After spending two days having my brain turned to putty by some great sessions at NCMSA, I thought I’d toss out a few thoughts/observations from the conference for your responses.
- There was a serious lack of technology at this conference. Let me be clear, I’m not talking a lack of technology sessions, I’m talking a lack of technology use. Throughout the two days I could count on my fingers and toes the number of folks I saw walking around with laptops. I was sending out updates from the conference on Twitter, and the only other tweets related to NCMSA were from two other presenters. As Will Richardson pointed out here: “…[I]t’s a shame that the collective experience of the people in this room is about to walk off in two hundred different directions without any way to share and reflect on the thinking they’ve been doing all day.” The things that are going on at technology conferences today really are drawing in folks to the collaborative nature of the Internet as it now stands. I am infinitely worried about teachers looking at technology as “the magic bullet” but not even knowing how to load the gun, so to speak. There is no magic bullet folks, technology or not, we need well prepared learning experiences for our students. However, not understanding how to use technology to accomplish a goal you otherwise could not is a scary thing in the face of today’s hyperconnected teens.
- I was pleased with my avoidance of vendor sessions. This time around I only attended one session that was presented by a vendor. The Crazy Traits product was a fun one, though much of what we did could be accomplished by another activity I already intend to use. What I did gain was some insight into extension activities that can be used with the lab in question. Overall, I think my conference attendance was enhanced by not feeling like someone was always attempting to sell me something.
- Blogging the conference was engaging and FUN! I spent the majority of my sessions typing out my notes here on the blog. The idea being, as stated previously, that I could pass along that information to a large number of folks through Twitter, and to my coworkers back at school. What I found out along the way, was that blogging the conference was actually more fun for me than just writing down my own notes. Call it “the authentic audience” effect. Since I knew folks were going to be reading what I wrote, I took better notes, injected my own reflections when I could, and even attended one session entirely because I knew others would be interested in the information. I had heard lots of the brain research presented in The Adolescent Brain, but knew based on a couple of tweets that were sent my way, that folks were listening when it came to that topic. Direct evidence of that is the fact that my post on that session had the most views of any throughout the day.
- I should have tried harder to get the word out to folks at the conference. I only had a few people ask me about what I was doing while the sessions were going on. Therefore I had just a few people who wound up with my session notes who actually attended the conference. The audience from Twitter was larger, but I have a feeling there were a couple of hundred others at the actual conference who would have been interested to see the notes. Perhaps that would have even brought them into the realization that we can collectively build knowledge much more effectively than can be done alone.
Please feel free to pass this site/session notes/reflections along to anyone you feel may be interested. I encourage you to add your comments, thoughts, rebuttals, and whatever else you think might get conversation flowing around these topics. We have a LONG way to go at the middle school level if we are to fully take advantage of technology as a learning tool and get best practices into the classroom. The only place we can start is by getting teachers to invest some time into both of these initiatives for themselves, then lead students down the pathways to what we know works best for learning.