Educators who attended this year’s NECC most likely didn’t notice many changes, although the leadership behind the conference was different.

But the merger of the National Education Computing Association (NECA), which has planned and organized NECC for the past 23 years, with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) ultimately will be a boon for schools, according to ISTE officials, because it will broaden ISTE’s reach and expand the group’s impact.

“It’s just a natural pairing. We’ve been very strong, intertwined allies for such a long time,” said Marlene Nesary, marketing analyst for ISTE. “They are an event, and we are a professional society. Now their event is our event, and it’s the premier event of this profession.”

The transition is not yet complete, although it has been under way for quite some time. Currently, the new ISTE has two co-presidents: Cathleen Norris from NECA and Cheryl Williams from ISTE. The new ISTE is governed by a joint board of directors.

Jan Van Dam, director of new media at Oakland Schools in Michigan, was elected president of ISTE for next year.

Oakland Schools is a regional educational service center in Oakland County, Mich., serving 28 local school districts, 20,000 educators, and 200,000 students.

Don Knezek, ISTE’s new chief executive officer, said the merger provides ISTE with a broader audience and the opportunity to reach members at a national annual event, which will expand the group’s influence on ed-tech issues. Knezek formerly served as executive director of ISTE’s Center for Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology.

ISTE has approximately 75,000 members nationally and internationally who are classroom teachers, technology coordinators, and school administrators. By playing a larger role in NECC, the society can reach conference attendees and develop partnerships with the corporate sector, Knezek said.

“We see the new ISTE making a difference in education through new corporate alliances,” he said.

As CEO, Knezek will work on building ISTE’s educational partnerships, programs, and international reach. Other priorities include growing and diversifying membership; strengthening alliances with government entities and corporate partners; and developing standards-based solutions that expand opportunities for all learners.

A transition team of 10 ISTE and NECA representatives developed new bylaws and outlined the merger process. Membership of both organizations voted for the new bylaws, approving the merger as of June 1.

ISTE’s activities to date have focused on knowledge generation, professional development, and ed-tech advocacy.

The society publishes a monthly magazine called Learning and Leading with Technology, as well as guidebooks to implementing the standards it has developed—including the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for both teachers and administrators.

Last year, ISTE developed the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), an online database of ed-tech research that school administrators can use to search for the latest research by category. CARET, which is a three-year project funded by a $1.05 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, translates research into user-friendly language that can be applied to school planning decisions.

ISTE’s professional development activities have included creating special-interest groups for certain demographics, such as multimedia specialists, education professors, and high school computer science teachers. These groups offer their members an active listserve devoted to their area of interest, as well as newsletters or magazines, meetings, and awards programs.

ISTE also creates custom professional development solutions for states and school districts designed to meet their specific needs. The society currently is working with China to develop a program for training that country’s teachers to use technology. ISTE already has completed similar projects with Jamaica and Bermuda, Nesary said.

Lastly, ISTE acts as a conduit of education policy information. The society issues a newsletter about ed-tech policy, called Washington Notes, written by its legal counsel, Leslie Harris and Associates. It also hosts roundtable discussions at which experts discuss prominent policy issues. ISTE plans to strengthen its policy role by moving its headquarters from Oregon to Washington, D.C., this summer.

NECA was composed not of individual members but of 13 professional societies, one of which was ISTE. To accommodate these members, ISTE has created a new class of membership, called Cooperating Professional Societies. These will be offered renewable one-year memberships to ISTE.

In the future, the new ISTE plans to continue to expand CARET, become more involved with state ed-tech directors, and increase its professional development offerings, Nesary said.

Related links:
International Society for Technology in Education
http://www.iste.org

National Education Computing Conference
http://www.neccsite.org