It’s been a whirlwind start to my term in office as Chair of Naace! I’m already extremely grateful to those that have followed before me realising that you are thrown into a maelstrom of information and questions that require instant and decisive decision making. Their help and support has already been invaluable and while I admired their commitment and dedication before, I am even more keenly aware of it now.
Of course simply being decisive in your decision making does not necessarily mean that things get done. Being able to delegate, and supporting those that have taken on a task is much more important to success. The re-structuring of Naace into one governing body with a commissioning and tendering approach at the operational level is significantly different from what we did in the past. Firstly, it widens the opportunity for the involvement of the membership in projects that they might previously have been excluded from. Secondly, it empowers individuals by enabling them to work with colleagues from across the membership. This sort of individual professional development opportunity is rare, not because it does not happen through other routes, but because the individual concerned is rarely in control of such opportunities. I see this as a key benefit of being a member of Naace â€“ the ability to make choices about how you can become involved in national projects through your professional association.
Image credit: Nick Wiesner
You have heard from Terry and Jill about last year’s activity and the changes to the management of the association, and it is not my intention to bore you by going over that ground again. However, I am sure you would like me to thank those that, in the last year, have served on the Board of Management or Executive Committee and in particular the people who have come to the end of their tenure: Martyn Wilson, Janet Roberts and Roger Keeling and my immediate predecessors Jill Day and Terry Freedman who remain on the Board. It is through their hard work and selflessness that the association continues to prosper. In the same breath I must also mention the work of those employed by the association. They too, often give more that we could possibly ask to ensure that things run smoothly and efficiently.
My purpose today is to concentrate on the future not the past, although you will excuse me if I feel it is necessary to put my thoughts in context by some reference to the last few years.
The merger and amalgamation of the various associations concerned with educational ICT took place some four years ago and became Naace. At that time an organisational structure was agreed with the representative bodies of those associations. Inevitably this took into account both practical detail and the sensitivities of all concerned. Compromises were made on all sides in order that things might progress and the result was to everyone’s satisfaction. However, it was anticipated that amendment and adaptation would be necessary in the future. During the last three years the Board of Management and Executive have been addressing the consequences of merger by both maintaining the good work of the previous associations, ensuring continuity of products and services to a diverse audience of members and attempting to recruit more members from core constituencies. In effect we were attempting to run three or four organisations in parallel, both in attitude of mind and practical implementation, with some things being more successful that others. It has become increasingly obvious that we needed to re-examine not only the structures we had set up but to have a more fundamental conversation with the membership about the purpose and vision of the association which is not necessarily hampered by preconceptions of the past. During the next few months the new Board of Management intends to begin to have that ‘big’ conversation about the purpose and vision of Naace with you, the membership in order to re-focus attention on what we aspire to rather than what we have been. Let me illustrate this with one topic, there are perhaps many others:
In general, membership of Naace has been closely tied to an educator’s job role and, to be frank, sold as such. Naace products and services have been built around this conception. According to one of the recent membership surveys, 46% of that group have their membership fee paid by their employer. Great, but a consistent reason given for a member leaving is a change in job role. All well and good, but the objectives that we have all signed up to by becoming members aspire to so much more.
To me, membership of Naace needs to be more than regarded as the equivalent of a ‘magazine subscription’, we must be inspiring both members and non-members to develop their understanding of ICT as the driving force of 21st century education. Naace must be seen as the natural place to ‘be’ if you want to engage in this practice - to discuss and innovate, experiment and consolidate, work with like-minded people and learn from others.
By no means pre-supposing the result of this conversation, there are three principles that I wish to emphasise, and which no doubt will be key to the discussion:
The first is independence. While, we work closely with all agencies, and interested parties with regard to advancing education through ICT, our strength is in providing the opportunity for professional educators to voice their collective thoughts and views on policy and practice outside the confines of their established roles.
The second is quality. Naace has a reputation and track record for the quality of its thinking and contribution to educational ICT in the UK. This has been reflected in so many projects in the past and the present. In this area it can be said to have had true impact on the education system and the lives of learners over the years. Initiatives such as providing quality marks relating to ICT in education have been ground-breaking, and at their time, high-risk, but without them, education would be poorer in the UK today. We must not under-estimate our unique position in providing leadership and forethought, and the risk that this involves. Simply put, we can tread where others might fear to go, and profoundly affect the landscape in which change will follow.
The third is community. The last eighteen months to two years has seen ICT enable the concept of community to be reinforced and developed in ways that have not been possible before. By this I mean what has become known as Social Networking, an area that has been mentioned and discussed a number of times today in the context of our roles. Like every iteration of ICT before it, mass adoption causes disruption and challenges established methods of doing things, but is key to the process of advancement and integration into society. As educators, we have always attempted to interpret these changes, adapt and engage with these technologies to enhance both our own learning and those of others. Naace has in the past been key to this process but there is an immediacy this time around. The association and the ‘community’ it serves are now being challenged by the very change through ICT that we promote, espouse and say we embrace. In the traditional world, we, like every other association became a filter or cipher for the complexity of our area of interest. We do this in various ways using tried and tested methods which I should not have to list as we know them all. In today’s world however technology is fracturing and disaggregating knowledge, expertise and the traditional methods of community building. This is why some members say they no longer find Naace as ‘information useful’ as before, or young and enthusiastic educational professionals have not joined Naace, finding or establishing their own online global communities. Redefining our ‘communities’ into flexible ‘communities of practice’ in which the tools to propagate and develop peer communication, support and ideas, lie in the hands of members is a key challenge for any association today, but particularly for one working in the field of ICT. Of course, it is not true to say that we have not experimented with, and even piloted these technologies in the past two years, but, it is now time to place them in the mainstream and at the core of our methodology.
I must not keep you too long, but in conclusion, there are of course real practicalities that the new Board of Management needs to resolve quickly and efficiently. You might wish to pitch in and help us with these, offering your experience or expertise in a formal or informal capacity. We will shortly put out a call for the election of four new members of the Board. We are looking for members who want to both contribute and make a commitment to shaping both the future of the association and its influence in the wider community. Personally, I’d hope we will attract a younger set of enthusiasts rather than the ‘Saga generation’ which I will join during my term as Chair. So if you are under 35, or even better under 30, then you might well already have one vote. What I can say, is that you should not be afraid from standing simply because you feel you might not be experienced enough. Even if joining the Board of Management is not for you, I would urge everyone during the next year, to consider your membership as participatory and contributory. In that way we will continue to grow and prosper.
Thank you for listening.