The Entree is the reason you go to the buffet in the first place. It's the main course of the meal. Here's where you pile your plate high with everything you like or have been been dying to try.
For many people the concurrent sessions at NECC were their entree. That was not the case for me. The main reason I attended NECC was for the conversations - the chance to talk and exchange ideas with other technology educators. This is why a arrived (at the buffet) in San Antonio a day early to attend EduBloggerCon 2008 so I could have an extra day to engage in conversations.
PHOTO CREDIT: by elemenous on Flickr (Modified by Me)
Between EduBloggerCon, the Bloggers Cafe, and random meetings throughout the convention center, my NECC experience was filled with great idea exchanges and brainstorming. Here are a few morsels I brought home with me.
Why Didn't I Think of That?
After any professional development, Kevin Honeycutt sets out a "buffet" of laminated key tags - just like those grocery store club tags. Each one lists a tool that was discussed on one side and a web site address for that tool on the other. Under the web site is the name of a school or district contact who has agreed to serve as a mentor to support teachers and help them learn to use that tool.
Think of these like collectors cards for all your professional development topics. Kevin discovered that his teachers like to collect tags and will even trade them with other teachers. It even becomes a little competitive as teachers try to see who can collect the most tags. Besides, "If you laminate it, teachers won't throw it away."
Virtual Class Pets
Real class pets teach kids responsibility. Virtual pets can do the same and also help them learn responsibility and good online habits. Maria Knee uses a Webkin as a virtual class pet. Kids take turns caring for their class webkin, decorating it's house, doing chores, earning Kinzcash to buy new things, and communicating with other Webkins. Along the way they're learning to be good online citizens. Guess I'll have to work making an exception for this site on our school web filter.
We All Scream for Ustream!
Strangely enough, one of the best sessions I attended at NECC, I attended virtually. I caught most of Chris Lehmann's School 2.0 session from the Global Connections lounge and followed along with backchannel chat as well. Chris did a great job demonstrating how to build a collaborative unit plan with audience participation. Participating in the chat and sitting a few feet away from me in the lounge was Jeff Utecht. As an added bonus, after the session I was able to talk with him and learn how he uses Google Apps for Education at his school in Shanghai.
How does it happen? Rushton Hurley led this discussion at EduBloggerCon. What an amazing opportunity to meet and share with other Edubloggers! The topic: What needs to be done at the school/classroom level to bring about a meaningful change in day-to-day learning?
PHOTO CREDIT: Teachandlearn on Flickr
If we're right, and technology has the potential to change learning from passive to active, we can't simply bemoan being inundated by complacency, what do we do?Everyone at NECC seems to have a passion and energy for technology & learning, but that excitement loses something when you try to bring it back home to your school. In my opinion, it's all about having conversations and developing relationships with your teachers. Identify those who have a passion, whether or not it's a technology passion, and partner with them. Help them take that first step. Celebrate their successes. When things go wrong, help them figure out what to do better next time. To ensure that the change is permanent, its important that teachers see added value the technology brings to the project, but its also important that you make it inconvenient for them to go back to doing things the old way. This is where an administration can help by defining policies that take the "old way" option out of the equation. Even if you don't have administrative support you can encourage change by publicizing student success and work products among parents and the community. Once word gets out that this is the type of work being done in their class, it puts a little social pressure on the teacher to keep these technology projects going.
Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?
There were many other conversation morsels at NECC. Unfortunately that's what they were - morsels. My NECC plate was so full that I regret not having time to really sit down and enjoy a full portion of some conversations. "Let's talk more later," was a recurring phrase. Too bad the conference ended before many of these "laters" came about. Thankfully we have online tools so I can go back for seconds.
NEXT POST: Part 3 - Dessert!
OTHER PHOTO CREDITS: Keytags (www.edubloggercon.com/Web+2.0+Smackdown)