Everywhere I went at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in New Orleans, I saw people talking.

On the exhibit hall floor, in the conference rooms, or even riding up and down escalators in the massive Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, people were talking about topics they found important. Their focus might have been on IT staffing, or curriculum, or the No Child Left Behind Act, or professional development, or countless other subjects related to educational technology.

Concern for such issues lured more than 17,000 of us to a very hot and humid city in late June, and all the cool solutions inside the convention center more than made up for the host city’s outdoor sweat bath.

Taking in this scene, I suddenly had a revelation: The crowd at NECC was no random collection of individuals–it was a true community with shared insight into a phenomenon still very much in its infancy. A desire to expand the universe of learning through modern, high-tech means made it even more important for all of these people to congregate at events like NECC. Without such opportunities, educators might be cut off from one another, which in turn would shortchange the students and communities they serve.

But what happens when everyone comes home from the show? Shouldn’t there be a place for such important discussions to continue? Actually, there already is: eSchool News Online.

We encourage all readers of both our print publication and web site to visit our online forums and join in a discussion of educational technology. We’re particularly interested in how our readers are reacting to the latest news stories that affect the field, such as congressional challenges to the eRate or the recent Supreme Court ruling on the controversial Children’s Online Protection Act and its effect on free speech.

In our forums, you can vent about issues that anger you and shine a personal spotlight on stories you feel deserve more attention. We put you in touch with other educators whom you might not otherwise encounter. Fate has a funny way of bringing people together on the web. An online correspondence with the right person could make a major difference in your professional life, so why not venture into our forums and see who’s already online?

If you are already part of an existing online community that you would like to relocate to our message boards, we’re eager to hear your suggestions for making our boards better than the ones you’re on now. Our site is sure to bring in more voices, and you can be sure that our community is knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects.

So save this link and drop by the forums:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/ubb/index.htm

No matter what you post, it won’t be sitting in cyberspace unattended. I check posts regularly and look forward to hearing what readers have to say. I also hope to get to know many of you through the boards, because we just might run into one another at a future NECC!

Forums aren’t the only rapidly changing part of eSchool News Online. On July 1, we unveiled our new, graphically enhanced site design. We also have a new daily feature, Around the Web, in which we post five links to other fresh, noteworthy ed-tech stories. We save you precious time surfing the internet by bringing a wide range of headlines directly to our site.

As always, eSchool News Online remains the only home for our popular Educator’s Resource Centers, in which we aggregate our finest eSchool News content related to specific hot topics. Our latest entry in the series is “Empowered Education: Leveraging Technology to Enhance School Leadership.” This new ERC, made possible with financial support from Sprint, and six other ERCs can all be found at:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/erc/Challenges/

For an even more interactive user experience, eSchool News Online and CaseNEX offer a comprehensive catalogue of online professional development courses, many of which can be taken for graduate-level credit. Summer is a great time to explore these opportunities, so be sure to check out this link if you haven’t done so already:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/erc/professionaldevelopment/casenex/index.cfm

Finally, if you like the NECC 2004 coverage in this month’s issue, be sure to visit eSchool News Online for the web edition of our NECC 2004 roundup. It’s an expanded version of the news you’ll find in this month’s issue, because while space in print can be limited, space on our web site is not. Read the coverage for a highly detailed sense of what it was like in New Orleans–without all the sweating, of course.