What’s so great about BLC?

What’s so great about BLC?

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I posed this question on twitter:

Writing a blog post/summary of #blc10 Help me. What is was/is your greatest learning moment of the conference? I’ll add your tweet. Go…

Here’s what I got:

A small sampling of responses but take some time to see if those ideas resonate with you. On a side note, notice the number of people that learned that weren’t even here. That’s pretty cool.

What amazes and pleases me is the way in which ideas and concepts seem to arise time and time again but in different context and forms. While diversity exists and is welcomed, so many of the sessions and conversations are focused around good teaching and learning. The tools and shifts we are exploring are being used as ammunition to support the practices which makes living and learning in 2010, a great place to be.

Sustainable Learning through hyperlinks

Sustainable Learning through hyperlinks

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When someone questions the power and value of a conference I think it’s fair to consider the ROI. For me, those conversations need to be able to continue online for a long time after the conference is over. The connections and informal discussions are valuable but need to be sustainable.

Attending BLC in 2007 was my the first experience attending a conference where I had “met people’s brains before I’d met their faces”. (Kevin Honeycutt) Because I had spent the previous 2 years posting and sharing online as did many of the presenters and participants, It was a real reunion. Never having gone to summer camp, my wife, told me that’s what summer camp is like. The conversations I had in those three days were some of the most powerful, insightful and challenging I’d ever had. To this day, I can recall specific conversations that I’m still working my way through.

Photo by Marco Torres: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/4788962760/

BLC has from the start been a conference about global learning and collaboration. The numbers of intentional opportunities to network and share is unlike most conferences. People are genuinely interested in how you do things in your district and what schools are like where you come from. But to sustain this learning beyond the final day of the conference there has to be hyperlinks.

Hyperlinks have built the web and connected people. During the course of the three days of the conference, thousands of links have been shared in presentations, on twitter and on this blog and other blogs. Using the the twitter hashtag of #blc10 alone, you’ll discover enough ideas and links to chew on for quite some time. A blog search for BLC10 results in almost 1,000 results. These hyperlinks are allowing learning to be sustainable but more than than, they are links from people and we now are able to connect with the people behind the links and continue conversations of learning for as long as we’d like. Michael Wesch, in his keynote talked about connecting these artifacts with people. And by the way, if you want more from Wesch, and who wouldn’t, head over to youtube to view a number of his past presentations and work.

In my presentations I make a point of sharing my contact information not simply as a courtesy but because I really want to have conversations continue. I hope that most of the 75 minute sessions you attend leave you with as many questions as answers. If they simply had all the answers, I wonder if they might be better learned at home or individually.

I’m guessing there are about 1,000 participants at BLC this year. I wonder how many have a plan to sustain their learning with people beyond Friday? It’s simply a matter of leaving and finding a hyperlink.

Consumption vs. Creation

Consumption vs. Creation

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As I listen to Mitch Resnick toss out gem after gem of soundbites and ideas, his initial statement of people becoming “makers of things” sticks in my mind as a concept that needs further exploration.

On the surface, it’s a wonderful idea. Who would argue that creativity and making things is in anyway a negative? Mitch goes on to say :

We wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but couldn’t write. Are we literate if we consume content online, but don’t produce? (paraphrased)

Again, at first glance that seems logical. We want to help our students create and be makers of things. But given the habits of most of us, we generally consume far more than we create. In fact as we consider reading and writing, very few adults write regularly beyond grocery lists and post it notes and emails. We read way more than we write. One of the reasons we teach students to write, is to make them better readers and vice versa.

As I listen to Resnick discuss the virtues of Scratch, it’s hard not to see the deep learning that comes when using a versatile tool like this to tell stories, build games, make music or design avatars. But as a society, what are the expectations that adults become makers of things? Do we need everyone to be makers of things? Is consumption and creation supposed to be balanced or do we recognize that consumption is the predominant role with content? The emergence of the iPad had many educators questioning it as an educational tool because of its lean towards consumption. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Clay Shirky’s recent book Cognitive Surplus and accompanying TED talk, suggests that even if we carve out a small portion of our time to contribute (create) it can make a significant impact on society. I’m thinking about this issue and if we need to back off a bit on our zealous push to make us all creators. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we stop encouraging and helping our students create, I’m just wondering if our expectations are unrealistic. I can think of many folks who don’t actively “make” things but are intelligent, competent, successful individuals. Is this a question of empowerment and simply allowing our students to choose or do expect everyone to become “makers of things”?


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