Reflections on Neck Ties

It’s an odd title for a blog entry, but it’s how Ken Shelton, Thursday’s keynote speaker pronounced our NCTIES conference. North Carolina’s ISTE affiliate, NCTIES has hosted what has become the primary focal event for folks interested in education, technology and other aspects of retooling classrooms in this and surrounding states.

Shelton delivered a high energy and courageous keynote.  He walked up on stage with his computer bag and hooked everything up after being introduced and with us watching. Astounding!  I insist on connecting and testing everything an hour before the speech begins.

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The high point of the conference, for me, was being lucky enough to get into Shelton’s photography workshop on Wednesday morning. The biggest part of the session was a photo safari along Fayetteville Street to the old Capital Building, and then back down Salisbury street. It was wonderful being tutored while actually wandering around and taking pictures.

On Friday, Ken asked me if I’d noticed any improvement in my photos from the beginning of the walk to the end. Always taking such questions seriously, I thought hard and honestly said that I couldn’t think of anything in particular – not the polite thing to say. But with some reflection, I can say the my eye improved, that is to say that I got better at finding photos to be made, rather than snapshots to be taken. You’d have to have taken the workshop to understand the distinction. (Hope you’re reading this, Ken.)

It was great seeing and talking with some old friends from the old days, but there were not very many.  Being a conference that I have attended for many MANY years, I have a basis for impressions that seem important to me, and one of them was the youth of the NCTIES attendees.  I know that it’s partly my advanced age that causes this feeling, but someone else commented to me about the number of classroom teachers who were attending this conference – and most of them were very young.

This conversation compelled me to post the following tweet, “Sitting with P. Sheehy, L Gillispie & C Lawson & thinking, ‘Any sufficiently tech savvy teacher is indistinguishable from a wizard.'”

Another thing that impressed me was the technical sophistication of most of the attendees. They were imaginative, tech-savvy educators, who were open to new ways of using their skills and their tech to create new learning experiences for their learners.  It was exciting.

This sense of rising sophistication was most apparent during an unconference session I facilitated on tablets in the classroom.  It was not a structured as I would like, and, as usual, I walked away feeling that I had not done my job.  I hadn’t taught anything.  I’ll never get over that.  But the ideas flew and grew and partly at the bidding of several attendees who played the devil’s advocate better than I could have.  The bottom-line message, to me, was that our learners deserve convenient (easy & fast) access to today’s prevailing information landscape to practice relevant learning.

..and this brings me to the last impression I’ll report here, and that was the overwhelming prevalence of tablet computers.  I asked others, who agreed that there seemed to be more people with iPads and other tablets in their hands at the sessions and keynote than laptops.  In fact, at some points, laptops seemed to be the exception.  It’s all bringing into focus a term that I’m seeing more and more, that we are entering the post-PC era.  I’m not sure I entirely agree with the picture that evokes, but I do not recall seeing any tech rise in prominence so quickly.

Thanks to the conference committee at NCTIES…