NECC[0] = Sunday

June 29, 2009 – 10:20 pm

Hypothesis: sometimes it is better to release crappy existent stuff rather than nonexistent perfect stuff. It is late, pills I am tired and quashing a mild fever, cure here we go.

Breakfast with Mike Lee while we picked up Sugar Labs flyers. Talked about the digital divide; seniors and the underprivileged are being left out; the interfaces we assume are also leaving people out (typing, glaucoma reading, and able to carry 5lbs of laptop are big assumptions). Pointed Mike towards IIF’s session with Ezter Hargittai, who studies social inequity online.

Mike mentioned that the MIT Media Lab was working on a collaborative development environment. ACTION: find out what this is – it sounds neat!

Email discussions with Eric, Mikell, and Greg about FIRST robotics and open source, prompted by FIRST presence at NECC (yay!) Why aren’t teams producing open source robotics code? Why don’t they have code repositories, even? Some of this is in the works to being fixed, and there are certainly people interested in making it happen, but nobody’s stepped up to drive it yet. I am trying to plant as many seeds as possible this week because I know I don’t have the bandwidth to drive this (but I think I might have the bandwidth to help mentor and encourage someone who wants to). Should track down Denise Lewis tomorrow.

All For Good – another excellent Mike Lee conversation. The balance between shiny top-down endorsement/marketing from the big players and the grassroots movements they’re trying to start is fascinating. I admire the effort – aggregating and matching volunteers with opportunities is certainly not a new idea – at the same time, I wonder if it’s going to work.

There are serious signal-to-noise problems to overcome without bottlenecking at a single point of quality control; it’s hard to make sure organizations can actually handle the volunteers they ask for. Even the amazing Leslie Hawthorn puts in tons of effort filtering Summer of Code orgs and certainly doesn’t have a perfect hit rate. Compounding this problem is the divide between “traditional” volunteer coordinators (volunteer coordination as done, say, 20-30 years ago) and the kind of volunteer coordination folks like Mike and myself and the Red Hat CommArch team do (which is less coordination and more… the best word I know for it is Karsten’s “gardening” analogy). It’s always a problem when two people use the same word thinking they mean the same thing when that’s not actually the case. We tossed around the idea of content stamping before letting it rest as a wait-and-see.

And then we got to the convention center. This conference is freakin’ HUGE. I have never seen anything on this scale before. You stand in the entrance and look up and there are four stories of displays and then hallways that go back and back and back and then there is another building and it is LARGER THAN MY COLLEGE BY ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. (Granted, that’s not extraordinarily difficult.)

The keynote was Malcom Gladwell, who is a good speaker. I’ve watched him before, though, and he tends to rehash points from his books. (And sure enough, he did it again this time. Still a good speech.) I didn’t actually watch the keynote; I caught up with people on it afterwards, and read the written summary. Instead, I helped set up the 60 VMs in the Open Source Pavilion, hereafter referred to as the OSP. Thin clients are sweet. With the money one school saved by getting a thin client system, they got huge monitors, sound systems in every classroom… 

Mike has a video of every machine here simultaneously rebooting (with cheers from the crowd). It’s sweet.

Jeff Elkner arrived. I introduced him to April-Hope (one Sugar/OLPC chapter founder to another, with the “high school chapters are awesome” bonus shared category). And Luke Faraone and I have finally met face-to-face.

Talked with teachers from northeastern NC about BBQ until one of them started telling the story of how her (middle school) kids put on a film festival – “have you ever seen a room of middle school students fully engaged? They would cheer, and then whent the next video started, they would become absolutely quiet…” The same group of teachers pointed me towards animoto, which which I have attempted to produce a slideshow. I’ll post this when the pictures are done processing.

ISTE has a lot of SIGs. It’s a list worth looking at to see the topics and the language educators interested in technology are grouping into right now. Of note: there is no early childhood category here. In fact, they don’t even really have books on it. There is a huge debate on whether computers should even be used in early childhood – with “computer usage” meaning “sit the kids in front of a screen and have them type.” I don’t think that’s age-appropriate (these kids usually are learning how to read and don’t have much fine motor control for rapid typing) but also think that type of computing is just a tiny, tiny piece of what “technology” can mean. Teachers doing vlogs of their young students, for instance.

Then there’s #neccwall. It’s one of those “it’s 11pm and we have AN IDEA!” moments (3 people now, but we’re going to try to find other first-time attendees to help out). It will be… explained more when I don’t have to wake up in 4 hours to prepare for it. In the meantime, the best explanation I can give is this video.

Finally made the mile+ hike to my hotel, accompanied partway by a group of teachers (a retired edu prof and her former students, it turns out) who gave me a blackboard pointer (I am not sure what to do with this, but I can point at things with inpunity and 2 extra feet of reach now!) and once I mentioned I’d attended a math and science magnet high school, we talked about math and science training for teachers until our paths diverged.

Need sleep so badly.

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