31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 18: Join a Group

A task a day for 31 daysWhy join a community? John Donne said ‘No man is an island’, and that sentiment is certainly true when it comes to education in general, and ICT in particular. Joining an organisation can reap benefits – I’ve identified 12 possible benefits below.

We work better togetherI’ve drawn a distinction between societies and communities. It’s a completely arbitrary approach on my part, which sees a society defined as a formal organisation, with a particular structure, entry requirements and so on, and a community as an informal organisation.  As I say, it’s pretty arbitrary: some communities also have membership approval and other formal elements. Nevertheless, I hope the distinction proves useful to you.

Why join anything?

  • Remember the proverb, many hands make light work. I have often found that when I am looking for information, someone in one of my groups has already done some of the work of researching and collating. (Equally, I think it’s incumbent on each member of a group to contribute in some way now and again, and that would include you!)
  • Belonging to a group affords networking opportunities, such as through discussion forums, a newsletter, or conferences.
  • It’s very hard to keep up-to-date with news and still have time to do your day job. Belonging to a group is a good way of keeping in the know, such as through a society’s newsletter. Incidentally, on Day 20 I shall be looking at newsletters you might like to subscribe to.
  • If the society has a magazine, you can be sure to find discursive articles which go into more depth than the average blog post or newsletter item. Note that my newsletter, Computers in Classrooms, often has discursive articles. See, for example, the April 2010 issue.
  • Societies usually put on special events, eg talks, conferences, including expert speakers. Some communities do so too, in the form of ‘webinars’, ie web-based seminars. In fact, sometimes that is the only thing a community does. See, for example, Classroom 2.0 Live, which features a special guest speaker and discussion each week.
  • Communities and societies often have online forums, blogs and podcasts.
  • Belonging to a group may give you opportunities to get involved in projects. I know, you already have enough on your plate. But doing this can give you greater knowledge and insight into a particular area.
  • There may be courses and other professional development opportunities.
  • It’s a support network, not just for work-related stuff, but for emotional well-being too. See, for example, Elizabeth Potts Weinstein’s article and video. IN the video she states that after being told in effect that she was useless, she went to her Twitter community and asked for reassurance.
  • Being exposed to group discussions and newsletters is likely to give you a wider spectrum of information sources than you might otherwise be aware of.
  • There are opportunities to contribute own point of view. Not everyone wants to do so, of course. In fact, most people don’t. But the option is there should you want it.
  • Some groups and/or levels of membership give you kudos. That may not be too important to you on a day-to-day basis, but it can help make your CV/resumé stand out from the crowd.

Examples of societies include:

  • The British Computer Society http://www.bcs.org/. The magazine is good for in-depth articles which tends towards more technical topics.
  • Royal Society of Arts http://www.thersa.org/ A very interesting organisation which has social good as its core aim. Lots of opportunities to get involved in projects and discussions.
  • Naace http://www.naace.co.uk/ . This is, in effect, the subject association for ICT in the UK.
  • Mirandanet http://www.mirandanet.ac.uk/ An academic society, but one which sets a lot of store by teacher/classroom research. Unlike the other societies listed here, Mirandanet is free to join.
  • International Society for Technology in Education http://www.iste.org/ I’d describe this as the subject association for ICT (educational technology) in the USA. Lots of interest groups available.
  • If none of these sound suitable, you can always form a local group, eg of fellow ICT leaders or of colleagues from neighbouring school districts or local authorities. Note that I have included only those societies which have a broad set of interests, not highly specialised ones.

Examples of communities include:

  1. Social networking groups, eg Linked-In http://www.linkedin.com See, for example, http://uk.linkedin.com/in/terryfreedman This is a good networking community and a source of interesting discussion and news (if you join one or more of the groups available)
  2. Social networking groups; use this as a starting point: http://www.educationalnetworking.com/List+of+Networks Note, though, that some of the URLs listed may change because Ning has announced that it is going to end its provision of free networks.
  3. Discussion list: Safetynet http://lists.becta.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/safetynet Specialises in e-safety, as the name suggests. I’ve included it even though it is specialised because e-safety is such an important consideration in our work. Note that I have no idea whether this group will continue, because I don’t know what the new UK’s government’s plans are for Becta.
  4. Discussion list: ITTE http://www.itte.org.uk/ This is a community of teacher-trainers, specialising in ICT.
  5. Discussion list: Ed Tech: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~edweb
  6. http://www.classroom20.com/ Good all-round community with thousands of members.

I hope you find something there which ignites your interest. Your task today is to explore the links I’ve given you to determine which of these, if any, to join.