While scouting headlines for a recent eSchool News Online “Around the Web” feature, I found a story about how the relative anonymity of online chat rooms inspired teen-agers in suburban Chicago to discuss literature with a degree of intellectual curiosity most would never have expressed in a roomful of their peers.

On the surface, it was just one more example of how technology can enhance learning. eSchool News and eSchool News Online are full of stories on this subject, but this particular story about the suburban Chicago students was unique, and for me, it put school technology into a much more meaningful perspective.

I will never forget how I felt in high school. I remember sitting in English class bursting with ideas about Shakespeare, Joyce, or Hemingway, but being too scared to articulate them front of others. As a teen-ager, the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself–particularly if I might be wrong. There’s no doubt teens have changed over the past 20 years, but this chat room story is a reminder that many still feel as I did.

Chat rooms, eMail, and other forms of online communication deserve a place at the table in schools if only because they encourage self-expression through writing. In practice, that expression is often less than literate (“How R U 2day?”), and it’s sometimes less than civil (anonymity can do wonders for rudeness), but it always requires the written word, and it always leaves room for creativity and insight.

That’s not only true for students. It’s also true for those charged with educating them. At eSchool News Online, we are committed to providing educators with a community space for discussing the latest technology trends and how these aid classroom instructors. And in keeping with this commitment, we now offer something that sets us apart from everyone else covering this field.

We offer you, the educator, a chance to participate in what we hope will become the most influential web logs, or “blogs,” devoted to examining the convergence of education and technology. This new frontier, already gaining momentum on the internet, helps you connect with colleagues from across the country, encouraging a high level of discussion not unlike the spirited dialogue of those students in suburban Chicago.

Yes, eSchool News Online is going blogging–in a big way. We will enable readers to participate in our coverage of major events and share in the daily musings of several educational blog veterans, including teachers, technology directors, and fund-raisers who have graciously volunteered to share their work with us.

Our event-driven coverage will focus on major ed-tech conventions, such as the upcoming National School Board Association’s T+L2 conference in Denver. Anyone going to Denver is invited to share thoughts and opinions on a special blog section of our new Conference Information Center. And thanks to support from AlphaSmart Inc., conference bloggers will be eligible to receive a brand-new Neo by AlphaSmart computer companion to take home after the conference.

Between now and Oct. 15, tell us which seminars you plan to attend by eMailing me at the address below. Within 12 hours after the seminar, using any available internet connection, you agree to post a review, discuss what you’ve learned, or share ideas that came out of the session. This information will exist in real time alongside the daily convention updates we’ll be posting on eSchool News Online. On Oct. 15, we will announce the names of the 20 randomly-selected bloggers who will receive a Neo by AlphaSmart. Even if you’re not in that group of 20, we hope you’ll participate in the project.

Our blogging community promises to be just as exciting. We have worked extensively with Oregon-based Clarity Innovations Inc., the company behind TeacherHosting.com, to develop a blog center. These blogs are maintained by educators for educators, and they focus on how technology impacts education. The bloggers’ collective experience covers a wide range of topics, so if you haven’t visited eSchool News Online in awhile, now is definitely a good time. Get in on the ground floor of what should be a daily source of valuable information.

Another newcomer to the site is the latest entry in our popular Educators’ Resource Center. This topic, “Anytime, Anywhere Learning,” covers laptops, handhelds, and wireless technology. We thank Gateway for the generous financial support that made this ERC possible, and we hope you find time to visit it in October. Check it out at:

http://www.eschoolnews.org/resources/reports/anytime/

While you’re perusing this new ERC, don’t forget about the other ERCs we continue to update with fresh content. You can see them all at this one-stop index page:

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

And whether or not you make it to Denver at the end of this month, I invite you to visit our new Conference Information Center for NSBA T+L2. It should be a great way to stay on top of all the events while you’re in town, and an ideal way to see just what you’re missing if you’re unable to attend.