Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NECC in Review

Had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Educators Computing Conference this week. My original plan was to blog every day, but I tell you, it was busy. I barely had time to tweet! So, my plan is to sum it all up in one post without making it too long and boring!

Keep in mind, this post will not all be about learning. I like to talk about a little of everything including the restaurants, so enjoy! Hopefully it will give you some thoughts for the trip to Colorado!


Before I even started packing, I attended a session with NECC Pros at DEN SL and ISTE SL. Both of those sessions gave me great packing tips (wear comfy shoes, pack a power strip, bring an umbrella, etc). I took most of those tips and used little of them in the end. Probably the biggest thing I needed was a super charge for my blackberry. I had to charge that thing constantly! The internet service at the convention center left much to be desired, so after day one, I quit carrying my laptop. I also went out an bought a backpack as I tend to have back issues when carrying around a bag all day. Turned out that a backpack does the same, so in the end, I used a small tote bag and just carried less. This is really just personal preference, but wanted to share my experience. You don't really have to carry all of that stuff around! It was hard for me to let go at first, but in the end, it was a good idea.

Day One: Edubloggercon (Saturday)

I arrived super early on day one-my flight landed on time at 7am, hopped a cab to the hotel, dropped off my bags and immediately headed to the convention center. I wasn't sure what to expect with edubloggercon. Yes, I had heard a lot about it and had looked at the webpage, but still didn't totally understand what it would involve. The first part of the morning was dedicated to connecting with friends. I spent some time chatting with a few that I hadn't seen in a while and some that I had never met face to face. It was nice to allow this time as I knew so many that I wanted to meet. After that came my favorite part of the entire conference: the smackdown. This involved several edubloggercon attendees from all walks of life walking up to the stage and sharing something they knew was worth sharing. It started out that htey had 3 minutes each and as time passed, it went down to 30 seconds (because there were so many volunteers). This was perfect for me-quick looks at neat websites, gadgets, etc. I do something similar tot his with my technology minute at school so it was exciting to see it on a little different level.

After the smackdown, we did breakout sessions on various topics, I went to one on ipods and one on google apps. A large group of us went to lunch together at RFD and shared more ideas, then there was also an after party to connect even more with the people you had met throughout the day. This was a very well planned event and my favorite of the entire 5 days.

Day 2: A little Down Time (Sunday)

This day didn't have a lot going on-especially in the morning, so it was a great opportunity to do some sight seeing. Headed over to the mall with a friend, enjoyed a wonderful day seeing the attractions and then headed back so we could attend the Second Life Meet and Greet. This was so much fun as it was the first time meeting many of the people I talk to on a regular basis in second life. After the meet and greet, we all headed up to the keynote. I only made it through the opening stuff (preview of the new electric company and the conference opening) before my phone started to die. I had great conversations going on through IM on that phone so I opted to go back and charge it so I would have it for the rest of the evening. Turned out to be a good plan, but I know I missed a great keynote speaker.

We had dinner at a lovely irish pub with fantastic food. We started with 2 people and ended up with 5 so it was fantastic conversation and an asbolutely wonderful time. Great end to the day and one of my favorite (if not my favorite) places to eat during the trip.

Day 3: The beginning (Monday)

Yes, it was day three and only the beginning! I was already tired! I got up and headed to the conference center for the first day of sessions.

I attended a session on building leadership which happened to be given by a person whose hotel room I tried to break into (accidentally) the day before! I already had it on my list to attend, but after having met her, I decided that I definitely needed to go! She shared many great ideas about leadership and focused on it being a way of life, not a position that you hold. I liked this and since I was reading the book Building the Bridge As You Walk On It, I found that many of the things she said were related to my current thoughts. I'm hoping she'll post her presentation soon as it had many great quotes and tips for building leadership.

We had tapas for lunch at La Tasca (the first time for everyone in our group). What a fantastic way to share a lunch with friends! Highly recommend the experience to anyone dining in a group. We had the most fun trying new foods and sharing stories.

After lunch, we all headed over to the poster session area to support our friend, Andy, in his presentation on Virtual Pioneers. We are all members of the organization and Andy is a great friend of ours so seeing the excitement for the program and watching his presentation was awesome. Virtual Pioneers is an organization within Second Life for expanding professional development opportunities for social studies teachers. More information about it can be found at the links above.

My next stop was the Birds of a Feather session on ipods. This was my first BOF session and wasn't sure what to expect. We divided into interest groups in the beginning and discussed ideas for using ipods in the classroom, writing grants for funding, etc. Then, some of the people running the session shared their use of ipods, ways to enhance their use in the classroom, etc. Scott Meech shared a great resource he is workign on called IEAR. I encourage you to check this site out if you are interested in using ipods/iphones at all. I enjoyed this session even though I was so tired I could hardly pay attention. I ended up heading back to the hotel for a quick nap as I knew the night was full of more activities.

This evening was full of parties!! We first started at the volunteer's reception which was held at the convention center. The music was absolutely fantastic and my friend Massimo won a year of webinars! Had a lot of fun talking with people there, but then we were quickly off to the tweetup. This one was in a true bar. By the time we got there, the free tab was already gone, so we stayed for one drink, some mingling and then headed to a late dinner. By this time we were all starving so we ate at an italian restaurant across the street. Again, just have to say how cool it is to spend time with friends that I've known so well in Second Life, but have never met. This night was just so much fun!

Day 4: Slowing down (Tuesday)

You can tell everyone is slowing down just a bit today. Everyone is mentally and physically tired. I actually slept way too late this day and got a late start. I was volunteering at the second life playground so I headed straight there. Had so much fun helping a couple of the new folks. It's fun helping someone get started in SL, but helping them in RL do the same thing is really cool!

After volunteering I headed up to Leslie Fishers presentation on ipods and iphones. I've seen this presentation before (with a few differences) but I knew I had to see it again because my thoughts had changed and some things had also changed in the ipod world since I attended the last one. She does a fantastic job at sharing new and exciting apps available. You can find her presentation on her webpage. I encourage everyone to check it out as she shares many apps that are fantastic.

For lunch we headed to China town and had dim sum. I was a bit skeptical about this, but it turned out to be wonderful. It's similar to tapas, but with chinese food. We ordered lots of different things and tried them all. Lots of fun and a few new friends came along for this one so it was great getting to know them as well.

Spent a little time at the Second Life playground which has served as a bit of a home base for me on this trip. I checked in there a few times a day and usually started there in the morning. Several of us then headed to Peggy Sheehy's presentation on Ramapo Islands which was absolutely fantastic. Peggy is a gem to the second life educational community and I feel so honored to know and work with her. The work she has done with her district is phenomenal and if you ever have a chance to hear her speak in RL or in SL, you should jump at the opportunity. Read more about her projects on her blog.

We headed to Legal Seafood for dinner tonight, knowing it was our last dinner with our usual group. We lived it up and had a ton of fun again. I had to leave pretty quickly for an event by the new CRSTE group, so we headed out, said our goodbye's and I headed to the museum of history for a party. CRSTE, I learned, was just started the week of NECC and includes several states around NC as a way to build friendships with surrounding states and share information with each other. This organization stands for much of what I believe in as an ed-tech person. As soon as I heard the background of why they got started, I was totally sold. Got a chance to meet some of the organizers of the community and can't wait to work more closely with them in the future.

Day 5: The last day

Even though it was the last day, and I was a little sad to leave, I was ready to go home too. Tired of walking, tired of carrying a bag and my brain was fried!
Got up and headed straight to the Second Life Playground. Spent most of the day here actually and some time away saying goodbye to a few friends. I didn't attend any sessions this day except for those that went on in the SL playground. This was my time to wind down and enjoy the last few hours.

At the SL playground I got the opportunity to hear Claudia Linden talk about grants for SL. I thought it was interesting that no one in the room or in the sl auditorium had written a grant with success yet. No one was turned down either, so that gives hope. Three of us, however, had written some and were awaiting a response. I have one in through ING right now and hoping for a response soon.

I'm pretty positive I've forgotten something important (and may add it later), but overall, the networking and friendships were the theme of the conference. Absolutely enjoyed every single minute of the trip and can't wait to go back next year. Have a few things going on behind the scenes right now (more on that later) that I think will make next year's conference even more exciting with new opportunities and adventures.

See you at ISTE 2010!

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