Category Archives: NECC06

NECC 2006 attendance


For those of who haven’t seen this yet, here are some attendance figures from NECC 2006:

Attendance: 12,000 (down about 400 from last year. Not bad, considering this year’s scheduling during July 4th week).

Vendors: 512 (up from last year by about 60). Whether or not this is a good thing is another question….

For complete demographics, see this page on the NECC site.

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NECC 2006: Reflections on Reflections


Since I’ve been back from San Diego, I’ve been trying to get caught up with what others have written about the conference (trying being the operative word here). There is literally a flood of information out there in blogs, wikis, and on discussion boards, to name just a few outlets. Here is my take on things:

As I’ve said before, my primary reason for going to NECC is to talk to and network with people I am in contact with virtually (and sometimes personally) throughout the year, especially in the area of mobile computing. This year, I had some nice conversations with both Graham Brown-Martin, who runs the Handheld Learning forum from London, as well as Cathie Norris, one of the leaders in the field of handheld computing. In addition, I ran into the usual suspects such as Tony Vincent, Mike Curtis, Elliot Soloway, Rolly Maiquez, Marge Arnold and Debbie Lyles, and the list goes on. NECC is one of the few places where you get people of this caliber together in large numbers.

Graham and I had some interesting conversation about how we need to get decisionmakers at the highest level of education (e.g. politicians, top administrators etc.) as well others at all levels of education to see that if we keep doing things the way we’ve always been, the educational systems as we know them today will not and cannot survive, in large part due to new technologies and the ways in which kids are using them outside of and despite of what they do and learn in school. That we’ll need to ruffle more than a few feathers in the process should speak for itself. An interesting observation we made as we were walking around the tradeshow floor is that many of the booths were hawking their wares using a traditional classroom setup, with chairs facing the presenter, who was often up on a small podium, talking down (literally) to the attendees. Graham promptly started snapping pictures with his Treo and has since posted them on his site. I am still amazed at how little venders of educational technology understand about the full potential of their own hardware and software for education, displaying them in traditional classroom settings for which they are not particularly suited, a feeling that is echoed in Will Richardson’s NECC reflections. It’s a feeling I’ve had at NECC for at least the last two or three years, with more of the same being shown every year and not much new and truly innovative technology.

Speaking of conversations, many bloggers brought up the subject of conversations they did and did not hear at NECC. A few excerpts:

From Will Richardson:

But the conversations and presentations about Web 2.0 were there in a way that I haven’t seen at NECC. They were NOT about pedagogy and about, as Jeff [Utecht] says, “about the changing nature of our students, our classrooms, and our society.” (That would have been amazing and should be the goal for Atlanta next year.) But they were about the conversations that have to come before pedagogy. Here’s what these tools are. Here’s what they can do. Here are the first practices that are sticking. It’s about building the vocabulary and the context, which, for some, takes time.

From Jeff Utecht:

I’ll agree that the tools that can and hopefully will affect change are at a pivotal point here with blogs, podcasting, rss, and others being mentioned in almost every session. But the tools are only half of the formula. The tools are here, we have them, but without a change in how we view education these tools will not affect education the way I believe it needs to be.

Jeff goes on to talk about the need for an appropriate educational theory that fits the Web 2.0 technologies if we are to use them to change education. He proposes George Siemens’ Connectivism theory (2004), which, in a nutshell, proposes that knowledge exists outside of ourselves in a network of information sources. As a result, learning and being educated should entail:

  • knowing where these resources are and how to connect them (i.e. getting a handle on collective intelligence);
  • nurturing and maintaining these connections, with the continuous goal to know more (i.e. lifelong learning);
  • the ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts;
  • being and remaining current;
  • decision-making as a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. What is true or right today may not be so tomorrow.

Obviously, web-based social sharing tools play an important role in this process, or as Siemens says:

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.

However, as David Warlick has said, technology is not the key or panacea, and as much as I work with technology, teachers, and kids in the AT&T classroom at Kent State and surrounding schools, I wholeheartedly agree. While his focus seems to be on experiences kids have with technology (which we as adults know far too little about), I think another conversation we need to have more is teachers’ experiences with technology. As a former classroom teacher, I can only imagine how overwhelming the arsenal of technology must look to current teachers. To be able to use even some of the newer and more web-based tools effectively, teachers need to understand the technology and its potential for teaching and learning, learn what it can and cannot do, find out what it is that kids are already doing with it (both the good and bad), and make the technology work within the plethora of restrictions that schools put on them (what can and cannot be used, what is blocked, AUPs, technical limitations such as bandwidth, administrative and technical support, classroom space, limited time, high stakes testing, etc. etc. etc.).

While all of these reflections and observations are very insightful (for one I want to learn more about connectivism now), I think they do fall short of the bigger picture and larger conversation to some extent. They are all pieces of the puzzle though. In my opinion, the conversations should begin to focus more on the triad student-technology-teacher, and the complex of relationships between the three. As we have found in our research at RCET, relationships change when technology is added to the mix of teaching and learning. Examples of these changes can be found in these RCETJ articles:

Katz, K., & Kratcoski, A. (2005). Teacher-student interactions in a ubiquitous computing environment: Learning within dyads and triads of interaction.

Kratcoski, A., & Katz, K. (2006). Interactions in a ubiquitous computing environment: The implications of discourse for children’s conceptualizations and representations.

Kratcoski, A., Swan, K., & Campbell, D. (2006). Teaching and learning in a ubiquitous computing environment.

Therefore, maybe the “new stories” to be told shouldn’t necessarily be as much about experiences, but relationships……

Technorati tags: NECC, NECC 2006, teaching, learning, technology, Web2.0

NECC 2006: Second Day


I’m sitting at the airport in San Diego waiting for the red-eye flight as I’m writing this (will post it once home). Today was intense, but great. Even though I missed Negroponte’s speech, I’m sure I’ll find plenty of blogs about it. I did manage to make it to the ubiquitous computing session, which I blogged about earlier (it was pretty stressful, but an interesting experience. I actually paid more attention to the presentation, even though I was frantically typing, scrolling, and trying to add hyperlinks). It was an interesting session, even though I don’t agree with the way in which ubiquitous computing was defined. It’s a term that gets thrown around a little bit too easily sometimes, like 1:1. The danger in this is that it will get a connotation it does not deserve.

My first presentation went very well. I probably had between 80-100 attending, much more than I had anticipated. One of the key things for me that came out of this presentation is that it’s sooooo important that we don’t focus on specific tools, but rather what we do with it (unlike many of the venders at NECC). We had a similar discussion at the SIGHC meeting, more about that in a bit. We should also give our kids more credit for what they know and do with technology, instead of just banning stuff outright without giving it a chance (think MySpace, blogging, cell phones, IM). It’s one of the reasons why we have to start thinking seriously about how our educational system needs to change fundamentally in order to prepare our kids for what lies ahead in their lives. So many of the jobs they get prepared for are no longer available in the US, while the higher skilled engineering jobs can’t be filled because we are not preparing our kids for those (I got some examples about this from one of my colleagues in

In between sessions I spent some time at the trade show, hooking up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, some I hadn’t seen since NECC last year. I talked to Martha Rolley about her switch from Palm to Apple, and what may be in store for the next iPods. I also talked ot the Turning Technologies folks from Youngstown, OH, as they are supporting RCET in some of the research we are doing on student response systems. I visited the Inspiration booth and was pleasantly surprised to find that they are trying to resurrect the old TERC software with their release of InspireData. It looks really promising (and of course I want a handheld version). I passed by the Lego Education booth to get my Lego pins, a yearly ritual, although their setup wasn’t as good this year. While visiting the GoKnow booth I talked with their European “celebrity” Graham Brown-Martin. We talked about how many of the booths are set up to look like traditional classrooms even though they feature new technologies, and Graham promptly proceeded to take some pictures (and a funny/sarcastic post on his forum is sure to follow soon).

The second session was not as heavily attended but fun, trying to juggle a video connection with the primary presenter, Tom McNeal, a PowerPoint presentation with videos in it, and two channels of sound which didn’t always cooperate. All in all it went well though, and attendees seemed to be very interested, even though what we are trying to do with cell phones is still pretty limited, given the tools we have to work with.

The SIGHC business meeting was riveting as always, with vocal attendees such as Elliot Soloway, Cathie Norris, Graham Brown-Martin, and Mike Curtis. The meeting was well attended. Key issues we need to address soon are:

  • The SIGHC name. We need to consider changing the name to something that better fits what we are all about, especially given the near explosion of devices such as iPods, portable gaming devices, and cell phones. Somehow the name needs to evoke mobility and “personalness” of the technology we are dealing with. In addition, Graham mentioned (and see this earlier blog post), that maybe we need to think about it in terms of people being mobile, and not the technology. It’s an idea I really like, although I think that to some extent we will still have mobile devices, whatever they may look like.
  • Becoming more visible and vocal, especially with regards to the online tools we use. It’s amazing how hard it is to use the web tools we have been given by ISTE, considering ISTE is a TECHNOLOGY organization. We are considering the use of blogs and wikis to provide more opportunities for collaboration and sharing. In addition, we need to figure out some ways to become more visible at local, regional, and international handheld and mobile computing conferences, definitely through presentations, and maybe through sponsorships and other types of>

All in all I had a great time today, even though I wish I could have spent another day at the conference networking and attending sessions. I hope people attending my sessions learned something they can take with them and apply in their daily work as/with teachers. Marge and Rolly, thanks for wanting to take a picture with me, I was flattered. That was definitely a first. 🙂 Now it’s on to my 11 hour trip back to Cleveland…

Technorati tags: NECC, NECC 2006, SIGHC

NECC 2006: Ubiquitous Computing Session


I’m going to try it, I’m blogging during a session. It’s not that easy, you’ve got to really multitask and be fast, esp. if you are looking at related resources in multiple windows.

The session I’m blogging is called Ubiquitous Computing: Near Future and Far Horizons (Talbot Bielefeldt, ISTE with Tom Greaves, Jeanne Hayes, Don Knezek, Bette Manchester and Alice Owen) . Some background research (including some of RCET’s work)

Here is what they discussed. 

Findings (executive summary from the ADS study):

  1. schools are moving toward mobile. Mobile is defined by the study as laptops, tablets, student appliances. They excluded cell phones.
  2. UC is growing rapidly (UC= each student and teacher has one internet-connected device to use both at school and home).
  3. UC practitioners report substantial academic improvement (measured how: 87% of districts reported moderate to significant results. The question is, what does that really mean?).
  4. Bandwidth crisis is looming. In schools yes, in the world, no, we actually have excess bandwidth and will for a long time (need to find the resource for this).
  5. Online learning is growing.
  6. Professional development is key
  7. Total cost of ownership is increasingly important
  8. Fastest growing products over the next five years

The presenters seem to really focus on laptops and 1:1 as ubiquitous computing, which I don’t necessarily agree with. I think it’s too narrow a focus. Ubiquitous computing does not equal 1:1, especially when the main focus is laptops. Ubiquitous computing for teaching and learning as I see it can be found on our ubicomp site:

We define ubiquitous computing environments as learning environments in which all students have access to a variety of digital devices and services, including computers connected to the Internet and mobile computing devices, whenever and wherever they need them. Our notion of ubiquitous computing, then, is more focused on many-to-many than one-to-one or one-to-many, and includes the idea of technology being always available but not itself the focus of learning.

Keys for ubiquitous computing for teachingand learning are:

  • the variety of devices available (they really didn’t do this, and I don’t know how much this was part of the study. The overwhelming emphasis was on laptops)
  • many-to-many as opposed to one-to-one
  • anywhere, anytime, anyone access (the presenters did touch on this)

Alice Owen from Irving ISD talked about their laptop project. She talked about

  • bridging the digital divide for her students and families, not necessarily raising test scores. Students are training their siblings and parents. She emphasized that the main goal of the Irving project was NOT to increase test scores, and I really commend her for saying that;
  • getting away from labs (yes!);
  • change takes time (2/3 years);
  • teachers need a lot of support;
  • collecting and reimaging laptops over the summer (not sure why they do, this seems to counter their goals to some extent);
  • bandwidth issues, Irving does have a shortage of Internet bandwidth, even when adding continually;
  • use of Blackboard for online supplements (3-400,000 hits daily). Some experimentation with online courses for courses with few students across the district;
  • importance of investing in people;
  • think about technology as we do about utilities!! Network should be up 24/7. Also hardware is a consumable (but what about the environmental impact of replacing hardware every few years?).

Don Knezek talked about the shift from desktop to laptop, but that this is not necessarily the case outside of the US (where they may not have desktops!). ISTE wants to focus on global developments, and what is happening in the US will not necessarily happen elsewhere.

Don also mentioned that wiring schools for internet access is not enough. There needs to be enough bandwidth, especially with increases in online and blended learning.

Devices need to become affordable. Negroponte’s $100 laptop project was mentioned several times. There was also mention of the need for some action research/case studies. RCET has done some which can be found in RCETJ


Somebody asked about sustainability, along the lines of kids bringing in their own devices such as laptops.  According to the presenters, lots of places don’t support this type of model because of legal implications (i.e. schools can’t force people to buy their kids laptops) and cost, but that it would be possible in the future.

Question: Battery life for laptops? The schools in Irving give kids laptops with two batteries, they take the CD-Rom drives out! Other projects have bought power supplies: problem, you are tethered!! This is why smaller mobile devices should be considered more, I think. Battery life isn’t as much of an issue. In addition, as Cathie Norris and I talked about earlier this morning, do we really need all the bells and whistles that laptops have? A simple mobile device doesn’t do as much, but the batteries last longer, they have a lower total cost of ownership, and have most of the functions a laptop.

Comment: there is a need to think about changes for teaching and learning!!! Teachers need time for this.

Question: what’s happening to textbooks in 1:1 environments. Irving: science and social studies are digital. Math and LA are not. Irving uses a textbook server and kids can download digital books. However, they are still using classroom sets of textbooks. Digital content: districts want more flexible prices, infrastructure for this has to be bullet proof, must be easy to integrate in the curriculum.

Technorati tags: NECC, NECC 2006, ubiquitous computing

NECC 2006: First Impressions


I arrived in San Diego today for ISTE’s annual NECC conference. My stay will be brief but busy. So far it’s been great. The bus ride to the hotel was free, the weather is great, and I had forgotten how big the convention center here is. I spent the afternoon in meetings with the SIG Council, discussing all kinds of interesting and exciting ways in which we are going to make the SIGS and collaboration between the SIGs better, potentially using some of the social software tools out there, like blogging, wikis, and RSS feeds.

Following the meeting I ran into Graham Brown-Marting from Handheld Learning in the UK. I hadn’t seen him since last year and we had a nice talk. We mostly discussed how teaching and learning are going to have to change if we are to fully embrace the potential of Web 2.0 + mobile devices = Web 2.5.

Other than that, not much to report so far, other than that the trade show so far has been somewhat disappointing: not very many mobile technologies here, and not many new things. The products displayed seem very similar to last year’s, and venders are, well, venders….. I hope to do a more in-depth visit tomorrow in between sessions and the SIGHC business meeting. More then…..

Technorati tags: NECC, NECC 2006

NECC 2006

One more week until NECC. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my colleagues in the handheld computing field. Even though my stay will be short, I’m sure I’ll be attending as many sessions as I can. Here are the sessions I will be involved in as a presenter:

Thursday July 6, 2006:

12:30-1:30 pm: Ubiquitous Computing: Making the Most of Handhelds in the Classroom
SDCC 30D/E (presentation)

3:30-4:30 pm: Student Reporters: Using Video Cell Phones as an Educational Tool
SDCC 27A/B (Tom McNeal’s presentation. We’ll be co-presenting albeit that Tom will be hooking up via video conferencing).

4:45-6:00 pm: SIGHC (Handheld Computing) Annual Business Meeting
SDCC 7B (I’ll be chairing this meeting)

Hope to see many of you at these sessions!

NECC 2006

Various people have started blogging about NECC 2006, in San Diego this year, such as David Warlick and Julie Lindsay, and see also this technorati search. I will be there as well, as the chair of SIGHC (special interest group on handheld computing). It is funny to see how people are getting geared up to go, talking about how sessions are going to be podcast and blogged about, stuff being aggregated in browsers like hitchhikr, people’s emails being clogged with “visit us at booth x” messages etc. etc. While this kind of coverage will be great for NECC and valuable for people who won’t be able to attend, some of these people may be missing the most important eason to go to NECC: to meet, learn from, and network with people face-to-face. Technology can, and should have a role in this process, but to put it in Thackara’s words, ” The best Internet tools… are an extension of – not a replacement for- face-to-face exchanges” (In the bubble, p. 145).

What I’m really looking forward to is meeting up with the people from around the world whom I communicate and work with throughout the year. Many of them I only see at NECC. I’m sure I will go to as many sessions as possible, hang out on the trade floor, and be completely overwhelmed with information. Therefore, I’m not going to worry about podcasting or blogging while I’m in San Diego, and not fall victim to a case of continuous partial attention. I may look up some things that other people have to say about sessions I attended and the like, but not until AFTER the conference.

Hope to see many of you in San Diego, only two more weeks….

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