Updated with Photos
By all rights, this should be a series of 4 or 5 blog articles. Instead, I’m going to make the classic blogging mistake and cram it all into one post. But I had so many fantastic experiences at FETC that crossed over so many lines, I don’t think I could seperate them if I tried.
My Florida trip began with a preconference event organized by Karen Seddon and Danielle Abernethy, the DEN regional managers for Florida. Since it’s spring training time in Florida, the theme of the event was baseball. I was the ‘top of the ninth’ so I had some time to actually attend a few of the workshops and snap some photos of the event. The day began with a welcome from Executive Vice President, Ron Reed. He definitely set the tone for the day. Afterwards, we split up into three blocks of concurrent sessions. There were a total of about 6 or 7 to choose from, covering Inspiration, Google Earth, unitedstreaming, iMovie and much much more. Some were presented by other DEN regional managers, while others were presented by teachers from the Florida area. Scott posted more details at the DEN National blog. After lunch, the implementation team answered some questions and Shelley from product development gave everyone a sneak peak into the future of unitedstreaming. After a quick break for peanuts and cracker jacks, I spent half an hour sharing the new Discovery Educator Network website and telling everybody about Discovery Educator Abroad. Lots of good buzz there, people seemed real excited about the possibilities there.
What blows me away is that what I just described was a 100% free full day of professional development for 100 teachers in Florida. That’s why I love working for Discovery. What other company really GETS what it’s like to be a teacher and provides support like this for their products? If there’s another company doing it to this extent, I haven’t heard of them.
After leaving the preconference event, I spent some time in the Discovery booth and then met up with David Warlick, Will Richardson and Rob, one of Will’s co-workers. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then rushed off to make sure we could get seats to Apple’s Podcast Palooza. We all remembered what it was like at NECC, when the line continued on for as far as the eye could see, so we wanted to get there early. Turned out we didn’t need to. There was great energy in the room, and there were definitely plenty of people there, but they didn’t come close to filling the room. Will kept leaning in to me and saying, "Well, you were around when podcasting began and looks like you’re here to see the beginning of the end!" Sorry Will, but I don’t think podcasting is going anywhere anytime soon! As he pointed out on weblogg-ed, "There must be at least 134 sessions on podcasting…" Tim Wilson was the one doing the presenting and he had a smooth informative session. Obviously, like all ADE’s, he used Keynote instead of PowerPoint. Aesthetically, gotta admit that Keynote makes things look pretty! But he definitely followed my own style of presenting. Let the stuff on the screen serve as background and keep the audience attention on you. If there’s something important to say, say it. But don’t force people to split their attention. He included some great suggestions for incorporating podcasts in the school environment as well. Tim wrote about the session here, and also provides links to listen to the entire presentaiton, which was recorded of course. Warlick did quite a few informal interviews before the presentation and came to an interesting conclusion. While there were fewer people attending the session than we would have expected, one the whole they were a very educated group when it came to podcasting. The majority of the people he spoke to not only knew what a podcast was and had listened to a few, many had created their own already.That’s always encouraging. It’s not that I think everybody must be podcasting, but the more people taking chances and experimenting with new technologies and evaluating their educational use, the better.
The next day began having breakfast with Warlick and Scott. Turns out that David is going to be doing some presentations for the DEN Regional Institutes. You can read more about them at the link, but suffice to say that they are free regional institutes over the summer that are going to have the likes of Hall Davidson, David Warlick and Will Richardson presenting at them. As Wesley Fryer says, "Anytime innovative and passionate educators get together to learn at events like this, it’s bound to be worthwhile!"
Immediately following breakfast, I raced to find an internet connection because there was going to be a live videoconference between Josh Wolff, our Discovery Educator Abroad, and a school in DC. Josh stayed up until 1:00am in Sydney so he could share some of his experiences with the stTeach42 – Education and Technology, by Steve Dembo › Create New Post — WordPressudents in Mrs. Reynold’s class. Everything worked perfectly and they had an incredible conversation despite a few thousand miles seperating them. Josh shared some stories, answered questions and got some feedback about things for him to research. He blogged about it the next morning as well. Such a fun project to be a part of.
From there, I raced back to the Discovery booth to spend half an hour sharing DiscoveryEducatorNetwork.com. What always amazes me is how many people stop by the booth, not to find out more infomration about our products or to ask about pricing or even to ask for help. The majority of the people that I spoke to stopped by just to say how much they loved unitedstreaming and how much it brings classroom experiences alive for their students. I know it sounds like I’m just plugging the company, but it’s so true it’s almost spooky.
After a little booth duty, Scott, Betsy and I raced across the street to a luncheon hosted by eSchool News to celebrate the four winners of their Best of Education Blogs awards. I had the honor of hosting a little panel discussion with Wesley Fryer, Frank LaBanca, Sara Mead and Bill MacKenty. What I really loved about the discussion was that they all came from such different perspectives. From a EduPolitical blog to educational theory, to classroom perspectives, to just partical blogging with students, the winners really reprsented the multitude of ways that blogging can be used in education. You can read more about the discussion at eSchool,or Moving at the Speed of Creativity, but I think Scott summed it up pretty well when he said, "this brief 30 minute discussion may have been the best professional development experience I have had in years." ’nuff said. They did video tape the entire thing, hopefully they’ll get it cut and published soon.
After getting a little bit of work done in the lobby of the hotel, I joined Will, Tim and Steve Burt (virtually) for the next episode of EdTech Coast To Coast. We had a nice conversation about the usual sorts of stuff: EdTech, where’s it going and what should we be doing about it? I say the usual stuff, but every time we talk about it, I always feel like we’re getting just a little closer to figuring out some answers. If the solutions were easy, then there wouldn’t be much to talk about. It really made me realize just how much I miss podcasting. I gotta get something published soon. Good time, good conversation.
As soon as they stopped recording, I sprinted downstairs and hitched a ride to the Dixie Crossroads where we were hosting a DEN dinner. It was to celebrate FETC, as well as honor the blog award winners. Frank and Wes came by, as well as a few surprises. Tim and Will came by, but the big surprise to me was Dean Shareski, who blogs at Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech. I’ve been a big fan of his work for quite a while now. The theme for the night was to spend some time casually chatting, but also learning from each other, and there was PLENTY of that going on. I saw Will, Tim and Dean break out the recorder and pass it around, which means something good was going on down there! I chatting with Dawn Strunk, Frank and a few other Discovery Educators. I spent a little bit of time explaining to the group what RSS was and what an aggregator was. It blew me away that Frank, an amazing blogger who was doing extremely innovative stuff with blogs and students, had never heard of an aggregator. Seems crazy to me, but the point is that you don’t need to be a complete blogging geek to make great educational use of the tool. One thing I found extremely comical was that everyone in the group was what I would consider pretty high tech, but we all had a piece of paper in front of us and were frantically scribbling down notes of things we wanted to look into later. We got a few nice photos of us with all of our low tech notes. Good thing pencils haven’t been banned yet. You can read more about the event here, here and here.
That was about it for me. Two days were busy enough to last an entire week. Honestly though, it was probably the most stimulating few days I’ve had in quite a while. Lots of great conversations, lots of learning, lots of sharing, and best of all, lots of connecting face to face with other passionate educators. That’s what it’s all about when you get down to it.
I want to throw out major kudos to Karen and Danielle. They really kicked off the DEN in Florida with a bang. To cheesily go along with the baseball theme from the preconference event, they hit a grand slam. Now I just need a week off to assimiliate it all!
If you actually read through this entire blog post, leave a comment for me letting me know. Every person that comments will get a shout out in my next podcast. It’s coming soon, I swear! Seriously! It is! Stop laughing! I mean it!