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Add YOUR Name to a Listserv -- TODAY!

Every educator should join a listserv. Listservs offer a quick and easy way to connect with colleagues around the world. Don't miss out on the sharing, the learning, and the fun! Included: Resource guides to listservs.

If you're a teacher or school administrator who has access to e-mail, you have no excuse -- you ought to join a listserv! Meet educators from around the world. Discuss issues of interest. Share ideas with colleagues. That's what listservs are all about! And most of them are absolutely free!

A listserv, simply put, is a "mailing list" of people with a similar interest. The word listserv is short for list server, which is the type of software that manages mailing lists. The "list server" automatically distributes messages sent to a mailing list to all members of that list.

No matter what your interests are, chances are there's a listserv for you.

Educators have hundreds of listservs to choose from. Take your pick! What level do you teach? There's a listserv for you. What subject do you teach? There's a listserv for you too.

  • Homeschooling your children?
  • Concerned about issues that face educators in small, rural schools?
  • Fascinated by children's literature?
  • Looking for unique field trip ideas?
  • Searching for ways to make history lessons more hands-on?
  • Working with special needs children?
  • Interested in making better use of the Internet in your classroom?
  • Working in a charter school?

Join a listserv to meet and exchange ideas with others who share your interest!

We'll point you to some online resources in a few moments, so you can choose the listserv that's right for you! Just click a listserv that sounds interesting to learn more about its goals and to access directions for joining.

But you're shy -- you aren't comfortable in large groups? You're not sure you will have anything to add to the discussion? Not a problem. Just sit back, observe, and "listen." Nothing says you must take part in the conversation. When the time is right, you'll join in.

The best part about listservs is that joining one requires no special skills -- only e-mail access and the most basic keyboarding skills.


Joining, or subscribing to, a listserv is simple! Most of the time it's as easy as filling in an e-mail address and typing the word "subscribe" in the body of the e-mail. (Don't type anything in the "Subject" space.) After subscribing, you'll receive confirmation that you've been added to the mailing list. And soon you'll begin receiving messages.

Many listservs offer potential subscribers an opportunity to take a look at past "conversations" before subscribing. By all means, take advantage of that option if it's offered. You'll have a better sense of how helpful that listserv might be to you.

In addition, you might find that the listserv you choose offers a "digest" version of the online discussion. That simply means that, instead of receiving messages posted to the list as they are posted, you can elect to have messages mailed to you periodically. Some listserv digests are mailed daily, others less often or more frequently.

One word of advice as you sign on! Your confirmation e-mail should provide information about how you can "un-subscribe" to a list. Getting off a list is as easy as getting on one is. But be sure to save the directions for unsubscribing! In a week or two, if you decide that a particular listserv isn't the one for you, you'll want to have that information.


So you're all "subscribed" -- soon the messages will start rolling in! But beware, the first messages might not make a lot of sense to you. They might be replies to previously posted messages. So be patient, sit back, and watch and learn. Soon you'll be in the swing. And, by all means, feel free to jump in anytime! Share your experiences. Ask a question. But if you're more comfortable just "eavesdropping," that's fine too.

Listserv members also have the option of responding directly to the personal e-mail address of a member who posts a message, but posting for all to read and to respond to is part of the fun!

Keep in mind, as a participant in one of the listservs that I subscribed to said, "Sooner or later, each of us has to make time to help, to be a good list citizen and offer advice, or at least share an experience or resource. The more we do that, the higher the quality of the list, the more content, the more resources. Don't worry about whether your idea isn't new, because there are always new people on the list who haven't heard it yet. They'll thank you."

Some listservs have hundreds (or thousands) of participants. Others, especially highly specialized lists, have many fewer members. Within a week, you'll probably have a good idea about how populated your listserv is. If the mail flow is slow, perhaps you can handle joining a second listserv. Of the four listservs that I joined, one of them was responsible for more than 75 percent of my listserv e-mail!


Within a month of subscribing, you should have a good sense of the listserv you've joined. Does it provide valuable information? Have you learned anything new? Have you been stimulated enough to join the discussion? If not, you've saved your "unsubscribe" instructions. (Haven't you?) You might want to shop around for a listserv that better meets your needs. Nothing wrong with that!

I must say that I've learned new things from each of the listservs that I joined. (Perhaps that's just a sign of how much I have to learn!) For example, I joined a listserv for middle school teachers. This list was the most active and stimulating of the ones I joined.

  • Discussion topics ran the gamut from classroom seating strategies to strategies for making the best of COWS (computers-on-wheels).
  • Issues debated include racism, teaching algebra in 8th grade, and technology inequities among schools.
  • Teachers shared lesson ideas for teaching the novels of Karen Hesse (Out of the Dust, The Music of Dolphins) and for building a curriculum around roller coasters.
  • Other teachers have posted requests to help them connect with a class of middle schoolers in Bosnia or to develop a community service curriculum.

Other listservs, while less heavily populated and less active, were nonetheless stimulating.

  • The whole language vs. phonics debate continues on a listserv for reading professionals (which I joined in its digest form). Other topics of discussion included strategies for teaching main idea and the merits of push-in vs. pull-out remedial reading instruction.
  • A listserv devoted to Internet projects provided many interesting possibilities! Teachers from a school in the hometown of the Slinky (Altoona, Pennsylvania) were looking for stories about Slinkys around the world. Other teachers were looking for classes to join them online in projects related to nutrition, playground equipment, El Niño, and eggs. And a few teachers posted simple requests for keypals. Subscribers to this listserv also receive occasional "commercials" from developers of some excellent online projects that require registration and fees.
  • A technology-in-education listserv is the perfect place for people who understand those things. (Not for me!) But I did follow some of the PC vs. Mac debate, and I found the discussion about schools that build their own PCs to be interesting. The HyperStudio discussion went over my head. If techie stuff is your specialty, you'll find a cartload of listserv options.


The following Internet sites will provide you with lists of listservs. Take a look, choose the listserv that sounds like a good fit for your interests and needs, and give it a shot!

  • CataList Browse nearly 60,000 public LISTSERV lists on the Internet, search for mailing lists of interest, and get information about LISTSERV host sites.
  • TILE.NET/LISTS This comprehensive site offers a reference guide to e-mail newsletters and discussion lists on many topics, not just education.


Coming soon: More Simple Projects, Keypals, Scavenger Hunts, Sites for the Smallest Surfers, and more....

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World ® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © Education World

Updated 8/14/2012