Do We Need a Mashup Camp with our NECC?

After reading about Jeff Utrecht’s frustrations about what didn’t happen at the NECC for him
and Will’s response which was measured and well thought out. I do feel as if I am still as a teacher looking at the tools meaning technology and trying to wrap my head around all the possible ways to use them. The first time I used a wiki I felt disoriented and lost not knowing what to do with a tool that could be almost anything I could think up for open communication. But now I’m looking for growth in how to use them. So for me, I have to say that the NECC was for a large part about the technology. I looked for solutions to specific problems in the classroom and hopefully the technology has become easier or more transparent to what I may have dreamed or not dreamed is possible. The meetup
that so many people have praised was not the ideal setting for communication. The waitress that kept telling us to sit down, the live band which caused David Warlick at a certain point to say he couldn’t hear. It was the idea of meeting with like minded passionate people coming together to have a conversation that we thrived on. But what if people presented what they have learned or information that they have acquired in a more systematic way? I certainly didn’t get to meet and ask questions of all the people that I had wanted to.

An alternative for next year’s NECC might be a mashupcamp or an unconference
perhaps to run concurrently or as an offshoot in a designated area at the conference site. Here are three links to an event that is happening today from Wired, San Jose Mercury News, and Dave Winer.
There is certainly enough organized information about what a mashupcamp
is, how they work, and what the goals of doing them are. What if we looked at the mashup camp and changed it to meet our needs as teacher/technologists? What would have happened if after seeing all the open souce information this past conference we could have had a meeting to discuss it? There were several ideas that I became exposed to that I could not have planned ahead to learn about but wanted to learn more about and process as I was at the conference. With the accessibility of information on the internet aren’t many people just as informed as the presenters? The style is called open space conferences and one of the guiding ideas is to document the session with a conference wiki. David Warlick has already successfully shown the value of integrating these wikis, such as the one he used at the conference for Telling the New Story,
into the presentions.

Much of what is happening involves the idea that small companies or individuals can take the available free internet sites and use them for new ends. Isn’t this what we are trying to do in using all these disparate parts and recombining them for use in our classroom. An article in Forbes that the mashup blog linked to caught my eye when the writer said, "Mashup Camp, aimed at programmers and software developers who want to
create businesses out of combining free Web technologies from companies
such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon.com, seems like the perfect place for a wee startup to make connections." But what if we replace the word programmers with teachers and businesses with classrooms and modify the list of companies a little (sound familiar). So this now reads:

            "Mashup Camp, aimed at teachers who want to
create classrooms out of combining free Web technologies from open source, flickr, delicious, blogging creation companies, wikis etc. seems like the perfect place for a wee individual teacher to make connections."

Reminds one of the Cluetrain Manifesto when it was modified for schools doesn’t it? The mashup wiki gives not only background for the event but also has links for more info.  Aren’t we saying that our students have reached this point with all the communication tools such as IM, web accessing video games, etc. that we don’t use them or are novices compared to our students? Could students participate in the mash up camp and teach the teachers how to use these tools? How do the students perceive these tools? How much more powerful would it be to have a panelist of students discussing their use rather than a powerpoint slide of statistics? It requires that participants be willing to participate in a more active role. Are we accepting of the traditional presenter model because we all come from a passive participation in media i.e. we sat and watched TV. Should we be modeling what we expect of the classroom? That if the students are changing in their needs that we should try to play the interconnected video games as David said, set up a my space account as Will recomends, and attend conferences in which the conference room is more like the model of the classroom that we percieve will be in the future with the students needs and students personality.

Hopefully if nothing else we can have daily meetings at the next NECC in a room, well lit, without live music. Do we want to be serious about this as a real exchange of information or as in this last blogger meetup should it stay more of an informal haphazard affair to unwind after the more formal day time events? Perhaps we need to worry about more districts shutting down and out, and centralizing information.

If I understood Siemens arguments in Connectivism with his June 27th article
:

"When people first encounter distributed tools, the first attempt at implementation involves “forcing” decentralized processes into centralized models. We then end up with LMS for learning, learning object repositories to manage our content, corporate lock-downs on instant message, and district-wide bans on social networking tools."

He is saying that learning management systems are a step in the wrong
direction (meaning centralized) for how to potentially use these tools
(decentralized). If this is true then we need more solutioins on how to combine them in
as effective a manner as a Moodle or Blackboard. If we should want to avoid being stuck with centralized learning modules and to truly take advantage of the decentralized tools than a radical solution other than the traditional conference model, (mashupcamps?) will be needed. Perhaps then teachers such as Jeff Utrecht will leave a confernence like the NECC wanting to come back, feeling that it is an extension of what we have tapped into with the tools we ourselves are using daily, rather than leaving with memories of what might have been.


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