[Update: Here’s the embryonic wiki for EduCon 2.0. Con… conversation, conference… I liked the ambiguity of it.]

Here are some of the posts that are influencing my thoughts on this post… as well as being at NECC for all of this:

Christian Long: Is a Blogger Cafe the Classroom of the Future? Are Speakers the Past?

Jeff Utecht and all of us: From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning Our Classrooms

Will Richardson: The Problem in a Nutshell, the Unproblem in a Nutshell.

David Warlick: The Day After and the M-Word for Educators

Mark Wagner: Adminstration and School 2.0

[Photo by Jeff Utecht]

Really, those five are just the tip of iceberg. What this is about is trying to capture the energy and excitement of edubloggercon and the Blogger Cafe to create something that combines the best of old and new when we think about getting together and sharing ideas. I don’t know about other people, but I felt really torn between spending time at the cafe and getting to sessions that I really wanted to see. And because of that tension, I don’t want to just say that we’ve outgrown the session-mentality completely.

For example, I had the chance to talk to Will a ton at NECC. We were at two dinners together, hung out at the cafe, shared a cab ride, etc… and I still went to see him present his “Hand It In…” spotlight speech. (Although, and I’m guessing he’d agree, that title had nothing to do with what he actually presented.)


Well, partially because anyone who reads Will knows he’s really pushing himself to figure out his own message lately, and where better to experiment with that than at NECC? But also because I respect the hell out of him, and I wanted to see what he would say when he had forty-five minutes to speak and the requisite time to craft his message.

And that’s what’s still important — what do people have to teach us when they take the time to craft a lesson? That’s why sessions are still important. Sure, I can talk about School 2.0 and SLA a lot… but when I have the time to structure my own thoughts and force myself to craft an hour to try to help people think about these new issues, what would I do? With any luck, that session was different than some of the impromptu conversations I had in a way that was still important.

But here’s another thing… what also made Will’s session so amazing was the opportunity to “Community-Note-Blog” it. (Hey, I don’t have a better name for it yet…) Sitting with seven people, as we wrote about what we were listening to on Skypechat with four other people joining in from points-elsewhere was powerful. It made Will’s lecture all the more powerful — even if listening and writing and reading and processing is a skill that I need to work on — and it is different than just listening.

But also, the conversations I had at NECC at the blogger cafe or over dinner and drinks were incredible. One night, I spent about seven hours talking with Tom Hoffman, Chris Sessums, Bill Fitzgerald and Marcie Hull (o.k. — Marcie and I get to talk a lot.) That was worth traveling to NECC alone. And then there was edubloggercon, which stirred up the level of conversation for the rest of the week. And of course, hanging out at the Blogger Cafe, talking about the issues that move us… or learning about new tools from folks wanting to show them off… and sometimes, just hanging out.

So what? I’m not thinking that we can change NECC to create the perfect conference for the edu-blog world, but maybe we can create our own. What follows are a list of thoughts about the kind of conference I’d like to go to next:

  • More structured, planned time for reflection and conversation.
  • More “big idea” workshops, less “How-to” workshops.
  • Less delineation between “speaker” and “participant.”
  • More collaborative / constructivist sessions where meaning is made together.
  • More structured use of collaborative online tools so that even lectures are interactive.
  • A realization that, even with lectures, the conversation is everything.
  • A way to extend the conversation, both in real time and asynchronously to folks who aren’t there.

So here’s what I want to do. I want to host a conference at SLA the weekend of January 26th, 2008. (In between the Conference championships and the Super Bowl, thankyouverymuch!) I don’t expect a national crowd, but there are a lot of local folks who do amazing things. My hope would be to capture what was so amazing about edubloggercon and NECC without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Issue Conversation Sessions (I’m making these titles up as I go along)
The mini-presentation — 20-30 minute lectures, all note-chatted, where a speaker takes a position on an issue, explains something, tries to define an idea or just tries to get their head around something. Listeners note-cast the session along with a live audio feed so others can take part. After the lecture, 30-40 minutes conversation where the speaker just joins the conversation around a table, followed by 15-30 minutes where personal reflection takes place.

Blogger Cafe
We’ve got a comfy library and we’re not afraid to use it.

This would be more like what we saw at the EBC, where one facilitator ran a conversation for an hour. I think these sesisons would work best around ideas where many people felt a level of expertise or previous investment. Goals for sessions like these might be action oriented? If we all are walking in with a lot of expertise, can a good facilitator build consensus toward a goal? Again, if the conversations were an hour long, I’d want to leave time for a half-hour to reflect and write afterwards. (And again, no reason not to have a Snowball mic on the table and make sure that others can take part. In fact, there’s every reason to.)

Pedagogy Sessions
Here’s what I want to see more of… specific conversations around pedagogy. Could we have some sessions where folks had agreed to read an article beforehand around constructivist teaching and then had a conversation where we looked at Web 2.0 tools with the specific agenda of looking at how to take the best of progressive pedagogy and apply it to the new word in which we live? Maybe even looking at old language and looking at its limits and where we do and don’t need new language? Again… skypecast it, chat it and give time for reflection at the end.

Cross-Pollination Lunch
Could we offer up lunch as a chance for people who went to different sessions to get together and talk about what they saw? (I’d say we could do that for dinner too, but we’d all want to head out for dinner and take advantage of Philly restaurants and pubs, methinks.)

I’d love feedback on this one. I think this could be two amazing days (and anyone who wanted to come in on Friday and hang out at SLA, we’d be thrilled to have you…) This post has taken me hours to write — and three days to internalize before I could even sit down to write — because, well, because I really want to take this idea seriously. What kinds of sessions would we want if we were to do this ourselves?

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