Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lessons Learned at NECC 2009

This post has been brewing in my head for the past month and I am finally able to put a few thoughts down to share my experience with my colleagues.

This year was my first attendance at the International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) annual conference and exposition. This was the last year that they titled their annual conference National Educational Computing Conference or NECC. In the future, the conference will hold the same name as the organization. Next year, ISTE 2010 will be held in Denver, Colorado. Note to self: pack hiking gear for post-conference fun!

This year's 2009 annual conference was held in Washington, D.C. and mandatory attendance was a requirement of the A&S Certification program through Johns Hopkins University, in which I am currently enrolled.

While I have been to many, many school library conferences (national, state and local), this was my first all technology conference and the experience was quite rewarding. I am still processing the conference in my head and trying to decide what practices and technologies I will add to my repertoire this school year.

In order to meet the needs of the large membership of ISTE (20,000+), they have developed Special Interest Groups or SIGs. I joined the Sigms (Special Interest Group--Media Specialists) and it was fun to see the people that I normally see at the library conferences and they were totally immersed in the technology--blogs, wikis, twitter, and all things web 2.0.

Any of the breakout sessions or keynote talks, ISTE can be viewed on their ISTEvision .

One of my JHU cohorts, Scott Smeech, has created a handy spreadsheet that contains all of the blog postings containing anything on NECC 2009. It can be found at Google docs.

One of the best sessions that I attended at NECC 2009 was the Sigms Forum. There are several reasons why this session is in my top five.
  1. It was at this meeting that I realized the full impact of being involved in a Sig. ISTE has around 20,000 members and it is in the Special Interest Groups where the rubber meets the road. I sat at a table of folks that I know from AASL, ALA and our state organization, MASL. Our table had at least 4 different school sytems represented. I enjoyed seeing "old" friends (we don't normally see one another during the year), collaborating with peers and discussing the upcoming AASL Conference in the fall.
  2. It was at this session where I realized the full impact of using Wikis for collaboration. The Wiki for this session can be found at PBWorks. The session had four presenters who are leaders in the school library world. Each speaker has links to their presentation as well as ancillary information located right on the Wiki. While the room was organized well for everyone in the audience to see the panel and one of two large screens, the audience could also follow along with the presentations on their own laptops. I was creating bookmarks as people presented. I took notes electronically on Word. I was fully immersed in the presentation and I was working on integrating the topics into my repertoire right at the time of the presentation. This differs vastly from past conferences where notes were taken down by hand on notebook paper, links were furiously written down to access "later" and I sat passively and listened to the presenter talk. I never seem to get around to looking at the website when I arrive home after the conference and what do I do with all of those pieces of paper containing messy scrawl that can't be deciphered anyway?
  3. I fully realized the potential of the "back-channel". I didn't know what a back channel was prior to NECC 2009! "Back-channeling is the practice of electronically passing notes among some or all of the audience/students during the lecture. When sanctioned, this practice is particularly useful for speakers who are attempting to dynamically modify their presentations based on immediate feedback from the audience." (Wikipedia) The audience sent tweets on Twitter and we were able to contribute to the presentation or follow other presentations in other areas of the conference in a least distracting manner. The presenters provided a Twitter Search string to make it convenient to follow! Sweet!
I can't emphasize the full power of the Wiki and I have accessed this particular session's Wiki numerous times since the conference. The Wiki allowed the presenters to be engaged with ALL of the audience and address issues that they may not have prepared for in advance, but can insert into their presentation ad-hoc. This two-way interaction made the session much more meaningful for everyone. I hope to integrate the use of Wikis into my library media program this school year. Joyce Valenza, Library Media Specialist extraordinaire in Pennsylvania has converted all of her library pathfinders into wikis and here is one example. I love the the embedded search widgets and the interactivity that can be achieved with students.

Besides the content of the sessions offered at NECC, I was also impressed by the variety of formats offered. Among my favorite formats are:
  1. Playgrounds--single or multi-day events that provide educators with opportunities to "play" with interactive technologies for creativity and learning.I was asked to volunteer for a time slot in the 21st Century Media Center Playground to demonstrate Twitter. I had a great time visiting with conference browsers as they strolled through our area and I managed to convert a willing few to the "dark side" i.e. Twitter!! Several of us who presented created a Diigo group for all websites pertaining to Twitter.
  2. BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop)--These sessions were a big hit. I attended Joyce Valenza's Library Tools Smackdown as well as Earth Mashing: Web 2.0 Meets Google Earth. I hope that Joyce continues with her smackdown format at AASL as I know that sheh is a regular and favorite presenter there!
  3. Birds of a Feather--Informal, one-and-a-half hour discussion format providing a special opportunity for like-minded educators to gather and network. Great networking opportunities with like-minded peers.
The technology used at NECC 2009 was phenomenal! Wireless access was everywhere (okay, sometimes spotty, but it was nice when we had it), ISTEvision was taping in almost session, keynote & meeting and then posted online using Ustream, everyone was a-Twitter! and people were more apt to use their Second-Life name than their "real" name! This blog post describes some of the technology from NECC 2009.

That wraps up my reflections, for now, and I hope to continue my journey with technology at the AASL Annual Conference and Exhibition, November5-8, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hope to see you there!

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