Conference Time

I’m just about finished with my not-quite-at-the-last-minute prep for my trip to our annual state edtech conference, sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

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The program starts on Monday but I’ll be headed to beautiful downtown Roanoke just before noon tomorrow, mainly so I don’t have to leave at 3am. :-)

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon I’ll be doing a concurrent session titled You Don’t Have Too Much Information. You’re Using The Wrong Tools.

It’s a variation on the same presentation about why you should be using Google Reader, Delicious and Evernote I’ve been doing in 90 minute to three hour time frames for a while.

However, this is the first time I’ve tried to squeeze the essence into an hour so we’ll see how that goes.

Bright and early Wednesday morning (7:30?!), I’ll be doing a Bring Your Own Laptop workshop on Building Tours in Google Earth.

Around my sessions I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues from other parts of the state in an analog, face-to-face way that’s still not possible with Twitter.

Even if you’re not staying to hear my ravings, stop in and say hi.

EduCon Proposal

Since EduCon 2.2 proposals were due today, of course I submitted mine just a few hours ago. Nothing new… I usually do my other homework assignments at the last minute as well. :-)

EduCon is something unique among the many education-related conferences out there.

Sessions don’t involved being lectured at or about playing with the coolest new tools. It’s all about the “opportunity to discuss and debate ideas” dealing with just about anything to do with education and learning.

Anyway, my little proposal borrows ideas from the book Disrupting Class, in which the authors note that we’ve spent a lot of money on computers for classrooms while getting very little change.

In the book Disrupting Class, the authors make the observation “While people have spent billions of dollars putting computers into schools, it has resulted in little change in how students learn.”

They also ask “Why haven’t computers brought about a transformation in schools the way they have in other areas of life?”

Excellent question. Certainly there are plenty of answers, including this one also from Disrupting Class “…the way schools have employed computers has been perfectly predictable, perfectly logical – and perfectly wrong.”

But the focus of this session will not be about placing blame. Instead let’s discuss what we can do and what is being done to change things. Come join us for a discussion centered on these ideas and bring any and all ideas, whether from your personal experience or elsewhere. Invite your friends and colleagues who aren’t attending EduCon to be part of the conversation from wherever they are.

With any luck, the program will see fit to include that in the agenda. I did a session at the first iteration of EduCon and it was a great experience.

If you haven’t made your plans to attend EduCon, do it now. If you’re not able to come to Philly in January, watch for how to participate from wherever you are through a variety of back channels.

Playing With Numbers

Yesterday at the Building Learning Communities conference, one of the speakers offered up an interesting statistic.

75% of college graduates never read another book in their lifetime.

Wow!

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That’s an incredible statement, although it must be true since he put it on a slide projected on a big screen in front of nearly a thousand people.

Anyway, it’s also the kind of number that just didn’t sit well with my crap detector.

A little bit of Googling turned up similar statements (like the one in this collection of book stats) with different (smaller) numbers.

And the speaker did qualify his statement with something about that 75% including people who started reading books but never completed them.

Still, three quarters of the college educated population not reading even one book after graduation strikes me as awfully high.

Did the researchers include audio books? Books parents read to their kids? Graphic novels?*

As with the results of so many polls, surveys, and studies, you really can’t understand the results without knowing the source and the method used to assemble the numbers.

However, we have a large part of the population in the US (and possibly elsewhere in the world) who often accept the statistical numbers handed to them almost daily as fact.

Unless, of course, they come into major conflict with their own beliefs. And even then, they don’t question the numbers as much as they outright reject them.

Wherever the 75% number came from (and I have no doubt some pollster somewhere did get it), it’s just one more example of why we need to do a better job of teaching students to understand probability and statistics before they become adults.

After all, they need to know that 67% percent of all statistics are simply made up. Right? :-)

[The picture is of some books from my bookshelf. And yes I’ve read them all since college. Well… except for Harry Potter #7.]

*Don’t laugh, some of them have very complex stories!

Some Final Thoughts on NECC 2009

In the 1980’s era musical “Chess“, the lead character proclaims the tournament in which he is about to participate to be “… a show with everything but Yul Brynner*”.

That lyric has been running through my warped little brain as I’ve been reviewing my notes and watching some of the video from NECC, the annual edtech expo that wrapped up here in DC just over a week ago.

This is one conference that really does have something for everyone – or at least anyone even remotely connected to instructional technology.

However, one big impression I always have following NECC is to feel sorry for the novice.

The sheer size of this carnival is overwhelming, which also makes it hard for newbies to find the good stuff.

Certainly someone who followed the crowds likely saw lots of rapid fire examples of cool web 2.0 tools, not to mention lots and lots of people poking at interactive whiteboards.

The two largest manufacturers of those devices were conference “Tier 1 sponsors” so they, and the people selling them as the ultimate edtech solution, were impossible to miss. (I feel a new rant about IWBs coming on. :-)

Hopefully someone guided those NECC first-timers into the area for the poster sessions where they were far more likely to see examples of authentic uses of technology for teaching and learning.

For me, the highlight of NECC was once again was the day-long EduBloggerCon, an event that’s not even part of the formal conference. (Most of us in the class of 09 are pictured at the left.)

This was the third year for this meetup/unconference and the size and style returned to being more like the first time around in Atlanta.

Lots of valuable discussions (big and small) along with the always-valued opportunity to meet some of the people whose work I regularly follow online.

So, that’s pretty much it for this year.

As I noted earlier, our commitments to support the conference didn’t allow for many sessions or getting involved in many Blogger’s Cafe discussions, making this year’s event a different sort of experience.

Or any blogging during those five days, although for many, Twitter has taken over that function.

And I’m already looking forward to getting back to normal (or whatever passes for normal) next June in Denver.

* Look him up, kiddies. :-)

The Power of the Network

One day last week during the NECC conference, I was standing at the Ask Me table near the Bloggers’ Cafe, talking with a couple of colleagues from our overly-large school district.

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Among other things, I was trying to explain Twitter to them (something I seem to be doing more and more of lately).

At one point a woman brought over a cellular wireless card that someone had left on one of the couches in the Cafe.

And under normal circumstances it would have gone to the conference lost and found, to sit in a box waiting for someone to figure out exactly where that office was in the huge convention center.

But… expensive wireless service, lounge area dedicated to bloggers… I figured the owner must be a Twitterer. So, I tossed a 140 character notice into the mix.

They may not follow me but, considering the people who hang out in that area of the hall, the number of degrees of separation between me and them was probably far less than six.

Anyway, it only took a few hours to get the card back to it’s owner.

Ok, I admit, as an example of the power of Twitter, that story doesn’t rise even close to the same level as the way the system is being used by the election protesters in Iran.

But it’s a nice little illustration of how this particular tool helps connect the members of one particular network in ways that were impossible even a few years ago.