These on-line relationships propelled NECC to offer NECC 09 Unplugged. This unique design set it apart from other national conferences. Not only were there regular conference sessions via lectures and panel discussions and BYOL (bring your own laptop) sessions, but also informal learning opportunities through playground areas and a blogger's cafe. The playground areas were set up with a presenter to share some of their learning and where others could gather, ask questions, and get some advice on implementation strategies. In the blogger's cafe conversations focused on wikis, how to create interaction on a blog through comments, what individuals might want to present at next year's conference, or how to use their new Nikon 60 cameras, to name just a few. On a personal level, people spent time making face-to-face connections and just talking. Networks deepened and friendships formed. I took as much, if not more learning from these informal conversations. This means extended and richer learning for me far beyond the convention walls.
Relationships also had me selecting sessions differently. In the past, I would pick solely on the title or content listed in the program, but this time I selected based on whether the presenter was part of my PLN, Personal Learning Network, through Twitter. Attending sessions with presenters from my PLN offered many benefits, including that I can have dialogue with them far beyond the hour session, and I know if I want to learn more later, I can go directly to the source.
Reflection was also a natural part of this conference. After leaving other national conferences, I would take time to reflect on my learning and decide how my new learning would shape the way in which I work or deliver pd to teachers. After NECC, I not only have my own reflections, but the reflections of hundreds of other attendees. Many are bloggers and through their on-line communication I can read a post much like this one, that tells me about their own shift in thinking. I can also access many posts that were live blogged during the conference, much like the blog my colleague and I contributed to, Live from the Creek, and I can read about sessions I was not able to attend. To me, a significant change in the way we do business.
If you are reading this, you are part of my PLN, and you attended NECC 09, you already understand. But, if you are not part of my PLN, and this conference intrigues you, I would suggest that you attend ISTE 10 in Denver next year. My advice would be to get connected now so you will fully benefit, like I did, from being networked by the time you arrive. To get started, go to http://www.twitter.com/ , create an account, and search for me at @shalls under the followers tab. Don't feel overwhelmed in getting started. Start small and your network will expand. Once you meet people face to face next year at ISTE 10, you will be glad that you did.
For those of you who are networked and attended NECC 09, what do you see as the differences between this conference and others?