I usually am pretty impressed with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). I find that its books typically are of high quality. One of the best conferences I ever attended was an ASCD conference. I am a long-time ASCD member, subscriber to its SmartBrief e-mail newsletter, and reader of its Educational Leadership magazine and Inservice blog and Twitter feed. In other words, ASCD does good work.
That said, I confess that I am a little skeptical about the long-term chances of ASCD's new online community, ASCD EDge. As you can see below, it's a very sophisticated and comprehensive site. The ASCD Web team clearly has put a lot of thought and effort into the community. But I am not sure that educators need another freestanding social networking space. I know that I already have trouble staying on top of the ones in which I'm currently enrolled (on a side note, there are WAY too many good Ning communities out there!). I know that others find it difficult to keep up as well.
The social networking dilemma: Use someone else's service or build your own
The challenge for an organization like ASCD that wants to tap into the benefits of social networking for its members is that it has two options:
- Create a visible presence in someone else's social network (e.g., a Facebook community), or
- Create its own social network.
ASCD has decided to go with Option 2. In order for ASCD EDge to be a success, ASCD has to persuade large numbers of people to spend time in its online space rather than one that appeals to both educators and non-educators. Personally, as much as I like ASCD, I'm pretty unlikely to put my status updates and blog posts and photos and videos and discussions in a place other than Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or some other more general space that has larger network effects. I'm guessing that most other folks will be hesitant as well, particularly if other educational organizations like NASSP, NAESP, and AASA, etc. decide they need to create their own proprietary social networks too.
I don't know how many active EDge members ASCD needs to consider this community a success. It may be that it only needs a few hundred or thousand to justify the time and expense. If anyone call pull off a proprietary social network for educators, it's likely to be ASCD. It will be an interesting experiment to watch over time and I hope that ASCD regularly reports out membership numbers, levels of activity, unique user visits, and other usage statistics.
Screenshots from ASCD EDge (click on images for larger versions)
I will close with one suggestion for ASCD, which is that it resets all subscription options (see, e.g., below) so that their default status is unchecked rather than checked. If we want to sign up for these communication channels, we will. Until then, ASCD should assume that we don't want more unsolicited e-mail rather than that we do.