NECC- Day 2 (finally posted)

23 07 2009

It is funny how fast time flies. It seems like yesterday that I was in this city and writing the blog post below. However, as I was coming to the end of this reflection, I shut down without finishing or posting and raced off to meet an old (sorry Brooke- not so old) Pepperdine Cadre member from cadre 7. Then it was off to the final sessions, the airport…vacation…another conference and more vacation.  Now I find myself sitting here trying to figure out how all the technology stuff works again 🙂 So what do you do with an old reflection? Post it. Below you will see my reflection of the second day of NECC. Now it is off to further reflections.

Day 2 is a wrap and NECC day three is off to a great start. I am sitting in the Bloggers Café reflecting on yesterday and enjoying energy that is all around me. People are filling this open space at the junction of three large hallways- sitting on the floor, cool looking chairs that could only fit the décor of your image blogger cafés world-wide and funny plastic chairs that scare me. My fear is that I would sit in one and it would break- where would my esteem be then. I have found a place in the corner near the “mother source of onsite blogging- a power source. Yes, batteries are still one of the major limitations in mobile computing.

Conversations in this area cover many topics as educators engage in collegial exchanges: professional development, PLN’s, iPhones, oh…I almost forgot- “cool things you can do with PowerPoint”. Hmmmm where did that come from? I weep as many are excited but are still caught in the traditional vision of education.  And, don’t get me started on the evils of PowerPoint abuse in the classroom.

I did not mention in yesterday’s post that I did one of the NECC Unplugged sessions.: the topic…Alternate Reality Games as Learning Environments. I had created a game that participants play which informs them about alternate reality games and how they can be used as compelling, engaging learning environments. This was a cool experience as this part of the conference is not part of the formal program. It is done at the Bloggers Café and is promoted through the NECC Unplugged wiki.  I used the ubiquitous nature of Twitter at NECC as well as promotional pages from my blog to drive traffic to the session.

Marketing through social media worked so well that I used that same method to drive traffic to an almost impromptu session that I delivered yesterday. So what was this session that I created on demand on site?

The story beings after I completed my ARG session. I was talking with a colleague who attended the ARG session and shared an idea I was working on, a session I wanted to create based on a personal journey I took over the past two weeks. You see, I became obsessed, like much of the world, with what was going on in Iran. I stared watching Twitter with #Iran, #Iranelection and later, #gr88 and #neda. As the story was unfolding before my eyes, I started following links from the tweets and found that they were “tugging” on other threads of a story. I set about capturing some of these threads and categorizing them. I did not know where this would go but I wanted to capture the moment.

Before I knew it, I had captured artifacts of the story as told by the Iranian people and the world. I realized after about the first week that what I was building was a story of others, told by and in the voice of the participants and observes. I was touched. It was then I realized the power of the story I was privileged to hear. This was a story that touched me and needed to be retold. So, I resolved to retell the story and how I captured this personal human experience. It was clear that this was quite unique in that it was not a story about Twitter, or Facebook, or Youtube or any social network of your choice. This was a story about global collaboration that was possible as we all stared to share our personal stories creating a tapestry that we know as the Web. You pull a thread in this tapestry only to find it is attached to many others across all aspects of the web. One story led to another and then another.

After sharing this story with my friend, the wish, command, demand was made. “You need to, no, you will do this tomorrow. I want to know how you did this.” It did not take long to decide I would make this happen and by midnight, it was done. I ran the entire presentation with xMind as it helped to illustrate the different threads of this story as they created the tapestry of the story. The best part, the story was personal to me and came from the heart. I didn’t know what I would say but when it was done, the story told itself. It is amazing what you can do when you let yourself step “outside the box”.

Later, I continued my journey around the trade show floor and saw even more netbooks, interactive whiteboards and clickers. While I like technology as much as the next, I have come to a place where I am always asking: How will this improve learning in today’s classrooms? We just installed Smartboards in most of our classrooms and I am excited about the possibilities. However, I also fear that they may reinforce old methods of teaching. This is an area where I am actively doing a study on teacher’s reflective practice as it informs implementation of IWB’s in the classroom. This study started at the end of last year and will take some time to run. However, I think these are the types of questions we should be asking when we are looking at new technologies for the classroom.  This leads me to a conversation I had with a vendor of “clickers”. Now, let me lead off by saying that I personally own a set of clickers which I have sometimes used in consulting sessions. I have also used them periodically in the classroom as a diagnostic tool for me teaching. So, when the vendor approached me and said that we should use these because our students are using this type of technology…well you can imagine the response. The selling points that I take exception to were, save time to enter grades in the grade book, gather grades electronically, easier to test the students… Hmmm, now where is the part about improving learning?

This frame of mind feeds into the NCLB world that is rapidly killing creativity in education across our country. Make it easier to test. How about we use the clickers to assess our ability to teach and couple that with a video camera in the back of the room so we can review our lessons and compare with student responses. Let’s use them as diagnostic tools to improve our craft rather than simply adding another grade column to the grade book. We have this idea that more testing will produce better results. Well, you know what they say about insanity- doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. These tools can have a place, a powerful place in the toolbag of an educator. However, they will only help if we change our practice. The simple claim that students use technology so we should does not work. At about this time, one lady who was standing near me tapping her foot and chomping at the bit to join the conversation said to the sales man, “So, tell me about these clickers”…So off he went with his sales pitch, much to the joy of the “lady in waiting”.

And…that brings to a close day two of NECC 2009.




One response

25 07 2009
Caryl Bigenho

There were no clickers when I was in the classroom. But, if there had been I would have welcomed them as a tool to become a better, more effective teacher. Automating the scoring and recording of tests and quizzes sounds like a dream come true. It would have freed up a lot of time to work on making ever better, more interesting lessons. I would have also welcomed the instant feedback feature so I could tell if my students really were learning what I hoped they were.

Sadly, I fear this is not how many teachers use this tool. What they need is some really good training sessions on how to use them effectively, not only to make their job easier, but also to make it more interesting and fun.


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