Edu-conferences or no?

Filed under: — Joe @ 2:39 pm

Alan Levine of Maricopa and cogdogblog posts (as he has before) about the general woorthlessness of the big edu-cons, just right at the moment when I happen to be at one of them.

He has some valid points about visiting the exhibit hall just to grab the schwag (OK, I’m guilty of that, sometimes, I admit it), and sitting in the keynote and checking email or blogging (I’m guilty of that right now, although if the damn wifi in this conference center were working, I wouldn’t have to be writing this on the Treo with Vagablog!).

But I think he’s a little over-jaded (no pun on his url) and over-curmudgeonly…probably as a result of over-exposure. He’s a lot more of a longer-established and more experienced edtech hotshot than I am, and I think there’s a whole big world of faculty/admins/ID folks who are even less-experienced with even more to learn than me.

There’s a danger, when you spend a lot of time in the circle where innovation happens, of forgetting just how much of what is already old hat to people like Alan (and, increasingly, me) is still decidedly new hat to huge numbers of people who really do learn new things from these conferences.

And beyond that, even for hotshots and moderately warm shots like me, there are still opportunities to glean some little gems even from generally commonplace blahblah keynotes. For example, Tracy Futhey’s keynote about “Technology Initiatives to Move the Campus Forward” at Duke and Carnegie Mellon this morning, in addition to some general principles about risks, benefits, and challenges of tech innovation with which I’m very familiar (and others probably are, too), made a very intriguing side point. In talking about Duke’s famous (or infamous) Ipod project, she mentioned the later, almost incidental, addition of voice recorders to the Ipods.

This goes to a much larger and more important point about technology helping students to create and publish content, instead of (as is too often the case) merely passively consuming it. That’s not a point I really needed reminding of, but it is a point that is good (and provocative) to see new examples of. A conference like this can sometimes plant these little seeds which get mulled about, discussed over lunch or on the bus to UCLA, and then brought back home for more thought, new ideas, and to be used as handy pullquotes and name-dropping when talking to senior administrators (“at Duke they’re doing such and such”).

There’s also (as Alan acknowledges) the benefit of meeting and talking to people. This morning (and it’s not yet 11 AM) I’ve already had some good conversation with colleagues from Virginia Beach, Pomona, Newark, and Egypt.

But none of this really negates what I see as Alan’s major criticism (and I heard the same criticism from a guest-wish I remembered her name-on Chris Pirillo’s podcast). At all these conferences, no matter how we talk about educational innovations (especially enabled by technology), we really only hear about those innovations. At the conference itself, we don’t really do anything except sit and listen to a 50-minute-with-a-powerpoint, with maybe (at most) a few minutes for questions. Nothing active, nothing participatory, nothing innovative. We sit in air-conditioned rooms and hear about tools and techniques which are exactly the opposite of what we’re experiencing at the conference.

That’s an excellent point, and I would love to see a conference which does things differently.


Off to LA

Filed under: — Joe @ 3:46 pm

LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets god-awful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle.

And yet, despite that, tomorrow I leave for LA–for the Syllabus Conference. Only a couple of days, but it’s a couple of days in the jungle, and away from the wacky comradeship here at home.


Coffee-ish Goodness

Filed under: — Joe @ 6:41 pm

Thanks to the recommendation of Ruru, I finally joined the pod people…coffee pods, that is. I’m a big coffee drinker already, and I’ve tried just about every other method of coffee making–the french press, the Cuisinart Grind and Brew, Mr. Coffee and his clones, the paper cones, even the coffee sock and the percolator and the stovetop espresso maker. But nothing came close in quality to what I get from the pod machine, and the speed and convenience is just literally unreal. I’m astounded that this has been around for so long without my knowledge!

Bunn My CafeI did a lot of research before coming to a decision, looking at the market-dominating Senseo, the proprietary, non-compatible pod design of the Keurig, and the universally-despised Black and Decker. Single Serve Coffee.com was invaluable in this research, and it led me to what I think is the ideal solution (although expensive and with a pretty dumb name), the Bunn My Cafe. This thing, coupled with some good pods (I’m currently using Cool Beans Pods), really gives me the best cups of coffee, reliably, I’ve ever had. And the process from conceiving the idea “I feel like a cup of coffee” to taking that first sip takes literally under a minute. It even makes great iced coffee, with just as much convenience and flavor and simplicity, and even better, has BLUE LED’s!

I’ve even been tempted to carry my little Bunn with me on vacation. It’s a wonder!


RIP, Commander

Filed under: — Joe @ 5:08 pm

James DoohanIn Memoriam, Commander Montgomery Scott.

Sad news today of the death of James Doohan.

Moon Landing Commemorative

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:15 am

In honor of the anniversary of the first human visits to the moon, Google maps has added some very detailed, high resolution, moon maps. Be sure to zoom in all the way for the closest view.
Google Moon.


Eportfolios, Blogs, and Wikis–call them…?

Filed under: — Joe @ 12:23 pm

At most every conference, symposium, journal article, whatever, we see eportfolios, blogs and wikis grouped together. They’re technologies which have evolved somewhat together, and even though all three have differences, there is a clear unifying generic theme. But what’s the clear generic title?
Accessible Online Content Creation and Collaboration Tools?
Student Collaborative Content Tools?
Online Content Creation?

I’m not going to get a good acronym, really, and that’s really not important, of course. But it is a bit frustrating.

Eportfolios–allow students to assemble, present, reflect on, and get feedback on artifacts which demonstrate their learning.

Blogs–allow students to present, reflect on, and get feedback on their thinking during the process of developing it.

Wikis–allow students to collaborate on and present information and thinking as they assemble it.

It seems that for all of them, the common theme is the public part–the presentation. Making student work (or any of our work) part of the larger public community of discourse is a very powerful tool. The other half–opening up the work to comment, give feedback, and collaborate, is also part of the equation, but it follows mainly from the first part. It’s the publishing, and the ways in which these digital tools make enable (or at least facilitate) that publishing.

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