Now, as I say in the intro video below, this is kind of like bringing someone to see a house or building that is still under construction... We know there are going to be some "unfinished rooms" and that the paint isn't dry or even up in other areas, but we really are hoping that you will come and let us know what work still needs to be done that we might have missed.
LearnCentral.org is like a Facebook for educators, in that it allows you to specify the details of your teaching or curricular interests and then find others with whom you could collaborate. But it is much more than that, which is what makes this such a fun project. LearnCentral will also have a robust content-sharing repository for learning objects and lesson plans, full-featured discussions forums, and public and private groups. As well, because this is an Elluminate project, you will have one-button access to meeting with someone else online through Elluminate's free and full-featured vRoom program. (I'm particularly excited about what this might do for allowing parent-teacher conferences to take place in more convenient ways!)
And while we haven't worked out all of the logistical details yet, here's the part that really gets me jumping up and down: we're going to make it possible for educators to hold larger group meetings (like our Classroom 2.0 LIVE! meetings) for free. There will be some basic stipulations for doing this: the meetings have to be available to the general public, free (not being charged for), and recorded for the LearnCentral archive. What we think this will do is to extend the incredible professional development that is now taking place asynchronously in social networking and add the synchronous piece. Want to gather together and brainstorm with educators around the world who teach in your field? You'll be able to do it. Want to hold monthly meetings to share lesson ideas? You'll be able to do it.
For me, this holds incredible potential as part of the long-tail concept. Not the part we normally think about--student access to a much broader variety of material--but the part where educators can gather around their special curricular interests that may be unique or alone in their local school or district, but not alone when the whole world becomes the pool of potential colleagues for regular interaction. Like Jim Beeghley, who's specialty is using technology to teach the Civil War. Or the ladies in Hawaii who are starting the Hawaii 2-0 meetings around the use of Web 2.0 in schools there. Or anyone else who doesn't have the budget to travel to larger conferences to make these kind of connections and then follow up on them (which may be most of us in the current economy!)
I hope you'll join the public beta and let me know what you think. As soon as you do, you'll see that I'm automatically added as a colleague. I'll look forward to hearing your reactions and feedback. I've scheduled what I hope will be the first of weekly (?) feedback meetings for this coming Monday, March 30th, at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 12midnight GMT in Elluminate at https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?password=M.6B8E896955C97D9166E113CE9A3688. If you haven't used Elluminate before, don't be shy about attending--we do a lot of hand-holding so beginners feel welcome! You can test your machine's configuration for Elluminate at http://www.elluminate.com/support.