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A Bit More Education Techno-Twaddle; Why I Avoid NECC, 2008 Edition

gooooo, technology!

*** An offshoot of this discussion is a proposal for the K-12 Online Conference 2008 titled ‘Effective Criticism in 21st Century Education Technology.’ If you have a moment, please take a look at the proposal and offer feed back – your time and expertise are both appreciated. ***

NECC is the National Educational Computing Conference, an annual event put forth by the International Society for Technology in Education at which school-related folks can get together and talk technology.

It’s a big draw for the ed-tech’ers from the US and other parts of the world – particularly Australia, I think.

Back in May, Miguel Guhlin asked if I was going to make it to Texas for NECC [this was when he invented and attributed to me a line about admiring Ann Coulter, then dropped off the face of the earth when I called him on it].

I said not sure, but I probably should have just said, “Nope.” And now that NECC is underway [until July 2], those of us who follow the ed-tech blogs are getting blitzed with NECCness.

Courtesy of Dean Shareski, another wonderful guy in ed-tech with whom I mostly disagree, below is a video of the EduBloggerCon 2008, one of the early events at NECC. Fire up those Macbooks, sit on the floor and talk tech! But before you watch, here are some highlights from the 4-minute video:

  • Web 2.0 helped raise money for Darfur – and the lacrosse team’s wiki went crazy!
  • Let’s be “very honest with ourselves… they don’t want us to be able to communicate and connect… much of school is about control”
  • “Waiting 3 years for it to click.” “What to click?” “It clicked.”
  • Make note of people video-recording one another. Really, at one point two digital camcorders appear to be pointed at each other.
  • Obligatory super-dooper-different’n'kool title of “The Real Unconference” with the also-obligatory discussion of professionalism.

It’s an excellent 4-minute summary of why I didn’t go to NECC – and likely won’t next year or the year after.

The EduBloggerCon is a tiny part of NECC – I understand that, as some sessions are more sensible than others – but the sheer lack of intellectual diversity [a statement which will undoubtedly be criticized as inaccurate], the techno-fandom, the 100% Process/0% Content split will keep me away. If I wanted to sit on the floor with a notebook, I’d go to a Halo 3 LAN party. At least those have HotPockets and Mountain Dew.

Time to peep the aforementioned NECC crash course:

So, NECCers, when you’re ready to take a hard look at technology initiatives, technology spending, the necessary limits of technology in a liberal arts education, the folly and incompleteness of 21st Century Learning [or whatever is fashionable at the time], the limits of Web 2.0 and the like, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll register.

Perhaps for NECC 2009, ISTE might entertain a bit more intellectual diversity in its workshops/speakers? Perhaps a few folks who inject realism into the debate?

You can shoot me an e-mail for that, too. I’m kicking myself for not trying to get on the docket for 2008.

A quick roll back to the end of December, when a blog post appeared on a leading ed-tech site and summed up the ed-tech attitude better than the treatises that come daily [as Mr. Downes says correctly, the education blogosphere's favorite topic is the education blogosphere. This is truest, I think, for ed-tech].

A teacher asks a common sense question about Web 2.0 in his art classroom – and it elicits outrage. How dare he question the value of technology?

The response, titled “Enough already.” expressed outrage at the stupidity and ignorance of a teacher who has the gall to ask “Why?”:

I’m thoroughly disgusted by this type of question:

How can an art teacher effectively incorporate technology into the classroom beyond photoshop and powerpoint? Is it even necessary for an art classroom to have all of the technological advancements of the modern age? Artists have been doing alright for hundreds of years without all of the computers, so what is the big deal?
Source: Forum – Classroom 2.0 9/12/07 4:01 PM Benjamin Worrell

Technology has changed how we communicate, collaborate, work together. It changes how creative minds feed off each other, increasing the number of connections people are able to make with one another, allowing the spread of ideas and thinking and playing. Imagine what would have happened if The Impressionists–did I mention I hate art?–hadn’t been able to share their ideas with others.

Why do we have to keep asking how technology will change how we approach teaching art or any subject? The fact is, it’s changing how people interact at the most fundamental levels OUTSIDE the classroom…you either use it, or you don’t. If you don’t then what is it about your field that is isolationist, anti-social, and insular? I ask because that’s what you’re choosing to teach.

There…another post about something I know nothing about (ART). Am I way off or what?

Thoroughly disgusted, indeed!

’tis the climate in education technology, folks, and it’s why I don’t go to NECC.

UPDATE at 12.01am EST:

I wanted to reproduce one of my comments below – it touches on one of the themes above.

… I want to talk about the imagery in the unofficial NECC logo [I made certain to include it in the post] and the irony of using that particular imagery. As background:

http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2008/05/23/necc-button-winner-here-for-the-learning-revolution/

We’re coming up on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. It was at those Olympics that Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists silently to indicate solidarity with the black community and black nationalism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_Salute

That image of Smith and Carlos served as the image for the Black Power movement for decades, and it’s still an oft-represented scene. Throw “black power” into Google Images and take a peep:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=black+power&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2

Whatever one thinks of Smith’s and Carlos’s display, Black Power, nationalism, etc., is a non-issue. We can all agree that the symbolism of the fist in the air – the imagery from which that NECC logo of a fist holding a mouse and citing the ‘revolution’ draws – is one of challenge, resilience and struggle.

And it’s that ‘challenge’ bit that causes the ed-tech’ers to squirm, squeal and cry foul when it comes to them. If education technology wants to be taken seriously locally/nationally/internationally, if it wants to command professional respect, it will seek out and encourage challenges to itself.

That’s a far cry from what we’ve currently got – an echo chamber and lip service to ‘challenge’ that only seems to go one way. When you think about it, the irony of using the Smith/Carlos fist is a stark reminder of where education technology is and where it ought to be.

UPDATE at 12.52am EST:

Since the topic at hand is NECC, I thought I’d re-link to my PLN. They are still all the rage, aren’t they?  Anyway…

Someone e-mailed to ask me what exactly ‘twaddle’ meant.

I don’t have OED access anymore – Good Lord, I wish I did – but I think it comes from the obscure/arcane twattle. dictionary.com says that too, but if it’s not the OED, I’m not too interested. Can one of you folks with an academic OED subscription confirm/deny?

The essence of ‘twaddle’ is… something silly, unnecessary, useless, trivial, etc. It’s surprising how many words we have that evoke their meaning when said aloud even if one has never heard that word before.

Say it out loud – twaddle. Doesn’t it sound like something not to be taken seriously?

And, I learned early on that as I trudged through life, I’d need as many variations on the words “nonsense” and “bullshit” as I could find – so I committed ‘twaddle’ to memory.

61 Responses to “A Bit More Education Techno-Twaddle; Why I Avoid NECC, 2008 Edition”

  1. Two reflections so far…
    Yelp or YAWP!
    http://www.mguhlin.net/archives/2008/07/entry_7326.htm

    and

    NECC Grateful
    http://www.mguhlin.net/archives/2008/07/entry_7320.htm

    Thanks for the comment RSS subscribe tip!

    Miguel

  2. Is there an RSS feed for ALL comments left on your blog? That way, folks don’t have to subscribe by post?

    And, could that be added to the RSS Subscription section in the top left sidebar of your blog?

    Thanks,
    Miguel

  3. diane says:

    Matthew,

    For the record, part of my expenses were covered by the company for which I do part-time online editing and facilitating.

    My school district paid for NOTHING, not even my ISTE membership, yet the school and, more importantly, the students will reap many benefits from my attendance at NECC.

    I connected, I shared, I learned I grew as a person and a teacher. All on my own nickel.

  4. Terry,

    We’ve got a public library nearby, but it’s virtually inaccessible in the summer months. Many thousands of people come to Cooperstown to vacation, and a town of 2,000 only has so many parking spaces.

    I’m a casual user of JSTOR and the OED – not enough to justify a subscription, though.

  5. Miguel,

    Good call on the comments feed – I’ll track it down and place it on the sidebar as suggested.

    Thanks for the links to your posts, I’ll follow the discussion as it unfolds.

  6. Diane,

    I’m glad that you were able to draw much from the conference. Like any other conference, some seem to be thrilled with others left wanting – and there’s no doubt that the experience is in large part what you make of it. Hopefully we can do some analysis to figure out how to get more bang for the buck at NECC, especially for those like you who are paying out of their own pocket.

  7. Mathew,
    You might like some of the research I found on why the blind review process tends to favor middle of the road session proposals. It “sounds” fair, but isn’t.

    http://blog.genyes.com/index.php/2008/03/30/conference-20-session-selection/

  8. Lee Kolbert says:

    Matthew,
    I read your post with interest. Never knew you exist and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. :)

    As an edublogger who is just now penetrating the bloggosphere and new to NECC, being in the echo chamber was very interesting to me. Personally, I found quite a bit of diversity in these discussions, but perhaps not enough for your taste. Additionally, when people do share the same passion, what’s wrong with engaging in discussions to try to reach a solution?

    May I respectfully ask this? When you said that you follow people’s Twitter streams, but you don’t Twitter yourself (I think that sounds sort of creepy and hypocritical) but can you explain that further?

    Thanks!
    ~Lee

  9. Lee,

    It’s slightly odd that “respectfully” appears in the same question as “creepy and hypocritical,” but I’ll answer anyway.

    Looking at Twitter exchanges can occasionally give a quick crash-course in conversations that surround a particular issue. Sometimes content on Twitter is far more candid than what people write on their blogs or leave in comments, so a brief rundown of exchanges using http://www.quotably.com can fill me in if I want to grasp the mood/tone of side-channel discussions in the course of 5 minutes.

    That said, there isn’t enough value in Twitter for me to use it actively.

  10. Lee Kolbert says:

    I added “respectfully” because I respect your opinion, what you do and your right to a differing opinion. The “creepy and hypocritical” part was directed towards your actions, not at you.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    ~Lee

  11. Lee,

    For most of us, what we do is who we are.

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