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Saturday
Jul052008

A second Thanksgiving Day

 curmudgeon: An ill tempered (and frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions - wiktionary

A not uncommon response when asking a Minnesotan how things are going is, "Oh, could be worse." Effusive, we're not.

The "could-be-worse" philosophy is one I personally need to remember more often. 

The LWW and I are spending a few days unwinding by visiting the beautiful Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio. It's been a busy summer and a few days of getting up late, reading and touring are welcome. Yesterday, July 4th, we took the whole day visiting President Lyndon Johnson's ranch and hometown of Johnson City.

While most of us remember Johnson as the "Vietnam War" president with chants of "LBJ, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today," I was struck by his efforts to create his 'the Great Society." It was under Johnson that effective civil rights legislation was passed. Medicare and Medicaid was enacted during his term. Money poured into schools with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Thanks to Lady Bird, the environmental movement got started, and he added substantially to the National Parks domain. LBJ signed into law funding for the start of public broadcast. Any NPR listeners out there? 

Johnson was motivated by the experiences of his own childhood. He grew up poor, worked his way through college, and remained in close contact with his Hill Country neighbors and empathized with the disadvantaged. He was described as the last great "rural liberal."

 Anyway, something about LBJ and the 4th of July made me question my curmudgeonly stance on so many issues:

  • I complain about aching knees when getting up in the morning when thousands of our veterans have no knees to ache.
  • I grouse about my steak being over-cooked when I eat more in a week that others do in a month.
  • I fuss about the seat pitch on airplanes when I can fly across the country in hours, safely.
  • I moan about my grandsons living too far from home when they are healthy, smart and loving.
  • I steam about a lack of funding for technology in schools when education in this country for both boys and girls is universal.
  • I grumble about taxes, gas prices, and my 401K's performance when I am blessed with a job I love that allows me comforts unknown to 99% of the rest of the world.
  • I despise the politics in this country yet I recognize that I live in a society in which its citizens enjoy more freedom and safety than during any place or time in history.

usflag2.jpgWhen it comes right down to it, what do I really have to complain about?  Perhaps we need two Thanksgiving Days in the US. Just as a reminder that many, many, many of us do indeed lead charmed lives.

Could be worse.

Wednesday
Jul022008

Notes from NECC 2

Last day of the the Great Lovefest to All Things That Go Beep, or as sometime referred to, NECC. It seems like it's been a whirlwind with little time for reflection, but I want to jot down a few take-a ways before they fly away.

Most badly needed conference technology
A device that makes sure name badges are always hanging so the name is showing. I liked it better before lanyards. Or when my ability to link names and faces was better. 

Best simple idea
If you want to get teachers using online resources with kids, cut their Xerox budgets.

Intriguing thought
Brazillain schools are not directly providing Internet connectivity. Instead each student gets wireless (via cell phone) access for $6 a month. Hmmmm, personal computing/communication devices and personal networks. What WILL schools be spending tech dollars on? How will we control the little darlin's activities online? What will my job as tech director be? Too cool.

Biggest personal doubt
I've long argued for combined AASL/NETS student standards. But does a diversity of standards from which to pick and choose make for better state/local standards?

Blown away by
2.5 Librarian Anita Beaman's demonstration of how novels can be supported, extended and interacted with online. (Slideshow here.) I guess I knew a lot of this, but seeing it all in a few minutes was amazing.

Discovered too late
Free coffee in the presenters' room. Rats.

Person who best lives up to his online persona
It was a genuine pleasure to meet Miguel Guhlin for the first time in person. I knew from his writing he he would be funny and brilliant, but he is also a genuinely nice man. And far more shy than I would have imagined. Supper last night with him, Scott McLeod, Cathy Jo Nelson, Wes Fryer, and the LWW was a conference highlight. (He was taking, not in, this picture.)

Best new gizmo
Didn't see any must have's. But then I spent very little time in the vendor area this conference.

Most informative session
Cheryl Lemke from the Metri Group shared tons of research and implications about technology's impact on education. I can' wait to dig into her promised support materials. That I am sure I will blog about later.

Nod to mortality
The most exciting voices in the field coming from people the age of my children. Sigh...

Most abused session format
The panel. As both perp and victim of several panels this conference, I am convinced there need to be some guidelines. Too many talking heads pontificating ad hoc, ad nauseum, off-topic. There must be a better way. Ideas? I need to think more about this.

Best new session format
The mini-session at the Edublogger area. I spent a very enjoyable and informative hour visiting with just a handful of other tech directors talking about problems and solutions. (Including one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Stahmer of Assorted Stuff.)

New personal requirement
If a session presenter hasn't gotten to a point in the first 10 minutes, I walk. Am I applying the same attention triage that I apply to blog reading now to conference sessions?

Must read book
Suriwiki's Wisdom of Crowds. But several good ones mentioned in the Librarans 2.5 panel too, including Change the Way You See Yourself.

Biggest tease
"You're blog entries are too long."

That being said...

Thanks to everyone from whom I learned at length or in brief. It is indeed exciting and humbling to be a co-learner. 

 

Monday
Jun302008

Notes from NECC

I saw Doug Johnson walking through the halls this morning... Way more cool than seeing, say, Johnny Depp. Well, maybe not Johnny Depp. He's the best. But certainly more cool than seeing Brad Pitt! - Bib 2.0 blog

I was a little disappointed that the comment above did not inspire immediate, vehement and passionate jealousy in the LWW when she learned of it. I think there was instead, some cruel question about whether I was allowed to pet the commenter's seeing eye dog. But personally, I will treasure the comment until my senility registers 99%

Day Two of NECC for me, and after a busy Sunday with two workshops, a new members' meeting, opening keynote attendance, dinner and President's Reception, I am spending a couple hours in the motel catching up on e-mail and planning the rest of my conference. Whew.

For anyone interested, the Days Inn, while not exactly luxurious, is a nice enough place. Friendly staff, clean rooms, and good location. Maybe user-reviews do skew negative or else the management took them to heart and cleaned up its act.  Thanks to Mary Johnson who found the citation for the study on negative vs positive experiences. (It's in one of the comments in the last post.)

It is fun to see old friends in person. The best part of any conference as far as I am concerned. Never enough time, however, to just sit down and have a really good conversation it too often seems.

The Kindle has been a source of much interest. Glad I bought it and brought it. I am liking it - mostly.

During yesterday's keynote, Suriwiki (Wisdom of the Crowds) made me feel better about the sometimes contentious tech meetings we have at MPOW. To get full benefit of group decision-making, he argues, there needs to be some genuine head-butting. We do have that and we do make good decisions. (And I need to appreciate my contrarians on staff a bit more.) I also need to read his book. 

I got a ribbon for my name badge that says "Trouble Maker." I'd like to think the ISTE staff ordered it specially for me. But everyone here seems to want one. 

Heading back to the conference site where I hope not too many people swoon when they see me.