Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is the world really flat?

I realize that there are a TON of very well written blog posts on Thomas Friedman's Book, "The World is Flat," and that I myself have written about it on a few occasions, but a recent incident have brought the idea back in my mind

At the beginning of this month I attended the NCETC conference, with Jim Moulton as the keynote speaker. Moulton had a good deal to speak about the flat world, and more specifically about his recent trip to China. I also had the opportunity to talk with him throughout the conference (thanks to the intro from Eric & Keith). When I introduced my husband to him, it was interesting to see some ideas converge.

You see my husband, Brent, is in textiles. Textiles are the classic example of cheap labor going oversees taking away American jobs. Almost every mill Brent has ever worked for has either moved overseas, or simply gone out of business. Now he has traveled extensively and worked overseas quite a bit, especially in Asia. But what intrigued Mr. Moulton the most (and of course me) was Brent's explanation for why he still has a job in textiles.

"Although the mills themselves (and not all of them mind you) may have gone overseas, most of the Research & Development has not. The thinkers are staying here."

This got Jim very excited, for one of the points he made (I believe in his keynote, but possibly somewhere else) was that several of the countries America is competing with are not trying to create thinkers, but create doers. Ironically, I find that most of our own education system was once built upon the same principles, and unfortunately has no changed much.

But at the same time this concept of history, of ebb and flow, of how careers and jobs constantly change, reminds me of how fluid we truly need education to be. That we need to think of educating our students not for a final destination, but a starting point from which to grow upon.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a flat world, some days I know I am.

Personal Mentors

One of the things I love to do (and always pray that it works) when I teach about PLNs is to call out to the audience and got to their favorite website, find the RSS feed and subscribe to it in my Google Reader. It is a neat little "parlor trick", but it really does illustrate how fast and easy this is. One of the byproducts of this demo is the fact that I end up with new subscriptions in my RSS feed. Now not everything in my Google Reader pertains to education (shocking I know), but I have good deal of blogs on Art & Quilting as well as on Technology. I've been a Boing Boing fan for years, but recently (thanks to a volunteering audience member) I was turned onto Lifehacker. Lifehacker is not just technology based (just like Boing Boing isn't), and I recently came across a great article on Professional Development How to Get the Right People on Your Team.

When you get that urge to start making some changes in your professional life, do yourself a favor and build in a network of support. If you’re not ready to hire a professional coach, then get yourself someone who will help keep you accountable to set and hold to your new goals. This new model of peer-to-peer coaching is priceless

The article is about building a support network for professional growth - sounds like a Personal Learning Network to me!

It even starts with creating a Mind Map (my how educational of you), of the people that influence you. Dream big and add those authors that influence how you think of things, and practical by remembering those that help you everyday.

But it gets better - see this as a peer-to-peer personalized coaching program. You each take turns being a "mentor" to each other. See Womack's checklist:

  • Create your inventory of names of people to work with
  • Ask people until you find someone who’s excited to work with you
  • Write down three to ten questions you want to be asked each session
  • Create a schedule: what day/time you’ll talk and how long each session is (ie, how many weeks/months per person)
  • Get your technology in place: sign up for Skype or create a speed dial entry on your cellphone
  • Organize a place to track results: create a folder, spreadsheet, or even an online survey
  • Dream big. Imagine the life you’d like to be living and design the questions that will guide you to making that your reality.
I hope to get my mind map up here soon. This reminds me so much of the mentoring process I experienced as a first-year teacher by one of my favorite people in the world - Susan Lobasso. I would never have survived without that support, and why can't I have it all the time!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Conference Blogging

As much as I love to blog during a conference, I am at a loss over how to do it well. There are many options out there:

  1. Compose a blog post while you are in attendance - these tend to be a bit, well, long winded. Sometimes they make sense, but often times they don't. David Warlick & Wes Fryer are big fans of this technique.
  2. Use a Live blogging tool like Cover it live. Alice Mercer is one of the first I had seen use this tool. Cindy Phthstic used it at the last conference I attended - NCETC. This has been my favorite tool, it make more sense when you read it afterwards, and is easy to do at the time.
  3. My new favorite way to cover a conference is illustrated by Dan Meyer. Now granted he is a bit more critical of presenters than I feel comfortable being, but I like the concept of organizing your thoughts. His blog post is more a review of the session with the following sections: Session Title, Better Session Title, Presenter, Narrative, Visuals, Handouts, & Homeless.
I think I'll try out Dan's technique at the next conference I attend (if there is actual travel money next semester). I hope it will help me organize my thoughts a bit better.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NCETC Reflections

I've been attending NCETC for several years now, as one of the two NC-based tech conferences. Its hard for me to say this, but I just didn't get as much out of this conference as I have in the past. Maybe it's because I presented so much, I never got to any sessions, or maybe the bar has been set so high by NECC, its hard to compare anything to it. I felt like I was doing some of the smae old things - there seemed to be no energy and I felt like I was floundering. Everyone was nice enough to say I presented well, but I just didn't feel like I was with it. It is such a stark contrast to the euphoric high I felt a few weeks ago at MEGA, that I am at a loss to describe why.

However, the best part of this conference was getting to connect with those that I have only met briefly or know virtually. In the past I have traveled to this conference with a group of people I know, and everything is coordinated. This time I really was on my own and enjoyed the flexibility. I got a chance to really get to know Eric Cole & Keith Ledford from McDowell County, whom I met last year at NCETC, and have kept up with via twitter. I got to hang out with Cindy Phthisic (misstizzy to you :) - not as much as I wanted to - and meet Sarah Hanawald. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed meeting and connecting with people at NECC. I mean I could have stayed in my hotel room, cozied up with the TV and some much needed peace and quiet, but what MADE this conference for me were the connections, and I hope I made a few more.

To top that off, this afternoon my advisior and I were able to weedle our way in ;) to having lunch with Jim Moulton and David Warlick. Eric & Keith introduced me to Jim after their pre-conference workshop session with him, and I was so impressed with how to down to earth and excited he was about education, and how technology can enhance it. I enjoyed getting a chance to talk to him throughout the conference and was excited about talking with him more. I always enjoy talking with David Warlick and it seems we always seem to meet quite fortuitously :) Sometimes I get so excited about talking about this education, that you just can't shut me up. But hey, that is what made me a teacher in the first place right?

All in all, it was the people that made this conference for me. I hope to have the opportunity to meet so many more and continue to add some face time to my online network.