Top Ten Tips for Attending NCTIES Conference

It is customary, as famous conferences are approaching, that experienced attendees post tips to help newbies pack and prepare for the event. So I, as a professional conference go’er, thought I would contribute ten more tips for NCTIES 2014.

  1. Raleigh is always swelteringly hot this time of year, so wear light-weight, loose fitting clothing. Conservatively styled bathing suits are also common. But, because the Raleigh Convention Center is huge, wear boots, big ones, with lots of laces.  You will be doing a lot of walking.  If preferred, heals may be substituted.
  2. You’ll want to take lots of notes, so carry several spiral-bound note books. Also carry pencils — #2s. If you can find them, use white or aluminum grey pencils. They’ll impress the people sitting near you.
  3. In the presentation rooms, be careful not to sit near anyone with a laptop or tablet computer. They have almost certainly left their email notification alarm on, and when it goes off, everyone will turn around and look — at you! If someone with a computer sits near you, get up and find a more secluded spot.
  4. If possible, sit on the front row and straighten your legs out as far as possible. This is where the boots come in, because presenters love to navigate obstacle courses while presenting.
  5. The exhibit hall is the reason you came. There are treasure here. It’s also a great place to play. Pretend you’re invisible. Wearing a dark cape will help. If you can achieve invisibility, then you’ll have the run of the hall. Simply walk into any booth and pick-up all the pens, pencils, letter openers, and soft fuzzy balls you can find, and slip them quietly into your bag–preferably a large brown paper bag. Chocolate is an especially treasured item and worth a return for more. If someone in a booth confronts you, then carefully put the pencils back on the table, look down at the floor and slowly back away.
  6. You’ll see areas in the conference center with comfortable chairs, where people will be milling, talking, and showing each other their computers. Shun these places. The people will try to brainwash you.
  7. If someone approaches you, wanting to talk, then turn invisible. If this doesn’t work, then look very stupid. You’ll need to practice this in front of a mirror. If they persist, then speak gibberish and walk away.
  8. If you hear anyone speak with an English accent, don’t believe anything they say – no matter how intelligent they sound or cute their accent.
  9. When the day is over, or by 4:00 PM, which ever comes first, flee back to your hotel room. This is the real challenge of conference-going, finding things to do in your hotel room. I like to remove the lids of shampoo bottles and guess their scent. Also, the extra blankets in the closet are expressly provided for the construction of elaborate blanket forts. ..and I hope that you are a fan of “Law and Order.” It will be playing during your entire visit – on at least three channels.
  10. What David really wants you to do is be comfortable, hungry to learn, ready to laugh and willing to cry, tweet your heart out and hashtag with #ncties, take every opportunity to meet someone new, and wear something strange. I like those satin slippers with toes that curl up and a tiny bell on the end.

If I see you at NCTIES, please forgive me if I’ve forgotten your name. I’m way past the need for excuses.


World’s Worst Session Title

It is with enormous pleasure that I will be part of the American School of Bombay’s 2014 Un-Plugged event in Mumbai, India.  It is also an even bigger privilege to be working with International educators again.  I’ve said many times that if I was in the beginning of my career, this is where I would be, expat’ing in some exotic land, making great friends, teaching great students and growing in educational institutions where innovation is part of the currency of success.

Even though my workshop, on Friday and Saturday, will be about visual literacy, and contemporary literacy will be part of the underlying theme of the day, this workshop will primarily and overwhelmingly be about something that I believe is the

Coolest thing on the Net,

Infographics and Data Visualization

Of course this, and most all of what we do in our classrooms concerns basic literacy, “The skills involved in using one’s information environment to learn what you need to know to do what you need to do.” (my definition)

As a teaser, here are two word clouds.  The first is taken from the descriptions of ASB Un-Plugged pre conference and hands-on workshops from 2012.  The second comes from the same category of sessions to be held next week in Mumbai.

2012 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop

2014 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop

Of course, this is a small sampling of the themes that are part of the conversations hosted by the American School of Bombay.  However I found a couple of things interesting.  First of all, might it be that we are finally getting over this whole 21st Century craze.  After all, we’re good and there.  Also, design seems a little more prominent and create and maker/making have emerged.

I’m so looking forward to next week and counting on the journey being less challenging than last week.

Follow that Conference

1. Type the conference tag (#otaem12) into the search box and press [Enter]

2. Look for the most prolific, sharing and insightful people and click them.

3. Learn a little more and then click to follow…

It’s going to be another long day, with a morning of presentations and then traveling the rest of the day from Oklahoma City to Seattle, where I’ll rent a car and drive on up to Vancouver tomorrow.  But today, I’m still at the Encyclomedia conference in OC, and it’s an impressive thing – over 1,600 educators at the general session yesterday morning.

This morning I will be delivering a presentation about self-directed professional development (learning networks), pretty similar to what I did at ISTE last year. But I’ve already been asked more than once here, “How do you follow the right people on Twitter?” It’s a common question for which I have never really been satisfied with my answer – look to my a twitter page and follow who I follow, or that of Will Richardson, or Jonathan Becker.

But something occurred to me yesterday (or perhaps last week, I’m not sure) that’s probably already part of the standard practice of many of you. Rather than focusing on one person’s followings as a starting place, focus on an event, a gathering, or even an issue.

I will suggest to folks today that they go to Twitter and use the search box to find tweets tagged with #otaem12 (hash tag for the Encyclomedia conference).  Then look to the people who are most frequently posting messages about the conference, linking to blog posts about the conference, or linking to resources being mentioned and demonstrated at sessions. Click to their twitter pages, and follow them.

Another great place to start would be Educon, perhaps the single greatest concentration of insightful ideas about education on the planet. Search for #educon and look for the most prolific, sharing and insightful contributors – better make a cup of coffee for this one. Understand that many of the best tweople engaged with the Educon event were not even there. But that may make them even more valuable to your following list.

It is so important to realize that a critical element of being a master learner today is the network of people you connect yourself to.

…Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

What’s the Next Big Thing (@ ISTE)

Infographic of Word Trends for ISTE 2011
I’ve seen the question a number of times on Twitter, “What’s going to be the big ‘buzz’ at ISTE this year?” In the past, it has been blogging, podcasting, video games, MUVEs, and others. This year, well who knows. But to get a glance, I collected the text for all of the session, poster, and workshop descriptions and anayized them for key terms and phrases. It’s something that I do frequently, but this is the first time I have compared an upcoming conference with a past one — in this case, it’s ISTE 2011 with ISTE NECC 2008.

The attached file is a PDF that includes a word cloud of the most used terms in this year’s program descriptions, and a count of the occurrences of session descriptions with key words that I scanned for back in 2008. There is little that is scientific about this, but interesting, none the less.

For me, I was surprised to have seen infographic mentioned only once in all of the session descriptions. Although we’ve had infographics almost for ever (think The Periodic Tables), it has emerged as something of a buzz in recent months. I’ve started a new blog called IGAD (InfoGraphic A Day), where I feature different graphics or datasets that could be translated into graphics.  Today’s infographic is “A Better Life Index.”

Another one that I was surprised not to see a lot of (and not entirely disappointed) was QR-Codes. In state and regional conferences I’ve been a part of recently, QR-Codes seem to have become something of the rage. Again, they’ve been around since 1995, but only recently have educators been testing out applications in classrooms and schools. I think they have a place in education, but there are logistical limitations, and do only one thing really well — they can turn a flat surface into a hyperlink for smart phone users.

See you at ISTE 2011!

Lanyrding Conference Learning Events, a social conference directory

I carry a generic black lanyard with me to conferences to hang my name tag from. I do not use it at every event, only those where severely crunched budgets force the conference to provide tacky vender-branded lanyards — or a piece of string. But I just discovered a new kind of lanyard, or Lanyrd(.com) that I can take with me to a conference, or use to attach myself to conferences I’m not even attending.

Some of you may remember a web site I created a number of years ago called Hitchikr, that aggregated blog posts, Twitter tweets, and Flickr photos associated (tagged) with various user-registered conferences. It died of neglect, but Lanyrd has risen to do much of the same think — and then much more.

Going to the site and registering with my Twitter login, I discovered 22 upcoming conferences that are being attended, or spoken at, by people I follow on Twitter — people I respect. In the coming week there’ll be the Interactive Local Media East conference, care of David Weinberger, the Mobile Learning conference in Bremen, Germany from Josie Fraser, and Cr8net, a creative industries conference from Richard Florida.

I registered ECIS IT, where I’ll be speaking later this week in Oberursel and identified myself as a speaker at June’s ISTE 2011 conference in Philadelphia. The site invited me to register sessions I’ll be presenting along with links to my online handouts. If the event is being covered by media in any way, then there are opportunities to link that in as well.

Providing access to conference speakers, attendees, and event-generated content seems to be the goal of Lanyrd. However, I see something else happening, an additional benefit. If taken seriously and currated by people associated with the conference, their Lanyrd site can become a portfolio of the event.

This got me to thinking about the electronic portfolios that are, thankfully, becoming part of the education conversation again. We talk about learner portfolios, but what if teachers were able to currate a classroom or course portfolio, by having student work, artifacts of their learning, aggregated into something that people can “follow.”

Looking Forward to ISTE 2010

The Colorado Convention Center
(cc) Photo by Intiaz Rahim

It’s one of the interesting, often regretful, and often delightful aspects of being an independent consultant (free-agent educator) that weekends have very little meaning. I am often traveling on Saturday or Sunday, sometimes presenting, or working in my office at least part of those days. At the same time, there are often other days of the week that feel like weekends. I have spent the last two days either presenting to education leaders or to classroom teachers, or driving to or from Williamsburg or Berkeley County, West Virginia. Today is wide open. Even though I still have a few hours of driving home, having made it as far as Roanoke yesterday, it feels so much like Saturday that I’m almost expecting to spend the morning watching cartoons. I’d love to get home before 8:00 to watch Mighty Mouse and Sky King.

It will be a day off, but also a day of preparing for my trip to Denver and almost a week at ISTE 2010. It’s our first International Society for Technology in Education conference that’s not a NECC, and I have to confess that it’s left a bit of a hole in our conversations about the event. But it won’t take anything away from the experience, I’m sure.

My calendar is more than full with most of the time slots in my planner sporting the yellow exclamation warning of overflow — conflicts. There are lots of highlights, including EduBloggerCon, TEDxDenverED, and ISTE’s theme of excellence exploration on Sunday afternoon — plus much more.

I’ll be delivering two formal presentations, one as a spotlight address (Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience) and the other as a thirty-minute general address (Patron 2.0: The ‘Natives’ are Restless) for the Media Specialists SIG gathering.  In both of these presentations I will map out some of the important qualities of our students ‘native’ (outside-the-classroom) information experiences with their social networks, video games, and their hyper-connectedness, and suggest some ways that those qualities might be integrated into our classrooms, libraries, and school culture.

It occured to me this morning that I am suggesting a unique choice for us.

Will we benefit more from fitting video games and social networks into our curriculum — our methods and pedagogies?…


Do might we benefit more by expanding curriculum, methods, and pedagogies to encompass and harness the truly unique qualities of the millennial information experience?

The Perfect Conference Attire?

X-Ray View of the Scottevest.

One of the most continuous and vexing conversations that I have with myself is about how I am going to pack for this trip? I learned many years ago not to check luggage. It introduces an uncontrolled variable into the success of my work and an unnecessary addition to the stress of navigating my way from home to job and back.

But what I end out with is an airline compliant roller-board that is so densely packed and heavy that I’m constantly deal with strained elbow from whipping it up onto the conveyor belt at security, and a continuous (and person) quest for the perfect computer bag — one that facilitates the necessities of work and connectedness, yet prevents me from packing the erroneous and weighty devices that I want to take but never get around to using.

I may have found the solution, the ScotteVest. Those who’ve seen me present may have seen my poking fun at wearable computing — the clear plastic computer jacket from MIT and cell phone that you wear on your fingers. But this may actually be practical, a 22 pocket vest that will carry — well watch the first video.

What’s more, it’s iPad compatible.

Here are some videos that illustrate the many features of the Scottevest:

So what might we see as the definitive fashion statement at ISTE this year?

Added later: Evidently, Scott Jordan, of ScotteVest is fairly social media-concious. I started following some of the video links, clicked back to the web site, and found a fairly rich web of social connections, including Facebook, a Blog with associated vlog, a YouTube channel, twitter, LinkedIn, a Flickr site, and MySpace.

What was especially interesting was a video conversation he had with Apple. Jordan upload a video to YouTube demonstrating some of the problems he was having with his iPad. Shortly after he posted it and received a number of comments from viewers who were having the same problem, he was contacted by a tech person at Apple who walked through a few things, and then excused himself saying that he would have to schedule a time to get back and go through the issues in more detail — and would Jordan mind making his video private.  He did did, thanking the tech and praising Apple for its responsiveness. He got an email back from the tech guy saying he was having difficulty in scheduling a time and to be patient — and then nothing. Jordan put the video back up along with a followup video bringing us put to date.

I did not follow the thread any further, but it’s simply another example of the drama of social media and customer relations that are (and I don’t use the term very often) transparent.

Don’t like Learning Alone?

Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht, wrote a blog post today that really resonated with me.  Just back from the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference (ETC),  Utecht reflects on why he attended only two session, other than the four that he presented.

It’s the first conference that I’ve gone to where I truly did not “do” the conference. Other than my own four presentations I only went to two others….one if you don’t count Kim’s.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why I didn’t feel motivated to go to more sessions. I like learning so what was my problem?

Then it hit me…..I don’t like learning alone!

I don’t like Learning Alone! « The Thinking Stick

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Kim Cofino's Presentation

Teaching Sagittarian, Chrissy Hellyer, took this picture at Kim Cofino’s presentation.  You notice how many people are paying attention to the Projector.

I’ve had this same experience, though I am more likely to attribute it to fatigue.  But the thing is, if learning is the only reason we are going to conferences, well, then, who needs them.  I have been at home most of the day, sitting in my office and working.  Principally I have been preparing for tomorrow’s ISTE Eduverse talk show in Second Life.  As a result, I’ve been teaching myself how to build and install animations and gestures and to face the person I am talking to.  I also learned to install a captcha on the Education Podcast Network, to try to prevent spam from getting in.

Jeff says, “I don’t like learning alone.”  At no point did I feel that I was learning alone today.  At least, I was learning from blog posts and YouTube videos posted by people just like me.

I think that the loss of social interaction that results from unreliable Internet at conferences is a huge part of the issue.  But I also suspect that we are becoming accustomed to working within a greater brain — no longer limited by our own dendrits.  We have become accustomed to having quiet conversations within our networks, to asking questions and getting answers back from people we respect, and to contributing knowledge and insights to a larger community — and not just for the sake of helping others, but for the value-added that occurrs when it comes back.

<em>It’s like trying to learn with half your brain tied behind your back</em> — or a full three-quarters in my case.  I think that his extension to students is a valid one.

And then I started thinking about our students. Our students who spend there day not just in front of screens but connecting with people, learning in the moment and creating content.

They play together, learn together, work together, and grow together.  Then, in the classroom, we value the space between their desks more than their tendency to connect and the power of it.

I think that this is something that conferences need to understand and facilitate.  It’s no longer merely about sharing.  Today the conference has to be about growing the knowledge.

Added Later:  Kim Cofino made a particularly interesting contribution to this conversation here:

I love learning. I used to love professional conference too – mostly because they were a great place to learn. But, last weekend, at our regional teacher’s conference (ETC), I made a realization… (more here)

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Another one of those trips

Sunset outside the Hilton over snow capped trees

I started out this morning about 17 miles closer to my final destination than we’d originally intended.  With the major snow Raleigh got yesterday (reportedly 6 inches), we decided to get me a room near the airport for the night — so that I could rely on the Hilton shuttle driver to get me the final mile at 5:00 in the morning, instead of Brenda having to drive me 18 miles at 4:00 in the morning. 

I’m not very happy about it, because I was supposed to be at home for a full 24 hours, before setting out again, and I won’t be back until next Wednesday. 

At any rate, its time to turn forward to a week of excitement.  It starts in San Francisco with the TRLD conference (Technology, Reading, and Learning Diversities).  It’s an interesting conference that I’ve been a part of several times.  What’s unique is that everyone comes out.  Everybody, it seems, has a learning disability, and this is where they talk about it.  There’s also a lot of cool assistive tech and the conference, in a sense, is like a family.  A lot of the people who attend come back every year.  Spending a few days in San Francisco also has its appeal.

Then I’m rushing back to the east coast for one day of Educon.  As a writer said last year, in an article about FETC, Florida’s blockbuster conference, “All the cool people are in Philadelphia, at Educon.”  I want to be where the cool people are. 

Then, it’s the train down to Virginia for an heads of school conference put on by the Virginal Association of Independent Schools.  Really looking forward to that one (See What is the Purpose of Education).

Getting ready to board, so I’ll post this now.  More to come, I’m sure…

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