Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reflecting On NECC

It is exactly one week since the opening night program of the NECC 2006 conference. One week ago I ate my first corn dog and stood on the terrace of the appropriately named Sails Pavillion and watched the fireworks in the San Diego sky. I am usually on the opposite side of the country watching the Macy's fireworks over the East River. No matter, the feelings are always the same, a surge of patriotism and of course anticipation for the summer vacation that is before me. That night it was excitement for NECC and the experiences that woud unfold in the next few days.. NECC did not disappoint. As usual (this is my third consecutive conference) I felt like a kid in a candy store. Too many delicious choices and not nearly enough time. I like to use the online planner before I go but there are way too many triangles with exclamations points a warning sign of a conflict in my schedule. Anyway I got to do a lot of hands on workshops and sat through some very interesting sessions but most of all I got to network with so many potential videoconferencing partners.

Podcasting amd Moodle were two hands on workshops I really enjoyed. Videoconferencing is a blended technology. There is room for all types of other technologies and programs to enhance and extend the IVC experience. The pre-conference and post-conference activities afford the opportunity for many other technology applications. A collaboration tool like Moodle or a multi-media product like a podcast are great technology tools for students and teachers to incorporate into projects.

I also got to participate in a variety of live videoconferences. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does three programs. They look at the 50's and the 60's and the historical and political effects of Rock and Roll. I felt like something of a relic having been at Woodstock in 1969. I definitely want to see that videoconference in its entirety and of course I can be an eyewitness resource! I also got to see COSI (Ohio's Center of Science and Industry) and a look at their Open Heart Surgery live videoconference. This one is so popular that it is already entirely booked for the 2006-2007 school year. I saw a portion of the program and although fascinating NOT for the faint of heart. Another one I really enjoyed was a live visit with Jim Stovall, blind author of the book, The Ultimate Gift. He not only was an inspirational speaker but as an author provides an exciting interactive opportunity for students to read his books and then interview him. This is the purpose of ASK (Authors, Specialists, Knowledge) a videoconferencing project which is an organized process that provides students with the opportunity to interview an author or a subject specialist in the topic they are reading about in a novel. One live videoconference I participated in and definitely think I'll pass on is Grossology Live, a videoconference devoted to bodilly functions. I think the students would probably have a good time but there is something to be said for "good taste" in programming.

Probably the most fascinating videoconferencing session I attended was "HyperMirror Videoconferencing! Japan-LA-NJ Collaboration". The project was a water quality study between classes in New Jersey and Japan. The interesting twist was using the HyperMirror technology. This technique developed by a University in Japan uses chroma-key to merge two videoconferences into one so that the 2 sites look as one. I first saw this technology used with Internet2. It was very exciting to see it can also be used with our H.323 connections. The effect is obtained by using a blue screen. In this session two blue plastic tarps were hung and the presenters in San Diego and the students in Japan appeared to be together on the screen. I would love to incorporate this into some of our videoconferences this year. At the end of the session I had an opportunity to shake hands with the students in Japan. Talk about interactivity.

Besides all the wonderful sessions, exhibits, vendors and keynotes, I came away from NECC 2006 with a stack of business cards. Each card represents a project, or person or geographic location that I look forward to working with or connecting to this coming school year. The web is wonderful for finding videoconferencing projects but meeting someone face to face and sharing a good conversation is the best way to make a real connection. I'll keep you posted in subsequent blogs how my NECC encounters pan out.

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