There are a multitude of ways to have meaningful and reflective professional conversations online. In fact, it's so easy to find a place and to start a group or a conversation, that it might seems like all one need do to build a successful collaborative online community is to simply start a blog or a virtual classroom and get going. But it's not that simple. Anyone considering using blogs, discussion forums, wikis, or other online conversation tools should have a plan in mind when they begin their work to ensure success. Some things to consider when taking a conversation online:

1. What is the purpose of the online conversation? What do you want the topic or topics to be? Why do you want/need to converse online? To what end will you be talking/writing about those topics? Are you hoping to document learning? Share ideas? Support reflective talk? Who is your audience? Why? What do you anticipate the outcome(s) of your conversation to be? Whatever your purpose(s), make sure that you conversation is structured in a way that makes it clear what you want your participants to talk about, and why you want them to have the conversation or conversations.

2. Where will you have your conversation? Your purpose(s) should, to some degree, dictate where you want to converse online. You should choose a tool or tools that supports those purposes. A private conversation might not best be conducted online, but if you choose to go privately, you might want to consider a discussion forum or fora in St. Vrain Virtual Campus as the platform for your conversations. If you are seeking a wider, more public audience, a blog might be a good way to go. Wikis make sense, too, if you are focused on building a text or set of documents collaboratively. You also might wish to explore and join one of the larger professional communities online rather than creating your own space. Whatever tool you choose, make sure that you use it yourself before using it with others - you can't get a feel for a tool just by observing - you need to try it out for yourself. In addition, you should consider some practical considerations when choosing a tool: Is the website you wish to use blocked by district filters? Is it an easy to use tool for the group that you are working with?

3. How will you structure and manage your conversation(s) to support your purposes? Who will dictate the topics? Will everyone? One person? Is there a schedule for posting? How will you guide the conversation to keep folks on track? Is going "off track" acceptable, considering your purposes and audiences? What is your plan for supporting participants to learn about the tool or tools that you will be using? What guidelines will you ask the group to follow in their professional conversations? Will you build them collaboratively?

4. What will a successful conversation or conversations look like? How will you know if you've met your instructional objectives? Do you want to require a certain number of posts? Comments to others' posts? A combination of both?