EdubloggerCon and my need for Beta Time

Back from EdubloggerCon for the day and taking a break in the hotel room, catching up on the latest NECC chatter and reflecting on the day.

I was worried before I got here of two things:

1. That EdubloggerCon this year would be different, to big, to scripted, and not unconference enough for me.
2. That the NECC Unplugged sessions would over run the Blogger’s Cafe and leave us no place to converse.

I hate to say it but my worries about #1 came true today. Last year in Atlanta it was small, we had three break out sessions with the largest session having about 30 people in it. This year we had three break out sessions with each group having 50 to 80 people in it. Much like Twitter these days, EdubloggerCon failed to scale in size and voices, learning, and conversations were lost.

I think two things happened that we (as we all must take responsibility for EdubloggerCon as we create it) over looked.

David Jakes brought up the point that we overlooked the physical space of the conference and what we were given. The large room we used was not set up, nor did we ever take the time to set it up to really be used in a way that included/engaged people in a conversation. I went to 1 1/2 sessions in the room. Look at the picture to the right…does that look like an unconference, conversation session to you? I walked out of the second session as I was way off to one side, had a hard time hearing, and was not engaged in the conversation titled: If the Leaders Don’t Get It, It’s Not Going To Happen.

Secondly, I think we need to remember who we are…who this is for. We talk all the time about getting outside the echo chamber and let’s face it, EduBloggerCon is one big echo chamber. I look at the title of the session above and think: Yeah….we know that. We (90% of us here and watching live) know that leaders don’t get it and if they don’t get it it’s not going to happen…I know this already and the discussion did nothing but tell me that others get it too, that there are many ways to solve this issue, but all our schools are different and we solve the issue in different ways.

By 1:45ish a bunch of us who were frustrated started heading to the Blogger’s Cafe. By 2:30 it was the unconference many of us were hoping to find. The picture to the left shows what happened. It started with about 5 of us and ended up being a good 30 people in the Blogger’s Cafe. Here’s the difference….although there were 30 people there there were probably 5 or 6 different conversations happening. People grabbed chairs, computers, camera and just started talking. I would engage in a conversation to my right, over hear something on my left and turn and join that conversation. I watched (and filmed) Will Richardson jailbreaking his iPhone as I talked with Bud Hunt and Will about Mogulus, a live streaming service I had never heard of before.This is what learning spaces should look like, this is how learning happens, and what many of us were expecting to find. Too bad we found it late in the day and outside of EdubloggerCon.

So my second fear is that this picture above will not be the norm of the conference as it was last year at the Blogger’s Cafe. I’m scrolling through the NECC Unplugged planning wiki and as of Monday there isn’t much time for these conversations to happen. 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.

Erin who is experiencing NECC from Rochester, NY and watched a couple of us playing with Mogulus had this observation:

But the important thing is that they sit around and play with things. They don’t wait for the administrator to come in and tell them what to do. They don’t wait for the list of Time Magazine’s Top 100 websites. They play, they try things out and they talk to each other about what works and doesn’t work. Will had no idea why he should jail break his phone, nor did he know how. But he had the resources he needed and he went after them.

This is why I’m here! So that’s going to be the focus for the rest of the conference for me…to play with new things, to try things, learn things, and discuss things. I don’t need heavy discussion on why leader’s don’t get it. I don’t need to sit and talk about the same things we always talk about. No, I’m going to put myself in Beta mode and go out there and learn and teach.

Brian Crosby
was my motivator behind this approach as we talked about the day over a drink. Last year both Brian and I spent a lot of time at the Blogger’s Cafe. Brian learned all about RSS Readers and using Flock to publish to his blog. I spent my time wrapping my head around Twitter and back channel chats. We both used the time as “Beta Time” time to learn something new, to be taught something new, to take risks, laugh, and talk about how these tools, these ideas can be/might be using in a classroom. We were looking for something new not rehashing the old.

That’s what I think this conference needs to be for many of us (if you’re reading this you’re probably one of them!). As Brian and I talked he was telling me about some of the problems he’s having with his WordPress install and how he would just like to learn more about WordPress. I know wordpress and tomorrow will make myself available to those that want to talk about, learn, or play with WordPress. No time limits, no obligation, just “Beta Time” to share information. If you’re at NECC look for me in the Blogger’s Cafe. If you’re not here look for a tweet and if you are interested in joining in the learning we’ll try to fire up a live stream.

I personally would love to have some conversations around advance podcasting skills/software and any ideas you have about Wetpaint and how to make that product better.

Maybe this conference is about the tools, this is our time to learn, to push forward, and think of what’s next and where do we go from here. We have an opportunity here with so many of use in person to make this Beta Time a time to really push tools, push our thinking on how to use them in the classroom and then go back to our schools and help teachers use them. That’s why I’m excited for David Jakes and Dean Shareski’s presentation on PowerPoint. 🙂

The best 4 minutes of the day by Dean Shareski.

It’s all Beta….let’s treat it as such!