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!