What Does HIV Testing Have to Do with Great Teaching?

I am always looking for adjacencies outside of education to inform how I think about my own work. Sean Young is a researcher at UCLA who runs the Center for Digital Behavior. We met a few weeks ago to talk about his study focused on how to get high risk men to take an HIV/AIDS test. We have been looking for rapid cycle ways to really assess the impact of our work to support teachers connecting with other teachers through digital and face-to-face experiences. I was most interested in Sean’s study because he looked at the impact peer leaders had in an online social community on behavior change. He found over 12 weeks that belonging to a digital community with trained/trusted peer leaders could actually change behavior and encourage one to take an HIV/AIDS test.  I couldn’t help but think how we might translate what he’s done to understanding the impact of belonging to an online professional learning community in education. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence about the power of the Teacher2Teacher network but can we measure the impact on teacher practice? What behaviors change when teachers belong to a strong professional network (online or face-to-face)? I’ve heard teachers say that if it weren’t for Twitter they would have quit—in other words, their online professional learning network gave them the inspiration, ideas and tools to keep at it. Sean thinks we can measure that in more rigorous ways and so do I.