CUE Conference Report and Reflections

I often wish I were better at blogging conferences while attending them, but this year’s CUE conference presented me with an even more difficult challenge… blogging the conference while presenting nearly the whole time. :)

I delivered a pop-up session and a three-hour hands-on workshop on Thursday, two three-hour hands-on workshops on Friday, and two concurrent sessions (and two webcasts) on Saturday. The slides and supporting wikis from all my workshops are available at edtechlife.com/cue2007/ if you are interested.

With prep, setup, breakdown, and (of course) the serendipitous conversations that conferences allow, I barely had time to attend any sessions. Thankfully, the feedback from my sessions was overwhelmingly positive, despite the frequent lack of Internet access – even in my Internet based sessions, including a three-hour Two-Way Teaching workshop focused on read/write web tools like blogs, wikis, and podcasts! In the end, despite the stress (and all the equipment I misplaced and then found again), I’m proud of what I accomplished in the three days of the conference and I feel it was worth it.

Meanwhile, I did get to experience bits and pieces of the conference, and I’ve included my reflections below.

Thursday

Between my sessions on Thursday, I did get to catch almost half of Chris Walsh‘s Learning Everywhere, All The Time, which was well worth it – he says it’s his favorite “stump speech” and I can see why. He was passionate in his delivery, and included many social theories that I hadn’t thought to include in CUE presentations. I was familiar with most of what he talked about, but was genuinely shocked (at first) to realize that few of the others in the room had heard of many of the concepts, including “the long tail” or “the creative class.” I’m going to have to consider including more of these sorts of concepts in my own workshops and presentations, if for no other reason than to expose educators to the ideas… for the benefit of their students. Of course, I was similarly shocked when folks in my workshops hadn’t heard of specific Google services, or even wikis. I have to continually re-calibrate myself to “classroom teacher” level when I spend too much time doing my job. In any case, Dave Ragsdale reviewed Chris Walsh’s session well here.

Friday

Before my sessions on Friday, I also got to see the Daneen Frazier Bowen keynote, which was entertaining, but seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way… it’s difficult not to offend, I think, when impersonating teachers and students, or luddites and techies for that matter. As a member of the conference planning committee, this keynote had not been my first choice when we discussed possible speakers, but in the end I was pleased that the message at least was spot on. Her dramatizations focused on the empowering voice that students have found in blogs and video mash-ups… and on the correspondingly voice-less environment of the schools they attend. The challenge to change this status quo was implicit but clear. I haven’t noted a detailed review of this yet (in my cue2007 technorati feed that is… I’m about 1300 posts behind in reading my other subscriptions), so if anyone knows of a good review, post the link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

After dinner with Eva and the Newport-Mesa folks on Friday night, I dropped by the CUE Game Night led by Leslie Fisher. About a dozen teachers (of both sexes and all ages) were there playing World of Warcraft for the first time ever. A handful of other more experienced or veteran players were there to help out and lend a hand. I was by no means among the more experienced, though I’ve certainly gotten my feet wet. I was able to help out some of the newbies… and go to the others when I didn’t have good answers to the newbie’s questions. Meanwhile, many of Leslie’s guild-mates or “guildies” were on hand in-game to mentor the teachers as they took their first steps in the game-world. By the time I left (around 10:30 or so), newbies were yelling “I levelled up!” and others were “woot”ing them. Fantastic. One woman was already to level 4 by the time I left and there was a lot of tough wolf meat being collected. :)

Saturday

Between my sessions on Saturday, the highlight of my day was interviewing Chris Walsh (along with Steve Hargadon)for the shows on which Chris usually interviews others (CUE Live and the Infinite Thinking Machine) and then heading out to the Student Technology Showcase to interview students from around the state who had come to the conference with their teachers to showcase what they were doing in their classrooms – each was the winner of a regional competition. In addition to the interviews Jonathan Lemon (the cameraman) and I got a host of students saying “I am the Infinite Thinking Machine” on camera. Some of them were priceless. I’ll link to all of this once it’s online.

Other than that, I was able to catch parts of a few sessions at the end of the day. I stuck my head into Bernie Dodge’s Engaging Brains with Games and Simulations, which I probably should’ve slowed down and listened to for longer. I also caught a piece of Leslie Fisher’s Gadgets! session before I finally met up with Eva and we headed out.

Extend

Some other more diligent CUE Bloggers have already begun chronicling the conference elsewhere.

For instance, Barbara Barreda offered her final reflections in addition to a discussion of the moral imperative of CUE (including a bit on the keynote) and a post on Moodle and course design.

David Jakes posted his final reflections too, and promised notes from some of the sessions he presented. He already posted his notes on my Google More session. :)

Robert Banning may have been the first blogger on the scene with his first impressions, followed by his thoughts on the leadership summit and his own extension of the conference.

Jennifer Wagner was also on scene and on blog with her final reflections, preceded by her reflections on learning Garage Band (she had a similar amount of fun with Google Earth) and an impromptu RSS session in one of her own presentations (she, too, had to re-calibrate for the audience).

And in addition to his review of Chris Walsh’s session, Dave Ragsdale posted on registration, my RSS session, one of Hall Davidson’s sessions, and Barbara Bray’s Google session (which I also stuck my head into before stepping out to chat with Derek Kinsey).

Finally, it seems a new Kwality blog was born thanks to the conference. :)

Of course, in the tradition of extending the conference, CUE will also be posting more media soon… we’ll have the CUE Live webcasts (well, the recorded versions anyway) and the CUE Tips Podcasts to return to as well.

For my part, the biggest lesson learned this year was that by taking on some many presentation commitments, I more or less eliminated my opportunities for serendipitous conversation. I wondered at one point if I would even manage to see Will Richardson at all (I was presenting opposite him every time he presented), but was lucky enough to run into him at the CUE Live booth in the exhibit hall, and then twice more later in the Wyndham… including when he took this picture. I got to talk to David Jakes only in passing. Luckily, as he pointed out, many of us will be in Atlanta for NECC 2007, and I’ll have much more time then for attending (and blogging) sessions – and more importantly, for conversations. In the end, though, there were far too many people that I saw only in passing, or not at all. And for that I am sorry.

Also, I once again appreciated how much work goes into an event like the CUE conference. I worked all day every day making my sessions the best they could be, and I was only a very small part of the conference. On Wednesday night I contributed (for a short time) to the bad-stuffing process and realized just how many people had to work for hours just to make the bags (and registration etc) work… and that is to say nothing of the network and technican setup that JT and Cisco and the others were handling 24/7 despite all the issues. The conference planning committee is a large and diverse group that meets several times a year to determine the course of the conference… and subcommittees handle the submissions and selection of speakers. Of course Marisol, Mike, and a handful of other CUE staff and consultants work all year to make the conference what it is. I’m awed at the cohesive result and thankful for everyone that played a part.

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