By Dina Martin
Leaders of the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association, one of the geographically largest chapters in the state, have improved communication with new Apple iPads.
Representing members in one of the geographically largest chapters in the state can be a daunting task. But communication in the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association was recently made a whole lot easier — and chapter leaders didn’t have to move (Sierra) mountains to do it.
Chapter leaders will now be able to communicate across two counties and a mountain range using slick, new Apple iPads to conduct their business. Jon Halvorsen and Ed Hilton, co-presidents of the 200-plus member association, expect the up-front financial commitment to be well worthwhile.
“Communication is the number one priority for our chapter right now,” says Halvorsen. “In winter, it can take an hour’s drive to meet with one another. We’ve just made ourselves closer.”
Halvorsen and his members are no strangers to using social networks to get their message out. The association has its own Facebook page, and Halvorsen contributes to CTA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/californiateachersassociation) and on Twitter, where he regularly posts pro-education, pro-union messages. He and Hilton also keep an up-to-date blog at www.tahoetruckeeteachers.org, a simple but robust chapter website that not only provides members with the latest news and documents they need, but has a Twitter feed. Halvorsen created a chapter YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/tahoetruckeeteachers#p/f), which features videos of Tahoe-Truckee members speaking out at school board meetings; Jerry Brown’s remarks to CTA’s State Council; messages from the National Education Association; and other relevant information.
“Our theme this year is ‘Join the Conversation,’” says Halvorsen, “and our goal is to get more of our members involved in issues including Race to the Top and pay-for-performance. We have to get the message from teachers out there.”
The idea for purchasing an iPad for each of the 14 association leaders actually came from the school district, which has made a major commitment to improving student achievement and upgrading the professional development of its teachers through the use of technology.
“The district is serious about technology, and expects its employees to be serious as well,” says Halvorsen. “We began to think of ways to conduct our own business online and to make it easier for our site representatives. It just made sense. With prices for iPads starting to come down, we decided to go for it.”
Halvorsen and Hilton say they have already noticed that chapter communication has improved and that the iPad has provided for increased communication between site reps and allowed them to get back to members more quickly as well. The reps are using them to synchronize calendars, share Google documents, e-mail, chat, and obtain access to contracts and other material.
At $500 apiece, the iPads were a serious investment by the chapter. Halvorsen and Hilton expected to get some pushback from their members, yet they have only received positive comments.
“Everyone is very excited about it,” says Halvorsen. “We think it’s really a step in the right direction.”