National Education Computer Conference

Martin Levins
30 June, 2008
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I’m sitting in the keynote of this conference (known colloquially as NECC) where over 18 000 educators have come together in San Antonio Texas (site of the Alamo) for what is arguably the biggest education conference to address curriculum issues involving Information Technologies in the world, with the theme of Convene, Connect and Transform.

Some may argue that the British Education Technology Trade show is bigger, and it is, but it’s more of an "expo" with far fewer spotlights, keynotes and workshops than International Society for Technology in Education’s NECC
Whilst this conference has traditionally had more of a primarily US focus, it is widening its scope each year as more and more international attendees make the pilgrimage to the US, and, in Singapore this year, host their first major conference out side the continental United States.
But, back to the Alamo.
The expo that accompanies the conference proper takes up seemingly acres of space with software and hardware companies battling to woo purchasers. It takes over two days to cover this expo properly.

But, in a departure from traditional marketing, perhaps what Sir Humphrey would refer to as "courageous", Apple’s famous black and white booth is nowhere to be seen.

Instead, it has mounted a series of classrooms, where its technologies are showcased in a learning environment rather than in a noisy stand on the expo floor.

Participants will be led by Apple Distinguished Educators, predominantly from the US, who will address not the right menu choice for exporting an iMovie, but how to motivate kids to be creative and collaborative, sharing their work on the ISTE web site. ADEs will also be podcasting over 30 hours of the events.

Disappointingly, only Canada is represented in the "international" ADEs who present here, perhaps In keeping with the US foreign policy.

Earlier today, Australian time, ADEs from around the world were greeted by Apple’s Maxx Judd at a secret meeting in the neighbouring Hyatt hotel to hear of a new Apple Learning Interchange, and of the recently released Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow 2 project.

Don’t wince too much when you hear the word "classroom", here — it’s more of a nodding reference to the seminal works on educational computing done in the the original ACOT project than it is to a 6x6m room with a teacher up the front. The thrust of this new century project is more along the lines of preparing students for life and work in a changing world, and rethinking education (to choose two chapters of the white paper at random).

I’ll have more on this conference as it progresses — look to the forums for more information over the next few days. (Night owls will enjoy the benefits of their insomnia due to the 15 hours time difference). Also, look to YouTube over the next few days for a performance art piece done by the ADEs earlier today. Dubbed “Frozen in Texas” it parallels the "Frozen Grand Central” piece done earlier this year.

But frozen it ain’t — temperatures here are in the high 30s each day. Try holding one position for three minutes outside the Alamo in that sort of heat.

Of course, a different sort of heat will be applied to us as educators as our fearless leaders move towards the Rudd government’s goal of “all Australian children will have a laptop”. Will teachers still be able to hold their position, or will they move under the pressure of their charges and parental expectations? An interesting time ahead.

I’ll attempt put this into some sort of international oontext as the conference unfolds.

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