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Tuesday
Sep252007

Lecture or conversation

The following is a (slightly expanded) response I left on Will Richardson's blog entry "Thinking Disruptively About Conference Presentations." In his wonderfully angst-ridden style, Will reveals:

"...I find myself more and more questioning the “get up in the front of the room and impart knowledge” model that is so thick with irony in the context of this conversation that it just doesn’t feel quite right anymore." 

and goes on to write about doing sessions that are guided conversations instead. Hmmmm, let's think about this.

andor.jpgHi Will,

My sense here is that you've fallen into an "or" approach to conference sessions. Great conference presenters - at least those I gain the most from - provide both expert content and facilitate conversations and/or application. In fact, I would guess most people are unhappy with a purely process approach (Why did I pay my money if I don't get good dope from an expert?) OR pure lecture (Why is this boring person just talking at me?)

I am also going to offer up a small defense of traditional conference sessions (which I posted a few days ago on my blog):

Sit and Git, Spray and Pray (or whatever the clever derogatory appellation du jour for short sessions offered during professional development days or conferences) - such learning opportunities ought not to be simply dismissed as ineffective and drop kicked from the educational ball field. Like classroom lectures, good short sessions can be effective in meeting specific purposes. Those include:
  1. Introducing participants to a new concept, theory or practice with the expectation of self-directed follow-up. (What is meant by authentic assessment?)
  2. Teaching specific, useful skills, especially if practiced within the time allotted. (How to design a good rubric.)
  3. Bending a mindset or encouraging an action. (Assessments can be used not just for ranking students, but to actually improve the learning process.) Think of the great speakers on TED.
Concrete, even discrete, learning opportunities have a place in professional development, provided they are part of a larger profession growth plan.

Quite honestly, Will, were I to hire you to come speak at my conference or in my district, I'd want more than just a conversation. I'd want some expertise, some attention-grabbing, mind altering lecture, AND some constructivist-type activities. I want it all and that would be why you'd be gettin' the big bucks!

Oh, I thought the Edubloggers thing at NECC was a blast, but I enjoyed because of the social aspects and not because I took away much that was useful.

All the best,

Doug

Will, I appreciate the impetus for thinking a bit about this. I suspect I sound a bit defensive because on the lecture-conversation continuum, I definitely drift toward the lecture end. (One is never bored when one is doing the talking.) With speaking engagements at seven conferences coming up in the next month and a half, it's an opportune time for reflection. I just wish I had your gravitas so I could be angst-ridden instead of simply confused. 

Sunday
Sep232007

What's on your bookshelf?

Ethan Bodnar in his entry "Your Bookshelf, Your Identity," challenges us to photograph our bookshelves and post the photos to Flickr. (He suggests some fairly stringent rules.) I don't do Flickr, so I'm just posting mine here. I suppose had I taken a couple minutes, I could have put out some more intellectual-type titles. (It was fun seeing Carolyn's, Diane's and Tim's bookshelves as well.)

bedsidepile.jpg

The bedside pile. Gives lie to my Lazy Person's Reading Plan, eh? One title hard to see is Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You. The Gruber book is quality fiction. And yes, I am still working through the Second Life guide.

 officepile.jpg
The home office reads. The usual suspects about technology and education.

homelibrary.jpg

And the home library in a lower level hallway - 1/2 of which belongs to the LWW. When the cases get full, I start getting rid of books.

Oh, booklovers, take a look at BOOKS TOOLBOX: 50+ Sites for Book Lovers. A great list of tools for tracking and sharing one's reading and personal library (or libraries). (Via Stephen's Lighthouse)

Saturday
Sep222007

Give a teacher a computer

With apologies to author Laura Numeroff and illustrator Felicia Bond. The LWW brought home Mouse Cookies & More: Acookie.jpg Treasury this weekend and it started me thinking...

Give a teacher a computer

Give a teacher a computer,
    And he will want Internet access.

Give a teacher Internet access,
     And she'll most likely want an e-mail account.

Give a teacher e-mail,
    And he'll just want learning games and
more computers in her classroom. And tech support.

Give a teacher learning games,
    And she'll want streaming video.

Give a teacher videos,
    And he'll insist on an LCD projector permanently mounted in his classroom (with speakers).

Give a teacher a projector,
    And she'll ask for an interactive white board (and training and time for collaboration and resources to use with it).

Give a teacher an IWB,
    Then he wants a student response system, a wireless slate, and a document camera (and more support).

Give a teacher tech,
    And then she wants all her kids to have it too. And the skills to use it well.

We'll that's the theory anyway and it holds for lots of my teachers. I always find it amazing (and even a little frustrating) that some teachers can't get enough technology in their classrooms and give their kids enough experiences using it, while other teachers still grumble at even having to use anything more complicated than an overhead projector. And I don't think it breaks down neatly along generational lines. Perhaps those who are reluctant were frightened by a vacuum cleaner as small children.

_______________

As an aside, this comes from a travel advice column in this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper when the author comments on the actions taken by a person whose hotel reservations were lost:

I think you handled this grievance pretty well. Call the hotel was an excellent idea, and so was following up with Expedia. But you should have pinged Hyatt again...

Pinged?  First time I've seen this geeky word move from technical to general use. According to WIkipedia, the fellow who wrote the first Ping program back in '83 took the term from the sound sonar makes and only later was the acronym "Packet InterNet Grouper" devised. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'll get the telephone and go ping my kids...