NECC and the Exhibition Hall

I took about 30 minutes out of my schedule to walk through
the exhibition hall and I have to say that I was quite sad. To see the amount
of money that was being spent trying to persuade educators at all levels to buy
this thing or that thing. Laptops were a huge thing as HP, Dell, Apple,
Toshiba, and Gateway all had laptops out for people to try and experiment with.

Then there were the software companies selling this new
program or that new program all of course offering free stuff to get people to
sit through their presentations. I don’t know how many iPods have been given
away this year, but it seems like everyone is giving away a free iPod.

With the Internet becoming an OS and all the free tools available
it only takes an imagination to get most of what they are selling for free. When
we talk about technology what is it we want it to do in the classroom? What is
it a piece of software can offer us that we can’t get for free? Blogging
software and free storage through sites like flickr,
youtube, and box.net
can offer any teacher a web site that is interactive, colorful and easy to use
without spending any money. In a time of budget crunches these free tools
should be the center of a conference like this.

Take Blackboard for
example. They have a great display and the two times I passed their place there
were educators there asking questions. I shake my head knowing that Moodle is bigger and better and free. But
there is no Moodle booth in the exhibition hall and although it’s been
mentioned in a couple of sessions I’ve gone to, there is nobody really pushing
the use of it that I can tell.

I stopped by the Edline
booth and asked them some questions as my school has adopted Edline. Edline is
a great program but it’s limited in its scope of what you can do and I think
setting up a Moodle classroom is just as easy and has way more features. But
Moodle doesn’t have a voice here.

This is just one example of an open-source software that I
think can truly change (with very little money) the way technology is used. Many
of the programs I glanced at allow us to do old things in new ways and really doesn’t
get to the heart of what the key note speeches have been about. That education
needs to change, that we need to be teaching new skills in a new millennium,
not continuing doing old things in new ways.

You can buy all the new fun software you want with new
laptops and a SmartBoard and at the end of the day, if you are still teaching
like its 1999 nothing will change. Sure the tools are new and the display
different, but until we change the way we teach, and look at social places like
myspace and learn how to use social
spaces in the classroom we’ll be stuck in the same conversations looking for
the same research of how do we justify spending all this money. Our pedagogy
needs to change, until we make the shift out of the industrial age teaching
model, we’re just spinning our wheels and spending a lot of money on technology
in the meantime.

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6 Comments

  1. John, it was good to meet you last night. I just had a moment to read your blog and this post especially. I’ve reached the same conclusion. However, there is a glimmer of hope: I did find an actual Moodle Partner exhibiting, Remote-Learner. I spoke with a few of their staff. The booth was busy and their workshop had a wait list. It seems they’re growing fast, enough to keep their nose above water from the demand.

  2. There is a Moodle booth, and I’d love to discuss your comment about being bigger and better than Blackboard…perhaps we can talk about this at the Edublogger meetup. Dave

  3. Thor, it was great to meet you last night as well.

    David, hope to see you at the Edublogger meetup. I did finally find the Moodle booth and had a great talk with them about the new version 1.6 that I’ll be upgrading to once this conference is over.

  4. Jeff,

    I’m a newcomer to most of this technology (as I’m a newcomer to teaching), but I still see your point with regard to the software involved. It seemed to me that a large share of the peddling was being done by smart-board and quiz-box providers–do we have much hope for open alternatives to these?

  5. Jeff:
    Your very last comment,

    “You can buy all the new fun software you want with new
    laptops and a SmartBoard and at the end of the day, if you are still teaching
    like its 1999 nothing will change. Sure the tools are new and the display
    different, but until we change the way we teach, and look at social places like
    myspace and learn how to use social spaces in the classroom we’ll be stuck in the same conversations looking for the same research of how do we justify spending all this money”,

    is exactly what I told a school board member when he wanted to buy all of our students laptops. The board member simply thought that if the technology was in the students hands it would automatically be used. I told him immediately that this would not be the case. Maybe in some classrooms yes, but it would be a very expensive word processor in the hands of some teachers. We really need to educate more about using “beginning” software as one presenter here at NECC put it, rather then as an end means to make something look better so the teacher doesn’t go blind reading it. Technology needs to be used to create and enhance the learning. Just a thought!

    Have a great rest of your time at NECC.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more! The floor made me ill as well….

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