connect in-person and virtually. The Discovery Student Network Blog provides current information about resources, events, and activities specifically for students. Students are able to participate in the community through a safe, secure, and moderated Comments section. The average readership of DEN blog posts is 25,000.

·         DENapalooza: DENapalooza is a series of Professional Development events that share the power of making connections through the Discovery Educator Network. Each of the stops is a full day, in-person event featuring formal presentations on topics like Digital Storytelling, Project-Based Learning, and Building Your PLN with the DEN. Informal sharing showcases and opportunities for networking and collaboration are also a focus for the day. DENapalooza 2014 reached approximately 1,000 educators.

·         DEN Summer Institute: The Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute is a week-long residential style professional development opportunity for STAR Discovery Educators focused on professional development and networking. Each year, over 150 educators from the US, Canada and the UK participate in the DEN Summer Institute.

Best of All, it’s Member Driven

When we asked Dembo about any technology-driven DEN conferences, he had something wonderful to say.

“While the DEN’s focus is on nurturing a community of educators passionate about transforming teaching and learning through digital media and technology, it is a member driven organization. So in addition to tech-focused events, at our members request we’ve also hosted events and activities exploring topics as diverse as STEM, the Maker Movement, coding, and more. But whatever the topic, our top priority is to provide educators with new strategies and techniques they can use in their classroom to support student achievement.”

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