Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Day 1, Part 1: Welcome to Vegas!

As many of you may have heard by now, my journey to BbWorld this year was, shall we say, eventful, in that my small bag with my wallet, checkbook, credit cards, etc. disappeared along the way....probably back at Dulles Airport. Needless to say, when I got to my layover in Chicago and realized it was gone, my panic was rather all-consuming. The entire rest of my trip, and indeed the rest of the night and halfway into the next morning was spent begging people on the phone to help me by looking for my bag; canceling credit and debit cards; desperately trying to get on the airport wireless to file reports; arguing with the hotel on arrival that all I had in my pocket was eleven dollars, which, by the way, they TOOK; calling home and trying to coordinate with the hotel office to send my wife a credit card authorization to cover my $100 goes on and on.

When morning rolled around, and of course my eyes popped open nearly three hours early because my body and brain are still on Eastern Standard Time, the processes began again. I was also beginning to stress about having not eaten since lunchtime the day before. I was still first getting messages from the front desk that I needed to take care of my deposit right away, and simultaneously arguing with the office because they had still not emailed my wife the forms that needed to be filled out and sent back. When it was time for me to get dressed and head out to the Bb World registration, nothing was settled, and only half my mind and heart were on the conference.

Once registered, I put on my special Bb World ID and my VIP Blogger ID, and walked back down the hall where the DevCon conference was still going on, and there it was....a coffee break table!! Oh, man, if I could just get ONE cup of coffee, I knew I would feel better. I reached for a cup....and as I did, a rather stern voice came from behind me. “Sir,” he said, “that coffee is for the people in those meetings down that hall.” OK....he was only doing his job, but I still had no money, no hope of getting any soon, and this guy was denying me a cup of coffee! Certainly, I reasoned, he has no way of knowing what’s going on in my life, and I felt like the kid who had been caught stealing candy in the corner store, so I slowly dropped the cup, apologized, and slithered away, defeated.

They day began to look up for me when some of my colleagues walked down the hall and found me sitting against the wall, charging my phone, and trying once again to reach my credit union by phone. I had spent an hour and a half earlier on hold with them, and I still had not talked to a person. I finally just gave up and greeted my friends.

We were still at this time struggling with whether the times that our respective calendars had recorded as our scheduled sessions, meetings, etc., were accurately depicting the events in PACIFIC time, or whether they were recorded on the calendar in our own EASTERN time, and not translating over. Once we determined our first obligation was actually to take place at 3:10, we decided to have some lunch, and my friends, Mary and Melissa treated me to a nice meal. I was starting to feel human again! During lunch, I got the message from my wife that she was wiring me money, and that I could pick it up next door at Harrah’s casino. I knew having some cash in my pocket would make me feel a LOT better, so we took a walk over to Harrah’s to retrieve my money! At this point, I knew I still had a lot to do to complete all the cancelations, replacements, etc. that would make me feel safe and in control again, but at least I had a few bucks to get food, drinks, and maybe a Vegas souvenir if I was so inclined! My mood lightened significantly!

Day 1, Part 2: Let the Conference Begin!

Back to the conference center we went to gather for our first event, the Virginia Blackboard Users Group or VaBUG meeting, over which I was to preside. We were a little early, and waited for some folks from a previous session to vacate the room. As we waited, we joked about the fact that we were the only ones in the room, and of course, we all work at the same institution. I would really have hated it if more people didn’t come! Finally, they began to trickle in! We ended up with a very nice group of representatives from about 7 or 8 institutions. It wasn’t a huge group, but it WAS a very responsive and sharing group, and I would say we had a very successful time together! We hope to begin planning our annual conference very soon!

Next, we were off to the first Keynote Session, and I made my way to the VIP Bloggers’ area and found a seat. Jay Bhatt, Blackboard’s CEO, began the event with some welcome words, as well as sharing some vision for Blackboard’s future, and the future of education in general. It seemed as though he’d been spending his first months at Blackboard actually meeting with and listening to clients, as he spoke of new ideas for better Bb tool integrations, acceleration of programs and development, and of new innovations. Bhatt also noted that there were over 30 countries and all 50 states represented at this year’s conference, and that there were 235 sessions out there ready to be attended, and most of them facilitated by peers. He then artfully segued into the introduction of today’s keynote speaker, Clay Shirky.

Educator, innovator, and author, Clay Shirky is an internet icon, a “deep thinker”, a “revealer’ in the world of digital usefulness and crowd-sourcing. His works, including his most recent book, “Here Comes Everybody” reveal measurable ways that the Internet has changed, and continues to change our culture, economically, educationally, socially, governmentally. His presentation today was primarily about sharing: the way the network we’ve created brings together what he calls the “cognitive surplus,” that vast world of knowledge, skills, and experience that can now, because of the Internet, be collected, tagged, categorized, indexed, and shared....and completely accessible to the masses. It’s an exciting new age, he tells us, where we’ve taken the already collaborative world of education, for instance, and added a level of instant contribution as well.

We learned about the Darpa Network Challenge, the The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Internet, in which a team from M.I.T. confirmed the importance of the roles that the Internet and social networking play in modern day communication, team- or tribe-building, and problem solving.

Shirky also talked about the numbers of potential man-hours it took to create the phenomena that is Wikipedia, 1 hundred million hours, and compared that to the number of hours people spend watching television per year, or 200 billion hours, and planted the thought that if even a small number of people changed behaviors just a small bit, the wave of change could be enormous!

Of particular interest to me were the stories of a couple of young ethnographers who were using a simple web tool like Instagram to document their work, at the same time instantly publishing, without the usual time lost in the mire of editorial or bureaucratic politics or processes.

The presentation, of course, turned to the world of education, and focused on the changing landscape of teaching and learning in this new Internet-dependent culture. Students can now collaborate to create, instead of just read textbooks. Students can use social networking to study together, help each other, and teachers can of course share resources readily, and begin to use the Internet to meet students where they live.

Clay Shirky is an idol, a teacher, a leader, an understander, and an eye-opener, and I have to admit to having a new appreciation, as a result of his presentation, of the Internet. I thought I understood its impact, its usefulness in our culture, its place in education, but I, like most of us take the web for granted. Even with the amazing things that are being done to utilize this network and collective pool of knowledge, we obviously haven’t even scratched the surface of its potential.

DAY 1, Part 3: Food and Fun!

After the keynote we all gathered in the vendor area for the opening reception. Time for a beer, some great food, a little networking, chatting with some of the vendors, and meeting up with old friends. Our little group then slipped off to our rooms to deposit all the baggage, freshen up, and then met up again to attend a nice cocktail party at V Bar given by Bb Collaborate! More networking, meeting nice people, letting our hair down a little, and general relaxation!

In our usual tradition, we then left the party to seek out the Gelato stand in the plaza! Along the way, we stopped to listen to some music, as well as take advantage of some photo ops!

The lost wallet incident was getting farther and farther behind me!

No comments:

Post a Comment