Don’t Touch That…

Star Spangled Banner

It’s the way we take vacations these days. I’m flying off somewhere, that’s best flown to from a major airport like New York or Washington. In this case, it’s  Washington.  So Brenda rides the train with me to the nation’s capital, we spend a day or two being tourists, and then we split, she training back down to Raleigh, and me taking off for some far off exotic land that I’ll be too busy and jet-lagged to enjoy.

Yesterday, we walked around (a lot) and visited some of the Smithsonian museums.  It had been many years for me. Brenda had a special interest in seeing the Star Spangled Banner, the huge flag that flew over Fort McHenry after the British fleet withdrew, unable to enter the harbor of Baltimore.  This was what we call “The War of 1812.” The flag has been undergoing conservation procedures and has only recently been brought back out on display at the National Museum of American History.

The line outside the museum was long, but moved fairly quickly. The line outside the SSB display route moved much less so. But we finally got through, got a multimedia background of the war and battle, saw the flag, and then got to play with a huge video display of the flag. The image moved slowly up from top to bottom, with circles around specific spots. You could touch those circles and a pop-out window would explain something about the spot — a shrapnel hole or some patchwork from a previous conservation project.

Near the center of the display was a larger circle with arrows pointing out in four directions. It appeared to me that you could grab the flag there and change its direction. But no one was using it. Most of the folks in line were adults, most of them middle aged to older. There were a few kids who were anxious to get on with it.

Finally, a kid, about nine or ten, reached up to that circle, grabbed the flag image, stopped its move up, and reversed the direction, dragging it down. His mother (I assume) gasped, grabbed her son by the shoulders and pulled him away from the display. It was such a perfect moment, one that probably repeats itself every day as our children seem so much more comfortably with an information environment that is central to how we do things today.

But it’s not about digital natives and digital immigrants.   It’s simply about all of us realizing and acknowledging that we’re all learners — and we should practice it in the light of day…

My First NECC09 Blog

Written yesterday at the airport

Packing 4 NECC by Todd Hamilton

I’ve been at home for just more than 24 hours.  It was a good day — a fathers day.  The kids gave me two seasons of The West Wing, including season 4, whose first episode, “20 Hours,” is the most YouTube’d WW of all seven seasons.

I spent the last couple of hours scanning through NECC blogs.  It’s been fun and has helped me to find the spirit.  It would be easy for me to say that I go to so many conferences that one more…  But it’s not the case.  NECC is huge — in just about every way you can imagine.

I’ve especially enjoyed the packing blogs.  “What do I pack?”  “Do I take my MacBook or the new Asus netbook.”  “Which camera, my pocket Sony, or the cool dSLR I got for Christmas?”

The most interesting post was from the SL team at Discovery Educator Network.  In NECC Prep Sessions a Big Hit, Lori Abrahams describes a series of recent sessions put on by DEN with reps from ISTE, including program chair, Anita McAnear.  The purpose of the sessions was to provide some tips for people who will be attending the international edtech conference for the first time.  Many conferences have sessions first thing, first morning, for newbies.  But advancing this one to Second LifeTM makes a ton of sense.

Several people talked about sessions they will be conducting, including Harry G. Tuttle, who’ll be sharing ideas about assessing Web 2.0 tools.  I have to confess that there’s a place on the back of my neck that always starts to itch when I see someone wanting to evaluate technologies.  I can’t help but feel that as soon as you start applying rules, the tech stops being the Swiss Army Knife that it should be.

But Tuttle makes an excellent point in his post, Woeful Book Wiki Turned to Wow Book Wiki.  As he has visited many school and classroom wikis, he has become increasingly discouragedl, as he notices that..

..most wikis are simply an online collection of student work. For example, all students in a class may do a book report and these book reports are posted to the class wiki.  The students post their book report and the project is done when the last book report is posted. There has been no interaction among students or other adults.  They have only worked in one learning style, linguistics.  Likewise, the students have paraphrased  (summarized) their book; they have not analyzed it. ((Tuttle, Harry G. “Woeful Book Wiki Turned to Wow Book Wiki.” [Weblog Education with Technology Harry
G. Tuttle] 20 Jun 2009. Web.21 Jun 2009. <>.

Harry then describes a wonderful alternative that creatively expands the wiki from collection of ideas, to an idea collective. Read his blog post for the details.

Of course, this is not an uncommon situation.  So many people come to these conferences looking for the tech de jour.  Then they bring it home and integrate the life out of it.
It may be the way that we present the technology — like snake oil salesmen.  I’m raising my hand.

Or perhaps it’s just what people come to the conference for — to discover and embrace the new cool thing.

I would like to suggest, for the coming conference, a moratorium on the phrase, “Integrate technology.”  Don’t say it at NECC.  Don’t even think it.  I’ll have nanobots loose at the convention  center floating on the breeze, listening for utterances the IT.  If you say it, or think it, my nanobots will hone in and drain the electricity from your iPhone.

Enough of the fun.  The answers we return from NECC with should not be, “This is the technology my students should be using.”  The answer should be,

“Here’s how my students can learn that is more relevant to their future, their learning skills, and the information landscape on which we all live.”

I’ll see many of you there, for the few days I’ll be attending NECC.