Saturday, August 9, 2008

Madison Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning

As a newbie to this area, I was fortunate to attend this conference… I feel like I received quite a bit of info and networked with the right people. Unfortunately, my computer fried the second day, so I haven’t been able to blog until now.

Here are some initial thoughts:

1. Most impressed with… Rich Jolles’ session on Aligning Professional Development, Mentoring, and Evaluation for Quality Teaching. Here is someone who knows what he is doing. He is coordinating the K-12 elearning at Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Maryland. And, while he didn’t spend too much time boasting about his institution, you can tell things are working well there. The mentoring program that he has in place is very well laid out, including a week-by-week calendar for new online teachers and their mentors to help with the process. We don’t even have that for regular classroom teachers, let alone online teachers.

He also identifies specifically how online teaching, and therefore professional development for online teachers, is different. And, there is quite a difference! The mentoring piece is directly tied to the program/teacher evaluation. In other words, what you learn is what you will be accountable for. I will be mimicing him.

2. Still thinking about… George Siemens’ keynote. Okay, I’m vaguely familiar with the theory of connectivity, and Siemens’ presentation helps crystallize some of what he has written about for me. In general, I can espouse the notion of teacher as curator or concierge to some degree, although I’ve always preferred the notion of teacher as orchestra conductor. It is some of his logical deductions that I am having problem with. Give me some time… I’ll have a full Siemens’ discussion.

3. Is that all we get? Curtis Bonk’s keynote was enticing, but then anticlimactic for me. I’m looking forward to his new book and his concept of “the world is open”, spinning Friedman’s concept for education. But I didn’t get a good look at what this will mean, other than there’s a lot of stuff out there (he’s categorized this openness in 10 categories, each with a bevy of web 2.0 tools that are revolutionary). I’ve got the “internet is full of revolutionary tools” thing down already. I need the way that makes the traditional way unacceptable or impossible. Friedman’s work implies that, since the world is flattening, education will have no choice but to change to meet its needs, probably kicking and screaming. I was looking for Bonk to show how that change will become “mandatory”. For in my mind, I can easily foresee education being the last arena to adopt the new world. I didn’t get that. Perhaps the book will connect the dots (he only had 50 minutes, which is limiting for a tangential speaker like Bonk).

4. The buzz is… Second Life. Everywhere I went, it was Second Life this and Second Life that. Excuse me, SL. I learned some too… I was scratching my head going into this to think of how a simulated environment could be better than a real-world environment. Then a presenter showed me the schizophrenia experiential location in SL. That gave me pause… perhaps there is some use for this. Nuts… I’ve just doomed myself to hours and hours of research and trying to figure out how to build something now.

5. Glad I met… Ed Bowen, who works with Dallas TeleLearning. He was a presenter who took the time to email all participants beforehand, give them his presentation slides, his background info, his delicious account, his blog, and encouragement for everyone else to email there fellow participants. Then he set up a discussion board for post-conference thoughts on what was discussed. Plus, he visited with me a couple of times during the rest of the conference on different topics and what’s going on for us in our lives. If I’m modeling a future presentation, it is after Ed.

6. And Madison… that’s a good place to have a conference.

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