BLC on Demand – why not school?

The BLC conference in Boston just wrapped up and I’ve been busy catching up on various feeds from my usual reporters such as Dean, Darren, Dave and Will. (DDDW 😉 ) I’ve been interested in how they have been able to keep those of us who are not attending informed of what was going on and the connections that they have made. I’ve also been doing a bit of tracking of other bloggers who have been posting. Today, I found Diane at Nexus who is a teacher from Ontario visiting Saskatoon. (Hi Diane!) I’ve also been following some of the discussions via Twitter although I find that I have to spend time going through the back pages as I have been out doing other things and not at my laptop – which is a good thing.

What struck me was the ease at which those of us who are not attending can find information and, with an invite or two, actually join the presentations via Skype. I know that there will be a some podcasts that I’ll have to download and listen to next week while I’m camping. I’m also going to take my laptop just to catch up on the reading I’ve missed so that when I get back from the week away, I’m ONLY a week behind!  I’ll be able to do take time to mull over what was said about the conference and the insights that people have had from their attendance.

It also struck me that, if this is possible, what is keeping us from moving in this direction in schools? I know that change is, indeed, something that takes time but ….. I think of meetings where people drive when the exact same could be done via any number of online conference or meeting software. Would it not be possible for a teacher to attend a conference and, at a specific time, Skype other teachers in the school who could then attend the session with them yet never leave the school. With all that goes on in educators’ lives, would it not make sense to provide them tools that would allow them to use their time in ways other than commuting between meetings? Especially in rural areas, where driving can become a full time job, these tools would reduce the stress and workload of rural teachers and provide them more time to do other things.

This made me wonder about the whole idea of podcasting different classes for students that are unable to attend. I mean, if we can do it for “strangers” who are interested in the same conference surely this could be a viable means to provide students who are away for extended periods of time (like that winter vacation in Mexico) to catchup. It wouldn’t mean that teachers would have to record their classes as they were taught but, instead, provide oral instruction that would supplement the other information that the student would get upon returning. This all could be done while the teacher was at home after having taught the class. I know that I am going to be doing something similar for a class that I am teaching at school but am sending to another student via the net. I will provide information using a podcast format for this particular student. I am also going to set up some sort of system that will allow the student to ask questions using voice instead of type. This way, I’m hoping to make things easier and more accessible for this student. I’ve thought about using video but I look terrible on the screen!

So as I go through the significant number of readings about the conference, I really wonder why these technologies are not being provided to every teacher and, in some form or another, every student. It’s not like the net couldn’t handle the traffic! Besides, it would be better for the environment and give teachers something they cherish – time. I know that I was grateful that I could “attend” BLC without having to leave my home. Not that I wouldn’t want to rub elbows with the likes of Christian, Chris or Will but, at this time, it just wasn’t possible and this is certainly a great option. Wouldn’t it be great if these conferences had a fee to attend virtually for those who couldn’t do the f2f.

I am working on finishing my post on my action plan for the upcoming year but I keep being pulled to see what is going on around the blogosphere and trying to digest the information from the posts regarding  BLC. This week away will give me some time to just focus on reading and putting my thoughts in order amidst some fine fishing, sand play and nightly visits to the ice cream shop! My family and I are looking forward to getting away and we’re hoping the weather cooperates. Who knows, I may even decide to get into the flickr stream like so many others are doing! Just what you want to see, my family on vacation 😉


  1. Reply

    Hi Kelly. Thanks for making the trek over to my blog :-). I think your idea of giving teachers ready access to the tools they need to interact with admin and colleagues is bang on. I strongly believe that as soon as teachers start using communicative and collaborative tools to improve working conditions in their professional lives, they will see the possibilities for their classrooms. There’s a rural schoolboard I’ve been working with in Ontario that rolled out their web-conferencing software (Adobe Connect) to administrators first. Instead of all administrators driving an hour or more to a central board office for meetings, the meetings are now conducted online from their own schools! Now there is a motivated group of administrators who are very supportive of using this technology at the classroom level.

  2. Reply

    You are 100% correct in your post. There are so many new and exciting ways to reach students beyond the classroom walls. I also think we can be reaching out to their parents in new and different ways, too. For example, I saw a demonstration of the Promethean ActivBoard last week at BLC. What an awesome tool. Besides the benefits for students and teachers in the classroom, this tool can help a teacher podcast the actual instruction done on the board so kids and parents can see it at home after school. And, this is just one of a 1000 ideas out there. The problem we administrators is running into is that a lot of teachers are afraid to go outside their comfort zones and try new and innovative teaching techniques. Maybe they think it will mean more work, and it may at first, but the benefits out weigh the start-up costs!

    This is why I am trying to model for teachers by blogging, creating Wikis, and I am going to start podcasting. Also, I found a nice piece of software called VoiceThread which I plan on using on my blog to share school events with parents.

    After the NECC conference, which I did not attend, I was feeling the same way you are feeling now. I actually learned a lot by reading blog posts of those who where there. Next year I plan on attending NECC because of that. I think your idea of providing a way for people to attend virtually is great. I think you should email or post to Alan November with this idea. He is very open to new ideas!

    Enjoy your vacation!

  3. Reply

    Thanks Dianne and Dave. I think that we could do so much with these new technologies that would provide us with added time. f2f would still have to happen but it would sure give us added options. Dianne – do you have anyone I can talk with from that admin group? I’d like to see how they manage some of the logistics.
    Dave – I’ll get ahold of Alan. I’d love to go to NECC or BLC or any type of national/international conference like these. I know that it will be some time before I will qualify so I figure being there virtually would be an option. I don’t think it would decrease the # of attendees. It might actually increase them as people see what is available and decide to send someone to be live. We’ll have to talk before the NECC next year – I’ll need provider for my “habit” 😉

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