The WOW factor still matters

I’m not sure if this says more about my social life or my connected life but whatever. You can judge for yourself.

So it’s Friday night, my wife is out watching my girls perform in Annie. (I’m really a good parent, I watched them on Saturday I just don’t need to see it three times). So I find myself watching Jeff Utecht in Bangkok on his computer, streaming his former colleagues in Shanghai gathering together on a Saturday watching presentations from K12 online.  You may have to read that sentence twice to get it.

Jeff held a similar event a couple of years ago.  2 years ago, streaming video was not readily available but Jeff did record some of that event for viewing after the fact.  Today, streaming video is as easy as email. But Jeff had to do some fancy configurations to stream his Skype call from Shanghai back to Bangkok out to the world. I was concerned that the internet might break at any moment. Jeff has a reputation.

As much as I live this stuff everyday, there is still a WOW factor here. The WOW of an almost seamless discussion with people who care deeply about the things I do. I think WOW is good. I think WOW should be leveraged not as an end but a means to really important stuff.  I agree that WOW isn’t enough anymore but to think that I could have a rich conversation with folks who offer a completely different perspective from the other side of the world would seem significant.  I think having rich conversations locally is important and that’s exactly what the teachers in Shanghai were doing.  There’s no reason why we would have to choose.

A Fresh set of Eyes

Ewan McintoshWhat a privilege to spend time with a good and smart friend.  Since we began planning for this day back in January, I’ve been looking forward to it.  It was remarkable to see how many traveled a fair distance to attend this one day event.

The day was well crafted by Ewan that included a series of short presentation type deliveries followed by opportunity to discuss and play.

As a group, we decided these were the most important ideas from the morning:

  1. R & D is for everyone
  2. Building Shared Awareness
  3. Remix the curricula
  4. Balance between structure and flexibility, saturation and overload
  5. Importance of rules in play

The afternoon was spent exploring gaming and the concept of gaming as a learning tool.

One participant summarized his learning this way, “One mistake I’ve made is I’ve never played with a computer”. This was a telling statement about how we view ourselves as learners.

Lots of ideas were explored and my goal was that folks left willing to continue to innovate, explore, learn and share. Not entirely new but a fresh set of eyes always helps.Gamers

Working out a New Game photo: by Ewan Mcintosh

The Real Magic of K12 Online

The K12 Online Conference is truly unbelievable opportunity for teacher learning and indeed student learning. This week many of the virtual aspects of this conference became a reality. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach already wrote eloquently about our planning meeting and Wes Fryer and Sheryl offer a full recap of our presentation at NECC.

The more I think about the value of this conference, recall the stories shared during our presentation, I can’t believe what a powerful learning opportunity this is for all educators. While I’m sure others will find fault and criticize some of our efforts and decisions, I will, without hesitation, state that this is by far the best value for a professional learning conference you’ll ever find. I’d say that even if we charged $500 for the event. But it’s less than $500. It’s free.

The real magic of this conference is not only in the presentations. While these continue to provoke thinking and support for learners, here are what I think make the conference as good as it is:

  1. Connections. The story of Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay meeting via the conference and continuing to do the work they’ve done is one example. There are countless other examples of people who met during the conference and have continued a relationship well beyond the initial release dates of the presentations.
  2. Re-purposing. I’m excited about the way leaders have used the content to create unique learning festivals in their local contexts. Jeff Utecht’s LAN Party is one example. Listen to the video to hear him explain it more fully. I’m looking forward to more creative ways of using the content locally.
  3. Unlimited access. This is more than simply unlimited access to the content but unlimited access to the presenters. Again, there are many stories here but I’ve been able to make connections with Liz Kolb and her work with cellphones and been able to use her to support my work locally.
  4. Authentic Collaboration. The organization of this conference is done entirely online as well (except for the one evening that 3 of us were together). I’ve been overwhelmed with the response in the past 2 weeks of volunteers. Many have never done anything of this kind in working together to organize a virtual event. Being part of building and creating something real is a great experience and one that certainly transfers to our work with students.

There are likely oodles more stories out there of what this conference means. If you have a story, go ahead and leave a comment. We’ll likely take them and post them to the conference blog but we can start here.
K12 Online conveners

I’ve also added a Skype video recording of our convener meeting. It’s unedited, 23 minutes long and mostly of Darren Kuropatwa‘s unshaven face. But here it is if you’re interested.

The back of a napkin

It’s 3 weeks until NECC. I’ve never been and am eagerly awaiting. David Jakes has invited me to help him present his session on 10 strategies for improving presentations.

As David and I held a little planning session tonight we talked about the power and importance of visual literacy. We also agreed that while PowerPoint may be the tool we focus on, it’s really not about PowerPoint but the ability to communicate a message effectively with the support of well designed visuals.

This video promoting a book called The Back of a Napkin, demonstrates how ideas can always be enhanced and developed using simple visuals.

Many of these principles are transferable whether you’re using a napkin or a slide deck. If you’re attending NECC, we’d love to have you pop by Monday, June 30th at 11:00. David plans to take everyone who attends out for supper that evening.