Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NECC 2009 Conference, Washington DC

The only other "big" national conferences I've been to are WWDC 2005-2007 in San Francisco.

NECC is altogether different. Larger and more diverse than WWDC, I've found NECC pretty overwhelming. The exhibit hall alone has booths from hundreds of vendors, large and small, all courting people with tech purchasing power in educational institutions.

This is a far cry from the "Apple wants you to know X. You now know X. You may go now," approach of WWDC. Not that I didn't enjoy WWDC. I did. A week at WWDC is worth a month of any 3rd party training I've ever done, but it's all Apple all the time.

There are a lot of K-12 teachers here, and a lot of educational technology faculty from colleges and universities. I was just chatting with a computer science professor I know from home who was here to present about effective ways to teach math using spreadsheets. We share a certain cynicism about technology and how others in education approach it.

To us the new cool thing is much less interesting than what can be done with whatever is available. Machines, in and of themselves, are not particularly interesting. What we can do with them can be mind blowing, but BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE and the latest buzz word ("cloud," "virtualization," "21st century classroom/learner/teacher,") won't get you there.

It's what you do with it.

By the way, Washington DC is way scarrier than San Francisco, where WWDC is always held. SF has plenty of poverty, homelessness and drugs visible on the streets but DC is fucked up. In addition to the offense to human dignity that is poverty and homelessness in our nation's capitol, the streets don't make sense. I can almost never see the sun and, believe it or not, drinks are even more expenisve than in downtown SF. I paid $15 for a shot of Patron tequila last night.

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