NECC 2008 was my first time at the big show and everything I was exposed to was the possibilities of what students could do with access and the right tool. That conference along with the DEN National Institute was my driving force for the entire school year. I was absolutely amazed at the power of Web 2.o and how it gave my students a voice that most of us don't see in textbook assignments, homework, and tests. There was a new excitement in the computer lab and students wanted to produce the best work possible. For me it was a lot of work to keep up with them and to provide the tools they needed to fulfill their visions. It was a rough, but satisfying year as a teacher.
NECC 2009 seemed to be built on this idea that teachers need to take steps to reform, refine, and renew. Starting off with Gladwell's keynote address centered around Fleetwood Mac taking 16 albums to develop a sound and a band that was a success. The debate ending in the idea that students need a place to come together to learn, but that the current brick & mortar schools are going to have to change to meet students' needs. This push for teachers to develop a PLN to really learn from others and stretch their own possibilities. While Web 2.0 was still a big topic, the focus shifted to what types of materials could teachers create with the same tools. Other sessions showed the need to develop projects that were more challenging and that could be on a larger scale through collaboration with other classrooms, schools, or countries. Those teachers that couldn't find what they needed in the sessions took the time to find others to discuss their dilemmas and build solutions.
As I sat in that Panera cafe with my colleague planning out the day's activities, I realized how much NECC 2009 had an influence on me. Instead of jamming in as many tools as possible, the focus is about teachers having the time to play and build. I was able to step away from my methods of learning and really reflect on what my building needs to grow. My hope is that this PD opportunity will be a day that will lead teachers on a path to want to learn more. I am already at work to build a support system to where the teachers will not fill overwhelmed and give up. With any luck, this will bring about as much change to the teachers in this coming year as it did for students last year. Of course you will know the results right here.
Lastly, I wanted to say THANKS to those that made my NECC experience worthwhile. To my growing PLN, thanks for all of the ideas and getting me through the school year where sometimes it seems lonely when there is no one to collaborate with on technology use in the classroom. Thanks to Bernie Dodge for developing the place puzzle concept, my AHA moment of the conference. I will definitely be working on building one soon! Thanks to my district, there are some great people working behind the scenes that provide the access and freedom needed for teachers to grow. Thanks to those who developed Tweetdeck, because it allowed me to get a bigger view of the entire conference no matter where I was located. Final thanks goes to Twitter for not crashing like it did during NECC '08.