The Buzz Was About Pedagogy

I was at Alan November's Building Learning Communities conference in Boston from July 15 to 18. This was the third year I was there and it was the best yet because the buzz was different.

Last year I left the conference hearing everyone saying things like:

» I have to learn flickr
» I have to learn wikis
» I have to learn blogs
» I have to learn [insert social media tool du jour]

This year the buzz was much more about pedagogy. The talk in the halls sounded like:

» I can use [this] to teach [that]
» I can see how much easier it would be for my students to understand if I used ...
» My students are going to LOVE learning this way!

I hope that sentiment was captured in the last minute reflection a number of us did together shared via Ustream:

Live Streaming by Ustream.TV

I captured some of the Ustream chat here.

Of course the best part of any conference is the people. I reconnected with old friends, met several "old friends" face to face for the first time, and met some people for the first time. Together, they made the conference feel like going to summer camp. ;-)

The three Keynote presenters (Ewan Mcintosh, John Davitt, and Dr. Pedro Noguera gave talks that dovetailed nicely together with a very strong focus on teaching and learning. They hadn't planned it that way but it seemed as though the three of them had collaborated to deliver a unified message. (If you want to listen to their talks Bob Sprankle has some of the best BLC08 coverage on the net over on his blog.)

I gave three presentations. One was an update from another I gave last year (What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before), the second (A Day In The Life) was a major revamp of one I did for Alec Couros' and Dean Shareski's graduate classes earlier this year. I worked hard to refine the ideas and practices I was sharing and tie them much more tightly to research on teaching and learning. The third (Everything New is Old Again: living and teaching in accelerating times) Clarence and I did together. This was the first time we had ever presented collaboratively. (This particular collaboration involved skype, google presentations, flickr, and Starbucks; a story unto itself really. ;-))

Mobile phones appear to be coming into their own as a learning tool this year. I tried something different using the photo capabilities of participants' mobiles and flickr. While in session I shared my private "publish directly to my flickr account" email address. I asked everyone to take pictures with their phones and email to the address I gave them (I've since changed the address). My account was set up to tag the photos automatically BLC08. Meanwhile, I had a wiki where I archived all my presentation resources. On a page in the wiki I embedded a slideshow I had created using Slideflickr. Slideflickr allows you to link music located somewhere online to play automatically while the slides are playing. I used and Jamendo to find the music I linked to the slideshows -- I did this activity in two sessions.

All my BLC stuff is archived on the wiki I made for the conference. For those of you that don't feel like clicking through I've embedded the slides here:

Learning To Swim

Several months ago Melissa Hartman asked me if I'd write an article about social networking in the lives of teenagers for Imagine Magazine. It's a non-profit out of Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth; she's the editor.

I learned a lot about writing and working with an editor. It turned into more of an article about digital ethics than social networking. When I started I thought: 650 words! How am I going to write that much? Over 2000 words later (about three articles worth) I thought: 650 words! How am I ever going to get it down to so few? In the end I submitted about 750 words and the editing process began. I learned how to balance style, content, and story. I learned how to edit myself ruthlessly. I learned how it feels when someone else edits me ruthlessly. And I learned how easy it is to find a happy medium when you're working with a good editor.

This is the article that made it into print, the May/June 2008 issue titled Art Now (one of the two buttons in the top right corner of the window below will allow you to enlarge the image to make it easier to read):

Read this document on Scribd: Darren Kuropatwa: Learning To Swim

What do you think? Would this appeal to your average middle school student? (12 to 14 years old)