Director of Electronic Communications, Jan 2015

Director of Electronic Communications, Jan 2015

Randy Yerrick
Randy Yerrick, NARST DEC​​​​​

It has eighteen months now since this Director of Electronic Communications position was created for NARST. The NARST Board, particularly Presidents Lynn Bryan, Valarie Akerson, and Executive Secretary William Kyle, have been driven to make long needed changes to the way the NARST community communicates and collaborates. The Leadership of NARST has stated some of the primary goals (among others) for revising our organization’s electronic presence include:

  1. Improve the communication of the NARST Board, committee members, and the entire international membership of NARST.
  2. Facilitate a more collaborative, equitable, and efficient environment for all volunteers and leadership independent of their location, time-zone, and culture.
  3. Provide a more reliable, transparent, diverse, and efficient means of disseminating and updating organizational information to all of its members, affiliates, and citizenry outside of the organization.

We have worked closely with PODI and have adopted new tools to explore ways we can make incremental yet impactful steps which increase our productivity and improve the electronic presence for our organization. Part of this task has been to better facilitate communication among the NARST Board and Committees. Our organization no longer relies only upon face-to-face meetings to assign and accomplish tasks. Rather, we have piloted several synchronous and asynchronous means for collaborating online. Videoconferencing has become a more regular part of NARST committee work as Chairs have shared a central account to set up multi-point meetings. Many official standing committees and subcommittees have hosted numerous webinars for meetings and online workspaces have increased the abilities for members to make progress in their assigned responsibilities. Because of members’ ability to meet online and share collaborative documents and spaces, volunteers and members are reporting more effective conversations and sustained, uninterrupted workflows. We are thankful for the support NARST is providing as an organization to its members and volunteers. We hope that developing online collaborative spaces will continue to make it easier to collaborate, share ideas, make deadlines, and keep Board and Committee Members up-to-date and productive during busy times.

We are once again planning on supporting the conference attendees with an electronic version of the NARST Annual Conference Program. In fact, this year we are providing three electronic versions. We will be providing a iBook of the Annual Conference which is fully interactive with web access to abstracts and other conference interactivity. This iBook version will work on any Apple device. The second version we will offer is an enhanced pdf which also offers full access to abstracts through embedded hyperlinks and pre / post conference communication. This will be the best option for members using a Kindle, Windows Surface, or other non OSX or IOS devices. Both the first two versions will have interactive capabilities to contact members via one touch links, add notes with pdf readers, and access abstracts and full papers through active links throughout the conference. Finally, we will offer a third version, a traditional pdf for download as for members who prefer to navigate the conference in more traditional ways. Consistent with the feedback we received from over 400 eProgram users last year, the electronic program will be available approximately a week earlier than last year. This is due to Bill Kyle’s gracious adjustment to the publication schedule and working with PODI, the Program Committee, and the President to finalize the program in time for edits. We thank all involved for their tireless efforts in creating a high quality program and experience for the membership. The electronic program will be announced through the NARST Listserve, NARST Official Website, and the NARST Facebook page. It will be posted with tutorials, helpful resources, and a complete instructions for loading it onto your mobile device or laptop prior to the conference. Again, thanks to all who were involved in compiling the official program who did the larger job of organizing, compiling, and formatting the program for such a big and complicated event.

You may have noted that this eNARST News Issue 58 now has live comments and social media tagging capabilities. This Issue 58 is the first NARST Newsletter to ever have such functionality. We are glad to finally enable these tools as the ability to share and interact more broadly. The NARST Leadership is trying to improve communication between members, organizations, and visitors and improve our members’ interactivity with the public. By putting in this blog type of format into the eNARST Newsletter and maintaining a running set of active archived issues, we hope to achieve a broader more collaborative impact. For a while there were legal disagreements regarding our culpability for privacy and misuse. Of course, you all remember you signed a “User Agreement” when you first signed in as a NARST Member through the IMIS system.* While those rules still apply for proper use and appropriate interaction, the eNARST Newsletter is separate from the Official NARST Web Page.  Above and beyond the legalities of posting comments, the NARST Leadership is counting on the positive and professional dispositions of NARST Members towards one another and we will be monitoring members’ comments to assure any unprofessional commentary is removed and any questionable contribution is addressed.

Our first attempt for this kind of commentary and interaction came from opening up our Facebook Fan Page for comments. Each individual who “Likes” our NARST Fan Page can currently contribute comments to any story, status, or event. In fact, our last eNARST Newsletter generated over 5,000 views from 66 countries and our Facebook page has now received nearly 600 “Likes”. But the impact of this kind of social network sharing was felt in a variety of our social media venues. NARST members have been contributing to a variety of online venues hosted by NSTA including webinars featuring leaders in our field like Andy Anderson, Nancy Butler-Songer, Joe Krajcik, Norman Lederman, Carla Zemba-Saul, and others. Thanks to the leadership of both NSTA and NARST we have hosted our first live webinar regarding the implementation of the NGSS. Recently, another live event was hosted featuring Janet Carlson, Elizabeth Davis, and Cory A. Buxton discussing NGSS implementation and curriculum. Both events were added to the popular NGSS@NSTA Webinar Series available for all NSTA members which features the fine work of many NARST members. You can still watch the archived webinar regarding implementing the NGSS standards and engineering from the archive by visiting this link. The curriculum webinar is available also through this direct download site.  By combining forces with NSTA we have brought attention to our implementation papers to thousands of visitors to our website and our archives to support change to our nation’s science education status through such efforts.

Finally, the Board and Presidential Team have been reviewing reviewing the organization’s structure, policies, procedures, and distribution of responsibilities, including those pertaining to our web presence. The NARST Board contracted Consultants from BoardSource [see the Presidential Address] and one of the recommendations to aide NARST toward fulfilling its mission was to form a Task Force to compile a Call for Proposals for revised webpage editing, maintenance, and other electronic contractual services. The Task Force has met twice and is currently developing this open call for any vendor (including our current host) to develop a much needed redesign of the NARST website. This proposal submission and review will take place this year. The web design will be a careful process to design tools into the site which meet the needs of the membership, while maintaining the full functionality of the organizational tools we currently enjoy from our current provider. Be assured the website is very important to the Board, and developing a plan for communicating efficiently with members and the public is a high priority. We value your feedback as well and hope you will participate in efforts to provide feedback and guidance that will direct our future efforts. We hope that each of these above facets of electronic communication become lasting pieces of the overall communication plan for the NARST Leadership. We are excited about upgrading our tools of communication and working spaces to facilitate a more open and collaborative organization. As always, we value your feedback to direct our future efforts. Feel free to use the comments responsibly within this eNARST Newsletter to participate in efforts to provide guidance that will direct our future directions.


Randy Yerrick

Director of Electronic Communications