History of the ISTE Newbie Project

Jason Schrage and Richard Byrne



      In the spring of 2008 I had an idea to test the power of my PLN.  I wanted to see if it was possible for a regular classroom teacher from Nebraska to leverage the power of Twitter to accomplish a goal.  My goal was to see if my PLN could work together to raise $1500 to send a teacher to NECC.  I wanted to send someone who had a proven track record of using technology successfully in the classroom, but who had not yet attended NECC.  After taking a close look at the people in my PLN there was one person who kept floating to the top.
      Richard Byrne was who I selected to be the first Newbie.  Richard became part of my PLN in the fall of 2008.  His blog was one of the few that I tried to keep up with and check daily. There was not a day that went by that I wondered how he was able to generate so much new content and the fact he was willing to share it blew me away.  In April, I sent out the first request for donations.  Since so many people were familiar with Richard’s blog, FreeTech4Teachers, the donations started coming in right away.  Within two weeks we had made it halfway to the goal.  Exactly two weeks after I posted the original request, the cofounders of VoiceThread, Ben Pappel and Steve Muth, made an incredibly generous donation of $700.  My new friend, Lee Kolbert, was responsible for helping connect VoiceThread to the Newbie project.  Thanks, Lee!
     It did not surprise me at all that so many people found the project to be worthwhile, but what I did not expect was all of the publicity that it received.  Diana Fingal of Learning and Leading with Technology, the ISTE membership publication, interviewed me about the project recently.  The complete story will appear in the September issue.  One of the questions she asked was if I was planning on doing the project again this year.  I knew right away what my answer was, but I was not sure of the direction I wanted the project to go.  After selecting Jason Schrage to be the Newbie for ISTE10, it was much easier for me to envision the course that I wanted the project to take. Jason is an 8th grade social studies teacher in upstate New York.  He is not afraid to try different tools and applications with his students. He has some fantastic ideas for projects that he wants to do with his students.  However, what strikes me most about Jason is his complete lack of fear of failing.  Fear of failure paralyzes most teachers in their tracks, but it seems to push Jason to work to find a different solution. He is a problem solver in the true sense of the word.