Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Virtual Staffroom - the future of professional organisations questioned

It was rather impromptu but last night I was once again part of a discussion that today is published on the Virtual Staffroom. It was interesting the way that this happened. About a half hour before the recording Chris Skyped me to indicate that it was happening and come along. I was, at the time, in a training planning meeting for a school where the focus was on web2 and collaboration. My planning partners reckoned, in jest, that I set this up but felt that it was a great example of what we had just been talking about.

The podcast discussion was all about the use of free software in education. I had to leave the discussion early as I had another online meeting to attend to discuss arrangements for Richard Stallman visiting my city in Sept 17th. He is one of the founders of this free software thinking. His statement about "Why schools should exclusively use free software" is a worthy and very quick read.

It felt like dominoes falling, the celestial bodies were aligning.

The dominoes keep on falling.

This has got me to thinking about the place that professional organisations have in the education food chain.

One of the things I've been struggling with for some time is the value of professional organisations now that we have access to the 'big thinkers' and 'movers and shakers' in our fields via Twitter, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, .....................

For people that are connected in this way, when was the last time you learnt something new via a professional organisation? and if you did, was the cost of membership and attendance at the event worth it?

My guess is that the professional organisations are struggling more than ever with membership and conference attendance. Perhaps one of the key benefits of these events is the chance of meeting F2F some of the characters you have been mixing with online, but I notice that people are doing this via Twitter now as well with broadcasts like - I'll be in [location name] tomorrow, catch up for coffee at [venue name] at 2:00pm.

So, professional organisations, what is their future? Are they really dieing? Should we persist or let them die?

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  • At 9:45 am, Blogger Chris said…

    Hi Peter, it's an interesting thought. Personally I learn far more from conversations with people than through any "official" channels. I still enjoy going to conferences and such but mainly for the chance to meet face to face with people whom I already know from my online world. Of course, it's always nice to meet new people, but interestingly, we tend to then use the online world to stay in touch.

    I would say that my "online world" is far more of a real world to me than the supposed "real world" is. My online world is full of real people who share meaningful conversations with me, on topics that I care deeply about. By contrast, much of my offline world is full of trivial conversation and pleasantries about the weather - all necessary of course, and I enjoy them, but they are very different. It's much easier to engage in a meaningful conversation about topics that matter to me with the people in my online world.

    Does this spell the end of conferences? :-) I doubt it. People like you are I are still in a very tiny minority. The online world is very real to us because we spend a lot of time in it. For me, the internet is not about website and servers, it's about people and ideas. I don't need to be face to face for that, in fact, I find I engage with more people and ideas when I'm online than offline.

    Anyway, interesting line of thought you've raised. Let me ponder it some more. And thanks for coming on the podcast at such short notice.

  • At 11:27 am, Blogger Wara said…

    Thanks for that Chris. My focus for teacher training is on helping people get equipped to become more independent with their ongoing PD. If we were to relate this to the field of computer science then I think we can see that it is embedded in FOSS thinking where teachers can 'program' their own PD rather than depend on the proprietary official channels.


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