Bloggers Cafe Reflection

After sleeping in and breakfast with Clark and Eva, which felt like a true luxury after the last few weeks (and especially after some very short nights sleep at Google), I spent most of my first day at NECC in the edubloggers cafe.

In general, I found it to be what I had hoped – a place for informal gathering and conversing. Unfortunately, I personally didn’t do much learning.

It was somewhat slow in the first few hours I was there, but I got to connect with a few people I hadn’t met before – and with a few colleagues from California that I don’t see very often. Eventually, though, I decided to set to work on my presentation for tomorrow. I’m glad I did, because it took a lot of time to get my mind back to a place where I can talk about my dissertation at an academic level. (I’m not thrilled about how dry my presentation is bound to be – I hope some people that care show up.) In any case, it was tough to stick to my work as the cafe began to fill up and exciting conversations sprung up all over.

Happily, I was able to take a few breaks to participate in Jeff Utecht’s streaming of the cafe and to contribute to (or listen to) a few good conversations. And once I was finished I got to play a bit with Brian Smith’s XO, which was a great experience, long overdue for me.

Later, I forewent the keynote (is forewent a word?) in favor of the edublogger rib cook off. John Maklary, Brian Grenier, and some of their fellow texans produced a dinner that fed dozens, including Eva and Clark – and Eva’s parents (her mom Debbie is also a techie teacher, and her dad comes along for the ride). It was a great social experience, and I was able to connect with several edubloggers I respect in a personal way I never had before. Sharing baby pictures with Ewan McIntosh sort of captures the value of the evening for me.

Still, I didn’t do much learning. So, going into day two I have two things on my mind…

First, I am trying to sort out how to get the most out of this conference… especially with Eva along I feel compelled to justify the expense in terms of some new learning or inspiration for the coming year – if not by new business opportunities as a consultant and professional developer. (Ideally, I’d love to come away with ideas for growing my business.) I may actually go to sessions. I may actually visit the show floor. (Admittedly, these things weren’t terribly productive for me at the last two NECC conferences, but I must admit it seems arrogant to say there’s nothing I can learn from in the formal conference. Perhaps I can “skim” the floor and skim the sessions the way I skim my aggregator.)

I will definitely have breakfast with Google Certified Teachers tomorrow – I can’t wait to meet the ones from New York!

Second, as others are, I am concerned that the blogger’s cafe might not be available as an informal learning space tomorrow. The NECC Unplugged schedule might preclude that. As I see it, we who want to the informal setting have two choices (if indeed the NECC Unplugged sessions are too intrusive):

1. Move somewhere else for our informal learning. This would be a real shame.

2. “Stand Up” to the unplugged sessions (in as sensitive and reasonable a way as possible) to “protect” the cafe and keep it from becoming a breakout room.

I’m not at all ready to exert any leadership in this, and I think the proper reaction will depend a lot on the situation “on the ground” in the morning. I’m merely making sense of it for myself (and anyone who cares to read/listen), and I’m hoping it is handled well when (and if) the time comes.

For my part, I’ve removed my name from the agenda – I’d signed up for a short talk and a speed demo only a few days ago when I was feeling somewhat guilty for not having jumped in to contribute earlier. Now I feel guilty for removing it. I’m not presenting much this year and I want to share as much as I can with as many as I can… but not at the expense of my own learning (this is the one conference I come to as an attendee) and not at the expense of others’ informal learning opportunities.

I suppose another goal for me over the next three days is to figure out how to share what I can… and perhaps that screen in the bloggers cafe should be for something other than tweets – perhaps we should be presenting to each other.

Again, I’d love to hear other perspectives on this. And, again, I’ll reiterate my respect for the efforts of Steve Hargadon and the other organizers. I just see a potential problem here – and I hope it is handled well, without the loss of the edublogger cafe as we loved it last year… and as it was today.

UPDATE: Apparently my reflection/whining came a few hours too late. It seems there was a tweetstorm against the idea of NECC unplugged in the bloggers cafe, after which Will Richardson connected with Steve Hargadon and moved NECC Unplugged “down the hall.” Still, I’ll leave the rest of this reflection up, for my sake if nothing else. It helped me focus for the day. :)

UPDATE 2: Nevermind. The NECC Unplugged is happening in the bloggers cafe. I’m bummed about it, in particular because it seems some edubloggers are staying away… but it’s not awful. It’s great that lots of people are sharing, and it is still possible to have conversations around the fringes. We’ll see how it goes. I hope there will still be time and space to play, share, and learn. (Of course, there’s no reason I can’t play, share, and learn regardless – and I am learning, though it might be about different things than I though. The bigger frustration is the wireless – I finally paid to get on an alternate network!