Essential Skills?

LifeHack has an interesting list of the 10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything.  Lots of good stuff, but nothing about technology/computers.  Should there be?  Or does the development of those other skills (math, decision-making, networking, etc.) ensure that one will be able to succeed in our increasingly technology-rich world?  Is facility with technology a fundamental skill unto itself or does the development of other parts of our brains help us to conquer whatever new tools come down the pipe?  Many of the Digg commenters responding to the story indicated that #11 should be computers.  I must say that I certainly agree with the authors that the 10 skills they did identify are indeed necessary in our world; I’m just not sure that their list is complete…

Irony 101: The Problem of Being Connected

I sympathize with Scott MacLeod, who decries the information overload he experienced at NECC.  In my case, the problem with being connected was less about the overload of information emanating from the conference and more with my inability to avoid niggling issues back at work.  Monday morning started off with a cell phone call from the high school assistant principal about a problem with comments on report cards.  With my laptop, I was able to troubleshoot the problem in our web-based SIS.  More issues followed.  Even when someone wasn’t calling me, I was checking e-mail.  As a result, I found myself missing out on large chunks of lectures, workshops, etc.

I’m not a bad multi-tasker, either.  But I can’t help feeling that the thing that we all celebrate so much about computers and the internet – being connected when and where we want – has its dark side and at least in this case somewhat prevented me from fully enjoying the face-to-face interactions at the conference. I wonder if students ever feel this way when they are barraged by texts and calls from friends during class or when they are trying to enjoy a movie or be with their friends.  We all assume that, unlike us, they enjoy and can manage that full-time connected-ness.  Perhaps not.  Can being connected prevent your from connecting?

Notes from NECC

Well, another NECC has come and gone.  My family flew into San Anto yesterday and we’ll stick around Texas for the next week or so.  I was so drained from the conference that I fell asleep at 8:30 PM and didn’t wake up until 7:30 the next morning.  That’s close to a record for me.

Anyway, I’m still sorting it all out, but here’s a few of my initial reactions/reflections/thoughts/questions:

“Student-safe” Social Networking Sites are Big

I saw a number of these guys on the show floor, most notably Uniservity and SayWire.  There were others but these are the two I remember because they were such an interesting study in contrasts.  SayWire felt very provincial with a USA-only focus.  It was demoed for me by a teacher from Ohio and the emphasis seemed to be on collaboration within the school or district.  In contrast, Uniservity, a UK company, decked its booth out with flags of the world and brought students in from Hong Kong to demo their software.  Interestingly, they seed collaboration by launching their own content and projects for schools and teachers to sign on to.  SayWire essentially provides the network tool (similar to Ning, I suppose).  I think Uniservity’s global outlook is much more exciting.  Of course, there’s always TakingITGlobal, which I’ll be taking another look at after hearing about it in a number of sessions.

Going Global with VC

Along the same lines, the conference renewed my interest in moving our district beyond virtual field trip videoconferences and towards collaboration with other classrooms and institutions around the world.  Jody Kennedy’s session with Global Nomads Group, Global Education Motivators, and Global LEAP may have been the best I attended, and having dinner with Wayne from GEM hatched all kinds of ideas in my mind.

Synthesis (?)

I heard the term TPCK (“Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge”) in two separate sessions and, as I understand it, the whole idea is to pull back the lens enough to see how technology fits into the broader picture.  Are we finally almost there?  My friends John Ellrodt and Maria Fico discussed in their session how thier non-profit, GlobalWRITES, supports poetry slams and writers workshops using videoconferencing.  I’ve seen them present on it before but what struck me this time is how uninteresting it probably was to most of the pure techies in the room.  Not because what they do isn’t good – it’s amazing.  But because the technology in their project is at once essential and unremarkable.  The focus is on the content and the learning.  I was happy to learn that John and Maria will be presenting at NCTE, where I think they will get a very warm reception.  Maybe the discussion is finally getting past the tools.  Maybe…

Best Product

As our teachers and students have started to generate more multimedia, we’ve struggled to find a place to put it.  In many cases, we want to limit access to the district’s teachers and students only.  And we want to be able to stream the audio and video files we create.  Our CMS limits the size of file uploads and there is very limited support for RSS, so podcasting would be difficult if not impossible.  Enter Discovery MediaShare.  Each school has it’s own space to upload user-created content and, according to policy, one or more approvers can release files created by students and teachers to the rest of the school, the district, or the whole world.  The media files stream and there are very generous upload limits.  And, yes MediaShare does RSS.  It also integrates with the rest of the Discovery Streaming, so when a user searches the database, the scope of the search can include user-contributed content and the usernames and passwords are the same, to boot.  I’m really excited about this product.

NECC Unplugged

I met Steve Hargadon after the Classroom 2.0 BOF session and shared with him my enthusiasm for NECC Unplugged and my ideas about how it could be better situated near the Blogger’s Cafe next year instead of directly in it.  What a nice, thoughtful guy.  I’m optimistic that NECC Unplugged will be a highlight next year and for years to come.  It’s great to have a place where the “little guys” can share their ideas and successes, try out potential large-scale presentations, and learn from one another.  I’m looking forward to doing multiple presentations next time around.

That’s it for now.  Still leafing through pamphlets, URL’s, and notes.  But also just enjoying this very pretty city.

NECC Re-plugged?

As Scott McLeod points out, not everyone is happy with the arrival of NECC Unplugged at the Blogger’s Cafe.  Havinig spent time in the BC and presented at NECC Unplugged I, too, think the integration of the two could have been handled a little better – or else they should go their separate ways next year.   To begin with, the positioning of the BC at the conference site was great in terms of drawing lots of people from the nearby foot traffic on the concourse.  This was great for getting people involved but boy, did it make it tough to present.  Also, the layout of the space itself made it difficult.  It seemed like the Unplugged presenter was shoe-horned into the corner but the tables and seats were pushed out into the middle of the area.  There was a large gulf between the speaker and the audience, which meant he/she needed a mic and had to speak all the more loudly to engage everyone.  This in turn probably distracted all those who just came to sit quietly and reflect or to share some conversation with a friend in the Cafe.

The solution?  Maybe next year the Unplugged “stage” is placed in a space adjacent to the Cafe, where people can watch and hear what is going on, if they like, but also have the opportunity to do their BC thing in peace.  It’s important that all of those bloggers still have access to the Unplugged content, but they shouldn’t feel like we’ve invaded.