Guest blog post by Ken Sadowski, Director of Learning & Instructional Technology at the University of Chicago and Founder and Leader of SLATE, the Midwest Blackboard User Group. He was the recipient of a 2011 Catalyst Award for Community Collaboration. Please join this panel discussion, “Rock on, SLATE! An Up Close Look at How a Blackboard User Group has Impacted Teaching, Learning & the Support of Technology in the Midwest”, on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 10:55 – 11:40am, room 392.
In February of 2002, I experienced two firsts in my life; the first time I visited Washington D.C., and the first Blackboard Users Conference I ever attended. I looked to these events with great anticipation. After all, I was a seasoned traveler and an academic IT professional so this was going to be a great experience all around. I tried to take it all in, the city, the conference, so many things to do. Both were very exciting and overwhelming all at the same time.
What I soon discovered was that there was just entirely too much to do by myself. And after a couple days at the conference, I started to meet people that were feeling the same way. A lot of them had been to D.C., but not a lot really knew what to do with this Blackboard thing. This was new (at that time) and they were sent to the conference, just like I was; to learn everything I could and bring it back to campus and become the resident expert on using technology in teaching. Leaving the conference, I felt I was taking home a lot of great information but I knew I would need more help year-round; but where would it come from.
So I decided to turn to my “new friends” and invited them (twelve at the first meeting) to come together and talk about what we just experienced at the conference. We all still had questions but not all the answers. But as we talked things through, it became apparent that between all of us, we would have all or least most of the answers. This was a good thing. We decided to meet again, and again, and, yes, again. Ten years later we are still meeting and have no thoughts of quitting any time soon.
The SLATE group (http://slategroup.org) has become a valuable asset to institutions around the Midwest and across the country. It has become a resource for individual growth and institutional awareness. It has become a forum to discover, learn, and challenge each other and Blackboard in being the best that we can in supporting our campuses and faculty in using technology in teaching and learning.
In this presentation we will share not only ideas and best practices that this group has initiated to sustain it over the years, but also the stories that people have about what the group has meant to them personally and how being a part of this “community of practice” has given them resources that they have been able to use on their own campuses. I look forward to attending my tenth conference next week and meeting up with now over 3000 of my closest friends.