#NCTE12 > Vegas
This year’s National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention was held in Las Vegas. Before I left nearly everyone said, “You’ll love Vegas” or “Vegas?!?! Will you be able to attend any sessions at all?” I am really not sure what this says about me or my friends, but shortly after I landed in the Vegas airport I felt the need to go through some sort of detoxification program. To sum it up as much as possible, the conference was ridiculously awesome, Vegas was a tad bit frightening. Thankfully I spent much more time in the company of really smart people than I did in the company of gaming machines or tables (disclosure: I did lose $19.56 if the $20 I decided to use on gambling and it really wasn’t that fun). When I got back, I told the same people that thought I was going to have difficulty actually attending the conference, “NCTE was amazing, Vegas not so much.”
Warning: When I started this post, I wasn’t expecting to write so much. Buckle up for some unnecessary wordiness.
So why was the conference so amazing for me? Connections and Learning.
At this point in my teaching career connections and learning are nearly inseparable. When I think about how my thinking has been stretched over the last few years by connections forged online it truly blows my mind. I will often wonder how did I teach before twitter, blogs, skype, etcetera? Apparently I did because these things weren’t on my radar four years ago and I have been teaching for 18.
While nearly session I attended was awesome, below is a
brief listing of the awesomeness along with my attempt to trace my prior learning through online connections.
Will Richardson’s session on Thursday was very thought provoking. ”The common core does not capture all of what writing now is, we need to ask what is UNcommon about writing?” was the most thought provoking idea that stuck in my brian. I need to let this idea stew around some more, but for now I think about the lack of passion that permeates the Common Core. While I love the higher stance that writing has within the Common Core, I am not too sure if we can reasonably get younger students fired up about writing if the bulk of their expected writing lacks any creativity.
I “met” Will about two years ago when someone retweeted one of his comments which led me to his blog, TED talks and more. What I have learned form him has been as been truly transformed what I think about the possibilities of learning. Like Will reminded me, “We have moved from a time of scarcity to a time of abundance in how we can learn.” I am really not too sure I would have attended this session without the online connections I have made.
On Friday the opening keynote speech was delivered by Sir Ken Robinson. Now I am quite sure that I would have gone to this session because to be honest it was the only session offered at this time, but I was very excited to hear his speak because I learned about Sir Ken (I wonder if his friends call him Sir Ken?) through a random blog post review of the Element I read a few years ago, which led to this TED talk, which led me to reconsider how I frame learning experiences in my room to include more opportunities for creativity.
The next session I attended included Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle and Thomas Newkirk. Being an elementary guy, I don’t think I would have ever attended a session with Kelly and Penny if it weren’t for my connected learning life. One of my friends is Teresa Bunner, a secondary teacher from North Carolina and she tends to fill my twitter timeline with smart thinking by Kelly and Penny. I left that session inspired by the work Kelly and Penny do with high school kids. So inspired I wondered how much it would cost to move to California or New Hampshire so my children could work with either one of them. By the way, it might be impossible to explain how I got connected to Teresa.
On Friday afternoon I had the honor of presenting with Patrick Allen and Ann Marie Corgill. Seriously?!?! I actually met them face to face before connecting with them online (thank you Dublin Literacy Conference), but the reason I got to present with these two is that we have maintained a connection through twitter and other avenues. By the time I got up to share my stuff, I was pretty sure I was going to have an aneurysm due to the amount of people in the room that I have learned from in the past few years because I found their work and ideas online. People tell me I did well, but I really don’t remember much of my 20 minutes because every time I scanned the room I was thinking, “OH CRAP, there’s ____________.”
The connected learning continued Friday night because Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp and Cindy Minnich were co-hosting a Nerdy Book Club Event. Nearly every single person in the room that night I have been challenged by and become friends with due to online connections I have made. This group is ridiculously well read and push their students to become passionate readers. I am truly thankful for this connection (except for the fact that my book spending has exponentially increased since hooking up with this crew).
The two sessions I attended on Saturday that can be traced to my connected learning life were both fascinating. One was an author session that included Anita Silvey and Kate Messner. Both were introduced to me through #titletalk chats. The second was a fascinating Ignite session that gave me the chance to watch Kevin Hodgson in action, plus it gave me a few more people to follow on twitter.
By the time I got to share a presentation with my Nerdy Book Club friends on Saturday afternoon, I was toast. But the connections continued. Every table Colby and I rotated through started with me seeing the twitter handles of various attendees scrawled under their names on their convention badges. Note to NCTE, add our twitter names to our ID badges next year, some of us don’t have the best handwriting.
My session learning ended on Sunday with Bud Hunt, Troy Hicks and Sara Kajder. Won’t even try to replay how they blew my mind. One of my notes reads, “Do I even know what a computer is? #slacker.” All three of these educators have stretched my thinking so much over the past few years and with the exception of Troy, who I have had the opportunity to talk with in person several times, they may never know how their work has benefitted the lives of 4th grade students in Dublin, Oh.
One last idea of note. I spent a lot of time talking with Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass. Franki pretty much got my connected learning life started by twisting my arm to get on twitter and start this sporadic blog. I got to know Bill because of Franki and his stance on learning has also deeply impacted my teaching. I didn’t get to see either one of them present and that is maybe the only regret I have about this year’s NCTE Annual Convention.
I know many people who actually read had similar experiences at NCTE. I’m already looking forward to next year in Boston. I know the setting will be more my speed, but I would be flabbergasted if the learning at #NCTE13 can top this year’s event.