In looking at connecting organizations for teachers, I always find myself a little ambivalent, wondering how much the organizations are of benefit to me or how much my membership benefits the organization. The degree of my ambivalence is very often directly linked to any cost associated with membership. Of course, cost may not necessarily equate to a fee either.
I have been part of the National Writing Project (NWP) for a few years now, finding that to be the best professional development organization I have yet to find as a teacher. Through it I have met and collaborated with some of the best and brightest educators I have ever encountered. Best of all it is free to teachers. In fact, by taking a greater role in a local project and engaging at a higher level one can even earn stipends and get paid for service. That organization notwithstanding I have been keenly aware and interested in a few others, most notably the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) and Apple’s Distinguished Educator (ADE) program.
On two previous occasions I nearly applied for the Google Teacher Academy. Yet, in both instances the timing was awful. The first time I became aware of the academy and considered applying was too close to the expected birth of my daughter a few years ago. That plus the cost of the travel made me balk at the possibility. The next instance, travel was far less likely to be problem but interference with the prospects of attending the NWP Annual Meeting. SInce then I have been trying to keep track of when the next one will happen which there is even a chance that I might be able to apply and hopefully attend.
Until my school switched to Macs, I have to admit I hand;t really even thought a whole lot about Apple’s Distinguished Educator program. I had long been an Apple fan, having owned various Mac models over the years, even a first generation iMac. However, after working exclusively in a Windows environment for so long, quite a few years passed without a lot of Apple usage. Still, I jumped at the prospects and lobbied for the change. Since then I have been trying to track ADE, despite the fact that Apple doesn’t seem to make it terribly easy to find information, let alone apply to participate. They seem to only occur once a year event and may not even be hosted in the States. So I keep hoping that I will not miss the chance.
With both of these organizations, I have more desire and far less ambivalence, if for no other reason than my regular usage of each company’s products. As a result, I feel as though there would be genuine benefits, like new and innovative uses. Moreover, I already am an advocate of their products and would feel far less like a shill by participating.
Recently, I completed the application to be a Star Discovery Educator. I have been registered with the Discovery Education Network (DEN) for a few years and even have been tempted to go through the Star application in the past. I did attend the Day of Discovery New England in the spring and even ran into a few people from the Discovery team at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference this summer. Previously, becoming a DEN Star struck me as being a little more of a Discovery Network promoter without much in return. I will readily admit that I really don’t know the value of any return from Discovery. Yet, the last few positive experiences and the recent material from the Flat Classroom Certification program inspired me to complete the application and investigate the benefits. So, now I am eager to see how it works. Surely, there will be more to come.