When I first began integrating technologies into my teaching, I remember learning new technologies that were exclusive to our high school. Very few teachers from neighboring districts could access the same technology that, through a recent bond referendum, was available to teachers in our district. Since then, I know that technology simply mediates what is to be learned, and really, it's how the technology is used rather than the number of gadgets built into it. One of my advisors, Simon Hooper has written a very clear and helpful article that speaks to this. You can find it at http://www.nowhereroad.com/twt/.
I find Tapped In to be one of the most powerful tools that I have used, and it really has little to do with the technology, though I have to admit that does continue to be an important component. What they offer with technology is incredibly rich in terms of its tools available, though it pales in comparison to what is offered through how Tapped In is designed to be used. For example, Tapped In enables the communication of a variety of educators from around the world through monthly email about weekly online meetings, the availability of "rooms" to meet and discuss, the links to research about online learning, and the indispensable, reliable, and friendly help offered by the online tutors. Every time I introduce the tool to teachers, the tutors help me out. Teachers then feel quite a bit more comfortable with the environment and most of the time they pick it up quickly and begin to form their own learning communities. I'm not sure how many communities have been formed at Tapped In, but from my own teaching, I'm sure they continue to multiply.
Last fall, I think I used it to the extreme. I began to teach an online media studies course that is offered for the first time online at the University of Minnesota. It has been taught face to face for about 25 years by Richard Beach, who is a leading researcher in the field of new media studies at the University of Minnesota (and fortunately another helpful dissertation advisor). It has always been Rick's philosophy to teach teachers with tools that they can use in their own classrooms. Tapped In allows teachers to both use it as students and then turn around and use it as teachers. That alone best describes Tapped In's value to both teachers and teachers of teachers.
My dissertation is about online learning communities, so I hope to have some meaningful results over the course of the next year. Once I do, I can speak even more about how Tapped In facilitated learning and more importantly how it helped lead my media studies class into a community learners.