Professor A. Orellana
Nova SouthEastern University
Selecting a professional association is not a task to be taken up lightly or without much contemplation. There are at least three reasons why selecting a professional organization ought to be a time-consuming process: financial cost, investment of time and "match to personality."
a) Financial cost: In the past, I have joined professional associations on the advice of professors or, worse, because the association had an attractive advertisement for an upcoming conference. Often I could barter my time to get the cost of joining waived. Since getting married, I have found that the cost of joining an effective association requires more than the cost of a pizza! Finding the right association for my professional development has led me to consider factors like "how serious is the association when it comes to helping the individual member?"
b) Investment of time: When I was in my twenties, I used to join an association or an interest group without much thought. Associations can be a good way to meet people with similar backgrounds, leading to lasting friendships. Associations can help a "new person in town" make much-needed professional connections. Associations can guide the professional development of the eager newbie.
However, I had not declared my college major when I was exploring associations and often I found I had to drop the link to the group after there were conflicts with another group (which I had joined because another professor recommended it).
Now that I'm in my fifties, I have relatively more money than time compared to thirty years ago, so I'm eager to consider a more expensive association if "buying my way in" brings me more results than I could get being a volunteer when I was in my twenties.
c) Match to my personality: In my younger years, I was often in awe of large associations and, lacking funds, I sometimes thought I might volunteer video services in exchange for membership. Often the more prestigious groups had their own sound and video recording services, so I tended to gravitate to smaller associations. My personality works well in smaller association, which tend to have fewer procedures, more flexibility and more gratitude for a unit of volunteering. I went to small schools, I have worked in small schools as a teacher and I therefore have decided to profile a smaller association in the instructional technology area.
The Florida Society for Technology in Education (FSTE) is linked with the international association, ISTE. There are three benefits that got my attention when pondering where to focus: cost, proximity and size. The cost of membership is $25 per year ($12.50 for students), much less than ISTE ($99 standard, $39 for students, $219 premium and $59 for retirees, with some sort of affiliate status in Florida for Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders and FSTE). The association has divided its membership zones into five zones in the state of Florida, making it more likely that I can get involved in the leadership structure, should i choose to volunteer in the group. Since FSTE is small (fewer than 500 members), it develops more of its resources on getting specific tips to its members, chiefly through its website and past newsletters, stores digitally as .pdf files. Although the ISTE has a higher profile in the industry (the prestige of its president joining other leaders in a televised documentary televised on Lifetime channel in October), FTSE has the scale that fits my level of participation at this time. ISTE has a brick and mortar address in Eugene, Oregon; FTSE is kept in folders of its current officers. ISTE has a digital journal (Learning and Leading with Technology, with a print version at $54 per year) and special interest groups (SIGs), but FTSE has a more-accessible newsletter, to which it appears easy to contribute without the layers of peer review.
Started in 1985 as the Florida Association for Computers in Education (FACE), the group has a history of supporting teachers with tips from other teachers about "what works in the classroom." FACE was clearly an advocacy group, advocating the use of technology. The goals of the group have been expanded over time and the name change reflects the focus of "promoting and supporting the use of technology in education" (according to the current society president, Norma Jennings, in a recent newsletter). The association has five chief verbs: "Share instructional technology (with members); Increase partnerships…; Encourage … advocacy; monitor the impacts of technology on education; and "explore" ways to improve 21st Century skills of "our students." These key action verbs gave me the feeling that this association does not sit back and wait for press releases, but rather looks for solutions to problems that have been presented to the association by members.
Officers include a president (Norma Jennings), a secretary (Ann Smith), treasurer (Diane Kamentz, who also serves as webmaster). I like the fact that the FSTE board includes a pst president, a president elect (who is apparently shadowing the process) and four important linking people: higher ed rep, corporate liaison, ISTE rep and FCITL rep (the current president). These ten positions are covered by eight people. This could indicate that there are opportunities to get involved with the association's work. The association recommends participation in FETC (fetc.org), the Florida Educational Technology Conference, taking place in January 2012 in Orlando. FETC is organized by 1105 Media, Inc., a trade show company. The association also promotes the ISTE conference (slated for San Diego in June 2012), since FSTE is the organizational affiliate to the international ISTE.
Symposiums are organized, which are more useful for members than a statewide conference. For example, in a newsletter (May 2010), one of the district representatives was in Manatee County giving a training symposium for $25 -- which included the $25 membership fee, breakfast and lunch.
This research process helped me see that the association can clearly use more volunteers. The association has the "big picture" view on purpose, aiming to "serve both a catalyst and an informational organization to address the urgent issues of instructional technology" (fste.org). For a graduate student in instructional technology, this organizational focus on the individual is helpful. There is a clear balance between the big picture and serving the professional needs of the member.
I've seen professional associations get distracted by offering members discount for car rentals and other amenities. The Board of FSTE appears to be more accessible than the board members of the larger ISTE.
I believe I will find more professional development opportunities with FSTE than with most other school-based associations. I also see advantages to joining the larger ISTE, so I'm doing the logical thing: I'm joining both organizations.