I just returned home from the WASB 2011 School Board Convention. It was great to meet up and network with colleagues, superintendents and school board members from Wisconsin. I had an opportunity to present on the focused topic of 21st century educators and blended learning environments. My session was very well attended, and I provided an environment with many facets of learning through a TodaysMeet back channel chat http://todaysmeet.com/wasb2011, Twitter stream http://twitter.com/#!/search/wasb2011 , think-pair-share activities with attendees, Q and A, and a presentation with strong visual and video literacy to engage the participants to make immediate connections to the content presented.
It is always interesting to present at School Board conventions because there are literally many variations of learning styles and mindsets between the generations of learners in the room at a given time. My audience ranged from 75 year old school board members to 35+ year old superintendent and administrative attendees. Some tech savvy individuals really appreciated the interactive hands-on presentation, where others were looking for that stagnate sit-and-get lecture type presentation. It was very interesting observing the attendees as they sat in their chairs, some squirming with uncomfortableness, while others were actively engaged through their cell phones, laptops or iPads through their 3G connections to interact with the back channel chat and discussing possibilities of use with their colleagues.
This convention posed a few hurdles for us "techno-user" presenters as well. The session presentation areas were not equipped with any Wi-Fi or hard-wired connection Ethernet to gain access to the Internet or audio. Apparently it was too costly per each session and the conference center would not allow for free Wi-Fi connectivity or audio, but they more than willing to charge $9.95 for each individual to purchase Internet access and $20 for a pair of conference room projection speakers. I instead launched my Wi-Fi modem hotspot on my android cell phone and connected my laptop with ease, to ensure my presentation went on without a hitch to access my online content. I did have to use the podium mic to extend the audio projection for my presentation, and it was a little clunky- but we made it work for the time being.
During my presentation and throughout the the convention- I found it amazing the apparent disconnect between some school boards members and k-12 administration when we discuss preparing our students for a 21st century teaching and learning environment. I questioned at times- do these school boards really feel they are in the position to make sound and quality decisions for our k-12 educational system and our students, when they themselves are lacking the technology skill sets and proficiencies to understand how our students learn today's world? It made me squirm now, knowing that at the heart of the matter- some school boards and administrations are too far out to lunch to understand what IS the best interest and learning possibilities of our today's 21st century learners and 21st century educators.
I stressed throughout my presentation the importance of training and preparing educators to be skilled with offering a quality content-based online and blended learning environment through a user-friendly CMS/LMS with in their school districts. Without the foundation of educators knowing what the "art of facilitation" looks like or feels like to build their content around- an online learning program will ultimately fail for educators, their students and and will reflect poorly on the school district as a whole.
While adding closure to my presentation, a veteran school board member came up to the front of the room to ensure she had my business card in hand. My business card provided my contact information, links to my online handouts http://box.net/naomiharm and my QR Code to scan to provide my personal contact information in a digital format. As she approached the presentation table, she stated to me quietly as I was still adding verbal closure to my seated attendees- "You are one sharp cookie girly- I enjoyed your presentation and will let my district know." And just as she said that statement, she quickly took my card and exited the room. It left a huge smile on my face as I tried to compose myself to showcase the closing uplifting video "Ten Years of Tech."