It’s going to be a long day. I never sleep well before a conference, especially one where I feel, going in, a bit out of my element. It will be a literacy conference, where their speakers in the past have been reading specialists. My task will be to convince the educators that reading, in a networked, digital, and overwhelming information environment has gotten a whole lot bigger, and a whole lot more exciting.
So I’m up very early this morning, going through e-mail, checking my aggregator, fixing a problem on my web site, and trying to condense all the thoughts that were banging around in my head, at 3:00 AM, into a single blog entry.
I guess what woke me was a bit of bitterness that I’m feeling, during those moments when I take time to find something to be bitter about. I know that last year’s NECC was fabulous, in a fabulous city, with lots of new stuff going on. Our only complaint, leaving the conference, was the lack of WiFi access in the presentation rooms — and the folks at NECC had their ears on the blogosphere. It looks like we will have WiFi this year. (Look for more in 2Â¢ Worth about that in the near future.)
This year, I’ve already got a gripe. I’m sure there was no way around it, given the calendar, but this year workshops will be held in conjunction with the general conference, and I’m teaching an all day workshop on Thursday. ..and guess what! The keynote speaker on Thursday morning is Nicolas Negroponte.
Being a history teacher at heart, I am fascinated by the personalities that have fueled the unprecedented technological advancements of my adulthood, and one of the brightest personalities has been Negroponte. Born in Greece, his area of study was architecture. But his entry into the world of technology was about the architecture of how we interact with our machines. Out of this passion came the MIT Media Lab, a place, time, and event where people are “inventing the future,” as Stewart Brand put it in his 1987 book, The Media Lab.
I’ve visited the Media Lab on three occasions, and my impression is that they’ve built a play ground, invited a bunch of really smart people to come, and said, “play!” Out of this play ground came much of how we operate our computers, what we look at on them, and much more in what we see and hear about the world around us.
What amazes and intrigues me about Negroponte is that he successfully directed a lab where scientists were empowered to play at observing, tinkering, and inventing, and at the same time convinced corporate America to invest in the value of playful invention. What an incredible story-teller he must be. It’s the kind of story-telling we need to turn our classrooms into a place of playful learning and to convince the public that these are the classrooms that our children and our future need and deserve.
I’m not too bitter about missing the address. He’ll be talking about the $100 laptop (a major Negroponte initiative), and won’t be sharing much that I don’t already know and nothing that I don’t already believe. Still, I’d love to see him.
I’m actually, much more excited about the next time I’ll see Chris Lehmann, who recently had a conversation with the Media Lab director. That’s a conversation I’d love to dissect.
Off, now, across two time zones today, adding two hours to my day. Can you spell strainonthebrain?