Monday, June 29, 2009

The Disconnect: the Two NECCs

The smiles are held half as strong.

Today is Monday at NECC and the first chance to get on the exhibit floor. The place sort of resembles a Best Buy on methamphetamine.

Fueled by coffee and battlelust, I wander past the kind of stuff that I find fundamentally useless and make my way to the booths celebrating (er... that is selling) blocking software.

My goal is to get to the BLOXX table. They're a Web filtering company and this year's theme is: blocking anonymous proxies (wonder if they've been in contact with the government of Iran recently).

The greeter meets me at the table and launches into quite a spiel. The only thing I really notice is that she says the word 'porn' three times in less than twenty seconds.

She explains that the new software her company is developing is filtering software that attacks proxies. I ask her why. She repeats the word 'porn'.

I ask her if the filter can tell the difference between a proxy that I might use say to shorten a url or to feed an RSS through a blog. She doesn't understand what I am asking.

I ask whether the filter blocks all anonymous proxies or whether it follows the proxy and then blocks the masked site. She thinks the latter.

So, we should just be able to double-mask the proxy to a 'real' site to get around the filter, says the teenaged hacker voice in my mind.

Let alone the fact that mobile Wi-Fi makes the whole system useless.


I wonder how many tens of thousands of ed tech dollars are going to be wasted on filtering and blocking software like this. I wonder how many kids are going to be asking for smartphones for Christmas.

The greeter hands me a press release. Coffee's wearing off. Or something.


I wander the aisles a bit. Take in a conversation with a guy from Roland.

Warning -- paraphrase ahead:
Q. "Why would I want to buy your Sonar software?"

A. "It's cheaper than Digital Performer."

DP is the pro Mac app I run for the kids in my audio production classes; Sonar is a cheap PC imitation.

We stare at one another.

Moving on, I try to break my habit of constantly looking at people's chests to read their name-badges. It's gonna give me a sullied reputation.


I stand amidst the strange competing glows hovering over the side-by-side Microsoft and Dell stations.

I score a sweet orange bag and someone at some point thrusts a pre-packaged headset into my hands, gives me some sort of full body scan, and sends me in the direction of a 'free' laptop.

My eyes wander about the room. I notice a heart hovering in space. Finally: something with meat on its bones (pardon the obviously mixed metaphor).

Reach Out Interactives is demonstrating it's 3D rendering software. As in: here, wear these funky glasses and watch the scientific models float into your personal space.

I'm a sucker for 3D. I am looking forward to a world where Wolf Blitzer is not the only person on Earth allowed to hang out with 3D hologram humans. It's just one of those quirks I've got; probably directly related to the hundreds of hours I spent in my youth watching Star Wars and Star Trek movies on VHS.

One way or another, these folks swear that you can bring real 3D directly into your classroom. I am especially excited by the notion that you could make Google Earth projections appear in 3D. Well, that and the opportunity to stand in front of a class of kids all wearing funny glasses.


I've got to get outta here.

I've now crossed the length of the convention floor twice. My orange bag is full of... well... stuff. I don't really know what it is because I've barely had a chance to take anything in. All around me, the commercial version ed tech world is spinning. I'm in a zone of complete obsolescence and all about me I hear words and phrases like: what IT departments are most scared of... security... like having your personal school Internet... and whiteboard, whiteboard, endless whiteboard.

I stumble to the escalator and make my way upstairs to an 11AM session on gaming.


Up here, things are different.

I've heard folks complaining about the quality of the Wi-Fi. I've heard presenters complain about the idea that they would be expected to present via PowerPoint (as opposed to live online resources). The Bloggers' Cafe is buzzing and Twitter has been all-#NECC09-all-day.

For the most part, it seems like the educators here are mostly interested in access, connection, and sharing info via Web 2.0.

I didn't find a single booth downstairs that talked about any of those things.

Granted, I only rushed through the endless displays on a hobbled knee; and to be honest, the whole thing was so overstimulating that I could have certainly missed some non-profit organization's innovative presentation on universal access to cloud computing. But under the glow of Big Tech, any and all of that was lost.

I should say that I met a TeachPaperless subscriber on the convention floor. And she said it better than I ever could when she told me that she needed to get online to sort it all out and get a little peace.

And that's why I say that it's like there are two NECCs going on. One is an NECC comprised of folks absorbed by social media, free access, and Web 2.0 participation. The other NECC is folks absorbed by building the better corkscrew.

I'm going to keep an open mind. I'm here for two more days and there is a ton left to see. But walking around with my bag full of free crap, I can't help but feel like I'm at a carnival.


  1. Yes there are two NECCs, just as there are two worlds of ed tech, and I think the line can pretty well be drawn between those who teach...and everyone else.

    BTW, the latter includes a lot of people who's title is "teacher."

  2. You hit it on the head! If interested, I'd like to catch a cup of coffee or what have you. Shane Krukowski with the Great Lakes Constructivist consortium and

  3. THose who teach and those who learn... and everyone else.

    The role of the edutech carnival downstairs seems to be largely for the purpose of divesting school districts of as much money as possible before the collapse of public education in the face of free-cheap online resources.

    Although I was quite impressed with the Animation-ish software. I'm imagining building little animation videos of the battles of Issus, Granicus, and Gaugamela. I might be able to do them in Scratch much more effectively, though they'd be cuter in Animationish

  4. Gamer zone - I was massively dissapointed in this area! - and even worse; the lack of academic strand identification due to commerical 'cool titles2.0' makes if really hard to find people who are, pedagogically sinking the ship (in a good way). Great to meet you!


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