Random Thoughts

NECC is about conversations

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As Day 2 of the conference gets started I’m sitting here in the Blogger’s Cafe reflecting on Day 1.

As usual I spent most of my time at the Blogger’s Cafe chatting with new and old friends alike.

I did go to one session yesterday. Scott McLeod’s session on disruptive innovations.

Now I went to the session to support Scott and to hear what he had to say, but really I could have found the content he was presenting on the web at his K12online presentation.

We talk about how content is out there, how if you want to, you can find the content. So why do we come to this conference? If the content that is presented here is accessible anywhere anytime what’s the reason we’re here?

What’s the reason we come together face to face?

I’ve talked about this before on the blog and I keep coming back to this idea that when we gather at a conference like this, or in a classroom, that the conversation, the relationships, are what we are looking for.

One of the reasons educators give for virtual schools being bad is that students will loose that social connection….I’ve never heard a teacher say, “But they’ll lose the content”.

Yet, we build conferences around content not connections…about hour long sessions and not about the socialization of being together……and we’re suppose to be the most connected of the educators out there. We are suppose to be the ones who “get it” and yet we see conferences as content not as human connections.

There is a reason we come together face to face. We are social animals we want the social connections.

That’s why I spend most of my time hanging out in the Blogger’s Cafe. That’s were the social connections are made, the conversations that I have here cannot happen on the web…they are organic, they are real, they are friends new and old.

It’s getting the opportunity to meet Leo and Sachi LeFever from CommonCraft. Or the Co-founders of VoiceThread. It’s these connections that bring us together.

Does the same apply to our classrooms?

Should our classrooms be planned around conversations rather than around content?

How do we make this change?

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  5. I have just finished reading a book by Dr.David Thornburg called Campfires in Cyberspace. While it is an older book, published in 1996, it has many good points in it especially when he talks about his view of learning.

    He was attending a conference where there were many strong speakers and presentations. The conference had been totally built around these plenary sessions but he began to notice that after a while people that had been in the sessions for a while were leaving. What he found was that they were outside in the hallways, at cafes in the conference area or just standing around talking about what they had heard.

    Thornburg went back to his hotel room and came up with three learning environments.

    1) Campfires – the traditional way of presenting information -most of our schools and classrooms are still set up this way.

    2) Watering Holes – what we refer to as the water cooler talk – this is where we process what we have heard.

    3) Caves – this is our alone time, our solitude, our time to process on our own and this usually leads to creativity.

    Later a friend suggested he needed to a fourth environment which he refers to as Life. This is the application part. The area where we show what we have actually learned.

    A quote from his book really hit me.

    “Learning takes place in multiple environments, and if, any of these environments is out of balance, learning suffers and people will do something to try to restore the balance themselves.” (Thornburg,1996 pg.50)

    If you apply this idea to our conferences and our classrooms think of the amazing knowledge that would be developed and created. What you are experiencing and what you are involved in at NECC applies to these environments. I wish our schools did.

    Thornburg, David D. (1996) Campfires in Cyberspace. Star Song Publications. San Carlos,CA.

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  7. I find your take on NECC and it being about conversations interesting and tend to agree to the most part. I found a similar experience when I have gone to our local state conference in California CUE. I did quite a bit of learning via connecting with others in the hallways and through conversation. At least for a certain group (those already connected with the content on the web via twitter, blogs, etc) These conversations are a lot more valuable than sitting through a repackaged presentation you can probably find elsewhere.

    Now, how would this look in our classrooms? That’s a bit more complicated. We are teaching in a very hostile environment. We are required to “teach” a prescribed curriculum and when our evaluators walk into our classroom they are looking for directed lessons, students under control. But even with this as a requirement I DID find myself going outside the box and allowing MY students to engage in conversation around learning. I still have a long way to go but as I am reminded by fellow elementary school teacher Brian Crosby “Learning is Messy” and it’s just fine by me.

    • Learning is Messy…if only we could get our administrators and community members to understand that do you think we would have more messy learning in our schools?

    • John Bishop Reply

      Directed lessons, students under control, essential question on the board, standards covered on the board, teacher not sitting at desk…………The list goes on and on for what administrators are looking at when observng teachers. It is ridiculous what some administrators expect of teachers today. My last principal would come into my classroom all the time with a dazed look on his face. All he was doing was showing his face in every classroom in the building. Face time. I would invite hime to come and see what we were doing but he could care less. Face time.

      Learning can be messy, and loud, and chaotic. I find there is no cookie cutter recipe for teaching high school students today. You have got to be flexible and creative.

      I like the idea of virtual school for the use of credit recovery to get students back on track to graduate.

      The social skills of many kids I see are lacking and dramatically need improving. This is just my take from teaching in a metro Atlanta, Georgia public high school.

  8. Couldn’t agree more Jeff. I’m jealous of all those who got to attend NECC09, not necessarily because of the fabulous workshops held, but because of those unplanned conversations with people you have been corresponding with on Twitter for ages, but finally get to meet, and of course those who you didn’t know were out there, but stumbled upon.

    I love the idea of the Blogger’s cafe – will there also be such a thing in Shanghai 2010? Hope to hang out there…

    • John Bishop Reply

      Conventions and workshops are great ways to network and I get to attend a workshop on a new course I’m teaching next year and will get a chance to rub elbows with teachers in the new county I’m going to be working in. Is there any type of Blogger’s Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia?

  9. Jeff, I enjoyed the session at EBC about Twitter and blogging. I think your topic made a lot of people think about these tools.

    You’re right about the conversations. I’d like to see large blocks of time available at all conferences where nothing is scheduled. This would give more people an opportunity to be involved in these sessions instead of choosing between the informal conversations and the sessions. Maybe the mornings should be session time and the afternoons be conversation time – time to reflect on any learning that might have taken place at a prior time.

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