Reflections on My NECC/DC Experience: Part 2

ISTE estimates that there were over 18,000 participants at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Washington DC. It certainly seemed that many were in line when I went to get coffee Monday morning at Starbucks in the Conference Center!

Keith Jarrett described NECC as a freight train. Aptly put. He also refers to “the blind men and an elephant” parable to suggest that different people will describe NECC in different ways. Since I’m from Florida, I’ll just add here that, for me, this year’s NECC was a lot like being hit by a big wave while standing in shallow water on the beach.

Photo by babasteve. CC Attribution License

I was only at NECC this year for a day and a half, but I left with lots of new teaching resources and ideas plus several new Twitter friends. After spending two hours volunteering at the Digital Arts Studio on Monday, I was able to attend a few formal sessions, walk through the Exhibitors’ Area, visit several tables in the Posters’ area, watch two Second Life demos, stop by the Bloggers’ Café, and make it to the Tweet-up gathering for ISTE Twitter users on Monday evening. All in all, a very full and exhausting day!

Here are some of my takeaways (and wishes) from the day:

  • The Virtual NECC. Since so many NECCers’ blog, tweet, stream video, and set up backchannels from the conference, there is as much (if not more) to take in online as there is in the face-to-face sessions and meetings. Even after I left the conference on Tuesday I was able to follow along with a lot of what happened on Tuesday and Wednesday through these various virtual channels. This is one of the real pluses of this conference and something I’d like to see happen on a grander scale with the National Art Education Association Conference. While there was some movement in this direction at the NAEA conference in Minneapolis this year, it would be great to see more art educators blogging and tweeting from next year’s NAEA conference.
  • Arts Educators Unite! A Special Interest Group of Art Educators (SIGAE) met for the first time at NECC this year for a Birds-of-a-Feather session. There were around 30 people in attendance and much of the conversation focused on increasing the presence of arts education at NECC by getting more sessions and workshops on the program lead by arts educators (see next point). There is now a group space on Art Education 2.0 for SIGAE members to raise questions, discuss areas of common interest, and share resources. (Thanks to Mara, Jamie, Camille, and Leslie for organizing and running the SIGAE meeting).
  • Need for More Arts Teachers to be NECC Presenters! While I met a greater amount of arts teachers this year than at last year’s NECC, we need more arts teachers presenting at next year’s NECC in Denver (June 27-30, 2010). I know a lot of art teachers though Art Education 2.0 that are doing great things with their students and technology. NECC offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase these innovative and creative learning activities to an international audience. I realize that funding is a challenge. But, before you consider how your trip will be funded, why not submit a proposal for next year’s NECC? If you get accepted, you might apply for funding through organizations like We Are Teachers. You can find the proposal form here starting September 9, 2009. It’s due by October 8, 2009. I recommend proposing a Poster Session (see next point). As for what strand to include your proposal under, check out “Digital Age Teaching & Learning.”
  • Poster Sessions Rock! While I’ve been to every type of session in the NECC program, the one I always seem to get the most from are the Poster sessions. These two-hour sessions allow presenters to interact informally with attendees. One Poster Session I particularly enjoyed this year (and last) was a Student Showcase presented by middle school students from Centro Escolar Cedros in Mexico City who showed the 3-D work they did with Google Sketchup. What’s most appealing for me about these sessions is the chance to talk directly with the presenters and get answers to my questions.
  • Some New Tools to Try Out. While you hear a lot of talk at NECC about new technology, you’ll also often hear the refrain “It’s not about tools! It’s about what they allow teachers and students to do!” or something to that effect. Still, I’m always happy to learn about a new digital tool or website I can use with my students—and I came across several at NECC that I can’t wait to try out in the classroom. One of the things I’m interested in doing next year is to offer my students more opportunities to interact with each other and with me. I have one large lecture class in the Fall in particular in which I would like students to take a more active role. To do so, I’m going to give Twtpoll a spin (which allows you to create and distribute polls on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites). I also like Today’s Meet that allows you set up a temporary online meeting room which you can use for a backchannel and to connect with your students/audience in real time. Lastly, I definitely want to try out Animationish, a drawing and animation program, with my Digital Media class in the Spring. This is a class for future art teachers and teaching animation is a part of the curriculum. Animationish allows you to create simply Flip-book type animation using an infinite number of frames and offers more advance tools for those who want to take their animation to the next level. I can definitely see this program being used in elementary and middle school art classrooms.

There’s more I could say about NECC, but I thought I’d end with an Animoto video that I created using photos I took at this year’s NECC. It does a much better job than I could possibly do in words of expressing what going to a NECC conference is like.