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Visions and Reflections From NECC 2003

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I found the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) and the 10th Annual ISTE Leadership Symposium held last month in Seattle to be very informative. The following are my observations after speaking to educators and vendors, as well as going to meetings and visiting exhibits.

Achieving Global Educational Goals

The invitational ISTE Leadership Symposium, titled "Informing the National Educational Technology Agenda: U.S. and International Perspectives," brought together more than 150 educators and business representatives to share their thoughts on how to help achieve global educational goals. An international panel of representatives related their experiences with education technology. It is interesting to note the differences between centralized and decentralized planning and implementation, and its effect on technology utilization. Of particular interest to me were the comments presented by Margaret Honey from Education Development Center Inc.'s Center for Children and Technology. These comments included several often-repeated recommendations to ensure equitable access, increase funding from multiple sources, create high-quality content, and conduct vigorous research and evaluation. She also stated that the above recommendations can be accomplished in three stages:

  1. Invest in technology to support specific and long-term needs of educators.
  2. Transform education through technology.
  3. Match technologies to public priorities for educational improvement through partnerships, assessment tools and productivity tools.

In addition, most small group discussions focused on the national education technology plan for the NCLB Act and its issues, opportunities, obstacles and plans for success. But, implementing the NCLB legislation to better prepare students for the workplace and society will require collaborative planning and cooperation. I found one of NECC's luncheon activities to be a nice surprise when 24 U.S. students reported on their ISTE Student Symposium, held the previous day, in which they had discussed topics such as "What is Technology's Role in Education?" and "How Can the Internet Change Learning?"

Conference Wrap-Up

The number of attendees at this year's NECC was said to be well over 8,000, which was mostly made up of K-12 teachers and administrators and university-level professors. I also noticed an increase in the number of female attendees and teachers at the conference compared to previous years.

NECC 2003 was filled with more than 700 exhibitors displaying hardware and software, and illustrating specific applications where their solutions were effective. This large number of exhibitors made it difficult to visit with so many vendors in such a short amount of time. Wandering around the exhibit hall, several things became clear to me, including:

  • Vendors were displaying more sophisticated software;
  • Most products were highly interactive, student-centered and multimedia inclusive; and
  • Decision-support tools that help educators make better choices about what to teach and how to teach, resulting in better learning, have grown.

In addition, NECC offered a wide range of concurrent sessions, workshops, roundtables, discussions, as well as students and teachers demonstrating projects using technology. The conference's sessions were well organized intotopics such as special populations, school reform, student assessment, and equity and accountability. Core subjects on the use of technology in English, social studies, mathematics and science were also reported on in many sessions.

Conclusions

Education's technology spending is on the rise: up 2% this year with an expected 4-6% increase next year. NECC provided much information for the whole "Education Team," which includes teachers, tech coordinators, staff developers, library media specialists, administrators, teacher educators, as well as representatives from government and industry.

Although the theme of NECC 2003 was "Visions and Reflections," I did not hear many visions, particularly from the conference's selected presenters. What the conference did provide was an opportunity for educators and companies to exchange information and identify effective practices using technology. However, I wonder if our conferences are getting too big?

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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