There are a couple of interesting side effects that have arisen as a result of this blog. The first is that we are being encouraged - and sometimes even invited - to present at conferences and school districts. There are three that we are definitely presenting at, and several more that have made initial contacts.
First up is the School District of Palm Beach County 2007 Technology Conference on March 19th. This looks to be an impressive annual conference that the school district (in West Palm Beach, Florida) puts on. It's a non-student contact day, and they put on quite an event, with hundreds of sessions and even a vendor area. Anne Smith and I will share our staff development efforts and what teachers have been doing in the classroom at Arapahoe, with two sessions for teachers and one for administrators.
Next up is the TIE Conference in Copper Mountain, Colorado in June. TIE is Colorado's statewide technology in education conference. Will Richardson is the keynote speaker this year. (I don't know how much credit I can take for that, but I did suggest him to the TIE Board and then "campaigned" via email once or twice - so until somebody tells me otherwise, it's all because of me!) Anne Smith, Barbara Stahlhut, Brad Meyer, Brian Hatak and I will be presenting on Wednesday, June 20th, from 1:00 - 3:00 (in Wheeler A in Copper Station for those of you who might be attending).
The third conference that is a definite at this point is NECC in Atlanta in June. Once again all five of us will be presenting, and it will take place on Tuesday, June 26th from 3:30 - 4:30 pm (location TBD).
While all three presentations will be similar, I think they will end up being quite different due to the different audiences and formats. It looks as though Palm Beach will have a wide mix of teachers in terms of both their technological background and their knowledge of the read/write web, plus we do one session with administrators (probably 50-75 principals plus a few other folks - yikes!).
TIE tends to draw folks that are fairly knowledgeable about technology and come every year, although there are always quite a few educators that are there for the first time. It also has a couple of advantages over most other conferences. First, most sessions - including our session - are in rooms where everyone has a computer, so we can give them some time to explore some of the technologies (and even if we don't give them the time, they will anyway). Second, it's two hours instead of the typical 50-60 minutes that we'll get at Palm Beach and NECC. That's good, since we have about 8 hours worth of "content," plus another 8 hours or so of "conversation" we want to have. So it should be much easier to squeeze sixteen hours into two instead of one.
I'm not sure what to expect at NECC since I went for the first time last year myself. I think this tends to draw fairly tech-savvy folks as well, plus the expectations are different - and probably higher - since this is a national conference. I also don't know whether to expect 20 people in the audience - or 200. One thing I definitely did not like about NECC last year was that the majority of sessions were in large rooms with rows and rows of chairs crammed together. One of the things we're struggling with as we are planning these sessions is how to create a conversation among such a large group of people in a short amount of time, while still sharing some of the "stuff" that we want to share. I know many other folks out there have struggled with this as well, so any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. And if anyone out there is planning on attending NECC and doesn't have anything better to do at the prime time of 3:30 in the afternoon (nope, nobody's going to be tired, worn out, and sleepy from lunch at 3:30 are they?), please stop by so the room isn't completely empty, would ya?
It will be interesting to see how these go. I was hesitant at first to even entertain these conversations with folks about presenting, because I feel like we still have a whole lot more questions than answers, but I think that may be why they are asking us. It's because we are asking those questions about what learning should look like in the 21st century, working hard at figuring them out, and sharing both our successes and failures on the blog. We ultimately decided to go ahead for pretty much selfish reasons - we hope to learn as much or more from the conversations when we present as the so-called "audience" learns.
And the second interesting side-effect? Job inquiries. I've had several nice conversations with folks who've made initial contact with me wondering if I'd be interested in a particular position they had available. These were certainly not job offers, just initial contacts, and so far nothing that would make me consider leaving my wonderful position at Arapahoe High School (just in case my principal is reading this - Hi Ron!). Seriously, I think I'm doing important - and hopefully good - work here, and it would have to be something that was more important and where I could do more good to make me even consider it. (Cue violin music.)
Now, this is interesting and - yes, somewhat flattering. But what I find most interesting is that I mostly write on this blog about what other folks are doing in their classrooms. While I'm in classrooms pretty much every day, none of them are my classroom. It's been a few years since I've had a classroom of my own. All the great - and sometimes not so great - things you read about on this blog are happening in other folks' classrooms. (This is also why when I'm approached to present, one of my first questions is, "Can I bring at least one of my teachers along that is actually doing this in their classrooms?) I think - and hope - that I have helped a lot of those things happen in those classrooms, but it sure seems like those teachers are the ones who should be getting the job inquiries, not me. Now, having said that, if anyone was reading along and about to offer me six figures and unlimited use of the company jet, I'll be happy to delete the previous seven sentences and take your call - operators are standing by.
So, I guess I'm still processing all this but, to me, this is just another example of the way the world is changing. I wrote a grant and got it. I started this blog in support of our staff development efforts as part of that grant. I wrote a second grant and got it, which allowed us to bring even more folks into the staff development effort, which of course gave me more to blog about. The blog got noticed by some folks and people started reading it. They apparently found value in it, so many of them subscribed in their RSS aggregators. I apparently blogged something interesting at least often enough to keep them from removing it from their RSS aggregators. Now we're getting invitations to present and job inquiries.
This couldn't have happened to me/us ten years ago, or five years ago, or probably even three years ago. The tools may have been there (although they've improved tremendously), but the critical mass of audience wasn't in place (and the key tool - RSS - wasn't known to enough people). This is an important idea that I need to think about a lot more, but I think it holds a tremendous lesson for our students about the flattening of the world and the power of the read/write web.