Impacting Teaching & Learning Through a Community of Practice

(originally posted July 27th, 2012)

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 knew more about the National Zoo than I did about supporting this software package. I knew I would need help; 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 still had many questions but not many of 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. We could share our strengths, address our weaknesses, and together be better then we were before. 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 ( 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. You cannot do this alone - nor should you want to. Its much more exciting being part of a community of practice than going it alone. After returning from another great experience at BbWorld, I already miss the 3000 of my closest friends that were there and look forward to seeing them again real soon.

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