Well, our state conference is over for another year and even though I made a few attempts to live blog events, a number of factors (mainly self created) tended to interfere. I was involved as a presenter on four occasions and after you take the keynotes out of the equation, there wasn't much to attend for my own learning. At the risk of sounding like a blog snob, it's lucky I don't rely on conferences anymore for inspiration or ideas. I did live blog Gerry White's keynote which, for me, presented lots of familiar ideas and themes - although I wouldn't have called it provocative as some other delegates described it, unless you think criticising Australia's major telco, Telstra, fits that description. The most valuable part was the conversation with others afterwards. One, with Mike Seyfang who had a frustrating morning banging his head against the school online barriers trying to get connected, was about the artificial scarcity that is created by telcos in providing broadband penetration into education or Australian society for that matter. It strikes me that education and teachers are still stuck in the "artificial scarcity" game as well - possibly to unconsciously protect their own future. So many stakeholders are in for their slice of the pie, ranging from the copyright protected resources we use as part of our work to the vendors out in the corridor pushing their products that we cannot do without and are only available from them at their set price.
So here are a few random personal observations from the two days.
I was involved in a presentation and a workshop on the Thursday where I shared duties and ideas with others. The first was a forum hosted by our loose local network of Web 2.0 in education advocates, the Net2Blazers (coming to a Ning near you soon!) with a panel discussion with the initial question, "The world has changed so why haven't we?" I was worried that we'd be talking to ourselves as we were straight after the opening keynote and maybe people would be more interested in more specific offerings on at the same time. But a small group turned up to listen to our pontifications and the group ended up pointing a few interested teachers towards the Classroom 2.0 Ning as a worthwhile starting point for connection to other educators without the personal responsibility of a blog.
Yvonne Murtagh and I ran a workshop called More Cool Web 2 Tools where in explanation to the idea of using Creative Commons licensed images via FlickrStorm and FlickrCC, there was a wider discussion in relation to copyright awareness (or lack thereof) amongst South Australian teachers. It was good to work with a group where over half of the participants had del.icio.us accounts, so they could add our workshop coded list to their account.
I found Friday morning's keynote with Dr. Peter Evans to be quite frustrating. He stated in his presentation (full of text filled slides that would make Dan Meyer weep) that we had "to walk the talk" in terms of being online learners committed to openness. How come his example of online community was a wiki based "walled garden" only open to registered users? His message of "good fences make good neighbours" seems to be at odds with the way I've experienced effective and vibrant online communities. Evans' idea that you need to have your content and dialogue to be transferable from one institution brings to mind the idea of an LMS with glass walls. What ever happened to "small pieces loosely joined "?
I went through my slides, flipchart and del.icio.us lists the night before with the nagging feeling that maybe no-one would even turn up for my Online Teachers presentation. When I expressed my concerns to Peter Ruwoldt, he merely offered me a handkerchief for my tears!
Ironically, 4 out of the 5 attendees at my above mentioned presentation are already online and connected! I had the privelege of pitching my ideas to well established edubloggers - Bill Kerr, Al Upton, Jason Plunkett and Janet Hawtin ) so I kinda missed the audience I was initially after and was preaching to the converted! Compare that to my final session (during the graveyard shift prior to the end of the conference) called iwb 2.0 that was full, ran overtime and received a round of applause - it shows where most educators heads are at. It was a bit subversive though - get them in through the door lured by the iwb and have them asking about del.icio.us accounts by the end!
I stayed after my presentation to hear an excellent talk from Bill Kerr on Alan Kay's Educational Vision. As a bonus, I got my hands on a genuine OLPC laptop and received a Software Freedom Awareness CD from Janet Hawtin, produced by the innovative folk at Grant High School in Mount Gambier. Loads of great open source software and as Jason Plunkett said to me, "A CD costs 30 cents. You can afford to spend 30 cents per student to give them access to all of these applications!" One of the best things I got out of the conference!