There will be coordinated opportunities for educators to participate in live events and activities in dozens of online locations.

“Improvement requires connection” with peers, colleagues, and new ideas, said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Education Department (ED), at a recent ed-tech conference—and that’s the idea behind the first-ever Connected Educator Month, which kicks off Aug. 1.

To celebrate the occasion, which encourages educators to join online “communities of practice” to improve their craft, ED and its partners in the project are hosting a series of online forums and events.

“As we ramp up for the 2012-13 school year, teachers and leaders … have the opportunity to work toward a more connected and collaborative profession,” Cator said during the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in late June.

Building on these principles, ED has created the Connected Online Communities of Practice projects to “expose the broader audience of educators and administrators to the benefits of peer professional development.”

Connected Educator Month will begin with a two-day online conference featuring senior ED officials and education thought leaders. It will continue with…

  • Month-long forums on topics such as personalizing learning and the future of the teaching profession, which will be moderated by noted education leaders and consist of online discussions, interviews, webinars, chats, and more.
  • Guided tours and real-time open houses, which will connect educators with online communities of practice, answering questions such as: “Who can help me solve challenges I’m facing in my classroom, and how do I best connect with them?” and “How can I help change my profession for the better?”
  • Contests for addressing community challenges, developing innovative ideas, and creating compelling video demonstrations.
  • Inauguration of a new series of open badges for connected educators as well as online communities.

All events and activities will be archived and synthesized into multimedia “proceedings” that will serve as a permanent resource to educators and community sponsors.

The full official calendar of events can be found here. To make sure your computer is configured correctly to participate, visit the support and configuration page. The Twitter hashtag for Connected Educator Month is #ce12.

For a glimpse at what the conference will entail, here’s the lineup for the Aug. 1 “Opening Day” events: