Ramblings from NECC 2009

I had the good fortune of spending the last week with some really smart people and sit in on a few great sessions. During this time I was asked a few times if I was enjoying this or learning. The answer to both was yes. However, I could likely have been asked the same quesitons a week earlier and a week from now and I’d likely give the same answer. 

Not every conversation was outstanding, not every session was amazing. I can’t quantify the learning but can tell you the cumulative ideas and insights will continue to influence my thinking and shape my work.

On the weekend Will Richardson was asking if it possible to provide the kind of learning our kids need by improving schools or do we require a brand new system. I desparately want to believe we don’t have to blow up what we have but a number of things this week has me wondering.

Monday I was able to hear Tom Carroll speak about creating the schools our children need. A few months ago I read this article written by Carroll which was written 8 years ago and was challenged by many ideas. (If you read it and are choosing between finishing this post or the article, read the article) One of the most powerful analogies Carroll used on Monday was this:

"Asking how technology can improve student learning in our current schools is like asking the Wright brothers how the airplane improves the railway system"

That statement resonates with me as I am often asked to provide evidence or proof that technology is making a difference. I hate the question because the question is flawed in the first place.  The better question (I’ve posted about this before) is:

"Does technology support the practices that improve student learning?”

While that is a better question I’m still grabbling with the notion that the impact of technology is creating such a shift that those "practices" have to be re-examined.  Part of the very nature of school requires learning to be compartmentalized by time and content and subject. If I was asked to do that over this past week, I’d be hard pressed to provide you with that kind of data. I learned lots, some of which I’m discussing here and others which may not bear fruit for a while and other learning that will never be directly tied to this week but has undoubtedly been borne and fostered through these many conversations.

I’m seeing more and more that they way connectedness, sharing and access to media influence us and create opporutnities for great learning, often does not have a place in our schools today. Square peg in a round hole.

And yet through all that stuf that spins my brain in 19 different direcitons I’m inspired and encouraged by the many great people who are muddling their way through changes and making it work because of their passion and genuine concern and love of students. You have to have both. I think most of the teachers I work with care about kids. As Chris Lehmann talks about often, kids desparately need mentors. This is a great start and if that’s all teachers did was to be and find mentors for our students that wouldn’t be all bad. But combine that with a passion to learn and you have the makings of a great learning experience for anyone. It’s passion that drives people to seek better and more engaging ideas and content. It’s passion that inspires someone to learn and try things they never thought they’d do. This is when complexity and change occur.

The landscape of learning is changing. Rethinking what control means, understanding the power of sharing and transparency all work to topple many of the foundations our schools are built upon.  I know this, you know this but after spending 3 days amongst 18,000 in the educational technology field, I still say very few else know this. I made this observation (jump down to #4) last year at NECC and while the number may have increased slightly, those who really have any sense of the changes that are possilbe and perhaps inevitable in education is strikingly small. Yet sometimes the conversations amongst them would indicate they think everyone understands. A good example took place in the last session I attended on a panel discussion on Web 2.0. The panel was made up of all people that I and many in the audience knew very well either because we’ve spent time with them or know them from varoius online circles. The panel and audience were calling them by their first names and having a good discussion One lady stood up and felt frustrated since she didn’t know these people, these terms and most of the content of the conversation. That wasn’t her fault that’s ours. The assumption amongst folks who live and breath social media is that most teachers know about but they just don’t understand social media. We jump in with disucssion about Web 2.0 when they aren’t ready for that discussion since they have absolutely no prior knowledge. I"m not against having these kinds of discussions but it’s a bit like Christopher Columbus and crew arguing over how they would organize and structure the new world when most of the old world didn’t even know it existed and if they did, had no idea why or how they would get over to see it, let alone settle there. It’s not a totally useless discussion but perspective is important.


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  • I’ve been trying to think of a great analogy for this idea. Yours is perfect: “it’s a bit like Christopher Columbus and crew arguing over how they would organize and structure the new world when most of the old world didn’t even know it existed and if they did, had no idea why or how they would get over to see it, let alone settle there.” Thank, Dean. Great to see you this weekend.

  • It was great running into you this week, Dean. Here’s my thought. You say, “The assumption amongst folks who live and breath social media is that most teachers know about but they just don’t understand social media. We jump in with discussion about Web 2.0 when they aren’t ready for that discussion since they have absolutely no prior knowledge.”

    I’m not sure we all make that assumption but I do think at a tech conference, we should be able to assume that most people have some knowledge of what’s out there or they wouldn’t have known about the conference. How much longer must we slow down the conversations in order to let everyone else catch up? When can we start moving out of technology conversations and back into teaching conversations? Do we need to revamp schools? Absolutely. Do we need to blow them up and start over? I don’t think so. But we do radically need to change how we (I’m looking for the right word here but can’t find it so….)teach content and teach how to learn. Those are the conversations we need to be having. Not how to use technology. And for those conversations, the Blogger’s Cafe, the hallways between sessions, and various lunches and dinners were just the perfect place to be.
    .-= Lisa Parisi´s last blog ..Alan November’s Session Live =-.

  • Lisa,

    You make a good point. I agree that I enjoy those conversations and particpate in many of them both during the conference and beyond.

    I”m not disagreeing that a tech conference might be the place to discuss the nitty gritty and nuances of using social media in the classroom, but my thinking was more about the presumptions that people have and take outside of this conference. The last session I spoke about clearly demonstrated that many of us carry on assuming that educators have a base level understanding and they don’t. The lady I referred to could not enter into the level of discussion that was taking place. To me that was indicative of a larger problem.

    Again, I loved having the time to chat with you and others. Just thinking ahead and out loud.

  • I am one of those teachers who a year ago had little knowledge of web 2.0, much less how it could be used in my classroom where, thus far, computers have been used sporadically for research and word processing. NECC09 was the first national education conference I’ve attended as well as the first one dealing with technology. I went because unless I take it into my own hands, there is very little chance I will have anything resembling any one of the myriad learning opportunities or conversations I had in DC.

    As Lisa points out, teachers who are afraid of tech do not come to NECC, but I paid my own way, as did many of the classroom teachers and a few of the administrators I met, because we are hungry to learn and starving for people who have the knowledge and experience to teach us. Of course, there were sessions and conversations at NECC that were way over my head, but hearing them and trying to understand gives me guideposts and goals for my future development.

    I am concerned that changing the name of the convention from National EDUCATIONAL Computing Conference to ISTE reflects a shift toward pure technology and away from the application of the technology in teaching and learning because we classroom teachers need to feel welcome at the table. How else are you going to be able to reach out to the tens or hundreds of thousands of teachers who need to be awakened to the possibilities inherent in web 2.0?

    I have been very fortunate to have had a year of interacting with an extensive and generous PLN on twitter who taught me enough to make sense of most of what I heard and saw at NECC. Now, over the summer and when l go back to my school in September I am armed to teach my colleagues and supervisors about what can be done and how to do it. That does not mean they will be ready for next year’s or any future NECC-like convention, but it starts them on the path of using technology more extensively to enhance student learning. That would not happen if I had not taken the initiative to attend NECC.

    I agree with you, Dean, that assumptions that teachers are ready for the full-blast of web 2.0 is erroneous. Operating under that assumption will do harm by overwhelming us and reinforcing our fear that educational technology is too complex for us to use. We need the same kind of scaffolding we provide for our students. NECC is not the place for a newbie, but it needs to be the place that prepares some of us to teach that newbie in the way that newbie is able to learn. It can accomplish this through having workshops, BYOL sessions and conversations at differentiated levels, something that seemed to be in place at NECC09.
    .-= Deven Black´s last blog ..Bewitched, Bothered & Bedazzled =-.

  • Great Rambling, I was looking for a type of summary statement of NECC09 since I was not able to attend. If so few are aware of the changing landscape how do we spread the word on a broad scale, while at the same time convince teachers who are somewhat fearful of tech in the classroom?

  • JenWagner

    Hmmm — good post, Dean. Lots to think about — as always.

    I do have a question though —
    I have read several posts now which talk about the lady who stood up —
    and I wonder, afterwards, did anyone TALK to this lady F2F after the session?? I sensed frustration — and wonder, did that frustration leave with her as well?

    I was not there so I don’t know what happened after.


  • Dean, thanks for sharing your thoughts and the link to the CITE article. Lots of great ideas there…it’s hard to believe it was written a few years ago since these ideas seem so current NOW. I have to admit to feeling disillusioned about the pace of change in schools and the poor leadership at the top levels.

    I’m increasingly convinced that change happens one person at a time, outside the control and in spite of the school culture that tries to maintain control over everything (futile effort but ignorance blinds their awareness of that). Actually, it’s willful ignorance and mouths platitudes and continues to do the same thing. I’m growing increasingly subversive.

    So, that lady who stood up. Did she seek out more learning? If she didn’t, if she just threw everyone for crazy, then she deserves what she gets. Although I vehemently disagreed with this quote when I ran across it in my 20s, I’ve had a change of heart and now agree wholeheartedly…and I feel terrible about that.

    There’s an old proverb: ” You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” But around this ranch, I keep getting told it’s my fault when the horse won’t drink. “Make the water bluer,” someone says, “Make it colder. Try adding sugar to sweeten it a bit. Make it shallower; maybe the horse is afraid of deep water. Put the water in a smaller container so the horse isn’t overwhelmed by so much water.”

    I get told maybe I should consider the poor horse’s background. Maybe it wasn’t taught to drink properly–it needs a course in remedial drinking. Some idiot says I don’t recognize a horse when I see one…Says I really have a camel and shouldn’t expect it to drink like the other horses.

    The boss says I’m not providing enough motivation to make the horse drink. He says I should give the horse an enthusiastic pat and keep telling it what a great horse it is. I should reward it with sugar when it drinks. Or build a waterfall and decorate it with rocks so it looks like a fun place to drink at this spot. When all fails, I should hold the horse’s head under the water until it is forced to swallow some.

    And I faithfully try all these ideas. And the horse still won’t drink. So I have another solution. I think it’s time to give water only to the horses that want to drink. Any horse that doesn’t want to drink water should be worked harder. Make it work up a sweat so it gets thirsty. Make it haul a load or run faster until it appreciated a drink of water. Put the pressure back on the horse instead of
    me…because I’m getting mighty tired of trying to drown horses.
    .-= Miguel Guhlin´s last blog ..CITE Journal Article =-.

  • You’ve got me thinking here Dean. Like Lisa I often get frustrated when I hear, “Whoa, slow down!” I understand that there are many people who don’t have any way to wrap their heads around this wonderful thing we call Web 2.0. I see it when I pull Twitter and Plurk up at presentations. Most often I hear, “It’s just another thing I have to do.” When I hear that I know this person isn’t ready yet. I think to some degree you have to WANT to invest your time in this venture of “connectedness” because it does take time.

    So for me the bigger question is: How can I best present this concept of connectedness to someone and make the time invested feel like fun but still educationally worthwhile?

    Maybe it’s because I’m trained as a music teacher but the idea of community outside of just my school’s walls really appeals to me. Arts folks tend to be a bit more led by feelings than concepts. The idea of being able to let my classes talk and make music with kids from all over the world is amazing!!! I WANT that in my classroom. Now that I’m here I can’t really remember the road I took to get here because the process was a gradual one. So to chart that path for another person to follow is difficult. Perhaps that’s the point though – I can’t really tell you how to do it. Everyone has their own process of getting connected and that’s a really frustrating answer for educators who are used to having a clearly defined lesson plan for EVERYTHING in their day. Perhaps that’s why I find that the elementary teachers in my area are more prone to try something new – often their days include blocks of time for free play and centers.

    That’s what makes a lifetime learner.

    Time to play, time to fail, time to try it again another way and not be worried that you’re running out of time.
    .-= Brenda D. Muench´s last blog ..Quote of the day =-.

  • I wish we could make an actual determination of how many educators at NECC were using social networking tools. And please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Dean – think back to the conversation we had (thanks again by the way. I’m glad I got in before you started charging a nickle) I’m NOT talking about those who are registered for social bookmarking sites or Twitter or Plurk or Nings, or whatever gets them involved in conversations and collaborations, but those actually USING the tools.

    My point is that I believe that there were very few of the thousands of folks there that knew what was going on in the backchannel. I would have loved to see some new faces and hear some new voices, but I can’t say that I did.

    So, I’m going to go with the advice that you gave me during our conversation and work with teachers on increasing their social capital. It’s a way for me to move forward and maybe for others to get moving too!
    .-= Lisa Thumann´s last blog ..The Networked Student =-.

  • One of the things about ed tech conferences that continues to concern me is the large corporate presence of technologies that have little to do (or are even detrimental) to what we’re striving for in education. It seems that two paths are emerging for “21st century learning.” One of those paths keeps the status quo of classrooms, desks, subject areas, lecture, but places technologies within these environments to make them seem more modern. The other path focuses on communicating, creating, problem-solving, getting involved in the community (or beyond) using whatever tools make sense for that project, including some 21st century tools right alongside 19- and 20th-century tools.

    If I could plan for ISTE 2015 or 2020, there are some key changes that I would hope to see in vendor lists and presentations. Technology doesn’t make a classroom modern…helping students to become self-directed, networked learners does.
    .-= Elizabeth Hubbell´s last blog ..Disrupting News: How Social Networking is Changing How We Get Our News =-.

  • tansmom

    I was not at NECC09, and unfortunately did not attend as much virtually as I had hoped, but I had the same feeling at NECC08 about how many people attending were not aware of web 2.0, the backchannel, etc. I understand the frustration of the woman that stood up because that, in a sense, was me 3 years ago. I do wonder what she did about it afterward, because that is the real test of what she will take away from NECC09. Personally, I took my own frustration of not knowing as a challenge to find out more, and at NECC08 I just sat around and soaked it all in, asked questions of people like you who I barely know from twitter, started conversations, and asked questions, and I learned an immense amount in a short time. I don’t think we could slow down the conversation, even it we really tried, because there are enough people who do understand, and want to start change NOW! I do think we need to be sure that we take time to approach, talk to, and answer questions of people like the woman who stood up…..I would not be where I am if you and others hadn’t taken that time with me;)

  • I don’t think it’s a matter of slowing down. Why should we? But most of my faculty know very little of Shirky’s ideas, the changing role of authority, the necessity of transparency. Absolutely no thoughts about it all. I’m with Miguel–give water to the horses that want to drink and hope the others will get thirsty at some point.
    .-= Susan Carter Morgan´s last blog ..Something for nothing? =-.

  • Good thoughts, Dean

    A group of us had this same discussion on our way home on the Maine bus. We felt that when at a large gathering with many “like minded” educators, the conversations can become a bit overwhelming for “newbies”. However, I still agree with Miguel – teachers must establish a personal expectation to use and teach with technology. When asked, those with more experience and vision should to be willing and able to clearly explain and mentor at all levels. But the final responsibility of learning how to use the appropriate tools lies with each individual educator.
    .-= Sharon Betts´s last blog ..Bernie Dodge at NECC 2009 =-.

  • Jerry Green

    Like tansmom (#11 above), I was unable to attend NECC09 in person, but I was able to take in a couple of virtual activities. I think we need both, teachers new to educational technology and anxious to get their feet wet (without drowning), and those who want to move fast and be on the cutting edge. We need differentiation for teachers and technology just like for kids in our classroom.

    One problem I have seen at conferences is that workshops and sessions do not clearly or accurately reflect in their titles, descriptions, or tags the technology experience level it is intended for. We need sessions for “Intro to Wikis and Blogs” (for example), just as much as “Advanced Wiki’s and Blogs” or “Using Wiki’s and Blogs in Differentiating Student Instruction”. It seems presenters want maximum attendance and don’t want their session pigeon-holed to a particular audience, and so they avoid listing the accurate level in the title or description in favor of a cute title. Then, when participants are from opposite sides of the technology experience/knowledge spectrum, both participants and presenters are frustrated.

    So, I guess the point of my rambling on in this response is that better titles, descriptions and tags are needed from presenters. Most conference presenter applications ask for tags of beginner, intermediate, or experienced technology users. PICK ONE and ONE ONLY! Presenters that check ALL of the boxes might be part of the problem with too many abilities in the session. Also, participants need to be honest to themselves about their knowledge and experience. Everyone wants to be an experienced user, and they may be experienced at most tech, but if you have never used the tool or strategy listed for the session, you might want a beginner session.

  • I attended the panel discussion, not to learn what Web 2.0 is, but to hear from some powerful voices in the Ed Tech community give their thoughts on where we are and what might be done to move ahead. I felt it was courageous for the audience members who spoke to challenge and question what they were hearing. As one who believes in the message of the panel wholeheartedly, I too was reminded that many just ‘aren’t there yet’ with these concepts and we still need to work to educate them and bring them along.

    I work with teachers, some of whom don’t understand the power of Web 2.0 for their students. I have found that showing teachers how Web 2.0 can impact their students with actual examples speaks the loudest about the power of social media. I used to think, “Show them how to use the tools and they’ll figure out how to make them work with their students”. This is not the case. When possible, we title our professional development with things like “Getting kids excited about writing”, “Teaching Today’s Student”, “Beyond PowerPoint, other ways for students to show what they know”. They may not be catchy titles, but it hits teachers where they are. Most certainly within the workshops teachers are shown many Web 2.0 tools with LOTS of examples. It seems that teachers feel a greater comfort level in participating in a workshop about writing, because they are all teaching writing to some degree. Signing up for a workshop called, “Web 2.0 in the Classroom” is much more intimidating. Is this just semantics? Perhaps. But it gets teachers using social media with their students. In a few years will these teachers be ready to discuss these concepts is a different way? Sure. Are there teachers now who can have those discussions, absolutely. But for those that aren’t ‘there yet’, we can’t get them to see the value of Web 2.0 or using technology in teaching and learning in a general sense, without making it real for them. They need to be shown that it will work for their students and that it is not just another passing fad.

    I realize the panel discussion was not intended to be ‘Web 2.0 for Beginners’ but it may have been helpful for the audience if a brief definition of Web 2.0 and backchannels and their purposes had been given. I do think it should serve as a reminder that the terms we take for granted aren’t in everyone’s lexicon; even at a tech conference. I think there is a place for all of us at NECC and other conferences. Perhaps it is time for us Ed Tech folk to present workshops at reading conferences and science conferences, too. The Bloggers’ Cafe provided me with much wonderful camaraderie and thought-provoking discussion. At ISTE 2010, I propose we spend more time talking with those outside the Bloggers Cafe’, lest we forget, our responsibility to bring other along with us.
    .-= Judith Epcke´s last blog ..Making ‘Magic’ (schoolbus) with 1st Graders =-.

  • I agree with your sentiment, but your two questions are essentially sides of the same coin. That the question is about improvement and education is implied in “is tech making a difference” while “is tech supporting practices that improve student learning” foregrounds the question, but is still asking about difference.

    It’s all just semantics, but just as you get frustrated with the first question, so I get frustrated with the reductive assumptions made by those who get frustrated with the first question 🙂
    .-= Chris L´s last blog ..Web-Based Task Managers/To-Do Lists =-.

  • I have always been comfortable with technology and have been an ICT Coordinator for over 17 years, but somehow missed all the Web2.0 stuff until NECC08. What made the difference was being part of the group of Aussies that travelled via New Zealand, San Francisco and then San Antonio. NECC08 was great, but I don’t think it would have been as good if I was on my own.
    After being reinvigorated by that experience I threw myself into Web2.0 and have been encouraging staff at my school for a year now.
    However, while they seem to take on the skill set of some of the Web2.0 tools I have modelled, the learning by the students has not changed in as significant a way. The beauty of Web2.0 is that it gives students greater access to discover, arrange and present about aspects of their lives – ie the 21st century type of skills. This is the part that I find is missing from the education they are providing. There range of flexibility, decision making and choices that stduents are given is no greater than it was before.
    Do teachers have to undertsand the tool set, then the possibilities, before they really get the chanegs that they could make, or do the tools and the possibilities come at the same time?
    I find it is the same with IWBs. Some teachers are doing some great student dominated learning and others love that they have a giant video screen in the classroom to show videos and powerpoints on. Both would beleive that they are using technology to enhance student learning.
    How do we get the teachers and the schools to have the paradigm shift?
    .-= Colin Becker´s last blog ..Class Blog Idea #4 Debate / Discuss =-.

  • Chris

    I agree with what many have said already–much of what i saw at NECC 2009 was technology for the advancement of technology. In other words, “look what we can do” as opposed to something that truly helps the classroom.

    However, i did see a few bright spots. The one that stands out to me was Nystrom’s innovation, StrataLogica. This company has been around forever…they make globes, maps, atlases, etc. I’ve used their products for years. They have partnered with Google to use Google Earth to create the next incarnation of their products. They had it on display in their booth on a large smartboard.

    I watched one of their representatives flawlessly navigate through both physical and political globes–zooming in and out just the way you do with Google Earth but this time it was done so thta kids could actually understand what they were looking at. It was really something to see. The Nystrom guy talked about how they were listening to what their customers have been asking for–digital content they need to teach. But he says they wanted to go beyond just putting up static content. I signed up for a trial to this service. i also got to watch their video at http://www.nystromnet.com/stratalogica. Really cool and something we can actually use.

    I think i’ve seen the future.

  • Great comments people,


    I always like to hear people’s journey and commend you for taking those steps. I think for some scaffolding is great but for many it’s a chasm that doesn’t require small steps but giant shifts in their approach to teaching and learning. Those who value control and neat learning compartments will not be able to make meaningful changes in their schools.


    Not sure what happened to the lady but conversations of length with those types of folks would be valuable. They rarely happen in my experience.


    Thanks for the response and I echo your sentiments. I’ve been accused of focusing on a few but the reality is I, and likely you and others, don’t have the capacity or support to change an entire system. At the same time, I think it’s more than just “horses who don’t want to drink”. Our biggest problem is that the system is made up of people who have had success in it and for them, to change is very difficult. Even if they openly acknowledge the system is broken, they subconsciously revert to “proven practices” in which have been entrenched in their experience.

    @tansmom and @Lisa and @Susan

    I’m not asking people to slow down. I think we need to continue to push and explore what this new learning spaces can be, what I do think is that there can be an assumption amongst those in the community of connected users that we’re closer than we think and that we can have big broad discussions about “Web 2.0” (FYI, I try to avoid that term like the plague) in the classroom. 95% of teachers are ready for that conversation.


    Conference structure and organization is a whole other issue. See Scott Meech’s post


    Your point about presenting at non-tech conference is very, very important.


    Please elaborate. I’m sort of get what you’re saying and recognize my own contradictions at times but would like some clarification on your comment. Don’t shy away from challenging my faulty logic. It sharpens my thinking.


    Another great story and as you’ve stated, many things haven’t change and as a result the full impact of an open, connected learning space is diminished greatly when people only understand a few tools. Thanks.
    .-= Dean Shareski´s last blog ..Ramblings from NECC 2009 =-.

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  • Will Richardson

    So what do we want to do about it? We know there is a New World. The choice then is trying to convince everyone else of that or just going out and putting down roots. My frustration in our conversation last weekend was that for all of the passion we can muster for our own individual experiences, it’s clearly not enough to move the mountain. NECC/ISTE is a perfect example. Total up the money that was invested on the vendor floor and then do the math as to the influence that buys on the conference agenda. They’re all about assessement, automation, “safety”, and maintaining the status quo. ISTE has updated its “standards” to sound progressive yet there isn’t a new thought on the list. Then look at the Web 2.0 sessions on the list and ask what percentage are about “burping into VoiceThread” publishing (safe) and what percentage are about real, transformed, collaborative, change-the-world learning that ratlles the whole notion of teachers and students in the classroom (not so safe)? The vision of social media in schools at conferences like NECC can’t be anywhere close to the vision that those whose learning is fundamentally different because of them because no one would buy space on the floor. Can you learn with anyone on the ISTE board? Can you get across the concept of learning with in an hour long session? NECC/ISTE is not the place where change is going to happen. For that, go to EduCon where at least the conversations will challenge the paradigm, where you can continue learning and pushing the conversation after it’s over (and the vendors will be absent.)

    We’re going to have to build something different here. It won’t happen in the next 20 years, but it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna be open, shared, connected, collaboartive, passion-based and on-going, and it’s going to fundamentally change the roles of schools of classrooms and of teachers. Don’t go to NECC/ISTE looking for that.

  • Late to the party, but I want to add a few thoughts.

    First, my research suggests that new communications technologies arise (or at least succeed in “the marketplace”) because a need for them has developed. Without an understood need, they fail (see Napoleon III’s fax machine, or AT&T’s picture phone of 1964). So, the telegraph succeeded not because it was invented, but because the world had grown much more interconnected and needed news faster. “Web 2.0” has succeeded because after 200 years on urban anonymity combined with one-way linear learning, humans were hunting for better solutions (this is actually especially true in education where structures such as “profnet” date to the late 1980s).

    So, it is not a question of whether these technologies add value somehow to education, but the reverse, can education add value to the communications and information technologies of our present day world, and its future?

    This switches the responsibility. It is not the job of contemporary technologies to prove themselves to educators, the book was never required to do that, and I’ve never read studies of the lecture which demonstrate that it is particularly effective in any way. It is the job of education to alter itself to prove itself of value to the world which now exists.

    But the problem is, even our “best” attempts at change are bizarrely tied to the past. NECC, at the very least, should have been a broad collection of regional “unconferences” linked by technology, rather than a series of face to face lecture and classroom-style events with very high costs to participate (I go broke attending the few conferences I get to). With this structure NECC (or ISTE or whatever) works against its own goals – it inevitably preaches to the choir – and seems to do even that not as well as it might. Hell, even the national museum convention had Today’sMeet running in every session.

    So I think it is difficult to run a traditional conference in a way which suggests fundamental change is essential. Kind of like those lectures on differentiated instruction so popular in teacher training institutions.
    .-= Ira Socol´s last blog ..Social Change and the American School =-.

  • Dean, I just read “Introducing Laptops to children: An examination of ubiquitous computing in Grade 3 reading, language and mathematics” from Robert Bernard (et. all) from Concordia University in Montreal. I’m a fan of quantitative research (Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology V33(3) Fall 2007) especially when its statistics can be used to help support the (smart) use of technology in schools. http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/158/152

    I especially love the quote they use in the introduction from Thomas Edison, “the motion picture is destined to revolutionalize our educational system” and “in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks”. What goes around comes around, movies didn’t take over but maybe technology will? I don’t think that textbooks don’t have anything to worry about, provided they change with the times. For instance, my math department is getting E-texts next year in addition to real-life tree provided ones (I was hoping just for E-books) but things are moving in a positive direction, ed.technically speaking.

    A news article commented on the study and its findings seemed to be reporting to the general tax-paying public http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=7dc0ae19-fbe0-4aa1-b1c0-e221cf1d4a1b&k=67707 . Can society expect achievement to increase with the introduction of technology? I agree it is the use of the technology that really makes a difference in the ability of students to tinker with concepts, collaborate and demonstrate a deeper understanding, not just plopping a laptop in front of them!

    Looking forward to tweeting with you.
    .-= Snydersensei´s last blog ..K-8 Mathematics Course – Contructivist Directions =-.

  • I think about the teachers in my buiding/department/district who are not as up to speed as I am with a lot of this. I really believe that the reason they aren’t using social networking or any of these other tools is because they don’t see the importance or don’t want to invest in the time it takes to develop a great network for learning. I’m not sure how I can get them on board – simply telling them about my learning has been enough. I’m not a classroom teacher anymore and I feel that many don’t want to hear what I have to say because I’m not the one dealing with a classroom of students who are barely meeting passing requirements on the state/federal tests. They feel they have more important problems to focus on. I’m hoping I can get them to see that helping the students and increasing their own learning are not unrelated. Creating the change in our schools isn’t going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick. Will mentioned 20 years in his comments. Twenty years ago we could not have predicted what’s going on now, it’s going to be just as difficult to predict what our school will look like then. I just hope I can get a few teachers each to see that their increased learning WILL have an impact on the students they work with.
    .-= Chad Lehman´s last blog ..My NECC Reflection =-.

  • Dean,
    I was one of the people on the panel you mentioned. I don’t think that every session at NECC has to be a beginner conversation. And perhaps the level of the conversation was appropriate for most of the audience. It’s impossible to tell. Plus – isn’t it a good thing for beginners to hear some conversation at a non-beginner level?

    After the panel, I made sure to go up the woman who spoke up and congratulated her on her courage and honesty in asking her questions, along with a hug and an assurance that we all feel like she does at times. She wasn’t demanding or accusatory, simply stating her case and asking for clarification on some points.
    .-= sylvia martinez´s last blog ..Sharing success stories from Eastside High =-.

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  • @Sylvia,

    I’m not suggesting everything be for beginners and the panel discussion as simply a recognition on my part on assumptions that are often made about the level of penetration of social media. The divide in my mind is getting greater among educators. The conversations and learning you and I and others have in various spaces is so far removed from most teachers’ experiences even at a tech conference.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “beginner’s” sitting in on an “advanced” discussion and I”m not surprised that you offered support to that woman. It simply reiterated to me in general, those of us, and I’m as guilty as the next person, who live connected lives, often act and speak as if more people are participating that actually are.

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  • “as if more people are participating that actually are”
    Now that you’ve mentioned this, I have to say that one of the reasons that I haven’t really offered to present at big conferences is because I feel that most will be doing better things than me, or that they are already doing them. I know that this isn’t wholey true, but it seems that you’re suggesting that it is far from true.
    If you consider that 18000 people were at NECC09 and I imagine that the USA must have several million teachers (no idea of the actual number), but I’ll just make it 1,000,000 teachers, then this represent less than 2% of all teachers. I would have thought that 2% would be a low figure for the number of teachers who are participating at an advanced level. What are the other 98% doing with technology, how are they using it? So, if NECC doesn’t ably reflect the level of technology use, then there is a mammoth level of change needed.
    .-= Colin Becker´s last blog ..NECC09 from a Distance – Part 1: The Keynote Debate =-.

  • Hmmm, there is an emotional intelligence in may of the people that you’re talking about that adds that X-factor of what they are doing. Having that day in day out, making snap decisions in the classroom – is a lot harder that talking about it as a keynote. I guess it’s like asking a baseball player why they chose to swing the way they did, given the response times they have. They can’t explain it – yet know how to do it. It’s a combination of technique, experience and that other stuff that amazes us that some have and some don’t.

    So, no, not everyone is going to listen and be radically changed, just as social media does not democratize power unless the powerful allow it – and indeed it creates new power and wealth for some. It comes down to – do you have enough people in your educational system that are willing to find out; and then to participate in spaces and places they don’t understand.

    This leads me to equity issues – if you don’t have access to the likes of Peggy Sheehy (who works a full load and changes learning) – and then have to rely on consultants and conferences then that in itself creates a new paradigm for learning. I realise people have to make a living, and that they have experience – and of course that is how it’s always been, but … we are in danger of asking too many questions; and having too little access to daily, practical answers.
    .-= Dean Groom´s last blog ..Toasters =-.

  • Another one late to the party, and one who was not able to attend NECC. I have found two things in the year that I’ve immersed myself into this conversation about learning and technology and “Web 2.0” and “21st Century skills”.

    The first is that I have learned a huge amount from the network I’m growing. Hearing and participating in conversations through blogs like this one and on Twitter have really started me thinking much more deeply about a lot of things, including the way I teach. Among other things it has reignited my passion for learning and teaching, and while I’m still more of a consumer than a contributor, the more I engage with other people like yourself, the better I understand and am able to contribute.

    The second is that despite a year of listening and reading and writing about these ideas, I often feel like the woman in that workshop. Many of the conversations that I’ve observed over the last year seem to be taking place in closed circles. I am making plans to attend EduCon in January, but I’ll admit to more than a little trepidation that I’ll end up in a conversation where I either have nothing to contribute, or what I do contribute won’t be at a level that meets the unspoken (and probably nonexistent other than in my mind) criteria for worthiness. Many, many people I’ve come across have welcomed me into the discussion and have listened to and challenged my ideas. A small minority have responded (if at all) with a more condescending “Come back when you’re ready to play with the big boys” attitude. I can honestly say that I thought more than once that it wasn’t worth trying to jump back in.

    What @Jen and @Miguel each said resonates with me. Did someone stop to talk to the woman in the workshop? Was she welcomed into SOME sort of conversation in some way, or was she simply dismissed? At the same time, if she walked away and didn’t pursue any learning on her own, if she didn’t persist until she knew what was going on, then she bears some of the responsibility.
    .-= Gerald Aungst´s last blog ..Lessons in Responsibility from Spider-Man, Part 2 =-.

  • I’m going to share Miguel’s great parable above with my students when I return to the classroom next month after my year’s hiatus.

    I think it’s exactly the story students – not teachers, not administrators, possibly parents – need to hear at the beginning of the year.

    We have the passion, care, and skills to serve good water. But the students really need to hear that it’s up to them to drink.
    .-= Clay Burell´s last blog ..Gilgamesh and the Original “Original Sin”: Unsucky English Lecture 9 (part one) =-.

  • Chris

    I’m back with one more Nystrom/StrataLogica thing–there’s a video of what i saw in D.C. here


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