As I think it says on my “About” page, I’m currently the chair of the Commission on Professional Development for CAIS — the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools. And we’re facing a problem.
And yet, when I post my slideshow to the wiki, no one views it there. They go to my slideshare.net account, and view it there (approaching 340 unique views in the first 24 hours it’s been online.) How do we get people to go to our websites, and contribute to our materials, or at least show up to our living-breathing events from time to time.
It’s the challenge that every brick-and-mortar, flesh-and-blood group faces when dealing with the digital environment. Because we’re going to have to figure out how to be a flesh-and-blog kind of group instead. Yes we’re going to have traditional meetings. And yes, we’re going to have to have gatherings where we encounter one another face to face. But we’re also going to have to figure out how to create an ongoing, personal, online environment that answer and addresses the needs of teachers and administrators in the world of independent schools.
We’re going to have to provide a service that many of them don’t even know if they want. And then we’re going to have to figure out how to provide those tools and services on a budget that’s slim to non-existent.
Maybe the first challenge is thinking of the problem as “how do we get people to our website?”
Generating traffic for a website is “Old Mess.” The “New Mess” is that you want to tie into as many communities as you can — because if you’re trying to show that you’re a community of excellence, as many independent schools wish to do — you need to have a channel on YouTube. And you need to have a Twitter feed. And you need to have a website. And you need to have a Wiki. And you need to have a blog. And you need to have a VoiceThread presence (if indeed one has a presence on VoiceThread). And you need to have a podcast. Your organization needs to have a range of modalities with which it contributes to the global learning experience, if it’s going to attract people to its flesh-and-blood meet-ups.
Because participating in digital culture is free, and local, and global — all at the same time. You pay for an Internet connection, and the community is only a URL or a few clicks away. There, you’re judged by the frequency and the quality of your contributions.
If CAIS’s professional development program is going to survive, long term, it needs to have a range of people blogging about it, and we need to put our conferences on YouTube, and have them twittered, and we need to put them on a Wiki… and list them on our traditional website, so that our website becomes a portal to a range of tools and modalities — and that people who find and like our materials in one modality can find them in all the others.
CAIS can’t afford to pay these people. It needs to get them to buy into the idea that their time and effort and ideas and energy should belong to a tribe and a culture — a culture that ‘pays’ in respect, dignity, and the excitement of having a platform from which to launch yourself.
No, it doesn’t pay the bills. Yes, it’s just a cloud and some idealism. But that’s maybe something that can work, I hope, because it seems to be the kind of world toward which we’re headed.