Leftovers from NECC 2008


When I left for NECC last Saturday, my plan was to make a blog entry every day. This was in addition to posting photos I took each day to Flickr, adding links to my del.icio.us account, and adding updates throughout each day to my Twitter board.

I was successful in accomplishing all of these tasks except the first. Once the conference kicked in full throttle on Monday, getting through the day became so exhausting that by the time I reached my hotel room in the evening I had to unplug and crash on the bed.

Having returned home and regained my energy, I’m now sorting through several pages of notes from the NECC sessions I attended on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll synthesize and share some of my conference “take aways” here and then follow up with a more reflective post about my experiences at NECC and suggest some implications I see for the field of art education.

Monday @ NECC 2008

My first session Monday morning was on the recently revised National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (or NETS•T) released by ISTE at this conference. While the old NETS identified what teachers should know and be able to do with technology, the new standards focus on what teachers should know and be able to do to “promote students’ abilities to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world.” The new standards, which build on the student standards, focus on developing expertise and in the following areas:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

The questions raised by Karen Cator (Apple Education Rep) in this session resonated with me the most:

How do we think about the change in the teaching profession? How do we get beyond the “sage on the stage” model to teachers as “facilitators of learning” to teachers as “collaborators who create compelling, real-world lessons and projects for students?”

In short, how to inspire teachers to reinvent the teaching profession?

After grabbing a quick sandwich and cruising through the exhibitors’ area, I made it over to David Warlick’s presentation titled “Our Students • Our World,” which was one of the Spotlight sessions at the conference. David is a popular edublogger and speaker on the international ed-tech circuit. While I frequently read his blog, this is the first time I’ve heard him speak. He didn’t disappoint.

I’m trying more and more these days to whittle my own lectures and presentations down to just a few “big ideas’ and David’s presentation served as a great example. He organized his one-hour talk around 3 bullet points, or disruptive conditions, namely (1) We’ve preparing children for an unpredictable future; (2) We’re teaching networked students today who have their own personal learning networks; and (3) We’re in a new information environment based on Web 2.0 technologies and strategies.

David referenced several authors that are on my book shelves (including Richard Florida, Daniel Pink, and Thomas Friedman) and I was especially appreciative that he advocated for more attention to the arts in schools, a pronouncement that brought mild applause from the audience. But, it was his question and comments that focused on defining what it means to be literate today that perhaps resonated with me the most. It jogged my memory of a paper I wrote back in 1994 in which I said:

. . . a truly literate person today must not only be able to create and communicate one’s own messages with new technology tools but also be able to analyze, interpret and evaluate the messages that one receives in a technology-mediated environment. Gaining such literacy skills requires education.

That still seems pretty relevant over 13 years later.

Following David’s talk, I walked through the Student Showcase room and stopped by the table “Google Earth in my City, My City in Google Earth” where I met Adolfo, who introduced me to a class project that he and his classmates worked on using Google Sketch-up to create 3-D models of important landmarks in Mexico City, which were then laid out on a map of the city with Google Earth. An impressive project presented by an articulate youngster.


Next up, I made it to a session titled “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Will Fundamentally Change Learning” with Yvonne Marie Andres from the Global SchoolNet Foundation and Lucie deLaBruere. Yvonne is no stranger to the subject of this talk, having pioneered the use of technology to foster collaboration in the classroom and between schools since the early 80s. I first became aware of Yvonne’s work at the Global Schoolhouse in the early 90s, which was one of many early influences on my interest in developing Art Junction and fostering artistic collaborations between classrooms over the Internet (2003 Paper in PDF format).

Yvonne introduced the four principles behind Wikinomics (openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally) and three major forces creating a paradigm shift across the globe (technology, the net generation, and the global economy). She then outlined eight ways that Wikinomics will impact learning (through flexbooks, co-created content, virtual field trips, global competitions, global exhibitions, collaborative projects, blended learning spaces, and collective wisdom). Lastly, she surveyed a variety of Web 2.0 tools and offered some tips for working with tools in a collaborative project. Wikinomics is now on my new reading list for the summer.

To finish up the day, I attended two sessions that focused on tools. First, Will Richardson presented a session on “Creating Live Web TV for the Classroom for Global Audiences,” in which he used UStream.tv to broadcast his session live over the Internet. Will made live video streaming look so easy that I want to try it out myself soon.

Second, I went to Steve Hargadon’s session on “Free, Open Source, and Web 2.0 Software for the Classroom,” in which—seeking the collective wisdom of crowds—Steve invited the audience to share their favorite Web 2.0 or opensource tools that were quickly found online and projected on the overhead screen. I listed many of these tools (those I didn’t already know about) on my del.icio.us under the necc2008 tag.

Whew! I still have one more day to go.

Tuesday @ NECC 2008

Tuesday morning began with a Keynote session by Jim Carleton and Mali Bickley, two Canadian educators who have a long history of fostering student collaboration and classroom connections through innovative projects involving the use of technology. In one of the more unusual keynotes I’ve seen at conferences, Lester Holt (the NBC correspondent) interviewed Mali and Jim on stage.

keynote photo
photo by Ekornblut

It was easy to see why Mali and Jim are popular speakers. Their enthusiasm and “can-do attitude” for using technology in the classroom oozed off the stage. To paraphrase one of the many catch phrases they tossed out to exemplify their approach to technology in the classroom, Jim said the C” in ICT is key. It stands for “communication, collaboration, and creativity.”

Their talk was sprinkled with several slides and short videos of technology-enhanced projects they’ve done with students through iEARN and TakingItGlobal. Several of these projects involved students producing and exchanging artwork. For example, Mali talked about the Art Miles Project that involved exchanging murals between schools and the My Hero Project in which students create artwork or videos that are then shared with a global audience.

To wrap up, they offered the following tips to teachers wanting to do technology projects in their classrooms:

  • Take risks.
  • Follow your passion.
  • Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.
  • Ready, FIRE, aim (don’t wait)
  • Dream BIG!

Good advise to keep in mind perhaps, but challenging to implement in a NCLB environment.

Before lunch, I wandered through the Posters area where I picked up Bernajean Porter’s book DigiTales: The Art of Digital Storytelling, did a 2-minute video interview with Valerie Fasy who presented on a virtual art museum project done by students at Keith Valley Middle School (video coming soon), and watched Wesley Fryer demonstrate VoiceThread (a tool I’m definitely will spend some time learning in the coming months).

After lunch, I went to Ian Jukes’ presentation on Understanding Digital Learners: Learning in the New Digital Landscape which was packed and so I found myself standing for much of the hour-long talk. Ian is a dynamic speaker and his presentation was fast paced. He made the point early on that today’s world is not the same world that most of us in the audience grew up in and, more importantly, it’s not the world our students will live in (a point echoed by David Warlick). Also, kids today are wired differently due to the digital bombardment they experience daily. These are not the kids most teachers were trained to teach.

In describing key differences between education’s role in the past vs today, Jukes distinguished between 20th-century and 21st-century skills which he referred to as “fluencies,” as in technological fluency (focus on “headware not hardware”), media fluency (being able to critically analyze media as well as produce with it) and information fluency (which includes asking good questions, being able to access and acquire information, analyzing and authenticating information sources, applying the information gained, and assessing the outcome).

If I had to pick one of the more resonating points in Juke’s talk for me, it would be that kids today are quite adept at turning raw information into creative and useful products (a point also echoed in Warlick’s talk, and the phrase “prosumer,” which I heard several times over the past week). If there is one thing I will borrow from Jukes though, it is his idea of the “digital diet,” which are short exercises or activities that teachers can do to upgrade their technology skills. I want to incorporate something like this into the Art Education 2.0 site.

After Jukes’ talk, I wandered through the exhibitors’ area again and spent a half hour or so in Susan Reeves’ session on “Google Earth for the Elementary Teacher.” I’ve played with Google Earth previously, but was struck with the number of times I saw this site included in a session description or up on a screen during this conference. As I sat in Reeves’ session, I began brainstorming ways teachers might use Google Earth in art class. One idea that came to mind immediately is the Community Maps Project I’ve done off and on over the years.

Later that afternoon, I took in “Impact: Using Student Work as a Body of Evidence” with Bernajean Porter and others. Bernajean has obviously spent a number of years working with students, teachers, and administrators via various type of digital projects. She knows the terrain well and approaches the issues involved with bringing technology into the classroom with a informed and practical manner—and with a little humor (as shown in the video of a tripping penguin in which she asked the audience “How many of you have a principal that does this whenever you try to do something new with technology?”)

Bernajean challenged the audience to consider the question “What can you do to improve the quality of the student work in your class?” and when using technology with students she encouraged us to focus on skills and outcomes rather than tools or stuff.

Finally, the last presentation I attended at NECC was the Birds of the Feather session for Art Educators co-hosted by Jamie Kasper (from her home via Skype) and Mara Linaberger, both from PA. Mara facilitated much of the session, which was streamed live via ustream, and Jamie added her comments online from time to time. There were 10 or so people in attendance, not all “art educators” per se.

People in the audience introduced themselves and described what they did back home. Some added commentary on the conference and the need to encourage more art teachers to attend. Mara and Jamie shared a wikispace they set up for the session called Arts Educator 2.0 (not to be confused with “Art Education 2.0”) and encouraged us all to join and contribute to the space. They also gave some background information on a US DOE grant they’re applying for to support a community of learners, which include PA art and music teachers, through the use of new and emerging technologies. I assume the Arts Educator 2.0 space will play a role in that project.

I still have a few bags of stuff, links, video, and other information I’ve yet to sort through. So, I’ll likely have more NECC leftovers to share in the coming weeks. But, for now, I’ll just say that the four days I spent at NECC were packed and a fantastic learning experience for me!