Monday, July 19, 2010

Campus Technology 2010 – Day 1 Summary

So I’m sitting now on the only Amtrak train currently north of Providence, RI. I’m typing this entry up while waiting to pull out. An extremely vicious storm passed through Connecticut and Rhode Island knocking down the electric wires that power Amtrak’s trains in the North east corridor, but at least I have access to an electrical outlet even if I don’t have wireless access. Also, it is a lot more comfortable sitting in this train car rather than in warm and humid South Station.

I’m also thanking my lucky stars I upgraded to business class. Lots of room. The conductor has repeatedly stated that we are fortunate that this train had made it to Providence at 11 am because its the only Amtrak train north of there. Without it we would be still waiting in the station for about 3 hours for the next train.

The reason I am thankful for an electrical outlet is because I had maxed out my battery life at the conference today where I did not have access to an electrical outlet. So much for relying on a single battery and hope for an electrical outlet. So, while I was waiting for this train at the station I had time to record my thoughts of the day, the old fashioned way: pen and paper. The following is what I wrote.

The first day of the Campus Technology session went well, but for one flaw; not enough battery power for my aptop and for the last session I had no access to a battery outlet. As a result I am now composing my thoughts using late 20th century technology: a ball point pen and a composition notebook. I may not have been a Boy Scout but I do know to come prepared. This experience is a useful reminder of how fragile our electronic technology is.

Of course Amtrak is starting to worry me. Their 4:30 Acela to Washington DC has been cancelled and trains arriving from Washington DC are anywhere from 75 minutes to 4 hours late

[ED NOTE: As I typed this the train that was 4 hours late passed my train as we were pulling out of Back Bay Station].

In addition, there is an announcement that Amtrak police with bomb  sniffing dogs are in the station; it could be a coincidence, but without any other announcement from Amtrak to explain the delays your mind can’t help thinking the worst.

[ED NOTE: As I explained earlier the delay was not due to any nefarious action by nar-do-wells, but the lack of any announcement by Amtrak about the actual cause of the delay is a severe customer relations snafu. An announcement for the reason for the delay did not come until about 5:10 pm, two hours after I originally entered the station and saw the delays.]

But back to my thoughts about the conference. The morning and afternoon sessions were, to steal from the theme song of the old Patty Duke show, was as different as night and day. The morning presenter was a true practitioner of the use of technology in the classroom while the afternoon presenter reminded me of the 1990s approach to technology in educational settings.

The morning presenter had a fully formed website for his presentation with links to a wiki where learners could connect to a form that they could use to post their thoughts about each segment of his presentation; a form he created using Google Docs and which recorded the results in a Google Docs spreadsheet. Their was also a link to a class chatroom where all people in his presentation could post questions and comments as the session progressed.

So I now see the value of real-time chat in the classroom. We humans are naturally sociable and always want to throw our two-cents into a conversation. Using chat, we can talk between ourselves without worrying about disrupting other people.

As organized and interactive was the first presenter the 2nd presenter, while apparently knowledgeable about his subject matter (integrating open content into course curriculum) his presentation was almost strictly death by PowerPoint with side trips to web sites that he did not provide links to. Only when asked by a participant whether his materials would be made available to conference goers did he say that he could email it to everyone who attended.

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