NCTE Brain Dump

I am sitting in the lobby of my hotel in San Antonio, waiting for the shuttle to take me back to the airport. For the first time since I arrived here, I am sitting at a full keyboard to write instead of frantically thumbing words into my iPhone keyboard. Here in the lobby, I have free wifi access, something that just wasn’t an option for me at the NCTE Convention.

I enjoyed very much having the opportunity to share work that we’ve been able to do with students in my district, as well as talking about the possibilities and logistics of tools like uStream, Mogulus, Twitter, Plurk and many others. The value of these particular tools, of course, is in modeling and demonstrating possibilities. We have so many options available to us, in theory, and we need to know what the barriers are to access so that we can begin to, or continue to, knock those down.

The Tech-On-The-Go kiosks, brainchildren of Kylene Beers and the product of a great deal of hard work by Sara Kajder and others, were a window for the conference attendees into the world of the shift that Karl and Anne and others talked so eloquently about in sessions all over the conference. Well done, y’all.

These kiosks, too, were windows into the conference for friends and colleagues and network connections of mine via our uStream and Chatterous sessions, opportunities to mix the friends that were here with the friends who were not, at least physically.

But it was just a taste, a frustratingly flighty, teeny tiny taste, of what it should have been. It should have been that we were able to make those connections in sessions and hallways, bringing in colleagues to share and think with as we learned together in conference presentations and conversations. (And, for $13 a day, I could have done so, although paying extra for what should be a piece of the puzzle for everyone rubs me the wrong way.)

I think NCTE is in a wonderfully frustrating place at the moment, looking at its almost 100 years of work and thinking very seriously and strategically about what is next, and how teaching and learning is changing and has always been changing. They are embracing the shift, as Karl has said, and it’s time for them to continue the push that they made this week.

Many of us within the organization (and plenty of folks who aren’t yet members) are willing, interested, and able to help with some of the geeky bits, as the legions of volunteers in the tech kiosks and several of the presenters in the sessions demonstrated. But it’ll take some support from the organization to make that happen.

One thing I hope next year’s organizers are already thinking about is how to provide meaningful wifi access to conference attendees so that we can not just see the possibilities in sessions and at kiosks, but can begin to practice with them in sessions and hallways. My computer, my favorite learning tool these days, sat unused in my bag as I relied upon my telephone and its connections to the outside world to bridge the gulf between myself and my learning networks who, although not all physically present, were here with me, and continue to provide me with questions and support and kind words and pushback. Through that connection and my networks, my NCTE conference, while physically situated in downtown San Antonio, reached literally around the world and all across the country.

More and more, I rely on those networks and those connections to help me do my learning and work. As I argue that we need to provide this connectivity in our schools and classrooms, I would also argue that we need that connectivity here, when teachers gather to learn and to work together to improve the learning we facilitate with our students. Shift happens, but we can and should be helping it along.

Kathleen Blake Yancey, president of NCTE, gave perhaps my favorite presentation of the conference, a stunning mix of image and speech, of thinking about teaching and thinking about technology, specifically the technologies of composition. (I hope that it is soon in video form so that I can share it with you. She has said she has interest in producing such a video, and you need to see what she did and what she said about composition here in the early days of the 21st Century. I’ll share if it makes it online.) Just before she closed, she reminded us all that, “If you are writing for the screen, you are writing for the network.” NCTE gets the shift, has defined it, and is beginning to talk about it in a thoughtful way. I am eager to see how the organization can take the talk of shifts and begin to model through actions what it says is the case.

Won’t that be an impressive thing?

I have enjoyed my time at the convention, connecting with colleagues old and new, and helping them to connect with the wider world of possibilities. I have faith in language and in language arts teachers, in the power of the written and spoken word and all the other ways we have to create, compose and share, and I know good things are coming. I also know, though, that time is short. Let us all be renewed and restored and get back to work. There’s plenty for all of us to do.

18 thoughts on “NCTE Brain Dump

  1. Bud, for those of us who could only dream to attend NCTE (indeed are English teachers in other countries!), thanks for sharing this conference with us. I was so excited to see the line-up of teachers and presentations. Let’s hope the vision continues to grow!

    Sharon Peterss last blog post..Teachers Without Borders Slideshow

  2. Karl Fisch says:

    Darn – sounds like I should’ve gone to that presentation, huh? Glad it was good and I, too, hope to be able to see it soon on a blog/wiki/ning near me.

    Karl Fischs last blog post..2020 Vision Sighting of the Day

  3. Stacey says:

    There certainly is lots of work to be done. But, man… what a good conference!

    Staceys last blog post..Unpacking Picture Books

  4. Richard G says:

    Thanks for the report, Bud!

    I seem to remember Kite networks offering free wifi to anyone in Phoenix attending the NCAA football championship game there a couple years ago. At the time I thought it was the wave of the future….

    Have a safe trip back.

  5. Sara says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now – and reading your post (and having time for some “incubation” of thoughts about what I saw, learned, experienced, and attempted at this year’s convention), I’m curious about how our time in San Antonio – in the bigger picture – plays into the impact of conventions within the Council (and the teaching of English). Bear with me as these are still a little rough – but – I’m a little worried that what we saw (however small the steps were – and given the insanity of having no access) was reflective of the agendas of two forward-thinking, “21st century minded” leaders in NCTE. I worry about how the energy that just started to build can be sustained — and how we can push back enough to make sure that this work doesn’t become the next thing that we shift away from when leadership might shift agendas… This came to mind for me as I read the call for proposals for the next convention — and I had big red flags and sirens in my head as I read the only specific nod toward 21st century learning captured in the prompt: “Are digital literacy and print literacy enemies or brothers?” Hmmm….. (I thought we’d answered that.) Perhaps I’m just tired – but knew you’d have an interesting (and needed) perspective.

  6. Troy Hicks says:

    Hi Bud,

    Still in San Antonio at the ACE Workshop, so I haven’t had time to pause and reflect much yet.

    Along with the fantastic picture 🙂 , I appreciate your push to make more consistent and open access to wifi — as well as the one-to-one, just-in-time professional development that would offer — a part of next year’s NCTE conference.

    I look forward to continuing the conversation.

    And the learning.


    Troy Hickss last blog post..CEE Podcast: Examining Writing in a Time of Change

  7. Lisa Thumann says:

    Thanks for sharing your reflection of NCTE with us. It’s one of the many conferences I would like to attend someday.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about access.

    1. At the Google Teacher Academy in NY last week, there was a verrrry techie educator that only brought a pen and notebook to the sessions since he knew everything was available online and could go back later to view it. The purpose of the paper was if he thought of an idea he wanted to write down. He didn’t want to have his laptop divide his attention.

    2. “Purpose and audience.” I feel like I’ve been saying this phrase frequently. Were the majority of attendees carrying around laptops? Providing wi-fi is expensive. I wouldn’t have been happy paying $13 a day either, but will the conference lose attendees because of the fee? What would the TYPICAL attendee have used their laptop for?

    3. Access to information was not really an issue because of your iPhone. Some of us are urging our districts to let our students use their cell phones in class because they are great tools to use to get information from. Smartphones are one step better. I only wish I could edit my Google Doc on my Blackberry.

    Just some things I’ve been thinking about and after reading Sara’s comment about “sustaining the energy”, I needed to think it through again.


    Lisa Thumanns last blog post..What did you do at work today?

  8. My son and I enjoyed the few minutes we got to Skype into your session. He thought it was cool to be on a computer seven hours away. He forgot we Skyped during NECC, but that was between the two of us. He got to see strangers this time. Cool stuff for a 7 y/o. Thanks for inviting us to take over the UStream for a few.

    Scott S. Floyds last blog post..I interrupt the regularly scheduled post to bring you…. Me.

  9. Bud, so nice to see you at NCTE! I have to admit, I was shocked…so much so that I wrote it up here:


    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  10. Christina Cantrill says:

    Hi Bud. Nice to see you in San Antonio if only briefly. Just wanted to say that I really agree that Yancey’s speech was great — both thought provoking and wonderfully presented — and please do let us know if you find a recorded version of it. I think it would be valuable to share more widely.

  11. Bud Hunt says:

    Plenty of good stuff here to respond to – but I’m going to give myself until after Thanksgiving to do so. Thought it was only fair to warn you.

  12. Bill Gaskins says:

    Bud– you are right on target! My learning tool stayed mostly unused through out the conference. It was an AWESOME conference. I enjoyed meeting you face to face…Look forward to next year.


    Bill Gaskinss last blog post..meeting Jerry Harste

  13. Brendan says:

    I saw over 30% of attendees on their laptops in the one session I attended that did have WiFi access. The teachers are using these tools more and more and I think that NCTE needs to support them. I, for one, would happily check a box on my conference registration that added an additional fee (up to $30) for access during the convention next year. At least then I could ask my school to cover part of it. That isn’t anywhere near the $13/day you wrote about, but the economies of scale might make a smaller fee possible.

    As a bigger question, how do you make sure everything you learned at the conference doesn’t fade from your daily practice over the next few months until CLAS?

    Brendans last blog post..NCTE 2008 “Shift Happens”

  14. Jo McLeay says:

    Bud, I just wanted to thank you for inviting those of us who couldn’t be there to be there virtually. You provided such a great service for English teachers everywhere who were connected, for attendees no doubt who were connected and for NCTE, not to mention the students who will see there teachers have hope for the future as well with all these connected conversations able to go on. And thank you for your reflections after the conference here as well. I particularly liked “I have faith in language and in language arts teachers, in the power of the written and spoken word and all the other ways we have to create, compose and share, and I know good things are coming”. I too share that faith, as I look forward to starting my new job as English/Literacy coordinator at a new school in 2009.

    Jo McLeays last blog post..Exploring Comic Life

  15. William Kist says:

    Thanks for your comments. Let’s hope that the “shift” will continue to happen at NCTE annual conventions. Prohibitive cost is always the immediate answer when the wireless issue is brought up, so let’s hope the comment is noticed above from the person who said he would gladly check off a box to pay a little more to get wireless. It makes me wonder how the other professional teaching organizations (that aren’t itech) such as NCSS, NCTM and NSTA handle this apparent dilemma.

    William Kists last blog post..San Antonio

  16. Kylene Beers says:

    I’d sure like to take you up on your offer when you wrote that “many of us are willing, interested, and able to help.” Send me (offline) your list of a think-tank group that would help NCTE continue the shift. I’ve got my list started–you’re on it. Want to see where our lists have intersections.
    Thanks for the smart blog post, Bud. I smiled at your description of NCTE as a “wonderfully frustrating place at the moment.” I think that description fits. Shifts aren’t supposed to be easy and you’re right–as we think about 100 years of history, we are also considering what comes next.
    As I think back on the Convention, I know that three tech kiosks weren’t enough–but they were a start; more rooms with wifi connection weren’t enough–but they were a next step; asking Tim Tyson and Karl Fisch to be featured speakers proved very smart as people loved their sessions; asking Sara Kajder to figure out the tech-on-the-go kiosks was perhaps the smartest thing I did with Convention planning! The NCTE Ning–a new move for NCTE–has proven to be exciting and powerful. We’re now over 1,500 participants and more and more conversations emerge daily. I want to see this number double in January–so spread the word, Bud! Unexpected delights–the revamped “NCTE Central” with all the technology. People were in the booth all the time using the computers, learning new NCTE tech tools, posting to the Ning, checking email, posting blogs–it was an amazing NCTE Central! And the first-time ever Saturday night General Session with Barbara Ehrenreich was a huge success. Her session, along with Greg Mortenson’s featured session and Gary Knell’s General Session showing literacy development around the world, reminded us all about what poverty means. In a moment when we can get caught up in the excitement of technology, I wanted us to have sessions that reminded us of the people in this country and around the world whose lives are bounded by desperate needs.
    NCTE IS shifting–one can feel the excitement! Our 21st century literacies definition is catching the eye of so many. The Ning is offering people a place to extend the NCTE 2008 conversation. And, I’m spending part of a Sunday night reading dozens and dozens of blogs about the Convention. Those comments–each of them–confirm for me that though some of the shifts will cause some frustrations as things move too fast for some and too slowly for others, shift is the right thing to do.
    Do drop me a note, Bud.
    Kylene Beers
    President, NCTE

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