Spending Time Outside the Bubble

Last week, Karen and I did a session for the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) national conference being held here in the DC area.

Carrying the somewhat cheesy title of “Learn New Tech Tools”, we nevertheless had a good time with it. I think the folks who spent two hours with us enjoyed themselves and left with some new ideas.

Overall, it went well. Considering that none of it – the concept, title, description – was our idea.

This was one of those situations when someone else submitted the proposal, couldn’t travel to DC, and a friend of the local arrangements committee drafted us to fill in.

While I was pleased with our session, the conference as a whole, however, was another story.

For one thing, this NSDC meeting was only slightly more tech savvy than the one we presented at four years ago.

They offered no wireless access in the convention center (brand new this year) and we had to pull some strings to avoid paying for a connection to use in our heavily web-based session.

The lack of tech usage was especially apparent in the program, which was very thin on topics you might expect like online professional development or using the read/write web for instruction.

It was also reflected in the many presenters wheeling around piles of paper handouts, chart paper, and overhead projectors.

And then there were the keynote presentations. Both of those I attended were more like extended infomercials featuring bad PowerPoint shows with lots of text-heavy slides that were unreadable from many parts of the hall.

Ok, I know I’ve been spoiled by the extremely wired echo chamber in which I spend most of my time.

In the past few years, I’ve become very accustomed to have easy, almost continual access to a back channel populated by lots of smart people who have many innovative ideas for improving education and know how to present them in creative ways.

I guess being dropped into a professional situation which is largely cut off from that rich atmosphere of learning is somewhat jarring.

Maybe the next time we present at NSDC (another four years?), the organization will have learned a little more about the ever expanding options for professional development in the 21st century.