So, day one of NECC 2009 is in the books and dawn shines on day two. As I look back on what was the first day of #necc #necc09 #necc2009 (and I am sure I missed some of these twitter tags- next year, let’s get it together!) what were the highlights, missed opportunities, trends, “take homes” and …opps…what were they thinking?
The conference started with a boom as Malcolm Gladwell took the stage to address thoughts from his work on Outliers. As usual, his ability to boil down complex topics and bring them to “the people” in ways that are humorous and relevant to understanding- Fleetwood Mac and how they made it big. I must say, Malcom was on a roll and hit most of the salient points that need to make it to the classroom. His topic was really about the development of expertise, a field of study in cognitive science that has a relatively long history (as far as C.S. goes). His message about how “making it big” is less about talent than “paying their dues”, working hard, 10,000 hours was a message well supported by the research and much needed in teaching, learning and teacher professional development. I recently attended a 2 day symposium at Carnegie on the development of expertise and blogged about how this might inform professional development. Gladwell got us about 90% of the way there. I would have liked to see more emphasis placed on the concept of deliberate practice as this is the difference between “working hard while putting in your time” and REALLY developing expertise.
Moving forward in the conference, I found myself at the SIGGS Playground (special interest group for games and simulations) where I volunteered to work the booth. The two hours went quickly as I answered questions such as “where are the restrooms”, “how can I find out what sessions I paid for-I forgot” and “how do I find…fill in the blank”. Yes, there were conversations about games and simulations and how to join the SIG. However, the morning seemed to find people with that “deer caught in the headlights look”- NECC is huge.
The sessions are good but I have find the conversations still the greatest part of this conference. Connecting with educators from across the country has been powerful in the past and is still my favorite part of these conferences. This is largely due to the fact that most of these conversations tend to focus on “Big Ideas” and visions while sessions still seem to get bogged down in “how-to” demonstrations.
Taking a quick walk of the exhibit hall, you are hit with stimulation overload. Now, this is where I really want to let loose with specifics but I will reserve my comments to a simple general statement. Like many exhibit halls over the years (especially since NCLB), there is a sense of “snake oil” sales taking place. What I am talking about is…”here is the answer to increasing learning as measured through your state mandated tests”. Now, this is not to say that there was nothing of interest on the floor. Quite the contrary, there is much there that is worth exploring but you have to put your S.O. filter on as you walk the halls. I will return later today to take in more of the show and hope to be able to highlight some of the areas that might really make a difference.
NECC is a wonderful place to get a sense of the emerging trends in education and technology. While the conference is not near over, several trends are already rising to the top.
- Shall I say…TWITTER. The back chat has been fascinating from both a researcher’s and participant’s perspective. If you have not joined in this experience and are wondering what the “buzz or tweets” are about, simply go to twitter.com and set up an account. I would also recommend that you download the free application- Tweet Deck to track the show. Use #necc or #necc09 as “hashtags” to limit your search to the show.
- Online learning: The number of conversations, products and sessions that are leaning toward online learning or e-learning is much larger this year than any year in the past. Clearly schools are starting to look to new arenas of learning. However, what is being done to prepare teachers for this new arena? Online teaching and learning is VERY different than the traditional model (which also needs to change). E-learning is not new (as far as the industry goes). It is a little more than 10 years old and higher education is far ahead of the k-12 environment here. However, there are still MANY poor online courses in the higher education arena. That being said, we know much more today about distributed teaching and learning and my hope is that we, as K-12 schools, will not walk down the path of 10 years ago but will stand on the shoulder of those who walked before us.
- Finally, smaller and more ubiquitous computing. Hand-held devices and netbooks are rapidly rising to the top. The number of booths that are on the trade show floor, netbooks that are evident in the sessions and hallways is amazing. Two years ago when I brought my netbook to NECC, it really turned heads. Now, they are everywhere
Well, I am out of time and need to make it to my first morning session. So, off for day two of NECC 2009