Do You Belong? Professional Organizations: The Ed Tech in Crowd!

Professional organizations play a valuable role for educators of all ages and subjects.  Today’s students are required to learn advanced technology skills in order to prepare for the 21st century workforce.  Technology allows students to create, problem solve, research, collaborate, and interact globally. Students have the ability to learn and express themselves in their individual learning style.  Teachers must embrace this technology in order to incorporate into their plans technological tools that are of educational benefit.  This is not an easy task for teachers who are already overloaded with district tasks.  Professional organizations have so many resources that guide teachers where to start with all these unknown Web 2.0 tools.  Many lesson plans, tutorials, and examples are at a teacher’s fingertips, and the fear of where to begin is alleviated.  This Web Quest will help teachers who did not realize this availability.  Without these organizations, a k-12 teacher could be easily frustrated.

There are a variety of organizations to choose from.  Each organization benefits most educators with students of all ages.  There are also organizations that cater to specific technology content, such as science, engineering, networking, and the arts.  The first step to deciding which organization suites your specific needs is to determine the area of your focus. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a great place to start your journey into an organization designed for technology integration.  This organization provides a multitude of resources designed to incorporate technology into the K-12 curriculum. Professional development, newsletters, publications, current research, The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), educational career opportunities, support and discussions are just samples of what this membership has to offer.  Administrators, K-12 educators, higher educators, technology coordinators, researchers, network engineers, web designers and informational technologists all have areas of interest and support available.

I strongly suggest that teachers investigate their individual state’s organizations. Most educational technology organizations have membership offers on an individual basis and package deals for larger groups.  If your school district is not a member of these organizations and consortiums, I urge you to research what your state has to offer.  Be sure that you understand how your school district, administration and faculty would benefit from joining these memberships.  The driving force behind my advocacy of having a district membership where I am currently employed was my discussion of how our town would save money.  I was finally heard when I demonstrated with monetary figures that included free professional development throughout the year.  Therefore, membership would save money in our budget since the cost was much cheaper than paying for individual experts to come into the school district for required professional development training hours.  Unfortunately, most district business administrators must consider budgetary constraints as a priority before educational value. If your state offers this membership to you, consider that it is a benefit to budgeting, faculty and most importantly, our students.  Statewide educational technology conferences and meetings are also more convenient to attend throughout the year.   Local organizations offer teachers valuable lessons, web experiences, and possible software for your classroom.  Professional development opportunities, lectures, and vendors are available for particular learning experiences.  I find them to be hands on fun, creative lesson building that helps spark enthusiasm while integrating technologies into our daily curriculum, resulting in enhanced students’ learning.   Whenever I am apprehensive about joining, learning, researching or advocating something new to my career, the deciding thought is always, “do it for the children.”  Visit some of these suggested educational technology professional organizations below and keep an open mind.  Consider if these organizations are beneficial to your teaching career.  And the one question to always consider is “Will this benefit the children?”

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) :  This professional organization is a resource designed assist educators of prek-12, higher educators and education leaders, with advancing learning and teaching with effective use of technology.  Membership ranges from $212.00 to $49.00, depending on what offers you wish to receive, retirement or international online status.  Membership consists of specialty groups, periodicals, conferences, discount webinars, leadership opportunities, awards, and more.  The price was a struggle for me at first, but I am now confident is was worth every penny.

New Jersey Educational Computing Consortium, Inc. :  The goal of this organization is to “promote and support the integration of technology in education as it applies to student learning, professional development, and instructional planning.” The membership is based on district participation; hence individuals do not have the opportunity of joining.  Membership costs range from $525.00 to $825.00 depending on how this fits in with your district. Benefits consist of monthly meetings, discounts for your district, hardware, software and service, statewide educational conference, and a digital learning institute with topics discussed for three continuous days.

The Capital Region Society for Technology in Education: their mission is to “create synergy across the national capital region for advocacy, infrastructure, policy, practice, professional development and strategies that promote the infusion of instructional technology across the curriculum in public and private PreK-12 education and higher education”. I listed this organization since they are hosting remote ISTE on Tuesday June 29th.  There are also many other cyber conferencing opportunities and communication available for your educational enhancement. The membership is statewide.

Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education:  The AACE is a non-profit organization with the mission “of advancing Information Technology in Education and E-Learning research, development, learning, and its practical application.” Membership ranges from $135.00 to $35.00 depending on age and resources available.  You have the opportunity to network with professionals around the world; attend their world conference, digital learning and professional publications.

New Jersey Association of Educational Technology: This is a FREE organization to anyone in any state.  Members include administrators, educators, IT professionals, technology coordinators, vendors and computer or software companies. This network promotes the use of technology in education.  You will find information about their annual conference, awards, publications, and upcoming events.  If you do not join any other professional organizations, please at least check out the free resources available.  There is no risk and perhaps you will find its value as much as I do.