NECC 2008 – If we don’t like NECC Unplugged, we can change it

Jeff Utecht said:

I’m worried these type of get out the tools and play sessions where we are all learning and teaching will be forced out of the Blogger’s Cafe. They are unplanned, unscripted, great discussions around tools, ideas, and just plain old good fun.

Vinnie Vrotny said:

I believe that there is a place for NECC Unplugged and people being able to have quick shares. Bur I do believe that the scheduled nature of this venture, while being created for all of the right reasons, is keeping those who may be late to the party, the ability to share.

I guess I am advocating for a rallying call to arms, a reclaiming of the Blogger’s cafe space. Like Travis, Crockett, and Bowie, and the other Texans, many whose statues are in the hallway right outside of the Blogger’s Cafe,  I am willing to defend the turf from the invasion and instrusion in order to allow for those, who like me, just want a place for informal learning and reflection. Anyone want to join?

My thoughts

  1. Many of us enjoyed the conversations on Saturday, even with the boom mikes and camera crews.
  2. I’m glad that Jeff and others ‘voted with their feet’ and found spaces and times where their conference needs could be met. I know that I’ve had a blast interacting with Jeff, Vinnie, and others in our informal settings.
  3. I thought the Blogger’s Cafe today was fabulous. I don’t know what NECC Unplugged is going to do that atmosphere, but we can always decide as a group to dump it or move it if need be. I liked your [Jeff’s] note that we could’ve taken better control of Edubloggercon but didn’t. If we need it, we have a second chance on Monday and/or Tuesday! [left as a comment on Jeff’s blog]

In other words, if NECC Unplugged isn’t working for us, we don’t have to see it to its conclusion. We can adapt on the fly. Isn’t that one of our strengths as a group?

One final note: A lot of people in the Blogger’s Cafe today weren’t interacting with anyone. They were typing away or simply resting and watching. I’m guessing that many weren’t even bloggers but were simply conference attendees who found an open seat. We have to be cognizant of this too. Although Vinnie and Jeff don’t fall into this camp, there may be folks who prefer the more structured approach of NECC Unplugged instead of a more free-for-all conversation.

NECC 2008 – SIGTC Forum

I attended the SIGTC Forum, run by Ferdi Serim, on Sunday for about an hour. SIGTC is ISTE’s special interest group for technology coordinators. Two things from the session that troubled me…

1. No recognition of principals as instructional leaders

Ferdi outlined five different roles that needed to be involved in discussions about teaching and learning:

  • Guide (teacher leader) – knows about designing learning experiences; has daily experience with children
  • Scholar (librarian / media specialist) – knows about research, organizing knowledge
  • Hard Hat (technical specialist) – knows about hardware, software, and networks
  • Pilot (principal) – knows about managing people, schedules, and budgets
  • Wizard (technology / curriculum coordinator) – knows about managing systems and processes; at district level

Notice the emphasis on the managerial roles of principals. Nary a mention of the instructional leadership responsibilities of building-level leaders. Very disappointing.

2. The equity trap

There was some discussion about digital equity. Specifically, there seemed to be a fair amount of agreement in the group that – when it comes to digital technologies or whatever – if we don’t have enough for everybody, we can’t do it at all because of the complaints from the folks that don’t receive it.

How are we ever going to move forward if this is the mentality of our school organizations?

Other notes from the session

Cisco white paper: Equipping every learner for the 21st century

21st century pedagogy to teach 21st century skills which is enabled by technology and supported by adapted system reform

The goal is to move from automation to facilitation to transformation

Desired educational technology outcomes will occur only if they are supported by the entire system

Gartner’s hype cycle

  1. Technology trigger
  2. Peak of inflated expectations
  3. Trough of disillusionment
  4. Slope of enlightment
  5. Plateau of productivity

Sources of information on emerging technologies

NECC 2008 – Edubloggercon

I haven’t been to NECC in years so I was really jazzed to be able to come this year to San Antonio. I came in with no agenda; my plan was to simply soak it all in at Edubloggercon. I think I did a good job of that.

On Saturday I met a TON of people – old blogging friends, famous blogging friends, new blogging friends – the whole works. It was great to finally meet some people with whom I’ve interacted regularly. It was equally as fun interacting with new folks that I’d never met before. I now have a bunch of new blogging buddies. I appreciated everyone who went out of their way to come say hello. Folks have been very kind and gracious here.

Many people were Tweeting, blogging, etc. yesterday. I didn’t even touch my laptop until the end of the day. Too many conversations!

My favorite moments of Edubloggercon

Some interesting posts about Saturday

I don’t share many of the concerns that others expressed. Although Pearson’s filming was a bit intrusive at times, it didn’t bother me so much, even when I was facilitating. Mostly I just had a great time. I think Vinnie’s got it right – growing pains that we’ll have to work through for next year (when Edubloggercon’s even bigger!)…

Some Edubloggercon pictures from my NECC Flickr set

Laura, Will, and Sheryl
Jim and Tim
Ewan, Jeff, and Chris
Dean and others
Steve and Tim

Ed tech quarantine?

Quarantined_2 [cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]

This is a picture of the Mobile Quarantine Facility built by NASA for astronauts returning from the Moon. It’s basically a modified Airstream trailer. The idea was to isolate the astronauts until it was determined that they didn’t have ‘moon germs.’ Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins stayed in this quarantine trailer for 65 hours after their return to Earth (Welcome back, heroes. Get in this trailer!).

Of course my pathetic brain saw this and immediately started thinking about educational technology. How sad is that?!

This MQF (gotta love those government acronyms!) got me thinking about whether we technology early adopters need a self-imposed moratorium on talking about new technology tools, at least in certain settings. One of the most common refrains heard from teachers or administrators who listen to us talk or blog about all of these new cool tools is “Why do I care about this as an educator?” In our eagerness to share our nearly-palpable glee and excitement, we often struggle to adequately answer the “So what?” question in ways that are substantive and meaningful to the average teacher or administrator.

So when a new tool comes out – TwitterDiigo, whatever – maybe we should hold off for a bit before we start blabbing to educators who don’t live as close to the ed tech edge as we do. Maybe we should voluntarily follow a process that looks something like this:


I believe that an emphasis on pilot testing, experimentation, and identification of both mainstream educator use(s) and optimal training mechanisms before introduction to other educators often would help us quite a bit. Instead of turning off the very educators that we want using many of these tools, some time spent in the ed tech quarantine might go a long way toward facilitating our overall goal of greater technology adoption in K-12 classrooms.

I don’t know if I’ve gotten the quarantine process exactly right. And of course many of you already do some version of this. But I think this is a concept that generally should be kept closer to the forefront of our brains. What do you think?

Calling all bloggers! – Leadership Day 2008

A year ago I wrote:

Many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators don’t know

  • what it means to prepare students for the 21st century;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
  • what appropriate technology support structures (budget, staffing, infrastructure) look like or how to implement them;
  • how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
  • the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
  • how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
  • and so on…

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Most of them didn’t grow up with these technologies. Many are not using digital tools on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

So… let’s help them out.

In response to that post, on July 4, 2007 – American Independence Day – a number of you helped me celebrate independent (and hopefully innovative) thinking and leadership by blogging about effective school technology leadership:

A year later our leaders still need help, of course. So I am putting out a new call for people to participate in Leadership Day 2008.


On July 4, 2008, blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs. Write a letter to the administrators in your area. Post a top ten list. Make a podcast or a video. Highlight a local success or challenge. Recommend some readings. Do an interview of a successful technology leader. Respond to some of the questions below or make up your own. Whatever strikes you. Please tag your post with these Technorati tags:

leadershipday2008, schooltechleadership

and/or link back to this post. If you don’t have a blog, comment on someone else’s post and/or send your thoughts to me and I will post them for you. I will do a summary afterward of what folks wrote and talked about [bloggers, this means some new readers probably will head your direction!].

Some prompts to spark your thinking

  • What do effective K-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?
  • Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that can be taken to move administrators forward? Given the unrelenting pressures that they face and their ever-increasing time demands, what are some things that administrators can do to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of technology leadership?
  • Perhaps using the NETS-A as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
  • What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he / she probably isn’t using now)?
  • What should busy administrators be reading (or watching)?

A badge for your blog or web site


[click on image for larger version]

Please join us for this important day because, I promise you, if the leaders don’t get it, it isn’t going to happen.

From literacy to digiracy

I ran across an interesting article, From Literacy to Digiracy, in The Economist (hat tip to Angela Maiers). Here’s the money quote:

For anyone under the age of 20, the world being experienced is one where the internet has always existed, and where everyone who matters is only a click, speed dial or text message away. “Tomorrow’s adults,” says Mr. Federman, “live in a world of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity.” Their direct experience of the world is wholly different from yours or mine.

So, no surprise that when we incarcerate teenagers of today in traditional classroom settings, they react with predictable disinterest and flunk their literacy tests. They are skilled in making sense not of a body of known content, but of contexts that are continually changing.

I love the use of the word incarcerate. It sums up so well the listless, bored, apathetic students that are prevalent in all too many of today’s high school classrooms. As others have noted, it’s awfully difficult to be a passive information consumer once you’ve had the opportunity to be an active content producer.

Could be a good article to share with administrators!

Top 50 Edublogs? – Follow-up

Every time I make a list of the ‘top’ edublogs (as measured by Technorati ranking), it seems that I also end up writing a follow-up post. For example, I wrote Linked after my last list almost a year ago. Here are a few thoughts about the conversation that has ensued regarding this year’s list…

Academics’ brains are weird

As Sir Ken Robinson said, professors’ bodies are basically transportation for our heads [which is probably why my brain’s in a lot better shape than the rest of me].

I like to play with numbers and ideas. I don’t know why so many people get upset about a simple list. For me it’s about trying to wrap my head around the edublogosphere as a phenomenon. How does it work? If you want to spread an idea, what’s the best way to do so? What valuable contributions can it make? And so on. No harm or self-aggrandizement intended. I’m just thinking in public.

Different strokes for different folks

For every person that thinks the list is interesting, another thinks it’s ‘one of the more inconsequential things [he] had seen in a long time.’ That’s cool. Given my previous point, I don’t mind being ‘libeled.’ I understand what Dan Meyer meant and thought Darren Draper’s comment 3 was accurate too. I did think Bill Fitzgerald’s comment 4 was perhaps a little uncharitable but that’s okay. Each of us finds value in different things.

Imputing intent

Lots of people are more than willing to impute intent to others despite having never met them, spoken with them, or otherwise interacted with them other than maybe having read a few blog posts. This occurs across the blogosphere and, of course, in other expressive media as well. One of humanity’s less-admirable traits…

Thesis + antithesis = synthesis

I really liked Ben Wildeboer’s post on the recent disagreement between Dan Meyer and Darren Draper. Well said, Ben. Mindelei’s got it right too. One of the most useful skills taught in law school is how to disagree without taking it personally.

Subject-matter teacher blogs

As Alfred Thompson said, we need – or at least need to find/identify – more subject-matter teacher blogs. Over time I’d like to collect more subject-matter blogs at the Moving Forward wiki so that we can show educators how other teachers in THEIR field are using blogs productively. Over the past few months I’ve put out calls for good elementary classroom blogs and good special education blogs. It’s time to do another call…

Make your own list

As I said in my post, make your own list! Call it Blogs you should be reading or Blogs that will blow your mind or Great blogs no one knows about or whatever. One of the best things about making my list is the new blogs that I come across, either in the comments or from the links back to my blog. It’s great to come across new, interesting voices. Send me your list. I’d love to see it and, if you so desire, also would be happy to publicize it!

Mini-golf and learning

Whack! Whack! Whack!

That’s my 4-year-old playing mini-golf. He discovered the joys of the game this spring in Florida.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

He doesn’t care what his score is. He is unconcerned about what others think. All he knows is that if he hits the ball enough times in roughly the right direction, eventually it’s going in the hole.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

We encourage him after every stroke: Good job! Try again! You’re getting closer! His ear-to-ear grin shows his joy. His gradually-declining totals show that he’s improving.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

We don’t have to be brilliant to be successful. But we do have to be persistent and unafraid. When do we lose this?

Whack! Whack! Whack!

As my 4-year-old gets older, he’ll get better at learning from his mistakes. But I hope that he always retains his lack of fear and his willingness to persist. Because the world is his oyster if he does.

How do I increase our group blog’s visibility?

I got this e-mail last week from a media company (and, no, you probably don’t
know who it is):

[We have] an outstanding group blog. I’d like to get more people to read it
because the thinking is so good. What would you recommend I do to increase
visibility for this blog?

Here was my response:

  1. Have a central RSS feed for the blogs rather than a separate one for each.
    Right now it’s not really a group blog, is it? Archive posts by BOTH time and
  2. Get the attention of the hubs and
    . How do you do that? By linking to them and by writing about
    content that will be interesting enough for them to remark upon and link back
  3. Use your print media to help drive traffic to the central blog.
  4. Cultivate a loyal group of otaku. Grow it over time by
    feeding their needs. Read Meatball
    if you haven’t yet done so. Also see Seth Godin’s presentation
    at TED
  5. Rinse and repeat. Often.
  6. Be patient.
  7. Advertise on my blog.  😉   [okay, Will
    Richardson’s blog

I also should have said:

  • Have a core set of Technorati tags that are used with every post. Add others that are post-specific.
  • Make it easy for people to bookmark and share posts. Include links for e-mail, Digg, StumbleUpon,, etc. with every post.
  • Use FeedBurner or some other system to make it super easy to subscribe to the central RSS feed as well each author’s feed. Allow people to receive posts via e-mail.
  • Post new content frequently so that people have a reason to keep returning.
  • Do a Google search on ‘increase blog traffic.’ There are lots of ideas out there…

Anything you would add?