Wow. NECC 2007 is officially over, and my brain is feeling pretty full. Yesterday was a day full of conversations in the hallways and at the EduBlogger lounge for me (along with my session in the afternoon.) Today was highlighted by several wonderful sessions, more hallway conversations, and a great series of lessons on advanced digital video techniques and recommendations for effective professional development on the vendor floor. I have multiple conversations and sessions recorded to my iPod and iRiver to publish as podcasts, and many more ideas running through my head as a result of everything from the conference.

My biggest mistake of NECC (like Vicki Davis I think, based on a message she sent) was adding my cell phone to my Twitter! Wow! I think I probably maxed out my monthly text message limit just today… Twitter will be interesting and fun to do via cell phone SMS on an unlimited message plan (which I don’t have currently) but not as exciting on a limited plan. What an amazing technology. People today were using Twitter in all sorts of ways: To share their location, to ask questions, to share a great website they just heard about, to share an interesting fact, etc. Really amazing. And of course, the twitter-powered conversations will continue after today….. That is probably the best news of NECC. It has been invigorating, challenging, tiring and thought-provoking, but it is not over. Here, powered by our passion to remain engaged in conversations about ideas that matter, the dialog continues. As Barbara Barreda shared at the end of the conference, we’re all going home and may feel alone when we’re apart from the energy and enthusiasm of NECC. But here is what’s different. None of us are alone, unless we choose to be. That’s the power of the network which connects us, and the beauty of the read/write web for educational professional development.

The final NECC keynote session today was by Tim Tyson, and what a fantastic session it was. My laptop was low on battery juice, so I didn’t live blog it, and that was actually really nice. I just experienced Tim’s presentation. ISTE will be publishing it as a video podcast on their website, but if my recorded version turned out OK I’ll publish it here as an audio-only podcast. (I visited with Tim after the session and got his permission, of course, I never podcast anyone’s presentation or ideas without their explicit permission.) I’ll share a few reflections at the start of that presentation when I podcast it later today, but for now let me observe that while Dr. Tim Tyson “gets it,” it’s unfortunate MOST of our school district leaders don’t seem to.

What does “getting it” mean? “Getting it” means that we don’t simply need to use technology to transform the analog / paper / pencil / textbook / lecture driven school experiences (school 1.0) into a digitally sexy school 1.0 model. It means doing what Tim showcased today in his keynote: Letting students direct their own learning and utilize digital tools to tackle real problems and issues, and share their best work with the entire world– on the global stage. “Getting it” means understanding the VITAL role leadership plays in this process. This reminds me of comments from some Kansas educators at the April Kansas State Department of Education conference in Wichita, who observed that our present national educational culture seems to undervalue the importance of leadership roles in supporting constructive school change in the learning culture. Good leadership matters. Tim Tyson’s leadership has made a tremendous impact on the students, teachers, and families of Mabry Middle School over the past few years. It is a tremendous loss for his school community that Tim is leaving the principalship at Mabry Middle School. People do move on, and there are reasons, but I’m sure the loss of Tim’s leadership will be deeply felt in his community. The good news is that as a larger educator community, we’re not losing Tim… He’s just changing roles.

If you’re a school board member or other district leader, you’ve GOT to support your innovators. The loss of Tim Tyson to Cobb County Schools is analogous to the San Diego Chargers losing Dan Fouts at the height of his great career in the 1980s. It’s like Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls just after they won another NBA title championship. It’s just something any team (and I think school leadership teams can be included in this) should try at all costs to AVOID. You never want to lose a star player, especially because most star players are also star LEADERS.

I met Tim Tyson back in 2005 at the Apple Distinguished Educator’s academy in San Jose, and he told me then about the power of his school’s digital storytelling contest. That was a key message of his presentation today.

Remember the mess surrounding the NEARLY-landmark Cobb County Schools 1:1 laptop initiative? I don’t know all the details of what happened there, although I have blogged a bit about this in the past (here, here, here and here.) I do know what Tim told me on the bus back from Cuptertino in 2005. Who do you think first proposed a laptop initiative for students in Cobb County? It was Tim Tyson. Good leadership matters, and if the leadership of that school district and community was on the same page with visionary leaders like Tim Tyson, I think things would have turned out different for the laptop initiative there.

Why did some leaders in the Cobb County community collude to take down and destroy the initiative to provide every student with a mobile, wireless computing device? I’m not sure. Hearing that full tale is something I hope I’ll learn some day. I put that in the category of other mysteries I want to hear the FULL story on, including:

  • The reasons Colin Powell resigned as U.S. Secretary of State in 2005.
  • What happened to the live U.S. prisoners of war held in Laos, who the U.S. never officially negotiated to free since we were never officially at war in Laos? (I’ve written about this in the past.)
  • What was the full story about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?

These questions are about diverse topics, but all are events of public record that are shrouded in varying levels of secrecy and mystery.

Here’s what we do know today, with regard to Tim Tyson: He has phenomenal vision for the education our kids need and deserve, and has demonstrated a commendable capacity to translate that vision into action. Tim is now going on the speaking circuit full time. If your conference is looking for an energizing and visionary speaker, Tim Tyson is a great choice.

Many thanks to ISTE for putting together a great NECC conference this year. Next year, we’ll be meeting in San Antonio!

While thanks go to ISTE for a great keynote speaker panel this year, my personal thanks for challenging my own professional learning here at NECC and on an ongoing basis goes out to all of you: The edublogger community. The writers, the commenters, the thinkers and the visionaries: We’ve got a great collection of minds gathered around this virtual conference table. Who can predict with certainly what is going to happen next? No one can, but I’m reminded and embolded by the words of Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

If I’m voting for leaders to help us invent the future of school 2.0, I’m casting one of my votes (and I hope I get several) for Tim Tyson. It’s not often I hear a keynote address that includes student created movies so emotionally powerful they move you to tears… Marco Torres has this ability as well, but generally in my experience, it’s a rare thing to encounter at an education conference. After attending NECC this year and finishing with Tim Tyson’s message, I’m ready to make a new podcast with a title similar to: “Be On Notice World: We’re Going to Change the Face of Formal Education.”

That’s one of the big “a-ha” moments for me from NECC and the preparation I did for my school 2.0 presentation… We’ve got the TOOLS to really change the world. Publication of ideas has been completely disintermediated. Sitting as I am here in a hotel restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, I’ll return to my hotel room in a few minutes and publish this for a global audience. No one is censoring this conversation. I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to write and share these ideas. Is that going to lead to problems at some point? I don’t know. At what level would you mean by asking about “problems?” Will your school district be affected by students being able to publish their voices and ideas on MySpace and YouTube? Almost certainly. Will our schools change as a result of our conversations here, and the actions we take as a result in our local communities? Definitely.

What IS change? Change comes from different thoughts, which lead to different choices and different actions. You’re reading this, and so you might be thinking about something differently. At that point, the world has already been changed, because your mind has been influenced by the ideas of another. If you act on those changed ideas, then other people may notice, and the change made in the world may have a bigger splash. You don’t have to act in order for the change to have taken place, however. A change in the perception of one human being equates to a change in the world. Generally we want to translate those perceptions into thoughts and actions, but every journey begins with a step. The prelude which has to precede that first movement is always fed by IDEAS.

In my conversation with Marco Torres today (which I recorded with permission and will share as a podcast later) he referred to the tools of digital storytelling used by his students and so many others as “tools of mass communication.” I love that name. Email is potentially a “one-to-many” communication modality, but you have to have all the email addresses before you click SEND. (Or they have to be included in a distribution list or listserv.) Email is a “one-to-finite many” communication modality.

Blogging is different. When someone publishes ideas on a blog, they are using a “one-to-infinite many” communication modality. I have no idea how many people will read this post, or how many people will respond. The fact that a theoretically infinite number of people could respond (or more accurately I guess, an unbounded potential number of people could read and respond) is earth shattering.

Chris Walsh told me a very simple but powerful thing about landline phones and cell phones at NECC. You’d think I might have thought about this before, but I hadn’t– and maybe this idea will be new for you too. Chris’ context was the Kipp School where he taught, which provided all learners (teachers and students) with both cell phones and the expectation that they use them regularly. Chris noted:

When you call a landline phone number, you call a place. When you call a cell phone number, you call a person.

That really changes everything, doesn’t it, IF we are connected to each other via cell phones and the Internet? We are no longer limited (and in some cases crippled) by our potential to reach out and communicate. Want to directly contact someone? Call their cell phone number. Want to potentially communicate directly with everyone on the planet who has access to the Internet’s world-wide web? Post something online.

We are living in unprecedented times of change and opportunity. I’m not afraid. I’m energized. For we will not only change the world in the future, we will continue to change the PRESENT. We already are. Ideas matter. Especially powerful ones. Our unbounded abilities to share our ideas and then act upon them locally is a disruptive potential I think few people (especially leaders in formal positions) currently understand or appreciate.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s book “The Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins loved to sing the following traveling song:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Where will our read/write web and passion-powered conversations take us and our schools? I cannot say.

But from where I’m sitting, the future is looking VERY bright. I think I better put on some shades. :-)

dog with shades

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  • http://http//dogtrax.edublogs.org Kevin H.

    Thanks for sharing your impressions and going so deep into your observations.
    Very helpful.
    Kevin

  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    Awesome, awesome post. I can’t wait to see Dr. Tyson’s video.

    Thank you for emphasizing the importance of leaders in all this. We can’t do that enough. I hope you’ll participate in Leadership Day next week!

    http://tinyurl.com/2njjay

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  • http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/ Darren Draper

    Great reflection, Wesley. It was great to meet with and learn from you. See you next round-

    Darren Draper

  • http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com Vicki Davis

    Yes, I do have the unlimited text plan and although I twit from my phone I don’t receive twitters unless it is a direct message — just would be too many interruptions.

    It was joyous meeting you and having you come by the WOW2 show. You are a delight and I loved listening in on one of your podcast interviews live. I listen to your show all of the time and believe you do a great job with the podcasts. Keep it up, many of us are listening!

    Thank you for what you do to improve education. I had to leave before the keynote, my grandmother took a turn for the worst. Where is tim Tyson going?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Thanks Vicki, it was great to meet you too, and experience as well as participate in the live WOW2 broadcast. I really think that was a great way to “process” many of the ideas of the conference together. I hope you all can do it again that way in San Antonio next year!

    Tim Tyson is going out on his own as an independent consultant, from what I understand. I’m about to publish his keynote as an audio podcast. It was one of the best conference presentations I’d ever heard!

  • http://weblog.techruminations.org Kurt Paccio

    Wes,
    I would like to echo your thoughts on NECC 2007. Easily the best one I’ve been to.

    I, too, didn’t see the point to Twitter. As it turns out, I’ve continued to twitter beyond NECC and it is quite fun. Is it long term? Time will tell.

    Keep up the great work. Your posts and podcasts are alway thought provoking.

    Kurt

  • http://www.edtechlife.com Mark Wagner

    Wes,

    I turned on twitter phone updates about half way through the conference… and then called my provider on Tuesday… I had nearly $30 in txting fees (about $20 from the conference) – and my wife had another $20… unusual for her. I switched to unlimited and “saved” $30 this month.

    Unlike Vicky I was receiving all tweets during the conference… loved it when I was away form my macbook (turned it off when I was online). But, I turned it off when I headed home. Leaving it on while I work or catching up every couple of hours online is plenty… and its less interruptions than IM, especially since the norms of twittering don’t require a response very often.

    At any rate, good to meet you face to face this week.

    -Mark

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