Over the weekend, I read this blog post from George Couros, a thinker that I’ve long admired.
Like many articles that I read, I was first drawn in by the title. I didn’t know what I expected because the concepts of “EdTech” and “Leadership” could actually take you anywhere. In this particular post, he took aim at the concept of the conference session that falls into the concept of “100 tech tools in 60 minutes”.
I was intrigued because I both enjoy and hate sessions like this. If you pick up any conference program, you’ll see some sessions along this line and quite often they come from speakers that “do the circuit” and present the same session from conference to conference. In their down time, you’ve got to imagine that they work on their next 100. I do remember sitting in one at a MACUL Conference years ago when the use of the internet was new.
The session was basically “Here’s an internet site. Here’s another one. And another one. Oh, another one.”
I was with one of my technology mentors and his comment as we left still resonates with me. “That was about as deep as a ham sandwich”.
But there are a few things related to this that keep me going back to sessions like this.
- the presenter has done the heavy lifting and found the resources so that I don’t have to. Especially in today’s connected world and burgeoning collection of resources, it’s difficult, heck even impossible, for one person to find them all and do them justice. Even if I’m not in attendance, I’ll hunt down their presentation to bookmark it
- I’m not about to go and re-discover them all. I’m thankful that they’ve been located for me and I’ll tuck them away in Diigo like I always do. There may come a time when I need something like that and using Diigo’s search function is so valuable
- I’m equally as loath to enjoy a single topic session about something. No two classroom situations are exactly the same and there’s nothing more frustrating than returning from a conference to find that the single software or internet resource is unable. There’s a whole 60 minujtes wasted. (Well, not exactly, you can always learn something)
- It’s nice to have alternatives. Especially with internet resources, the primary resource may be missing or down so Plan B is nice to have in your hip pocket
- It’s nice to compare these alternatives
I stand behind the above and I think that the comment “Don’t turn a teacher’s full plate into a full platter.” isn’t fair to teachers. Is anyone in the audience really going to go back to school and try them all? Even the geeky me isn’t about to.
Point #5 is big for me. I like to see a comparison of applications done by people that really know what they’re doing. Why should I always have to start from nothing when someone else has done, and is willing to share their learning, for me.
Let me give you a classic case.
At the Computer Science Teachers Association 2013 conference, there was an “app throwdown”. The session had three experts and each of them had 15 minutes to develop an app while we watched. Of course, in the time allotted, they wouldn’t be able to whip up Angry Birds so it was something more doable. The topic was to:
They all had to create the same application. Start it up, access a random phone number from your portable device’s address book and then dial it.
Of course, I included it in a blog post.
It was actually the second time that the conference had offered a session like that. Another throwdown was to create an application live that would calculate the tip on a restaurant bill. I was inspired by it and actually wrote my first Windows mobile application. So, of course(2), I had to blog about it. I’d written things for the Android and iOS but not Windows Mobile. Thanks to the comparison session, I was able to see them all in action.
Back to the original post though. I can’t believe that, in this day and age, that people would attend a “100 tech tools in 60 minutes” and feel intimidated or lacking. I would hope that it would inspire their continued learning and growth. In a conference lasting over two or three days, I would even suggest that you should attend at least one session something like that just so that you continue to be motivated to learning something new and not rest on your prior knowledge.
Chalk it up to experience, learning, and as George quite appropriately notes, make sure that you balance it with all that is available to you as a conference atttendee.