Saturday, July 18, 2009

Finally - My Thoughts On NECC

So, this was my second NECC - the first one was in 2004 in New Orleans. I came away from Washington DC exhausted, but ultimately, exhilarated, although it took awhile to feel the exhilaration. I jumped right into teaching a graduate five day intensive course, and really did not have time to reflect on the conference until now.

The good (and often fabulous):

Library Tools Smackdown from abrusca on Comiqs
  • Meeting up with and enjoying time with some GCTs - got to say hi to Mark Wagner, enjoyed meeting Melanie Sutherland Holtsman, Martha Thornburgh and just loved hanging out with Rushton Hurley. Wish there were more GCTs at the Birds of a Feather!
  • David Loertscher's presentation at the SIGMedia Forum really got my wheels spinning about creating a Virtual Learning Commons. In a week or so, I am meeting up with my fellow district librarian (and good friend) Anne Brusca, to revamp our library sites and make one VLC for all of the elementary school libraries. I am very excited about this, I have been moving in that direction for awhile now, but I think now I am equipped to 'get it right'.
  • Steve Dembo's Favorite 10 Tools Session was also really good. I was starting to have the feeling at NECC that all of the sessions I went to were not telling me anything I didn't already know. Steve, however, always has something new and interesting to share - plus, he shares how to get use out of the tool. I've seen Steve a couple of times, he is always engaging to watch.
  • Meeting three new educators on the shuttle bus back to my hotel and having an impromptu dinner with them...the power of NECC.
  • Meeting and talking to Wesley Fryer, a person who initially influenced me to start digging into digital storytelling and who commented at length on my students' voicethread project.
  • Going to the keynote, receiving my award, but more than that, listening to a fascinating debate with Gary Stager about if schools need bricks and mortar.
  • Finally, getting to hang out with a great group of educators who were completing their masters degrees in educational technology. It was so much fun to be with them not as their professor, but as their friend. A lot of laughs and great discussions.
The Bad:
  • Walking out of at least 3 sessions (sorry!) because I already knew the stuff. I went to one which sounded promising, Electronic Constructivism, but when the presenter started explaining what a blog was, I had to shut my laptop and leave.
  • Speaking of laptops, I wish I had a netbook, my laptop weighed a ton!
  • Getting shut out of sessions because they were full. Missed a lot of good ones.
  • Not having enough money to get to DC early enough to go to Edubloggers or the Constructivist Consortium or to spend any time actually seeing Washington DC! This is the third time I have been to Washington without seeing anything but a hotel, some restaurants and a convention center!!
  • OK, on a personal note, and one you certainly could care less about, seeing my PR photos from NECC and realizing how much weight I have put on!! Ugh!
Best of all, I came away from NECC more invested in my librarian PLN, and with renewed enthusiasm to immerse myself in my field of study. I rejoined ALA and AASL and want to focus this coming school year on all things library. The past two years I was adjuncting in ed tech, which was fantastic, but now I (hope) I have more time to really invest my energy into my library media center and my library community.

The other thing I came away with is a lot of "been there, done that" feelings about the sessions I attended; it even made me wonder was it worth the huge expense to go to NECC and feel disappointed? I have read on other blogs that the best part of NECC is the discussions that go on when finally meeting your PLN face to face. And for the most part, I agree. On the other hand, I can talk to my PLN online whenever I want to through Twitter and Facebook and other Social Networking Tools.... so does it justify spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to physically attend? I'm not particularly advocating for online conferences; I love the social interaction, I mostly enjoyed the keynotes, and I did enjoy listening to people like Bernie Dodge and getting to actually converse with him. The vendor area was eh, most of the sales hawks looked bored. But the cost to attend these things is high! I need to justify in my mind that is perfectly OK to spend upwards of $800 on a conference instead of putting it towards my kids' college tuition or other bills. I was lucky, I had some award money and district funding to defray the cost this time, but that is not going to happen in the future. Denver?? No way. Hey, ISTE, have you considered NYC for 2011?

Not sure what the answer is...what do YOU think?