It's Conference Time

Are you going to the conference this year? If you have the time, immerse yourself in the content. Interact with the other participants and the presenters. Reflect on the things they’re talking about, and post about it on the conference site, or on your blog, or on my blog. The second annual K-12 Online Conference begins Monday, October 8, at midnight GMT.

K-12 Online ConferenceI know. i can’t ever figure out the times, either. I always end up running out of fingers. Here in the North American Eastern time zone, we’re four hours behind GMT this time of year, so the conference starts at 8:00 PM on Sunday night. But it’s okay if you can’t make it then. Most of the events don’t take place in real time, so participate on a schedule that makes sense to you. The EdTech blogosphere will be abuzz with the ideas from the conference, and you can tap into the conversation just about any place, any time.

What’s the conference about? The first week has two strands: Classroom 2.0 and New Tools:

Strand A: Classroom 2.0
Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterizes teaching and learning in the 21st century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value of life long learning that inheres in work that is in “perpetual beta.” This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the “nuts and bolts” of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This strand includes two parts. Basic training is “how to” information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where “Classroom 2.0″ presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web 2.0 tool use, “New Tools” presentations should focus on “nuts and bolts” instructions for using tools. Five “basic” and five “advanced” presentations will be included in this strand

In the second week of the conference (October 22), the focus shifts to Professional Learning Networks and Obstacles to Opportunities.

Strand A: Professional Learning Networks
Research says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support. Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive, reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright, digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication), resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more — unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries — is the focus of presentations in this strand.

Last year, I missed most of the conference. I wasn’t in to webcasting yet, and I did listen to most of the sessions as podcasts after the fact, but I didn’t really interact with the community at all. I hope to be more involved this year, though.

I can only get to NECC about once every four or five years. The last time I went, there were 12,000 people there. It’s easy to get lost. It’s certainly not possible to engage in dialogue with the presenters. In the K-12 Online Conference, you get the best of educational technology in a personal, collaborative environment with a global perspective. You can’t find that at any face-to-face conference. Don’t miss it.

I’m serious. I can’t believe you haven’t already requested professional leave.