Embracing The Edge
or getting comfortable with disruptive learning technologies
Uncomfortable with technology? This is for you ... you will have your boundaries pushed. Explore the changing face of teaching, learning and professional development in an age of rapid technological change. Probe the intersections between leadership, change and fostering good pedagogy. A very interactive session. Bring your own wireless laptop. Download & install skype (skype.com) VOIP software before you come; it's free.
It was advertised, because the plan required — followed up with "reminder email" — that everyone present have a wireless laptop. 40 people registered for the workshop, maybe 30 showed up. Only about half of them had laptops. Also asked for high speed wireless internet at the venue. Access wasn't high speed, then, there was no access.
I had arranged for Chris Lehmann and Dennis Richards to join us as guest speakers. This was a presentation for school administrators and leaders. I wanted them to hear from two outstanding leaders. When Dennis connected via skype I was booted offline line within minutes. After the break only about 1/3 of the attendees came back.
I tap danced for 2.5 hours.
When we couldn't get connected I did my offline introduction and asked my host to see if the on site tech support folks could help us out. During my intro the tech support guys came and a few people were able to get online. I continued my introduction. When that lead to requiring net access it wasn't there. I tried to get folks organized for the learning activity I had planned and again asked for some help from the tech support guys. The hotel manager(?) (at least he was dressed like the manager) came in and said he'd restart their server. He did. It didn't help. I was about 45 minutes in now so I switched to the slides for the second half of my presentation thinking I might be able to do that bit entirely offline.
We went on break for 20 minutes. I moved the laptop around until I found a spot where I could get online. I preloaded a few pages and crossed my fingers. My plan included both a "low impact workout" and a "high impact workout." I switched gears and decided we'd go with only the low impact workout and move to a show and tell presentation; instead of the "do and reflect" I had planned. I had intermittent access at best for the last 90 minutes of the presentation. Basically, I kept dancing.
WHAT I HAD PLANNED
First, I wanted to give these school leaders some hands on experience using web 2.0 tools to:
- »get connected with a local network (the folks in the room in a skype chat).
- »bring in experts from around the world "just in time" using twitter and skype.
- »understand the power of a professional learning network.
- »learn the basics of a few different tools like skype, flickr, pbwiki, and voicethread.
- »learn the engagement that comes with collaboration.
- »experience the excitement that comes with creating artifacts that share what you know with a global audience.
- »learn that you "don't need to know it all" to be able to use the tools to create and learn.
- »expose them to thinking about how to use new tools to amplify kids learning and teachers teaching.
Second, I wanted illustrate how a suite of free online tools can be woven together to create engaging hybrid (online and offline) learning experiences for students in the classroom and teachers ongoing professional development.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED or, what I'd do differently next time
I'm not sure it was such a good idea to plan a technology intensive workshop for a conference that wasn't specifically an Ed. tech. conference. I think people end up in some presentations by default (as opposed to preregistering) and the laptop requirement may have been an unreasonable expectation on my part; regardless of any reminder email.
I should assume the net will go down. I know this expectation is unreasonable in the business world but in the world of education it's perhaps more common than not. This being the case, I should structure my slides to allow for an easy transition to "show and tell" even though I personally hate when it's done to me.
Some ideas to access my online content are:
- »download all video content using KeepVid.
- »archive/download all websites that are critical to the presentation as web archives in Firefox.
- »capture all streamed slideshows using Jing and save to my desktop instead of online.
And, on top of all this, I think I would also have a "back up talk" that I could share if all else fails and I find myself doing a lot of hand waving as I felt I did on Thursday.
For all this, I have to say that my hosts at the conference were very gracious and accommodating when I arrived. The folks that did stay until the end of my session were also very kind. It couldn't have been all bad. Several people complimented me on the "tap dance" I did, one asked if I've considered walking away from my teaching job to be a private educational consultant, and a few asked if I'd be willing to come out to their schools or divisions to give workshops on education and technology.
Maybe I'm too hard on myself but I expected so much more of myself than what I delivered on Thursday. I learned a lot from this. Next time (if there is one) will be different.