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On ISTE and ALA and our tribe

Over the course of the past couple of years we’ve been building a tribe.

We already had organizations, lots of them.  What we need(ed) to move forward was a tribe, or several of them.

Perhaps you didn’t notice it growing, but my guess is that the readers of this blog (and the readers and writers of so many others) are really a tribe of people who care passionately about the success of our profession and what it can do for learners.

As a tribe elder, and perhaps one of its leaders, I am so proud of the growth I’ve seen.

A number of us point to Charlotte as a birthplace, or perhaps a tipping point for our TL tribe–in the halls, in the Bloggers’ Cafe, in the Smackdown, in our very effective backchannels.

But I believe our tribe started growing quite a bit pre-Charlotte, as a growing number of school library leaders–as bloggers and tweeters–began to speak up and speak out, and describe what information fluency looks like for today’s learners and how we as information professionals could and should move forward as we operate with new rules in totally new information and communication landscapes.

Right now, I am reading Seth Godin’s Tribes and light bulbs are flashing.

It’s largely because one of my favorite tribes, the unofficial GeekSquad/Tribe will be split across the ISTE/ALA conference divide next week.

And, you know, it really doesn’t matter.

As Godin says, geography doesn’t matter.

Godin defines tribes as:

a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.  A group needs only two things to be a tribe : a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Over the past couple of years we’ve leveraged so many new strategies for communication (TLCafe, TLNing, TLChat, our blogs, our tweets, our wikis, our shared pathfinders, our shared instructional tools and artifacts of student work, etc.).

And, it was about three years ago that I felt a manifesto brewing.

Creative new leaders emerged and they communicated generously.  We’ve been gathering together virtually as a tribe.  And we’ve probably led additional tribes in our schools and districts.

And I think it is important to recognize and celebrate that we are moving our profession forward as a tribe.

Why a tribe?  Godin explains:

Human beings can’t help it : we need to belong.  One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.  We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new.

Tribes can create movements and movements can be very good.

Some tribes are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown out any tribe member who dares to question authority and the accepted order.  Big charities, tiny clubs, struggling corporations – they’re tribes and they’re stuck.  I’m not so interested in those tribes. They create little of value and they’re sort of boring. Every one of those tribes, though, is a movement waiting to happen – a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed.

A movement is thrilling.  It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better.

Whether you are in Denver or DC, or just traveling around, or following the conference action from home, remember that you can to find opportunities to lead, to contribute, to share your voice, to help rethink and redefine school librarianship.

Here are some links you’ll need to keep up with our tribe:

One thing Godin doesn’t really address is the importance of swag.  (Okay, right.  He talks of the power of free stuff, but he does not specifically address swag.) Happily, Gwyneth and Diane have swag covered.

Yes, thanks to Gwyneth Jones and Diane Cordell, we now have lovely GeekTribe graphics.  You can print our special badge in color or black and white and as Gwyneth says:

REPRESENT at the #ISTE10 Denver or #ALA10 DC Conference!! Since we’re split up between the two competing conferences we want to show our Ed Tech solidarity by flaunting our sign!

You can download a variety of sizes of these graphics by visiting our Geek Tribe Design Gallery!

Or, if you want to buy Geek Tribe SWAG (buttons or stickers!) and help support the Teacher Librarian Ning visit our Geek Tribe Zazzle Store!

Diane and Gwyneth and I will have (as Gwyneth describes):

a VERY LIMITED Amount of special geek tribe membership cards AND Badge Ribbons!

Just say the magic words “I Geek the Geek Tribe” and we’ll know that you’ve read this and are one of us!

And Gwyneth reminds us:

If you use our graphics on your website, please do us the courtesy of linking back to the Teacher Librarian Ning , TL Virtual Cafe, or this (Gwyneth’s) blog. Most all of my graphics are Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike – BUT if i find you using them to sell T-Shirts, coffee mugs or some other SWAG that doesn’t benefit our group i will “hunt you down and skin and wear you like last year’s Versace!” – Dina Manzo RHONJ

But enough about the swag for now.

Creating and leading tribes that matter is an obligation for those of us who want to move our profession forward.  It is an obligation also to redefine it for the outsiders.

We have momentum and we have new opportunities.   But are they opportunities or really obligations?  Godin urges:

I don’t think we have any choice.  I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.

Go out to Denver or DC and other places far and wide and help lead our tribe.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Joyce – can anyone join the tribe or are you confining this to the USA? In recent years, many of us in the UK have reached out to learn from colleagues around the world – many times, I feel I am aligning myself with you (even if I don’t quite get to your levels), rather than some who may be closer geographically!

  2. Lisa Perez says

    I’ll be at ISTE and proudly sporting a Geek Tribe badge! Kudos to Gwyneth and Diane! You’re right – geography cannot separate us. (I’ve got my Tweetdeck set to follow the various hashtags.)

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