The NECC Buffet – Part 1

I attended NECC for the first time this year. While many attendees have already blogged about their experiences – as I write this Technorati already has over 500 blogs tagged “NECC2008” – it’s taken a while for me to process everything and gather my thoughts enough to put text to screen and share my impressions.

To say NECC is big doesn’t quite capture it. My thesaurus suggests words like monumental, immense, ginormous, and elephantine, but those don’t seem to paint an accurate picture either. For me, NECC was a chance to attend the worlds largest most extravagant buffet for the very first time. I wanted to load my plate with a little of everything. Not knowing if I would ever make it back, I tried to devour as many small morsels as I could but quickly discovered there was no possible way to digest it all without making myself sick. In the end, I had to make choices. I’ll leave it up to you to determine the wisdom of my decisions.

Part 1: The Salad Bar

The salad bar contains all that stuff that’s healthy for you. It’s not the real reason you came to the buffet, but you feel obligated to partake because it helps you balance out the guilt you feel for indulging in the next two courses. The concurrent sessions at NECC were my salad bar – and what an AMAZING salad bar it was!

  • Ian Jukes is one of those “sit down, fasten your seatbelts, and hold on” presenters. I love his energetic, in-your-face style and powerful visual images. While his session about Learning in the Digital Landscape did not give me anything I haven’t already heard, nobody preaches it and gets you fired up to teach “digital kids” like Ian Jukes.
  • I’ve been a big fan of Lego Mindstorms for years and used them at my previous school so I was anxious to hear Mitchel Resnick speak about some of the new technologies they’ve been developing at the MIT Media Lab. Thanks to Wesley Fryer for taking such copious notes – Grassroots Creativity: Helping Everyone Become a Creative Thinker.
  • Rushton Hurley has a wonderful presentation style and his now famous “Who Can Make a Video in 10 Minutes?” session gave me many ideas that I hope to incorporate into future staff trainings. His non-profit NextVista for Learning web site promotes student and teacher made instructional videos and seeks to encourage global understanding through digital media. He also gave me the challenge to contribute some video to his site. (If you’re reading this blog you can help keep me accountable to do this!)
  • Finally, what can I say about Hall Davidson that hasn’t already been said? From exploding bottles of Dr. Pepper to his “I’ve never tried this before, but do you want to see if it works?” style, it’s clear that Hall is a guy who doesn’t play by the rules. His “HTML for Non-Wizards” presentation was just what my inner tech-geek needed, plus it gave me some extra techie tid-bits to feed to my middle schoolers who like to push the limits. (Click here if you’d like to download the 36MB pdf version of his presentation.)

NOTE: Several of these sessions and a few that I missed are now available at the NECC Webcast site. Here you can see presentations from Chris Dede, Mitchel Resnick, Hall Davidson and several other NECC Spotlight speakers. You need to register with an e-mail address to view the webcast but you also get to join the chat with anyone else who happens to be watching it with you.
Hmmm. Want to train your teachers how a back channel works? This might make a good practice playground.

NEXT POST: Part 2 – The Entree