Reflections on NCTIES 2011

Early Registration at NCTIES in Raleigh

Last week was the NCTIES conference.  NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education) is the ISTE affiliate for my state.  They use to be NCAECT, and I understand that there was another acronym before that.  But Thursday they launched their 40th conference, and I do not remember being a part of any anniversary conference with a number that high.

Before the conference, I lamented on all the people I’ve worked with from across who I’d miss because they have certainly retired.  But I was surprised at the number who were still at it, mostly informing me that they were retiring in May or August  or some other of the next 9 months.  But it was also trilling to see the folks who were back for the 40th anniversary.

But on to my reflections.  It occurred to me this morning that I can tell when I have been fully engaged in an education technology conference by the number of times I remember asking, “But why?”  Here’s a typical exchange.

“We’ve bought iPads for our alternative school kids.”

“Cool!  But why?”

“We’re trying to get them to read more, and we believe they will read more if its on an iPad.”

“Why do you think they’ll read more with an iPad.  Is reading what’s cool about using an iPad?”


“Why do you want the students to read more?”

You get the gist — and I know that I am doing a lot more reading since I got my iPad.  But it’s not because the text glows.  But that’s a different blog post…

Another thing that was interesting about this conference was my ongoing and often playful quest for the next cool thing — the next “buzz.”  It’s more of a game for me, a cool hunting sort of thing.  After all, most cool things in educational technology grow cold, hopefully before we start to integrate and effect instruction.  Anyway, I got an inkling of two cool things here at this conference. One was the topic of my session on infographics and data visualization.  Of course, in my preparation for the session, I realized that there is nothing new about this stuff.  We’ve been doing data visualization for years through geographic information systems or GIS with products like ArcGIS.

It was my first planned presentation on this topic, and it did not go as smoothly as some of my more practiced topics — as a number of demos didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped (starting to justify the purchase of Camtasia for my Mac 😉.  What got me wondering about the impact of this is the fact that Kathy Schrock, one of the other featured speakers of the conference, was in the audience and she told me that she is planning a similar (better) presentation on the same topic for an upcoming large conference (A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Using Infographics as a Creative Assessment”).  If I think it’s cool and then Schrock sees it’s pedagogical value as a learning tool, well, you’ve got something there…

Jason Standish Timothy Smith
Talking about QR-Codes

The other cool thing that seemed to be buzzing throughout the conference was QR-Codes.  Part of it was the interesting way that the presenters, Jacob Standish and Timothy Smith of Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools preceded the conference with QR-Codes in their conference wiki page and their YouTube video introduction (blogged about here).

QR-Codes have actually been around for more than a decade, and I have used them on presentation slides for over year, though, until recently, only recognized and used in Singapore and Hong Kong.  But the buzz in Raleigh was palpable and it was contagious.  During their session, you could feel the excitement in the packed presentation room, and the scurrying of educators rushing up with their smart phones held up, and seemingly bowing down to this new great thing.

It was exciting and more than a little funny.  It’s like I told my son (who attendeed the last day of the conference), “You’re going to be with people who are passionate about what they do.  They don’t have jobs — they have a mission.  You don’t see this everyday, and I double you’d see it anyplace else in the field of education.”  And it was certainly true NCTIES.

As for QR-Codes and infographics, only time and our capacity to innovate will tell.  I have some big questions about QR-Codes, and one of my next articles will likely take a more critical, but certainly not a dismissive look at this application.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.