Sunday, July 05, 2009

Am I a SWAG Hag?

Definition: SWAG hag - a person that only goes to the vendors to get SWAG ("Stuff We All Get").

Picture Credit: The MiScope by NUMBER ONE piece of SWAG and the coooooooolest product demo ever.

Visiting the vendors at NECC was lots of fun. The nerd inside actually went through the program in advance and marked off vendors that had goods that I am interested in learning more about (clickers, wireless, etc.). Since I am always on the hunt for cool things for the faculty and students at Hotchkiss, I expand my search to things for science, math, and other disciplines.

So, what about SWAG? I have to admit...I LOVE SWAG! It might just be a function of having a 6 and 7 year old that love little trinkets. might be that our suitcase ripped and all of Dave's shirts got milkshake spilled on them, so earning tee shirts was a solution to a potentially expensive problem.

But, does SWAG make me think better about a company?

The reasonable girl in me says that if a company is sporting expensive SWAG, they have to jack up the prices of their products to cover the costs of the SWAG. Little staplers can not possibly be cheap.

But, as Elvis dazzled me and I had a shiny new iPod shuffle in my pocket, I wondered how much of a SWAG hag I really was...and if my inner Hag would win over the practical girl we all know and (hopefully) love.

I have about 4 bags full of SWAG. To help Dave out, I sat through 5 presentations to get him tee shirts, but, ethically, I would only sit through presentations of products I was interested in learning about (clickers, mostly). We have one set of Turning Point clickers, but I wanted to learn more about them and their competitors. Since I am a SMART fan (LOVE LOVE LOVE their products), I did get myself a SMART shirt so people would know my genius before speaking to me (har). Office Depot (Tech Depot) will be remembered because they gave out those little extender USB thingers that I desperately needed for my Mac. Aruba Networks sent me a little coin in advance of the conference, and when I turned it in with the card, I received an iPod Shuffle. Now, I had no idea what Aruba did, but I am much more likely to remember that they can provide a wireless solution to Hotchkiss because our car rides are now quiet as my son listens to his favorite tunes on his little Shuffle. And, I am eager to pass along their information to our IT department because they made such an effort to contact me. The SWAG I loved most was from Zarbeco. They gave out these little bugs in plastic that can be used with these UBER COOL hand held microscopes. Honestly, I am buying one just for myself because they are so uber cool. And, truly, I probably would not have stopped at this little vendor if I had not spotted the little bug thingies. After chatting for a half hour and playing with these mics, I am totally recommending that our science department buy them. So, in this case, yet again, SWAG brought me in...and SWAG helped me to see something I wouldn't have seen.

In other cases, it just wouldn't matter what they gave out. For example, I am a Google fan, so it doesn't matter that they handed out uber cool slinkies. They were great hits with my kids, but I would still love Google anyway. And, while I wanted a coveted SMART shirt, I love their stuff regardless of the tee shirt. PBS Kids, too, had great SWAG. They gave out little notebooks that I am using for Geocaching. But, again, I am already a fan of all of their work. Scholastic also had great prizes, and I won a Clifford the Dog USB. But, I loved them, too, without the little prize.

So, am I SWAG hag? Probably.

Even though it isn't important in the end, clever SWAG will get me to stop at your stand. Things like sticky pads and pens just won't do have to sport little staplers, plastic buggies, or USB port thingers. If you are going to bother to do SWAG, make sure it is cool and different. But, don't worry, in the end, it is your product, not the SWAG, that will get my endorsement :-)


Friday, July 03, 2009

NECC Reflections: The Good, The Bad, and The Untouchables

I just returned from the best conference I have ever attended (and I have been to a LOT of really great conferences!). ISTE's NECC conference is, by far, the best out there. I learned so much, and was able to meet some of the coolest people EVER - Mitchel Reznek from MIT and Alice Christie of Geocaching fame (to name just a few). I also had the chance to meet some buddies from Second Life!

But, I am an uber nerd, so I wanted to use my time to learn about concepts that would be useful to the teachers and students here at Hotchkiss. And, as much as I would have LOVED to play with SL in the SL lounge, I never actually made it there! I was off learning about how to use NASA's tools and MIT's Scratch Ed and the Library of Congress and US National Archives and these cool funky microscopes that are TOTALLY rockin. I spent some time at the vendors, but didn't even get 1/3 of the way through the 5 football fields worth of them. I listened to my favorite speaker in all of Christendom (well one of them), Alan November, while volunteering as a NECC "Ask Me" person.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED the poster sessions the most. I learned all sorts of things and gathered ideas to share with my colleagues at Hotchkiss. The student presentations were just fabulous, and it was great to see teenagers all engaged by teaching drooling adults! I did a poster session for the first time, too, and OMG, they are a bit harder than straight presentations! They are longer, for one, and my booth was busy from start to finish. This very sweet woman came to meet me, and she says she follows the blog, and it was such an honor to meet her and to hear how much she appreciates the work we do at Literature Alive! Truly, Eloise and I don't get a paycheck from our work with Lit Alive! so it always helps to know that people appreciate the work we do in SL. It was just so great to meet her!

There wasn't much I didn't like about the conference itself; it is REALLY well organized. The conference committee needs a totally huge medal and fully stocked bar, as they did a tremendous job putting it all together. The convention center in DC is nice, but the food was expensive and crappy.

There was only one thing that really put me off, though, and it has little to do with the conference itself. I have heard echoes of this in other blogs about how the "in crowd" is really kinda snooty. There is a group of EduTechPeeps (for lack of a better label), that think that their words, their blogs, their "projects", are the best out there, and they spend all their time talking about how great they are and how important they are, and they don't spend any time listening to other really great (but unknown) peeps, and they certainly don't pause for 12 seconds to offer friendly advice or mentoring. Sadly, I saw it over and over as people tried to introduce themselves to the self-appointed "Masters" and were given the cold shoulder-nod thing. PUHHHHHLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE. Rebel me...I didn't even bother. I have read their blogs and tweets, and, trust me, they are only interested in hearing themselves pontificate. They couldn't hear you if you were playing a bass drum AND a stand of pipes. They can only hear the clamour of their puffed up egos.

The bottom line is students. Period. If there is too much ME ME ME going on, no one is worrying about what the students are learning. I simply walk away and find the people who are saying THEM THEM THEM. Take up your hiking stick, and join the trek!