In the early days of email and discussion lists, I created an online teacher support network. At its most active, we had about 400 subscribers and hundreds of discussions ensued. As interest began to wane, I talked about shutting down the list. That was when I heard from teachers about how valuable the network was in cutting through their professional isolation. One teacher lived in a remote section of North Dakota another lived and taught in the Florida Keys. Without the support of their unseen email-based colleagues, they would have had few people to work through teaching issues.
Today, I am a member of several Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) coordinated by ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education. With technology in the classroom being quick to change and new products hitting the market all the time, I need the feedback from colleagues to inform what tools I will spend my time and energy with. Every day or so, some colleague from across the country will mention a piece of software they use and love. A click or two later, I am looking at the same thing and evaluating it for use in my own teaching.
When I was elected to the Board of Directors of ISTE, I learned about some interesting initiatives to increase membership. One of these initiatives was a pilot program at the District-wide level. I brought it to Scot Graden's attention and he immediately saw the benefit for our teachers.
For this pilot, only two districts are involved, Saline Area Schools and Prince William County Schools in Virginia. They will both provide feedback on the impact of providing free membership to ISTE for all certified educators. Saline's teachers will have access to all 20 of the Professional Learning Networks and be able to see, free of charge, conference videos, participate in webinars, get discounts on books, and receive a discount on conference registration. That conference, usually attended by over 20,000 teachers nation-wide, will be held in Chicago this year. I am hoping to see many Saline teachers there at the end of June.
This is a great professional development opportunity for Saline Area Schools teachers.