NECC 2009 Day 1


It was a very busy day 1 at the NECC Conference.  With so much to do, you feel guilty even stopping for lunch because you might miss something.

The courtesy bus transportation from the hotel to the convention centre is so convenient that you just scoot in and you’re ready for action.  Since I had pre-registered on Sunday evening, it was right to the events.

I spent the first session in Tammy Worcester‘s session.  I’ve visited her resources in the past and so wanted to enjoy her presentation in person.  Like many folks, I’m sure, I misspelled her name and ended up on a website that had been designed to hijack intended viewers.  First indication that I was in the wrong place on the web happened when Firefox told me that it had to block a popup.  Good collection of resources here; I’ve seen and used many and found many more.

Then, the conference virtually shuts down in order for attendees to attend the exhibition floor.  The convention centre is huge and it needs to be to accommodate all of the vendors and displays.  There are some mega vendors like Dell, SMART, Promethean, an enormous number of folks with smaller presences, all the way down to universities offering credit courses.  As per my normal habits, I just walked the aisles at first to get a sense of what was there and today and tomorrow will zero in on some targetted vendor interaction.  I wanted to find my friend Deb Barrows who is with a new employer.  I couldn’t remember the name but figured it would hit me when I found it.  Unfortunately, the mind drew a blank and I didn’t see Deb anywhere.  Thankfully, I kept an email from her and will hunt down Fablevision tomorrow.

Back to the learning…first Philip East from the University of Northern Iowa has written a grant proposal for teaching higher levels of problem solving using various tools and he offered the session “Computational Science Using Spreadsheets”.  I always enjoy learning from Philip and this session didn’t disappoint as Philip demonstrated some of his thinking.  I sat in the back row and noted that there’s no spreadsheet like one generated by a computer scientist.  The computations were very interesting and the number patterns generated were fascinating.

I did get a chance after the session to get caught up with Philip and Michelle.  Even though it had been a year, we picked up immediately.

Then, off to see Leslie Fisher‘s Gadgets and Web 2.0 presentation.  Leslie is always such a joy to hear present – glad we’ve got her booked for next year’s Symposium – and she didn’t disappoint.  Even in a large conference hall, her enthusiasm for her work comes through.

Thanks - LorenGul
Thanks - LorenGul

After a long wait for the transportation, it was back to the hotel for a makeover and shirt and tie and off to the Canadian Embassy for a visit with the Canadian Educators.  Close to the Capitol, there are six big, beautiful Canadian flags marking the location.After a while in Washington, you get use to metal detectors as an entrance requirement for a lot of things.  We were greeted by Embassy staff and had a great opportunity to meet the other Canadians here at the conference.  Robert Martellacci from Mind Share Learning talked about the importance of commerce between Canada and the US.  One statistic put it into perspective for me … there is $2,000,000 of commerce crossing the border every minute of every day.  That explains the traffic on Huron Church in Windsor.  Most of it goes through there.  As you know, SMART Technologies is a Canadian success story and we got an opportunity to meet Nancy Knowlton, co-founder of SMART and current CEO.

In addition to the commercial aspect, it was great to get caught up with some folks that we meet so infrequently.  I also get a chance to meet Zoe, with whom I’ve had as part of my learning network for a long time.

Done yet?  Hah!  As the sun was setting, it was time to head off to the Tweetup and meet some more people.  We ran into part of the Australian contingent and got a chance to talk to LilyLauren.  My buddy Kent and I got a chance to discuss possible project plans based upon our meeting with Sharon Peters, who still has ties in Windsor.

Then…it was time for supper where I happened to meet Mark Dunk and the realization that I hadn’t had a coffee.  What a day…and more to follow today.

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links for 2009-06-29


Keynote at the NECC Conference


Last night, the formal portion of the NECC Conference kicked off in the ballroom at the Washington Conference Centre.  The keynote address was given by Malcolm Gladwell.  I had been waiting for some time in anticipation of this presentation.

As a presenter, I’ve often wondered how you prepare and deliver a keynote to an audience this size.  There were thousands of us in the the ballroom, there was an overflow room, the Twitterverse was alive, and the presentation is being covered via a live blog.  So, every nuance in your presentation will be covered and will be commented on within seconds of it happening.

So, what is the message that you deliver to such an audience?  We’re all sitting in the audience, all armed with our SMART pointers, chomping at the bit ready to be motivated.

The presentation was delivered in story telling format.  Alone on the stage, with a handful of notes, Mr. Gladwell gave reference to the success of Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles.  In so doing, he draws in his “10,000 hours in order to master” theory.  He takes us through the math and it equates to 10 years.  Interesting.  In context of this audience, I wonder what people were doing with technology 10 years ago.  Maybe a walk through the historical exhibit is in order for them.  Looking at some of the younger teachers, I wonder if they thought that Fleetwood Mac came before the iMac in the Apple product line!

Obviously, the 10 years analogy just doesn’t cut it when you’re talking about the actual technology.  But, let’s forget that we’re not talking about technology; let’s focus on teaching.  When do would-be teachers leave the profession?  Generally, it’s in the first few years of teaching.  How long does it take to get to the top of the pay grid?  In our case, it’s 11 years.

The goal of a good keynote speaker should be to leave the audience musing about things with an eye towards change and/or improvement.  For me, it boiled down to two points that I have honestly been mulling over in my mind.

The first is that success comes from hard work and not some sort of built-in ability.  We keep circling back to Fleetwood Mac and that “Rumours” was not one of their first efforts.  It affirms the message that parents and teachers have given us for years.  In his speech, Gladwell draws evidence from success on Mathematics tests and IQ tests for football quarterbacks.

The second message is one of confidence.  This, I found, particulary interesting.  The message was that often confidence outpaces the actual skill.  As an example of this, he led us to the recent events with the banking industry.  As he’s talking about this, I’m flipping through the comments coming from Twitter on my iPod.  There were negative comments flying about the content of the entire speech and I can’t help but think that he’s right on.

The comments, it seems to me, should be thoughtful at first and then embraced or discarded.  However, if your confidence is truly exceeding your skills, the kneejerk reaction is to immediately turn off and make derogatory comments.  I saw some of that and was disappointed.

The closing was perfect.  There’s a panel discussion later in the conference about bricks and mortar.  Gladwell beat all of the panelists to the punch with what we know will be the realistic answer to this debate “It doesn’t make a difference where, but how learning takes place.”

It would have been perfect to have us exit the hall for our cupcakes to the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow.”

I am.  Gladwell did his job as a keynote – I’m thinking.  What more could I ask for?

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links for 2009-06-28


Apostrophes


If you have had English language rules and use drilled into you throughout your educational experiences like I did, you’ll enjoy this blog.

Entitled Apostrophe Abuse, the blog is devoted to showing off real life examples of abuse of the apostrophe.

It was a little serendipity that lead me to actually find this blog.  I happened to send a message to Twitter indicating a misuse of an apostrophe and immediately was followed by SgtApostrophe.

The original post appears below.

So, this keeper of the English language does keep an eye on the goings on with our language.

I had a conversation with an English teacher once where I was checking out the spelling of a noun made plural and it was done incorrectly using an apostrophe.  The problem for me was that it actually looked correct when I knew darned well that it wasn’t.  It was a surprising conversation.  His comment was that “the English language is evolving and we need to be flexible enough to go with it.”  I really was taken aback by the comment.  I had expected total support for the application of conventional use.

The English language is changing?  Will spell and grammar checkers evolve as well?

Until that day, I’m going to stick with what I learned in school and hope that SgtApostrophe doesn’t catch me with a slip of the keyboard.

In the meantime, this blog is an excellent resource for anyone who teaches language to show just how silly the inappropriate use of the apostrophe can be.

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links for 2009-06-27


The Call


We all know – “I call upon the youth of the world, to gather four years from now …”  It’s a call to arms for the Olympic Athletes to assemble for a competition for the next Olympics games.

Today, the call might be “I call upon the educational computer users of the world, to gather in Washington …” as a way to get the computer using education community to assemble once again to meet, share, brag, worship, be in awe, understand, teach, and so much more.

Washington is the host for the 30th annual National Educational Computer Conference where all that can afford and are interested in participating in the premier educational computing event assemble.  It’s an opportunity to do all of the above but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to meet new friends of a like mind.  I’m looking forward to meeting people that I admire and respect, people I’ve corresponded with on mailing lists, people I’ve twittered back and forth with, people I’ve befriended on Facebook, people I’ve met in Second Life, people I’ve hired as speakers for the RCAC Symposium, people that I’ve just lurked around with, people that I’ve presented with in the past, and people who I’ve yet to meet.

Amazingly, there’s a large southwestern Ontario contingent planning to be here.  I’ve already met a couple of them on the flight from Detroit and I’m looking forward to a little shared learning over the next few days.  It will be interesting to have all of these folks together at the Canadian Embassy for our reception.  Having just made my first walking tour of this beautiful city, I’m hoping that I can find it!

For a computer using educator, I can’t imagine a better place to be for the waning days of June and the first of July.  I’ve heard the call.

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links for 2009-06-26


8 Weeks to Web 2.0


Today is the last day of the school year for us.  It’s been interesting, through Twitter, watching the end of the year for various school districts as they popped up all during the month of June.

Next week is the beginning of July and the kick-back week of the summer for most.   But  then for many, the mind demands to be motivated.  The golf course is always a place of humility for me.

For those looking for something more academic, contemporary, and online, I would invite you to participate 8weeksin the “Eight Weeks to Web 2.0” course.  I created this course last summer as away to casually move folks into this online world.  But, not too quickly…after all, it is the summer.

So, for those who want to actively learn about Web 2.0, I would invite them to the course.  It’s wiki-based and wide open for editing.  Participants are encouraged to make any necessary edits to let the course evolve into something even better.

Ironically, it may not necessarily be you, gentle blog reader, that would benefit since you’re already on the way.  But, I’ll bet that there are people you know that could.  Please extend an invitation to them to participate.

The culmination of this will be an opportunity to hear and meet David Warlick at the Vision to Practice Conference at the end of August.  Register using BookIT for session 3517.

All the best to everyone for a wonderful summer.

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links for 2009-06-25