The PNAIS technology directors listserv has experienced a rebirth this year. As we seek to understand the factors that build successful online learning communities, it’s worth asking why the group took off again this year. No doubt, school technology professionals have a need to get in touch with each other. Most work amongst only a small group of peers in their own institutions — the ability to ask questions of a large number of like-positioned peers has great value. Last year’s TechShare conference may have also had something to do with it. At the conference, 30 regional tech staff got together for the second annual conference, continuing to build face-to-face rapport that bleeds into successful online interactions. In the lead-up to the conference and immediately afterward, conversation on the listserv picked up pace. Don at PNAIS (the list sponsor and host) periodically injects some momentum into the group with well-placed, useful announcements of opportunities or projects in process. Finally, critical mass: when only a few people posted to the list, many stopped paying attention. Now, the more that some people participate, the more that others do as well.
If “technology directors” follows in the footsteps of BAISNet, the next step will involve someone proposing an impromptu, face-to-face meetup when the level of discussion on a particular topic reaches a fever pitch. Then we will be able to mark a new milestone for this online community. Will MACEP get there first?