Day: July 3, 2009

Best in Show

This is going to be tough.  I pondered about what I would declare to be the best thing that I saw at the recent NECC conference.  I had so many things that were special about the conference this year.

First, there were the people.  I got the opportunity to meet Sylvia Martinez, Paul Wood, Sharon Peters, Mark Carls, John Pederson and spouse, the cadre of Canadian folks and the Embassy staff, Will Richardson, Lee LeFever, @lilylauren… The chance to sit in the audience and hear folks like Erin Gruwell, Gary Stager, Tammy Worcester, Leslie Fisher, Sue Walters …  The vendor exhibition …

But, as always, I’m always inspired by going to the poster sessions.  Here, there are high pressure sales – kids and teachers – who are genuinely passionate about their various projects and displays.  They’re not selling in exchange for dollars; they’re sharing ideas.  I have a whack of ideas that I walked away with from the poster sessions.  Many of those could qualify as “Best in Show”.

The ultimate decision is going to be tough.

But, I think that this year I’m going to declare the Ubuntu booth as my most impressive and certainly my best because it’s going to change the way that I do things significantly.

Tucked away in a corner in front of an Open Source lab, there was a table with three desktops running Ubuntu 9.04 and next to them the XO booth and a discussion about Sugar.  However, I went to Ubuntu with a mission and left with a fortune of things to think about.

My Dell Mini 10v shipped with Ubuntu 8.04, Dell style, and it works so nicely.  I’m using 9.04 in my more powerful desktop machinery and like the compatibility with many of the applications that I need to get by.  I just stopped by to ask if 9.04 required substantially more resources than 8.04.

I got so much more.  My discussion started with a student who looked like he was 13 and he really knew his stuff.  We walked through the latest features and it confirmed to me that the decision to upgrade was important.  But, would it work on my hardware?  No problem, he says, let’s get a hold of the fellow at the adjacent computer.  The second fellow had the Ubuntu Netbook Remix on a memory key.  Once we secured the key, we rebooted my computer with the memory key and checked out the features.  All features were tested and we did a quick internet search to see if there were any issues.  We didn’t see any from our search.  Subsequently, I see that there may be a problem with the recorder but that’s not a show stopper for me and I’m sure that it will be addressed somewhere along the line.  As noted earlier in this blog, I’m going to be testing the upgrade now that I’m at home and will move forward if all falls into place.

So, I really appreciated the support and discussion.  But, more than that, what impressed me was the confidence and ability of this young man.  Here I was – some schmuck with a question – and he took the time to talk it through with me.  However, the goal of education is to create motivated, self-confident learners.  While the regular poster display had some great kids and some great offerings, it was clear that there still was an overbearing teacher on side with the display.  Here, I was experiencing someone who had gone far beyond the low hanging fruit.  He knew his stuff inside and out.  He reminded me of a couple of the best students that I ever had the honour of teaching computer science to.  There was no cursory knowledge here.  He had the deep understanding and the ability to make the connections at such an impressive level.

Forget the Powerpoints (sic); forget the SMART Boards; forget the literacy software; forget the quick fix math manipulatives – if we could turn out generations of students who had the wisdom of this student without any of the baggage that is possible, then we really would be doing something in education.  He was knowing and passionate – he knew his material cold – he didn’t have the fanatical passion that many open source supporters sometimes have – he was there to support and certainly did that so well.

As such, I’m calling him my best in show.  If you were at NECC or followed it on Twitter or watched any of the sessions on ISTEVision, what was yours?

My previous three blog posts summarize my days at the NECC Conference.

Thanks antonde
Thanks antonde
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