When coming back from a conference, everyone wants to know how it was. “It was okay. You didn’t miss much,” is my usual response. I never know what to say. Sometimes the teachers that go get really excited about things, and I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. This week’s eTech Ohio Educational Technology Conference was no different. There were lots of SMART Board sessions. The vendors were giving away candy and pens and stuff. The keynote speakers were very good. But the sessions some of my colleagues chose to attend are not the ones I would have chosen. I guess that’s why we take them. If they understand what all the fuss is about, maybe I don’t have to.
Before it gets too far away, though, I want to get some observations down about things I saw. I may come back to some of these in more depth later.
- Wes Fryer’s description of Accommodating versus Transformative technology hit home. There are lots of things that are available to make minor changes in how we do things. The exhibit hall was full of them, and there were lots of sessions about them. But transformative technologies change what we do. They’re game-changing technologies. Last year, for me, that was the netbook. I’m not sure there was one this year.
- One potential future transformational technology is a one-to-one program. I don’t know how / if / when we would ever get there given our funding situation, but we need to envision what that would look like, and see if we can start clearing the beginnings of a path in that direction. Chris Hamady is having success with his project, and gave me a lot to think about.
- We need ubiquitous wifi at conferences. The inability for us to connect to the Internet made this conference a lot like a library conference without any books. I felt very disconnected. If you went to the conference and were frustrated by the wifi situation, let eTech know.
- The previous observation implies that we should be taking a more serious look at our school wireless infrastructures. We have to come up with a real plan to provide reasonable wireless access for our students.
- I heard from several people in my personal learning network who couldn’t get any information about what was going on. When are we going to start streaming some of the sessions, or having panels that include people from outside Ohio? Where is the conference RSS feed? People keep saying that, at 6,500 people, this is the third largest educational technology conference in the United States. We need to start acting like it. Information isn’t at a premium anymore. We can afford to share. Plus, there are thousands of teachers right here in Ohio who didn’t get to go. Do we have anything online for them?
- Social networking has the potential to be at the center of everything we do. We need to stop scaring people away from Facebook and start treating social networks as powerful tools, because that’s what they are.
- It was nice to see people starting to use Twitter and Delicious to share. Here are the Twitter messages shared during the conference (thanks again, Ryan). Here are the delicious links tagged by the presenters. And at least two people tagged photos on Flickr.
- Alvin, as usual, did a fantastic job with his presentation. There are very few people I’ve ever heard speak who could be so sincere, serious, funny, and engaging all at the same time. Johnny Hill was one. Alvin’s another. Oh, and Wes liked it too.
- Major hardware vendors (Dell, Apple, HP, Gateway) were conspicuous in their absence. And that’s not all. The conference program had a lot of empty space in it where the advertising is supposed to go. They didn’t sell any of their big-ticket ads. Plus, the map of the exhibit hall in the guidebook was a lot bigger than the hall itself. See all those empty boxes at the back of the room? I count at least 75 unsold spots. Hard times are coming…
- My presentation, in case you need help sleeping, is online.