Professional conferences have always brought opportunities for networking. To those taking the initiative they also provide a hotbed for potential collaboration with peers near and far. However, for me, NECC 2008 represents the leading edge of the new world of digital networking made feasible by free Web 2.0 tools.
Already, I have met two dynamic people from two very different parts of the world and who live and work in very different environments, and yet we three are united in the communication and collaboration technologies made possible by the digital age. Huzefa Dossaji is a new teacher in Louisiana who hails originally from Kenya. His “how I became a teacher” story is quite worth hearing. In the few years of his former profession as a pharmacist, he became frustrated at the level of “pill dispensing” (as he put it) he was doing on a regular basis.
His life change came in the wake of the damage wrought by hurricane Katrina. The area is badly in need of teachers. In response to the situation, several initiatives have been launched to allow professionals to gain alternative certifications in education. This is what pulled Huzefa out of the white coat and into the classroom. I was fascinated with his stories of showing up at the school, his own laptop in hand, and “requiring” a digital projection in order to teach science. We shared tons of common ground about how students can and will learn science. The commons threads of common sense in science education that joined a teacher of sixteen years and a new convert without formal training, were inspiring. We are now connected for future communication via text message on phone, via e-mail as well as the connections of Ning.com.
My second connection was made with Amanda Rablin, who currently works as the Education Officer of Learning Management for Brisbane Catholic Education, supporting e-learning initiatives across its 132 schools. While wearing another hat, she serves schools and teachers across the whole of Queensland. While sitting in the back of a workshop connecting TPCK to the NETS standards, we were first joined by the electrical power made available by the only public outlet in the conference room. While sitting side by side, we quickly realized that we were not only using the same laptop, but in much the same way. After we both tossed back and forth between a dozen open windows, tab after tab, made posts to twitter, clicked key to post in blogs, I couldn’t help but laugh quietly at what was a common workflow by two people from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.
During the workshop -with brains in full parallel-processing mode- we shared: two very cool Facebook apps., twitter account names, blog addresses, became “friends” on favorite ning.com sites, career commonalities, and even cellphone images:
Amanda shared what I think is a fantastic publication she authored on “learning landscapes” which is a really cool discussion-stirring piece on imagining and exploring learning in the 21st century. I am excited to share this resources with not only my tech integration cohort but my instructional coaching family as well.
I am now connected with like-minded people who have helped me put a face on the world of new digital learning as it appears outside of little ol’ Saint Joseph, Missouri.