Sunday, August 02, 2009

My BLC09 Story

This past week, I had the good fortune of attending and presenting at The November Learning Building Learning Communities Conference - BLC09 - in Boston, MA. I must say that the conference was the richest and warmest educational conference I’ve ever attended. The collective vision of the attendees and the presenters was incredibly focused. Unlike many conferences, you couldn’t tell the attendees from the presenters. As a matter of fact, I had quite a few conversations with people who impressed me so with some of the things they were doing in their classrooms/schools/districts. I was quite surprised that they were not presenting. There is only so much real estate for scheduled presentations, so Alan November strategically provided plenty of opportunities for those other equally valuable learning experiences to take place. Those took the form of included breakfast, lunch and evening socials. Additionally, the choice of venues was brilliant because there was a cozy lobby and comfy chairs and sofas spread out which lended themselves to the enriching conversations that were taking place.

Because I was presenting and planning my sessions (it doesn’t matter how much time you spend planning beforehand. We were all up late re-working our presentations ~ my presentations were "done" 6 times), I did not get to attend as many sessions as I would have liked. I took something away from each of those I did attend as well as from my own. I will blog further about my own Lessons Learned.

One thing I would like to note is the opportunity I had to sit in on a planning session that Alan held with one particular group; an option for groups that attended. Paula White and Becky Fisher graciously invited me join them. BTW; I enjoyed hanging with Paula and Becky. Besides being the sweet, giving ladies they are, Paula is also the gifted resource teacher at her school and I know I will get to pick her brain a bit in my new job. It was during that conversation that I tapped into the (might I say, brilliant?) mindset of Alan November. What specifically stuck with me was how to be strategic about getting the most out of a conference. He listened carefully to what were their goals and noted some specific sessions that he thought would meet their particular needs. He also suggested they break up into groups based on desired outcome. They would then attend every session on that topic. Of course, they would then come back together and share their knowledge. His knowledge of the presenters, their experiences and their styles, along with his experience with the topics had to have been extremely helpful to the group. I was impressed with how well he knew each and every presenter. (I suppose that should be expected when presenters must be invited to present with no application process.) He emphasized this strategy of “pick a topic and focus on that one throughout the conference,” even for those attending solo. I had never considered that approach. I tend to try to diversify and thus end up with too much to process.

I’d also like to shout out to David Jakes who took a chunk of time to teach me about Google Earth, when my silly little brain didn’t quite get it from a Practioner’s Strand I had attended earlier that day. Like all good teachers, David started with the question, “What do you want to do with it?” If you haven’t seen David’s Google Earth website, you must check it out. You may never have to search for another resource again.

Having dinner and spending time with Joyce and Emily Valenza was a gift. Joyce made me think about what my presenter "voice" truly is. I'd never considered that I present a different side to myself when presenting, but I've been mulling this over since our conversation.

Darren Kuropatwa is an incredibly nice guy and knows the "Canadians-who-visit-friends-in-U.S.-Must-Bring-Ketchup-Chips" drill. See? He's very smart! Darren also impressed me with the particular type of activities he does with his students using Wikis. He's inspired me to try the same with my upcoming students.

Bob Sprankle is such a gentle, nice, creative and smart gentleman. Bob sat in on one of my sessions and podcasted it. Being a nervous presenter, it was comforting to have Bob sitting right in front of me with his warm smile. A little aside; The night before, Bob and someone-else-who-shall-not-be-named, were exchanging contacts by bumping their iPhones. When (I have to say, I saw it coming) his iPhone ended up in a drink. Everyone had a panicked moment, but it all turned out well in the end. I’m sure he can laugh about it now. Speaking of which;

Lisa Thumann and Liz Davis are so fun, knowledgeable and organized a ROCKIN’ EduBloggerCon. The NECC09 EduBloggerCon was my first, so I was so looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. They are perfect additions to organized conferences.

Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged when teachers have no choice but to “Teach, Test and Hope for the Best.” If there’s anyone who can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s Angela Maiers. She just oozes positive energy. I want to be Angela when I grow up.

As I was sharing with Tony Parkin that I was heading over to my room to revise my presentation once again, he offered (in his delightful British accent), if you must keep changing it, cut stuff out. Don’t over plan. Know your time limit and slow down. Your participants will appreciate it. Thanks, Tony. Good advice. I “tried” to remember to slow down.

Beth Lloyd shared with me the XtraNormal video she created for her autistic students and generously allowed me to use it in my Standard Students / (Top 10+ Tools) presentations. It was the best part of my session.

If you missed attending, I encourage you to check out the Twitter search for BLC09 so that you can catch up and continue to learn from the ongoing conversation. You'll also learn about some great educators to follow on Twitter. Additionally, you will find links to many of the presenters resources on that Twitter search and on Slideshare.

Kudos to the November Learning team for putting on such a bang-up conference and making us all feel so valued as professionals.

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Jim said...


Thanks for the kind words about BLC09. I think it is one of the best educational conferences that discusses technology. Thanks for being part of it and hope to see you there in 2010.

I don't get to see a lot of sessions while I'm at the conference and I'm sorry I missed yours.

Jim Wenzloff

Lisa Thumann said...

It was an absolute pleasure getting to know you Lee. I hope to bump into you again sometime very soon. :)

P.S. Thanks for the great Voicethread resources!

IMC Guy said...

It sounded like a great time. I was working at another conference and trying to follow the Twitter stream here and there. I wish I could attend every (ok, most) conferences out there. Thanks for sharing.

Vicki A. Davis said...

Hope I can attend one day. Unfortunately, (or should I say fortunately) I have to work my way to all conferences I go to since my school has no money for this! Maybe one day! ;-)

Angela was my "roomie" at NECC and is so great! She and I talked until the wee hours of the morning and I couldn't agree more!

myronbuck said...

Thanks for the great blog post, Lee! I am finding it challenging to hold on to all the different things we were exposed to, so now I'm going meta and instead I'm making bookmarks to summary pages. And so far...yours is the best! That sure was a stunning conference, wasn't it!

Myron Buck

Cheryl Oakes said...

Lee, I enjoyed meeting you at edubloggerconeast! I appreciated your thoughtful post and I am glad I could participate through the twitter comments and by reading blog posts. Alan does a really great job of gathering a variety of minds together to make wonderful connections. Hope to see you again online.
Cheryl Oakes