In the style of "release early release often" and "perfect == good.enemy()" we bring you this totally unedited, rapidly typed post, because I need sleep.
This was the late-night idea. Results forthcoming. Traffic not as good as hoped, but it did meet our primary criteria of "hey, we need a way to meet people!" (In other words, we were so busy talking to people that we didn't have time to constantly man #neccwall. This is good.)
Manned the Sugar Labs booth for a bit; had a good conversation with Scott Bullock on how engineers interested in education tend to make things for the kids they used to be (a tiny minority) and the problem of how to reach the rest.
Stopped by and talked with teachers who had gotten HP tablet PC grants. An Arkansas school had children annotate photographs with geometric drawings ("This sunflower exhibits symmetry over this line! *drawdraw*"). I asked if it was far more engaging to do that than to print out the picture and hand the kid a marker. They said yes, but didn't know why - I wonder how much "technology helps students!" is attributable to students being excited by shiny new things, how much is due to the self-selecting nature of teachers willing to experiment with new tech (they'd tend to be the more adventuresome, dynamic ones even without "technology"), and how much the design and enablements of technology actually chips in to "increased performance."
Another note: as an engineer, I'm used to being able to think about the "perfect" solution and then take the time to build it. Most teachers can't do that; they don't have the skills or time to create much in the way of new things (said the Arkansas teachers). You look around and see what's on the shelf and do something with it. You don't waste time thinking of things to build from scratch because you'll never have the resources.
Then there was the Mt. Vernon high school that had gotten tablet PCs for their teachers. They didn't have them for students; maybe 50% of their students had computer access at home. One of the teachers mentioned that he'd done his student teaching in a neighborhood with much more computer access, where you could actually email the students files and expect all of them to be able to print them out and bring them in the next day - this was a very different situation. Computers are expensive.
They were so proud that they had moved to using Powerpoint for classes. "The students love it," they said. "Some teachers don't have good handwriting... and this way it's clear what they have to study [by memorization]... if they're absent, they can watch the video at home without having to come to class and talk with the teacher..."
I... have conflicting feelings about this. On the one hand, they're doing the best they can with a difficult situation. On the other hand, this is an incremental improvement down a road I don't agree with (drill and kill, turning learners into automatons and using technology to script away human interaction). But to overturn such a difficult situation would be extremely difficult, so maybe this is the best that they can do.
Overheard amusing conversation: "Municipal wifi? Won't that spread all sorts of viruses around?"
There is a film titled "Autism: The Musical." It is a documentary of an acting teacher coaching 5 autistic children to perform a musical, and looks intriguing.
The exhibit hall is HUGE.
These notes take me nearly to lunchtime on Monday. I will have to finish them tomorrow.
If I were making NECC bingo cards, they would have the following words: collaboration, sharing, management (as in "classroom managment" - this bothers me, as if children were an industrial process that we need to keep in line), problem-solving, 21st century learners, integrative, accountability, standards, immersive, constructionist, community, reaching-outside-the-classroom-walls, rigorious, standards, innovate.
There's power and honesty here. There's also a lot of thin glossy washes of sounding-good - educators aren't in particular positions of power, nor are the kids they teach, and both have (as people in those situations tend to do) become extremely good at giving the answers that those in power like to hear. You can see that gloss occasionally washing over someone's passion - projects designed so that the outcome is in ready-made press-release format, obligatory scatterings of buzzwords (you know what? I will make that bingo card) but it gives me heart that oftentimes the fire will break through. The best thing I can do, I think, is be on fire myself these next two days so that nobody else will be the only one outside their comfort zone.
Speaking of fire, I've got a low-grade fever - my immune system has decided that DC is full of allergens that it must FIGHT! NOW! so I'm going to sleep and write the remainder of Monday's notes tomorrow.