Are they real or virtual?

My youngest son (17yo) objects heatedly when I talk at the table about friends I’ve connected with. He always asks “real” or “virtual,” as he does not agree that the people I network with using 2.0 tools can be anything more than people somewhere else that you really don’t know. Well I beg to differ, ESPECIALLY after this weekend.

Educon 2.0 was everything it promised to be and more. It was really surreal to see the people that I network with from blogs, chatrooms, wikis, podcasts, nings, and Twitter in person. But it was not like how Alex Russo described educators at conferences (my take on his reference was that we are somewhat like “8th graders at a dance”–very unsure of ourselves.)

Liz and IFrom the get go, when Liz Davis met me at the airport in Philadelphia, there was an instant connection. We even hugged like long lost sisters. That was true for most of the day as I met in-person for the first time the people I network with. There were many, many spontaneous hugs.

As I continue to try and wrap my head around how special this conference was, I try to find the words to write. What made it so special? There was not one minute where I was not interacting and talking in conversations, and that includes sessions and fun activities, both scheduled and spontaneous (like the Franklin Institute, boxed lunches, a catered Philly cheese steak supper, an impromptu supper at that Asian Cafe that was so good we went back Saturday evening LATE, and they almost had to ask us to leave so they could close!)

Educon 2.0 was like no other conference I’ve ever been to (and that includes EdubloggerCon In Atlanta, which was more of a pre-conference un-conference idea.) There were no powerpoints or slide shows of bullets in sessions, only educators who served as facilitators to lead the discussion on how to make learning more engaging, more authentic, and how to get beyond the obstacles. There was a lot of discussion about NCLB and filtering, and educators who are not up to speed with the students we teach, who design lessons like it’s 1950 and not 2008. But it pleased me immensely to discuss these topics with the most powerful educators I know, and together strive to find a solution to these obstacles.

What struck me as odd?
There were ALL kinds of educators attending (200+), and they included 2.0 teachers, administrators, instructional technology directors, tech integrators, teacher librarians/media specialists, students, college professors, and more, and strangest to me, a broad range of technology and 2.0 skill base in using the tools, including absolute beginners to seasoned veterans. Many had heard of the conference from the tools we use, but others got it simply by word of mouth. It was great mix of our stakeholders. The only missing piece was parents, though many of these are parents too, so perhaps that was covered as well.

Re-occurring theme
“Touch them all.” David Jakes

Favorite Quote
NECC is a showboat compared to this. (Can’t remember who said it.)

Fondest Memories
Supper with the girls (me, Joyce Valenza, Carolyn Foote, Liz Davis, and others). We nixed on two restaurants Friday evening, writing them off due to crowds (after all, Friday is a date night.) We settled for the Asian restaurant, and shockingly enough, befroe we knew it, we had nine at our table. Then right after we ordered two more groups came in, and because the tables were somewhat close, the conversations continued well into the evening–by the end our crowd included close to 75 people. (See my pictured table!)

What I found MOST surreal
My RSS reader was walking around with me, and many were calling me by name. Yes, I do mean Chris Lehmann, Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, David Jakes, Christian Long, Patrick Higgins, Jennifer Wagner, Woody Delauder, Glenn Moses, Ryan Bretag, and, well, I could just keep going here, but the I would not meet my goal of brevity…

Tons of time to connect!
I will probably blog some more about the conference, but I did want to leave this food for thought. I know it was an immense challenge that Principal Chris Lehmann of the Science Leadership Academy pulled off, but he pulled it off extremely well. But this is the first conference ever that only cost me $50 and included so many well established gurus. There was no exhibit hall, no badges or bags (though I did win a prize, a mug with the Educon Logo), and no frantic schedule of sessions w/ no time to talk between. This was by far the best conference I have ever attended, as each session was designed to be a conversation, with a full 90 minutes that more often than not allowed the participants to really connect, debate, and learn from each other. Many of them had some kind of interactive component (our session had participants draw a traditional library vs. a 21st century library, and then describe them; another session had the participants create a poem or lyric to share about the topic.) Then each session allowed 30 minutes to get to the next discussion, which allowed you to continue the conversation should you choose to. All for $50. WHAT A BARGAIN!!

My Personal Blonde Moment
Sunday morning I was to ride from the hotel with Liz Davis , since she had rental car and our planes left relatively close together. We would ride to the airport form SLA together. But I misunderstood the time, and thought she had left without me (and I was wrong i later found out!) But Will Richardson and Ryan Bretag were riding in Will’s car (a Prius!!) and Will offered to take me and my luggage over. So I hopped in. Will remarked that he really wanted coffee, and I told him if he would take a right there was a Dunkin Donuts and a little convenience store right there. So he drove up to the curb, quickly threw the car in park, and was out of the car I thought before it came to a halt. I swear it rolled about 6 more inches. I about freaked out! I was asking very excitedly to Ryan is the car stopped, is this car in park?? Now mind you I was in the front. Ryan answered yes, but asked to get out (the child door locks were engaged.) At this time I’m still not sure the car is actually in park, so I still a wee bit nervous. I’m trying to unlock his door, while inside panicked about the motion I know I detected. Ryan basically had to say (and as politely as he could muster,) “No Cathy–you have to open my door from the outside–the child locks are engaged.” Talk about a BLOND moment. Oh well, at least I can laugh about it now.

Funniest Memory
The panel discussion, where the panelists all sat at the table each with their laptops (Gary Stager, Will Richardson, Sylvia Martinez, Joyce Valenza, Chris Lehmann, and David Jakes–gosh I hope I didn’t leave anyone out!) Each panelist was using a Mac, all except David Jakes. Jakes began by mumbling “What is this, a Mac commercial?!”

Final thoughts–much of Educon was Ustreamed and so if you want to hear the archived conversations, be sure to visit on channel “EduconTV.” Oh well, back to my original question, are they real or virtual. If I was not sure before Educon 2.0, I know for absolute sure now. These friends are REAL!

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2 thoughts on “Are they real or virtual?

  1. Cathy,
    It was great meeting you and wonderful to know that our Online friends didn’t turn out to be Internet Predators. Quite the opposite, the people I met were smarter, nicer and more engaging than I could ever have hoped for. Meeting you was also one of my highlights of the trip. Can’t wait to do this again.

  2. Sounds like Educon was a great time and sorry I missed it. There is always next year. 2007 was the year I met a lot of my online friends I have met through social media/networking and I will agree with you that these people are definitely real. Twitter has been the single most engaging social network I have ever been a part of and I think it will continue to be for the near future. As I am starting to engage in the EdTech community, I hope I will have the same “real” connections I have made through the social media communities.


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