For the past three years, around 25 educational technology leaders in about ten Minnesota school districts with 1:1 iPad programs have been meeting for a half day twice a year to share best practices, compare notes, ask questions, and discuss our plans for the future. This cross-district collaboration has been super beneficial. I would strongly encourage anyone in a 1:1 program to seek out other similar districts and meet to discuss issues regularly. I think you will find it worth your time.
Three years ago when we started meeting, there weren't as many area districts with 1:1 iPad programs. We were in our second year of implementation and really wanted to be able to talk with other experienced districts. We wanted the conversation to be about what happens beyond year one, which was something that we found happened frequently at conferences or other general metro meetings when there was no minimum experience required. The questions and needs a school has when they are beginning a 1:1 program versus those a school has after a year or more of experience are quite different. Conversation moves beyond the basics of logistics to deeper pedagogical and philosophical questions.
For these reasons, we specifically limited our group to be composed of districts that were in the second year or later of an iPad implementation. Over the past ten years in Minnetonka Schools, we have held many events and hosted thousands of educators at our schools to share the best practices that we have learned in implementing iPads and other technology tools. But part of the purpose of the EIEIO group was to meet the needs of our instructional technology staff and to challenge us to grow and plan for the future.
One of my colleagues, Peter Gausmann, came up with the acronym for the group at our first meeting and it stuck: EIEIO. This stands for Excellence Inspired: Experienced iPad Organization. Kind of a funny name, but it works. Since starting this group, another similar group has begun in central Minnesota, north of the Twin Cities area, with a similar purpose.
Years ago, we had other user group meetings, such as SWAMSBUG meetings. This stood for Southwest Area Metro SMART Board Users Group. This group met a few times back when SMART Boards were newer with a similar purpose. It didn't last as long, I think because it had a really wide range of user experience with no minimum requirements. As you think about creating your own user groups for idea exchanges, consider ways to make them beneficial for all involved. Depending on the topic(s), requiring experience beyond the initial implementation of a program might just be a great way to get things rolling.