Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reflections on NEIT2009 - Day One

I could hear my heart beating in my chest as I drove up to the Mohonk Mountain House, the site of the NEIT (New York State Association of Independent Schools (N) Education (E) Information (I) Technology (T) conference. I was excited, but also nervous at the end of my 3.5 hour drive. I learned about this conference from the tweets of two independent school educators, Alex Ragone and Arvind Grover, whom I greatly respect, but had never met.

It has been a while since I have attended a conference without knowing lots of people. I remember back to my first Educon 2.0 when my Twitter network first came alive. Since then, most conferences I attend are filled with real life versions of my virtual learning network. At NEIT2009 however, there was only one person at the conference that I had met face to face before, Kerri Richardson. Fortunately, her smiling face was there to meet me at the registration desk when I arrived. And what followed was everything I had hoped for and more.

I have never attended a truly open space conference. Edubloggercon is sort of open space, but many of the sessions are posted on the wiki before the conference. Not so at NEIT where the conference built itself as it went. But first, Siva Vaidhyanathan kicked the conference off with his Keynote, The Googlization of Everything.

The message I took away from Siva’s talk is that we can’t stop questioning the corporations that surround us. As Siva put it, “Google has been around for less time than Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married. Why should we trust them?” We might love Google and what it does for us, but we have to remember that we are not actually Google’s customers, we don’t pay Google anything, we are Google's products. We provide the data that feeds their advertisers. This doesn’t mean that Google is bad, but just that we have to be careful not to get drink the Google Koolaid without also checking to see if it has been spiked.

Next we started the open space portion of the conference. Here people were given blank pieces of paper and markers. People interested in presenting sessions wrote down the name of their session on the paper, announced it to the group and then posted it on the session board. When we began the board had 70 of blank spots. By the end of the conference all but 7 were filled.

After a lovely tea and cookies break, we had our first session. I attended one on problem based learning. Michelle Koetke facilitated this session. She shared a project that she had done with her students on the Images of Girls Online. I learned from this session that an excellent project is driven by an authentic real question. If the question is real enough, the students will drive the project themselves. I think the hardest part is figuring out the best question. That is what I still struggle with. Does anyone have any suggestions for ways to come up with good questions?

More on day 2 of the conference in my next post...

Image Sources:
DSCF7594 from musicanys' photostream on Flickr

"How to Rawk NEIT2009" with Alex and Arvind
from SpecialKRB's photostream on Flickr

IMG_8314 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
IMG_7909 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
IMG_8372 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
2009-11-11-Mohonk 091 from alex.ragone's photostream on Flickr

DSCF7697 from musicanys' photostream on Flickr
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