During the height of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” craze, I used to get pretty annoyed when contestants would undervalue, and thus waste, their “Ask the Audience” lifeline. I personally thought it was the most valuable choice, because it seemed to me that if you ended up with a clear answer, you could be fairly certain the audience was correct. Compare that with the “Phone a Friend” lifeline, which depended on how much you trusted your designated “expert”–in other words, you were pinning all of your hopes on one person.

It’s this ability to tap into the collective wisdom of a given communal group that is, in my opinion, one of the chief and most powerful benefits of the internet. While the flaws of groupthink are well documented, the benefits, I believe, are frequently underreported.

In modern life, we are conditioned to respect the wisdom of the experts. Everywhere you turn, you have pundits and authorities weighing in on every conceivable topic. But the flip side is that no single person could possibly have the breadth and depth of knowledge that compares with the collective experiences and learning of an entire group. And that brings me to my point: Last year, eSchool News initiated the successful “Conference Correspondent” program, an extremely powerful resource for the education community because it taps into the aggregate wisdom of educators such as yourself.

The “Conference Correspondent” program employs volunteers from the education community to report on the various seminars and workshops they attend during industry conferences. We post these reports online as we receive them from the volunteers. In 2005, the program spanned seven major educational technology conferences, and eSchool News collected and posted more than 500 total reports. Nowhere else can you get the same breadth of coverage from ed-tech conferences; nowhere else can you tap into such a rich and comprehensive source of collective ed-tech wisdom.

This year, our conference coverage begins with the 2006 Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) annual conference in Austin, Feb. 6-10, and concludes with the National School Boards Association’s annual T+L2 Conference in Dallas, Nov. 8-10 (see our story about the change in venue for this year’s T+L2 Conference on page 6).

In between, we’ll cover the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference in San Diego, Feb. 23-26; the Consortium for School Networking’s K-12 School Networking Conference in Arlington, Va., March 6-7; the Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando, March 22-24; the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s annual conference in Chicago, April 1-3; InfoComm 2006 in Orlando, June 3-9; and the National Educational Computing Conference in San Diego, July 5-7.

We at eSchool News encourage you to volunteer if you are planning to attend any of these conferences. Your commitment is minimal; we only ask that if you do decide to participate, you cover at least two sessions.

If you would like to volunteer as a Conference Correspondent for the TCEA conference this month, please visit:
https://www.eschoolnews.com/cic/tcea06reg.cfm

If you’d like to volunteer as a Conference Correspondent for any of the other ed-tech shows we’ll be covering this year, please eMail me at rridell@eschoolnews.com. The beauty of the program is that, as more educators participate, the better and richer our coverage is. This only makes for a stronger resource for you.

Once the conferences start, continuing coverage can be accessed through our eSN Conference Information Center. This resource is updated about one month prior to each conference with information that includes the conference schedule, things to do, featured speakers, and so on. Then, we update this information daily for the duration of the conference, reporting on seminars, new products, and other news from the show. All of this coverage is archived for your continued benefit.

For continuing coverage of TCEA 2006 and other conferences, or if you are looking for our past conference coverage, please visit our Conference Information Center at:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic/

In recent weeks, we have added a few Educators’ Resource Centers to our web site. These additions would not be possible without the generous support from our sponsors, and we thank them for helping us provide this comprehensive information in such a convenient location and format. Our new ERC topics are:

21st Century Learning (sponsored by Promethean)
http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/21stcenturylearning/

Enhancing Your Curriculum (sponsored by netTrekker)
http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/enhancingcurriculum/

If you haven’t already done so, please take a few moments to avail yourself of these useful resources.