Some People Just Don't Get It!
I recently read a comment to the effect that WiredSafety was nothing more than Parry Aftab and an annual summit in Washington, D.C. It wasn't the first time I heard it and won't be the last, but every time I hear it, I can't help but chuckle. Aside from being untrue, it just goes to illustrate just how little some people understand about the power of online collaboration.
To those who say it and don't really believe it, I simply say, "Shame on you."
To those who say it and actually believe it, I simply say, "Let me teach you!"
In 1995, I had the extreme good fortune of being a mentor in a 16 week summer project called the Online Internet Institute. It was the vision of Bonnie Bracey and Ferdi Serium. With some seed money from the NSF, the OII set out to come up with a way to scale up Internet professional development of educators.
After the 1995 National Education Computing convention, Bonnie and Ferdi gather a group of roughly 20 education luminaries to plan the project. They in turn gathered additional educators from around the world participated. We used an online database to form working teams based around the common needs and interests .
Our school district had just gotten Internet. I was charged with writing the curriculum and doing much of the professional development. I decided to gather a team to build a website that would be a Internet tutorial and the center of our professional development and curriculum for students. When it was over, not only would team members have access to the project, it would be made available to educators all over the world at no charge.
Had it not been for the OII and Internet, I would have been developing everything myself. As it turned out Susan Meyer, then of Princeton Regional HS, was in much the same boat as I. She became my partner in crime. We were joined by five other amazing educators from around the country. We also had commentary and critiques from leaders of other groups, such as Al Rogers, Andy Carvin, Margaret Honey, Jason Ravitz, Ferdi Serim, Bonnie Bracey, Hilarie Davis, Yvonne Andres, Kay Abernathy, Celia Einhorn, Betsy Frederick and others. If you don't know those names, just head on over to Google and check them out.
It was the most amazing 16 weeks I have ever spent. By the time school rolled around in September, our team had completed the web site and curriculum that would have been impossible for any individual to complete in such a short time.
It was truly greater than the sum of it's parts. We made the site downloadable and offered it to educators around the world. It was downloaded hundreds of times and over the next three years it was kept updated and distributed on about 2.5 million CDs. An archive of the site still exists at http://oii.org/cyberu/ .
So why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with WiredSafety? Well it's simple. Through online collaboration, we were able to assemble and tap into a quantity and quality of FREE talent that would have been impossible to assemble face to face, AT ANY PRICE, for 16 days, let alone 16 weeks.
That, my friends, is what online collaboration is all about, and that is what WiredSafety is all about! I've been a volunteer with WiredSafety since 1996. During that time, I've had the pleasure and the honor of working with some of the most dedicated, selfless, caring people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have built content and provided support, training, and assistance to tens of thousands of people at a cost that is equal to a drop in the bucket compared to other similar organizations who have done far less.
Some worked together on curriculum. Some built online learning. Some monitored chat rooms. Some provided one-to-one assistance. Others worked with law enforcement. Some present to schools and community groups.
We do is all from home. We work online. While I'm sleeping, Tim in the UK or Mary in Abu Dhabi are working. (Yes, they are real people!) We have people working 24-7-365, not for money, not for advancement, not for recognition, but for a cause we all believe in.
I won't kid you. It isn't always organized, it isn't always fun, and it isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.
I have worked with hundreds of the volunteers and probably thousand of teens. Most I have never met face-to-face. So when I hear folks saying that WiredSafety is little more than Parry Aftab and a once a year summit in D.C., I chuckle, because they just don't get it.
I started out with 16 weeks of OII as a model of excellence that testifies to the power of online collaboration and in a few month, I will have been with WiredSafety for 16 years of online collaboration that is equal testimony to what passionate dedicated people can do with a budget that wouldn't sustain a face to face operation for 16 days.
Parry is our symbol. Her vision, her dedication, and her energy inspire us and her once a year summit in D.C. is a peek at the work we are doing behind the scenes. See what these kids do and knowing that we've made a difference is all the reward or recognition we need. Most of us like it fine that way!
That my friends, is the power of online collaboration, and these are some shots I took two days ago at our once a year WiredKids Summit at the Russell Senate building.