That’s really an odd title to type in following the other glowing posts that I’ve written recently. However, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite go over the top for me.
I enjoyed Mario Armstrong’s initial session. It was entertaining and high energy. The concept of fighting the monsters and advice from all quarters was ingenious. There was a great deal of support when he took on the “Locked Net Monster”. Those of us in the audience applauded the stand against censorship and the rules that cell phones and portable devices are not available in a number of schools. Yet, despite this, wireless network access was not available in the vendor area. I found that a real disappointment. Where better to have access to the facts and websites and downloads of demo software or to see products in action than online? You’ve got to believe that the majority of people had iPads or iPods or laptops and could have taken advantage of connectivity. I think I would have spent even more time at the exhibits had I been connected.
Backchannelling is becoming a way of life and we’ve seen and heard speakers who encourage it in their presentations. It’s an opportunity for the audience to provide some interactivity in the way things are going during a presentation. It’s powerful when used properly. Its use and the use of laptops in the classroom/lecture hall has been hugely contested and debated in educational circles. Those of us in support of the concept talk about the benefit which can be derived from taking a presenter’s thoughts and scaffolding into better things. Thing went downhill starting with the backchannel during the opening keynote. A message that should have been a call to action to the 15-20k attendees instead became a mud throwing contest by those who came expecting a stand up comic. How many times do we hear the comments “It’s not about the tools; it’s about the message”? The backchannel, from some camps, was about the style and tools and ignored one of the most important contemporary messages that all educators should be dealing with in classrooms. Unfortunately, it spilled over to other presenters. In a couple of chats before presentations, I know that some folks were nervous about what would happen in their backchannel. If there ever was an opportunity to talk about banning the concept, I saw it there.
The third disappointment for me was some of the messages from the vendor hall. The message, in many stations, was that “if you buy my technology, it’s so easy to engage and increase student achievement”. Could a message be so incorrect in this day and age? Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs that you’ll ever have. I checked in at the PLP Network booth and shared my thoughts with Sheryl. Instead of the message that others were deliverying, hers could well be “join us for a year and work your butt off and become a better teacher”. I guess that it just hurt to see “good teaching” downgraded to a 5 minute sound bite and a T-Shirt if you stuck it out.
Despite the above, most everything else was superlative and I walked away so much the richer for it. As I finish off this entry, I realize that I’ve learned even from these three areas of disappointment. They will help focus on my attendance at events in the future. Content rich settings like this offer so many other alternatives.